It is almost impossible to find cheap or free camping near Cairns. The tourism boom in the area means that prices have skyrocketed and that budget travellers have been left out in the cold. That being said, there is no reason to skip Cairns all-together, it just means that you should have up some of your ‘spurge’ nights to use in this expensive city. We recommend Ellis Beach Camping for a beach-side Cairns experience, or this, Crystal Cascades for a mountainesque, stunning rainforest experience just a short drive from all the great Cairns attractions.
Address: Rocks Road, Redlynch (Cairns)
Location: En route to the Crystal Cascades waterfall and swimming hole, approx. 30 mins from Cairns CBD. The Big 4 campsite is not close enough to the swimming hole to walk to, but it is close to a nice walking path next to a creek for evening strolls.
Cost for an unpowered campsite: from $30 – $44 per person, per night (dependent upon the season)
Nights we stayed for: 2 nights in October 2015.
We stayed at this Big 4 caravan park, which we usually try to avoid as a special treat after Kuranda Rainforest Retreat. We also had two nights to kill before we started a housesit in Trinity Park and wanted to be close-by for a meeting wit the homeowner the day before we moved in. We were pleasantly surprised by Crystal Cascades Big 4. It was very clean, well manicured, located, had an impressive view across the mountains and most importantly, was not swarming with young kids like a lot of Big 4s are. It was however very expensive.
We were located in one of only a small handful of unpowered sites. The unpowered sites are located closer to the camp kitchen, which is large and clean. We had a great stay at Crystal Cascades. It was the combination of being back in the sunshine and being on our own again that made it such a great stay. We spent a whole day in the pool and having picnics on the grassy site. Evening strolls next to the creek and nights making great meals in the clean and well lit camp kitchen.
The campsite was less than half full when we were there in October, and even though there were at least 50 people staying in the camping grounds we never felt like anyone else was there. Most of the guests looked to be long termer grey nomads who spent all their time in their caravans watching TV. Like our neighbours who had a satellite dish set up next to their caravan. The other campers didn’t really use the camp kitchen, only a group of backpackers who came though one night use it with us. The whole campsite was quiet and luscious. We cannot guarantee that this will always be the case, but it certainly was for us!
Facilities and amenities
The bathroom block is very large and very clean, the camp kitchen has multiple fridges, kettles, cooktops and a BBQ. It is large and has communal tables. The highlight is the pool and gardens of the campsite. The entire place is well-manicured, cared for and very green. The pool doubles as a pool/spa (bliss) and you can relax on the lounges and read your book in the quiet for hours on end. There is also a second BBQ area built in next to the pool. Great for family dinners in the warm weather.
There isn’t much to say about the campsite. It is a commercial campsite that is well cared for and you pay for the privilege. If you want to treat yourself for a few nights in Cairns, then head over to Crystal Cascades for a few nights. It is more expensive than Ellis Beach or Kuranda, however much, much nicer as well.
Other alternatives to explore for cheaper accommodation in Cairns are
- Babinda Boulders (approx 1 hour drive from Carins) has free camping available
- Airbnb – you can rent a spare room on someone’s house for as little as $25 per night
- Housesitting, like we did in Cairns. We ended up with 2 weeks free accommodation with a pool AND got to hang out with some cool dogs!