The first time I visited Cairns in North Queensland, I didn’t want to be anchored to hotels or specific locations. In an area with such a wealth of natural beauty, I wanted my travels to be dictated by random whims rather than by stuffy lodging and overpriced restaurants, so this is why I went with a Cairns campervan hire.
I ended up hiring a Cheapa 4 Berth campervan. I chose this campervan for my Cairns adventure because it was well-priced, had a shower and toilet onboard and I could also set up one bed and leave the other bed area as seating (so I wasn’t converting my bed each day). The freedom to explore was mine for the taking. With my Cairns hire camper, I could stop where and when I wanted, eat what I like and when the mood struck, sleep when I wanted. Cairns is a sizeable town of 150,000 people where one of the main industries is tourism, so facilities catering to camping and campervan hire are great. The location is surrounded by a host of things to do and see.
There are plenty of Cairns campgrounds: two choices for the campervan driver are the conveniently-located Cairns Holiday Park slap-bang in the middle of the city and the award-winning and family-friendly Coconut Caravan Resort, a little further out but worth it to keep the kids busy.
The most interesting stop for me on my first trip was the same as Captain Cook’s: the small hamlet of Cooktown. It is 260km north of Cairns and is where Captain Cook historically first made landfall in 1770. I thought it fun to start where he did, and whereas his ship Endeavour limped into the bay after a vicious mugging from the Great Barrier Reef just a short cruise off the coast, I arrived in the unbattered comfort of my Cairns hire campervan. I spent a good day driving around and checking out the local shops and attractions.
On the way is the incredibly biodiverse Daintree National Park, one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The coast road past Port Douglas is unsurfaced and suitable for 4WD vehicles only, so unless you hire a 4WD Cairns campervan it’s more advisable to take the paved inland road. The advantage of hiring a 4WD is you’ll have access to the gorgeous tropical coastline beyond the beautiful Cape Tribulation, a narrow 40-mile stretch of rocks, forested cliffs and golden beaches that divides the jungle from the sea. Regular 2WD campervans have to retrace their route from this point to rejoin the circuitous inland Highway 44 to Cooktown.
Another must-see is the Barron Gorge National Park to the west of the city. Accessible by the Kuranda Scenic Railway starting in Cairns, the park features two spectacular waterfalls and the famed Skyway Rainforest Cableway, and is a designated part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site, which encompasses 9,000km² of tropical rainforest between Townsville and Cooktown.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the previously mentioned Great Barrier Reef sitting off the coast of Cairns, and the city is loaded with tour operators catering to people curious to see the world’s largest living structure. I did some scuba diving on the reef and saw plenty of coral and a colourful fish – there was even a friendly groper who hung around to see what I was up to!
I found that Cairns campervan hire is easily the best option for seeing the sights of North Queensland. The rugged nature of the landscape perfectly embraces the more laissez-faire approach of the campervan holiday.
Doug Black is a travel enthusiast and part-time writer. This was his first time in a hire campervan – hopefully not his last!