1. Travel

Cairns, Queensland

Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef


Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Here's a bird's-eye view of Cairns looking out to the harbour

© Australian Tourist Commission 1997

When you think of the tropical regions of Australia, particularly Queensland, what come to mind are Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns is fascinating tropical country and a major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Reef is a whole subject in itself and is the focus of another article.

(See Down Under Wonder).

From the Cairns airport, if you wanted to, you could stop at the Mangrove Boardwalk, just off Airport Ave, where at least 11 easily identifiable mangrove species can be found.

Flora and rare fauna

If interested in other flora, there’s the Flecker Botanic Gardens about four kilometres from the city centre. Here you’ll find a range of tropical plants of native or exotic origins. Opposite the gardens are the Centenary Lakes where there are rainforest boardwalks and barbecue and playground facilities.

If you wanted to go up Mt Whitfield which overlooks the city, there is an environmental park there which includes the habitat of rare fauna as well as the ubiquitous rainforest walks.

In the city itself, check out the Pioneer Cemetery, the resting place of Cairns pioneers, where you can sense the spirit of the city’s past.

Arts and culture sites

Interested in Aboriginal culture? While in Cairns, don’t forget to visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park which showcases Aboriginal arts and culture as well as conducting Aboriginal tours.

Other arts and culture sites to visit are the Cairns Museum, Cairns Regional Gallery, and the Tanks Art Centre, this last being a multi-purpose venue for the development of the arts and created from five World War II oil tanks.

On the other hand there’s always the Reef Casino if your interests lie in this direction.

It’s easy enough to find your way around the city by remembering where the major streets go, and using, say, the railway station and the wharves as landmarks.

Gastronomic adventures

There are any number of cafes and restaurants in the area offering a variety of fare, from noodles and sushi to indigenous (as well as continental and Asian) cuisine. Walk along the city streets, particularly where tourists converge, and you’ll find restaurants there.

What it all boils down to in the end is that Cairns by itself is well worth a visit — particularly in Australia's winter months (June, July, August) when you need some sun and warmth. Unfortunately, it can get pretty hot and sticky in Cairns in summer.

When you're ready for the sea, the local Visitors Bureau should have the information you need for all the underwater wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

Along the Coast

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.