Nov 24

10 COOL THINGS TO DO IN CAIRNS

by in Europe

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Situated in the tropics, Cairn’s locals experience a warm humid climate all year round. For the excited tourists flocking to this magnificent destination, this can be a trip of a lifetime. There are enough activities in the area to keep any backpackers or families here for weeks on end, so make sure you find good accommodation in Cairns city and travel from this hub. Here’s some cool things to do on your trip to north Queensland.

Laze in the lagoon
When the capital of Tropical North Queensland built its lagoon, it was a game-changer for Cairns. Snatching pole position along the Esplanade, this 4800-square metre pool of salt water has become a magnet for back packers and locals. Swimmers were previously limited to places to take a dip due to stingers and crocodiles. Using salt water from the Trinity Inlet, and with views of the mountains, this is one of Queensland’s most stunning watering holes. Grab a picnic table, laze under a shady Banyan Tree or enjoy one of the 12 barbecue facilities here. There’s also free exercise and play equipment.

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Visit the night markets
Once the sun starts to set in Cairns and the temperature starts to drop, think about wandering to the Night Markets. They held 365 days of the year along The Esplanade, from 5pm to 11pm. There’s numerous cool things for sale here, including accessories, clothing, Indigenous crafts, jewellery, made-in-Queensland designs, natural healing, technology, and souvenirs. Food stalls open here from 10am if you’re a morning person, and include everything from ice-cream, noodles, seafood and sushi. Massage stalls start from 12pm, and don’t forget to visit the clairvoyants and tarot readers!

More markets ☺
Head to Rusty’s Markets (as the locals call it), launched 30 years ago by Emrys “Rusty” Rees. It’s on Grafton Street from Thursday to Saturday each week to experience this hive of activity. If supporting local farmers who grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and other produce is your idea of cool, then you will adore this vibrant marketplace. You will discover and taste all sorts of exotic foods you may have never encountered before. You’ll be surprised at how much is grown in Cairns from coffee to fruity wines.

Dine with a twist
For a true flavour of the Tropical North Queensland destination in which you find yourself, head to Ochre Restaurant which specialises in creating dishes from local and native produce. This award-winning establishment serves the likes of Salt and Pepper Prawns and Crocodile; Grilled Kangaroo with Quandong Chilli Glaze; and Wattleseed Pavlova among its five-star rated menu. Even the cocktail menu screams Cairns, with cool concoctions such as The Kakadu Walkabout and the Wattle Cini Tini on offer here.

Enjoy hip galleries
You may be in regional Queensland, but that’s no reason to think there’s no hip culture. On the contrary, Cairns has a thriving art industry with several cool galleries. Not only does it stage vibrant exhibitions, but The Cairns Art Gallery also hosts art classes for adults and kids, family events and artist talks. KickArts Contemporary Arts captures the contemporary visual culture of Tropical North Queensland. Check out the incredible Indigenous art works for sale in the gallery shop. At the eclectic UnderArt Gallery, enjoy the jewellery, sourced from all around Australia, as well as cutlery, hand-painted crockery and gift wares.

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Escape to the outer reef
One of the coolest things about Cairns is its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and there are so many opportunities to explore here. There’s plenty of tourism operators who offer everything from sailing to snorkelling and diving. Simply select from the one which suits your budget and desires. Established in 1979, Quicksilver has an outer reef cruise on its wave-piercing catamaran to Agincourt Reef. On this day trip, you can dive, snorkel or enter a semi-sub just one metre under the water. There’s also an underwater viewing platform, underwater observatory and the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over the reef.

Embrace cool culture
One of the coolest Cairns cultural experiences can be had at the award-winning Tjapukai, which pays homage to the Indigenous ancestors of the region. By day you can experience traditional dance, art and demonstrations of the world’s oldest living culture. After dark, meet the Bama people of the rainforest who will paint your face and take you on a spiritual journey. Dine at the Flame Tree Bar and Grill on native bush food, local seafood and Indigenous flavours.

Rainforest relief
Head for the hills and escape the heat with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which runs from Cairns to Kuranda. This award-winning attraction, which travels through the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest, glides above the canopy before descending on the Red Peak and Barron Falls Rainforest stations. Your journey ends in the rainforest village of Kuranda, home to cool cafes, restaurants and markets.

Daytrip to Port Douglas
The journey from Cairns to Port Douglas is one of the coolest in the country, with the rainforest flanking one side of the road, and the Coral Sea on the other. Port Douglas is where the uber cool like to hang out, for its superb sailing, great restaurants and shopping strip. It is home to quintessential Queensland cane toad races in historic pubs and weekend markets peddling local produce and home-made wares. You will also find award-winning seafood dining, plus events galore. This is a fresh little getaway from Cairns. If you want to sleep where all the chic people go, check out QT Port Douglas which boasts a rather cool pool the size of a lagoon.

Walkabout with the Walker Brothers
Just north of Port Douglas, near Mossman, join the Walker brothers on a traditional Indigenous Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour. There’s two incredible tours from which to choose from here. On the Coastal Beach and Mangrove Walk, you’ll meet a traditional custodian on Cooya Beach who will first explain the cultural importance of the country on which you stand. Then, you will learn about traditional spear throwing fishing, as well as cultural medicine and food plants. On the Coastal Beach Night Time Walk, guests have two options: night walking and boat rowing or night fishing. Either way, embracing Indigenous culture is a great way to experience the best Cairns has to offer.

Images by Nathan Hughes Hamilton, Ian Cochrane and Eulinky under Create Commons License.

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