Location: Lake St, Cairns; a block back from the Esplanade/Muddy’s Playground and adjacent from Cairn Hospital
Price range: $114-$190 per night
The space: Usually when we travel, we opt for accommodation that’s either amazingly quirky, amazingly affordable, or just an absolutely mind-blowingly amazing location. This was was one of our affordable picks (affordable for Cairns, that is). It’s a self-contained apartment complex towards the northern end of Cairn’s main drag. When you’re choosing accommodation based on price rather than creature comforts, I think it’s only fair to give a little leeway on expectations – so no, it’s not a billion dollar holiday resort with kids club and waiters jumping over themselves to serve you. It’s a no-fuss apartment complex where you can forgo the big hotel stuffiness – cook your own meals in a decent sized kitchen, let the kids have their own space in their own room, and just spread out for a week. Reef Gateway isn’t amongst the resorts jostling for pole position along the more touristy southern end of the Esplanade, but it’s still handy to most attractions if you don’t mind a reasonable stroll. There’s no views and it’s on the main street across from the region’s biggest Hospital (so there’s occasional traffic noise) but overall it’s a great budget-friendly self-contained option for families just looking for a handy and comfortable base to explore Cairns and – as the name suggests – the reef and beyond.
The room: The complex houses one or two bedroom fully self-contained apartments complete with full kitchen, laundry, and cable TV. It’s handy to town, and the facilities were that kind of happy medium perfect for families – nice enough that you feel comfortable, but not so fancy that you’re worried your kids are going to destroy the joint. We were given a ground floor apartment. It had a patio, but as this opened onto the highly-unspectacular rear car park and we were rarely home during the day, needless to say we didn’t use it that much.
The facilities: A floodlit salt-water swimming pool complete with spa and gas barbecue was a favourite with the kids, and there was also a tour office near check in, allowing you to browse and book tours.
Nearby things to do:
Only a block away from the Northern end of Cairn’s famous Esplanade, the complex is a short stroll to ‘Muddy’s pictured above – a massive kids playground with water play areas, café, BBQ’s and swings galore under massive shady fig trees.
The swimming lagoon and marina where all the cruises leave from are also a scenic, flat and easy 15-20 minute walk, as is the main shopping and dining precincts. See our little video below filmed in and around town:
Pros: For the price, it was the best value family-friendly two-bedroom apartment complex we could find in town in Cairns at the time (for two bedrooms, only resorts in the outskirts or in-town backpacker facilities were in the same range, and this is hands down more cozy and clean). We looked at hotels up closer to the marina but figured with the money we’d saved on accommodation and the apartment’s handy proximity to free activities, we were able to undertake more tours/reef cruises/day trips and explore the area better – all without sacrificing too heavily on comfort.
Cons: It’s supposedly 4 star but really didn’t feel it, however there were very few downsides to staying here. We’d gathered from reviews that while it was advertised as recently renovated, each apartment had wildly varying degrees of modernity – unfortunately we got one of the less updated apartments, but still really had no issues.
It’s also worth noting though that as it’s directly across from the hospital, most of the other guests staying while we were here weren’t on holiday – many were from surrounding districts and just visiting family members who were sick or injured in hospital. It gave the place a more mellow and somber vibe than your usual resort or holiday complex, but everyone was still pretty friendly.
Good location, good value self-catering option that family travellers will love.
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Happy Place Hunter's resident Editor In Chief, Caz Emge, has written for publications around the globe for two decades. An avid outdoor buff, in her (limited) spare time she and her videographer husband and two sons gather insights for this site – sharing happy places as they find them Click to read full bio