Cairns

Last Updated: 10th Dec 2013

Cairns is renowned as the gateway to two of the world’s greatest natural attractions: The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

As well as providing access to these simply indescribable and contrasting natural wonders, the city itself has a party reputation and is a haven for travelers heading in or out on explorations of Australia.

Located on the East Coast in the far north of Queensland, it is an ever-growing and changing city that is home to over 100,000 people. Although its southern neighbor Townsville is the administrative capital of the region, Cairns is by far the undisputed fun capital of the north with loads of activities, sights, bars, clubs, beaches, reefs, islands and rainforest all within easy reach.

Cairns is also a starting point for those looking to reach towns like Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation further north.

Art and Culture

The Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center provides a great insight into the aboriginal culture and heritage or the region while Kuranda in the hills above Cairns is well known for its as almost ‘hippie’ style commune and all the art and hand made goods that go along with it.

Nightlife

If you want to get on down and party, have a few brewskies or shake your derriere like there’s no tomorrow, then you’ll love the nightlife here. The bar and club scene goes off with a massive mix of international visitors and locals that cannot be found anywhere in the country (other than maybe Sydney. There are pubs and clubs, bars and cafes all pumping on through until the wee hours of the morning.

One thing to remember when partying it up in Cairns though, at 3am the clubs shut their doors to new patrons, so choose your club carefully for the 3-5 time slot. Some of the cities hot spots that definitely worth checking out include Rattle ‘n’ Hum, The Sports Bar, the Mad Cow Tavern, The Woolshed and Shenanigans Irish Pub.

Punters are also always happy to end up at the city’s casino.

Shopping

From didgeridoos to doughnuts, you can spend the day browsing at the large shopping centres or picking up souvenirs or Australian collectables. Cairns is also home to a huge selection of art galleries, stocked with local and national artworks.

The major shopping center in the city is Cairns Central, which is just a short walk down Shields street while the Pier Market Place at the Pier on Cairns’ Esplanade is also good for retail. Markets are a great place to find interesting locally produced items. The product range is huge and ranges from jewelery through to pottery, all sorts of artwork, clothes, homemade food and unique Australian goods – all sorts of weird stuff! Cairns Night Markets are great and are held every night from 4pm until 11pm and are located along The Esplanade.

History

Although the native aboriginals of the region had more than their fair share of run ins with foreign settlers, the aboriginal culture and history in Cairns is a lot more evident here than many other places along the east coast as is evidenced by the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center.

Although the Dutch are known to have visited northern Australia, it is widely believed that (much like much the entire east coast) the first Europeans to lay eyes on Cairns were the crew of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour. The Great Barrier Reef, the biggest attraction in the area today, caused huge problems for the early explorer as his ship ran across the reef, almost sinking the ship and forcing the crew to beach it for repairs just north of Cairns in a town that now bears the captains name: Cooktown. Another town linked to this period in history is Cape Tribulation after the troubles the crew went through during their ordeal.

The dense tropical rainforest, cyclones, drenching wet season, treacherous reefs, and crocodiles made life near impossible for early settlers however like San Francisco and so many other cities before it, the discovery of gold brought a rush of people to the region.

After the gold rush the city went on to survive off the back of logging, farming, fishing and pearling became which all became key industries. None of these however have been bigger draw cards than The Great Barrier Reef as Cairns offers some of the best access to the reef anywhere. The myriad of other recreational and pleasure-seeking activities brought by the mass tourist market have also made Cairns the undeniable base for exploring the natural wonders of the region.

Cairns has developed over the last decade from simply a backpackers paradise to a truly cosmopolitan city of cool tropical chic adding even more allure to this simply sensational part of the world.