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Where Do Backpackers Hang Out In Cairns?

Updated Fri 11 Nov 2022

Cairns backpackers relaxing by the pool

Cairns is one of the top best travel destinations in Australia for both backpackers and locals alike. If you’re backpacking around this glorious region, diving into underwater marvels of the Great Barrier Reef, swimming in the pools of waterfalls, bar hopping through vibrant streets, venturing inland in search of lush rainforest, or just kicking back and embracing the laid-back tropical lifestyle, Cairns has something for every kind of adventure traveller!

As Queensland’s ultimate tropical playground, there’s something to do in every direction in Cairns. Indeed, you’re bound to find countless opportunities in stunning surroundings. Honestly, this small yet happening city deserves a longer stay than most travellers give it; there are fewer crowds yet a great party and social atmosphere are prevalent. So, find your people with these top spots that backpackers and young travellers tend to hang out in… you’re bound to make new friends and even run into old ones in this charming tropical town!


Esplanade Lagoon

Soak up some vitamin D by the Cairns iconic Lagoon. When it’s clear, this inviting 4800sqm giant saltwater pool proves to be a magnet for backpackers looking for some safe swimming, meeting other tourists or catching up with friends while taking in stunning views. This glistening lagoon is found on the Cairns Esplanade in the heart of the CBD. Admission is free and the site provides excellent barbecue facilities in the surrounding park grounds where locals like to lay out for a picnic.

Two women in white bikinis by the lagoon


Nightlife

The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down around here. In fact, this vibrant small-town city has a buzzing after-dark scene every single night of the week. Nightlife in Cairns is relaxed and vibrant, so put on that one nice outfit buried in your backpacker and hit these backpacker hubs! 

Gilligan’s

The ultimate backpacker hub and Cairns's number one place to party, with two nightclubs, three bars and a restaurant on site where themed events are held every night. After a few cold ones on the Beach Bar head up to the Attic for an assured vibe!

The Woolshed

The Woolshed is a top party spot and is widely regarded as Cairns’ original party venue. The Woolshed's awesome atmosphere and cheap food are definite perks, not to mention their cheeky events like wet t-shirt competitions and entertainment nightly with resident DJs.

The Pier Bar 

A spacious bar by the water is known as somewhat of an institution in Cairns, the Pier bar is a great place to start your night out. Offering an extensive wine & beer list and a cocktail menu of delicious wood-fired pizzas and in-house creations, enjoy both a good time and quality taste sensations! With big party events accompanied by live local music sessions and resident DJs, guests are invited to join the fun and put their moves to the test later in the evening.

The Jack

This backpackers hostel has a lively pub and an all-weather beer garden that's open until 2 am every night. The Jack is an 800-capacity venue hosting an array of top comedy acts, DJs and live music five nights a week. With huge super projector screens and large flat screens covering all sports-related events, you won’t miss a second of the action and you’ll meet some fellow football lovers when the big matches are on!

The Ultimate Party Bus

Selected as Cairns’ best pub crawl and club tour, the Ultimate Party Bus is a great way for backpackers to explore the top backpacker spots in a novel yet jam-packed way! Running every Friday and Saturday night, with special events available upon request, get amongst it on the funnest of nights. This ultimate party package hits five of the best bars and clubs in Cairns for a six-hour session, meaning a wild night of epic proportions is guaranteed! 

Salt House

As Cairns's favourite waterfront venue, and perched on Pier Point Road, Salt House is a chic yet buzzing backpacker hub. The glamorous, chilled-out and stylish interior with wide-open windows opens out onto an expansive view of the Cairns marina front spanning mountain and ocean. Start the week with Salty Mondays where the drinks are cheap, the vibes are in abundance, and backpackers and locals mingle along to the best in-house music.

Six guys with no shirt by the pool

Local Tips for Going Out in Cairns

  • You can't drink alcohol in a public place in Queensland, with the exception of signposted 'wet areas.'
  • Late-night buses operate between midnight at 4 am, but check the timetable and your travel options before heading out.
  • Most bars and pubs will be within walking distance. Taxis and Uber are both available.
  • Shots and doubles cannot be served after midnight in Cairns and across Queensland. Last call for drinks is at 3 am in Cairns.
  • Tipping is appreciated but not expected in Australia.
  • Make sure to carry your passport or driver's license since late-night venues are required to scan the ID of all clients.

Discover more bars and nightclubs with our local guide to Cairns nightlife

The Shed in Cairns lighting blue and purple on the ceiling


Social Hostels

Tucked between the marine playground of the Great Barrier Reef and wet tropical rainforests, it’s no wonder that Cairns is chock-full of social and nature-loving travellers. Not to mention, the city has extraordinary nightlife and it is particularly popular with young backpackers who are looking to hang out on the beach during the day and party late into the night.

Whether you’re travelling solo or in a group, hostels are the perfect place to meet other fellow travellers, but also to enjoy plenty of organized activities with new people and sociable staff.

Travellers Oasis

Travellers Oasis is a relaxed home-like place considered to be one of the best backpacker hostels and the most award-winning in Australia! A small and cozy hostel featuring lush tropical gardens, spotless facilities, a great kitchen, a swimming pool and an outdoor terrace with BBQ as well as outstanding staff. Boasting a super welcoming environment, it’s the perfect choice for budget-conscious travellers and a beautiful oasis from the busy life of backpacking!

Cairns Central YHA

This property is located right in the heart of town, only a block from the train station and surrounded by restaurants, bars and clubs. YHA is a nationwide brand of hostels, perfecting the balance of style and comfort for budget-conscious travellers. Renowned for its social vibe with comfortable common areas, lush swimming pool and BBQ area, it’s the perfect spot to relax and meet new friends!

Gilligan's Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns

A top-rated, award-winning hostel with a reputation that is well earned, Gilligan’s is renowned as the best hostel in Cairns for sociable, solo travellers and party animals. There are events held here every single night, in the evening it transforms into THE party to be at. This pure entertainment venue hosts a huge swimming pool to chill out with friends, an open deck bar, a huge outdoor pub screen, two nightclubs and restaurants.

For a comprehensive guide to backpacker accommodation in Cairns check out our local hostel guide! 

Two girls with lanyards checking into their hostel


Backpacker Boats

While it may be surprising, one of the best places to meet new people in Cairns is onboard social sails. With many young travellers flocking to the Great Barrier Reef, there are plenty of backpackers embarking on scuba dives and snorkel tours. Combine seeking the natural marvels of the reef with meeting fellow travellers as you rub shoulders with turtles, fish and manta rays. 

Check out our recommended backpacker boats to explore the Great Barrier Reef in a social atmosphere! 

Two people talking on a Cairns boat


Still unsure of what to do or how to meet new people in Cairns?

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