The Best Hostels in Cairns, Australia

There are plenty of hostels with an impressive spot on the Esplanade opposite the lagoon
There are plenty of hostels with an impressive spot on the Esplanade opposite the lagoon | Courtesy of Global Backpackers Cairns / Expedia
Judy Cogan

The number one base for Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns brags all the tourist credentials to please the constant flow of energetic backpackers passing through. There’s no beach, but the Esplanade Lagoon and Pier Marina more than make up for one. We’ve rounded up the best hostels here – all with the mod cons to make your stay in Cairns, Australia, easy breezy.

1. Gilligan's Backpackers Hotel & Resort

Hostel, Resort, Hotel

Gilligans Backpackers Hotel & Resort
Courtesy of Gilligan's Backpackers Hotel & Resort / Expedia

Staying here goes way beyond bunking for the night. Gillian’s has three bars, a night club, a casual restaurant, a sports arena (with a full-size basketball court), a gaming room and a travel agency to book your next jaunt. Essentially, they’re set up to keep you entertained day and night. There are mixed dorms as well as private boutiquey rooms for a few dollars more. Throw in daily activities such as bingo, live music, pool parties, jelly wrestling, even pole dancing, and you’ll have yourself a very good time indeed.

2. Freedom Cairns

Hostel, Budget Hotel

Freedom Cairns
Courtesy of Freedom Cairns / Expedia

This bright and newly refurbished hostel sits opposite Esplanade Lagoon and is just a short walk to Cairns pier and its twinkling rows of restaurants, cafes and bars next to Marlin Marina. You’ll get discount meal vouchers and free daily entertainment at Freedom Cairns, and the travel desk will arrange a Great Barrier Reef adventure on your behalf. Rooms have privacy screens and every bed has its own shelf, power point, light and USB charging station. Female-only dorms are available too.

3. Asylum Cairns Hostel

Hostel, Budget Hotel

Asylum Cairns Hostel
Courtesy of Asylum Cairns Hostel / Expedia

It’s worth knowing the difference between a standard and basic dorm here – a reservation in the former will get you a thicker mattress and a bunkless bed. Single, double and twin rooms are available too – so you can always go private if your budget will allow it. All rooms have fans, but AC costs extra. They don’t have a bar, but you can chill your own booze in the fridge before the pool party kicks off. Next day, nurse your hangover in Hammock Central – and if it’s a Monday, it will only cost you $3 to finish the job with an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet.

4. JJ's Backpackers Hostel

Hostel, Budget Hotel

JJs Backpackers Hostel
Courtesy of JJ's Backpackers Hostel / Expedia

This petite but palm-peppered hostel is all about good friendly vibes. The owner, Jiesa, runs a tight ship and always offers backpackers a warm welcome. You won’t find superdorms here, either – just three or four-bed dorms in addition to private rooms. The hostel has a swimming pool, high-speed wifi and a gaming area for lazy afternoons. On the flipside, you can also look forward to discounted adventures courtesy of the onsite tour office – and when you’re in the mood for a night out, take your pick of the pubs found nearby.

5. Caravella Backpackers

Hostel, Budget Hotel

Caravella Backpackers
Courtesy of Caravella Backpackers / Expedia

Located by the Esplanade waterfront, this budget-friendly option offers up epic seaside views and a kick-ass pool to enjoy them from. There’s a large common area for mingling, and friendly staff on hand to make suggestions on how to get the most out of your visit. It’s set in a quiet spot away from the thump of local nightlife, but you’re still only a 10-minute walk from all the action. Free airport shuttles make life easy if Cairns is the first or final stop of your trip.

6. Global Backpackers Cairns

Hostel, Budget Hotel

Global Backpackers Cairns
Courtesy of Global Backpackers Cairns / Expedia

A newbie to the hostel scene, Global Backpackers Cairns opened in 2019 in an impressive spot on the Esplanade opposite the lagoon, close to restaurants, bars and shops. Every one of the spotless rooms and mixed dorms come with air-conditioning and free wifi, while the communal rooftop deck and lounge is the perfect place to kick back on a beanbag with a cold beer before heading out to party.

7. Mad Monkey Waterfront

Hostel, Budget Hotel

Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront
Courtesy of Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront / Expedia

The Mad Monkey hostel franchise has three outposts in Cairns, and this one is the pick of the lot if you’ve come for the view. Spread over two levels, it sits right on the Esplanade, close to cool cafes and late night bars. Once you’ve checked in, grab a cold beer at the bar and get to know a few of the other guests in the BBQ area, before heading out for the night. Next day, after a cool night’s sleep in your air-conditioned dorm or private room, wash away your sins with a dip in the famous blue lagoon just over the road.

For some budget-friendly options, discover our guide to the best cheap hotels in Cairns and book now on Culture Trip.

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