Cairns was a big change from Sydney. The seaside area is peacefully thriving with tourists and locals alike. A few tower blocks, but most of these are the larger hotels. Walk for a few minutes and you’re in to the suburbs. In most of the areas we walked though the houses are wooden and raised up above street level, as was the B&B we stayed in. I got the feeling change is coming though: some of the wooden houses look a little dishevelled, later to be bought up and converted in to concrete built apartments?
There are bats, big bats, flying in enormous clouds. These spectacled flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) camp together in the trees during the daytime and, as the sun goes down, wake and take to the skies en-masse to hunt for food.
Cairns is known as a “gateway to The Great Barrier Reef”. Many SCUBA and snorkeling trips are available to go and see the reef and the colourful sea life that live there. Compared to snorkeling in Taiwan or Borneo I found great freedom on the Great Barrier Reef; the surface current was not strong where we were and we could independently swim around a reasonably large area. You have to wear a full body wet suit/stinger suit though to avoid pain from the many Jelly fish. Under the water the reef is a truly amazing sight. If you have never Snorkelled or dived a tropical reef before, it is an experience I’d highly recommend!
Palm Cove is the place to relax. The beach is long and wasn’t crowded. Behind the palms there are various bars and restaurants with good food and drink. The chocolate thick-shake at Chill Cafe was great!
The Kuranda Scenic Railway runs from Cairns centre up in to the mountains to the town of Kuranda. The train runs twice a day in each direction, it’s a fun ride, and the on-board introduction to the history of the railway and the region is very good. Kuranda station is attractive and the town itself has two aspects. There are a series of trails that run through the edge of the local rainforests. Time is plenty enough to gently walk the longer trail and lose yourself in green, even if you arrive on the late train and plan to return on the earlier. The other aspect is the town side. It is very touristy but still easy going. There are interesting things to see, eat and purchase, including some amazing and fun art work.
Unless you have your own transportation, getting out in to the countryside means joining one of the hundreds of trips that start from Cairns each day. We joined the On the Wallaby day trip in to the Atherton Tableland. Our insanely happy and energetic tour guide drove us up to Gillies Range and the Cathedral Fig Tree, a 500 years old strangler fig tree. Later we visited Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham, Millaa Millaa Falls, Dinner Falls and Mount Hypipamee Crater. The highlight for us was catching sight of the smallest kangaroo species in the world, the musky rat-kangaroo.
Cairns Art Museum is a three floor exhibition space in the centre of town. Inside is a variety of paintings and sculptures, including pottery. It was great to see works from local and lay artists.
Happy New Year! It’s 2017 now! We spent the evening on the promenade watching the fireworks over the bay.
Fitzroy Island is about a one hour ferry ride away from Cairns. It is beautiful but most of the accessible beach areas are restricted to those living in the resort accommodation on the island. As we had just jumped on a boat to visit for the day, we spent most of the time away from the sea side, walking up to the peak of the island. The trail itself is not particularly hard but you have to account for long stretches that have zero shade. It was incredibly hot and dehydrating to get to the top. That said, once there, there is a cool breeze and great 360° views out over the ocean.
Visiting Fizroy was the end of our time in Cairns, and in Australia. We had a sad moment when we got back to Cairns and found that both of the locked bicycles we had borrowed from our B&B host had been stolen, seemingly along with several others, from the public bike parking area at Marlin Marina. So our last adventure was a trip to the police station, only to find out that reporting theft can only be done by phone or online these days~
Australia is amazing! This trip we only travelled the East Coast - will be back to see more!