holiday in Cairns?
Queensland is the second most popular destination in
Australia and Cairns is the nexus for many activities in this state.
Budget options abound and it's a great, relaxed
place to meet other travellers.
Bungeeing, sky diving, white-water rafting and other stomach
churning activities are popular, as well as more bizarre
Aussie pursuits like cane toad racing.
But Cairns is first and foremost gateway to The Great
Barrier Reef, Daintree Tropical Rainforest
and the Atherton
The weather ranges from warm to hot 'n' sticky and prices are cheaper
• lacking in history and soul, it's
new, brash and seems to hold an endlessly series of tourist establishments
solely dedicated to lightening your wallet.
• some of the local attractions are of exaggerated
interest; the Great Barrier Reef looks a bit tired, off-colour and is 30kms away, Kuranda is very touristy and
Atherton looks like much of Europe.
April-September when it's not so wet or humid.
Worst: October-May rains and jellyfish season; wet season means clouds, rough seas during Great Barrier
Reef boat trips, murky snorkelling or diving etc.
highest temperature recorded in Cairns was 31C (88F), the lowest
17C (63F), though the highest has reached 40C (104F) in the past.
These are not so high, the problem is more the oppressive humidity
in the tropics than the temperature.
Scuba, snorkelling, swimming, glass-bottom boats: The Great Barrier Reef is one
of the most famous coral and fish viewing places in the world, though
in all honesty, it's nowhere near the best - Egypt's Red Sea, Belize or even Ningaloo Reef on Australia's west side are healthier and more colourful.
Plenty of good value scuba courses available,
with sleep-aboard boats on the reef for the last couple of days.
4 days is the minimum time needed.
Boomnetting: sitting in a hammock slung
under a sailing boat's bowsprit so waves wash over you.
Beaches: If you really need beaches
then a short bus ride will get you to white sands and coves of Trinity
Beach or head for Port Douglas, but Cairns' new, free, salt-water
lagoon on the foreshore is magnificent, as is the tree-lined esplanade
and massive kid's playground.
Sea kayaking and snorkelling: splash
out at Fitzroy and Dunk Islands.
White water rafting: on the Tully
(serious rapids) and Barron (kid's stuff) Rivers all year
round, with good value tours and grades for all abilities.
Golf: Several excellent courses, mostly
near Port Douglas.
Hiking: the cool, green Atherton
Tablelands or Hinchinbrook Island's 30km east coast
through heathland, beaches, rainforest and mangroves.
Various: waterfall and gorge tours,
crocodile cruises. e.g. Palmerston National Park.
Rainforest Excursions: There are 3
day to 3 week tours into Australia's most accessible 'jungle', the Daintree Rainforest, as far as Cape Tribulation,
with huge, spacey insects and strange trees guaranteed.
Watch where you tread!
Biking: plenty of good routes, also
bike tour operators complete with support vehicles.
Driving: The Cairns area is loaded
with spectacles and experiences and well worth a few days car hire
to avoid the 'Everyone back on the bus now' loudhailer package traumas.
Cape York - further north - is a favourite
place for full-on 4x4 action.
If Cairns is a little downmarket for you, try posh Port Douglas,
80kms (50mls) north. Good for most of Cairns' activities - though
not prices - Port Douglas also offers several golf courses and sits
beside Four Mile beach.
Some tourists are happy just to chill out in Cairns' superb salt-water
lagoon with changing rooms, beach, trees, grass, fountains
and all for free! But if you must move...Cairns offers over 600
tours every day.
The Great Barrier Reef is 18 million
years old. Stretching for 2,300km this planetary wonder is a must
see but don't expect too much, whether snorkelling, diving or glassbottom
boating. You can't see the size from sea-level, just the faded glory.
Tons of tour operators ensure competitive prices and tailored tours
but remember you're looking at at least an hour each way on potentially
Serious scuba divers should head north
to the Ospreys or south to Ayr and the Yongala wreck.
Kuranda village via the Skyrail Rainforest
Cableway and back via the Scenic Railway, with bird and butterfly
reserves and a touch of tourist shopping in between seems to satisfy
some less adventurous visitors.
Atherton Tablelands: this cool, green
plateau is a popular for hikes and offers a pretty train trip but
it a little too ordinary for the Bugcrew.
The Captain Cook Highway: to the north, passes
by some gorgeous, deserted coastal areas where the Barrier Reef
closes in on the beach.
Daintree Rainforest National Park to Cape Tribulation: the rainforest area is a couple of hours from Cairns and
is prettiest at Mossman Gorge, with good marked walking tracks.
Croc picture-shoot boat trips are popular from Daintree, but for
real jungle experiences you'll need more than a day trip to go deeper.
Hinchinbrook Island: the world's largest
island national park is not far south - with great bushwalks through
heathland, beaches, rainforest and mangroves.
Crystal Cascades: a fine forest/waterfall
area 15km north of Cairns.
Aboriginals: there's a fair introduction
to the aboriginal culture at Tjapukai Aboriginal
Centre a few klicks north of Cairns.
Don't touch anything in the forest!
Not only are there a slither of deadly snakes, aggressive saltwater
crocs, nightmare spiders and giant grumpy lizards but the plants
can be nasty too.
However, these critters don't want to cause trouble (except
the salties); they will only do so if surprised or touched.
Beware saltwater crocodiles in mangroves
and rivers near the sea.
Generally speaking, when in Australia watch
where you walk, don't touch anything and you'll have a superb
experience and live to tell the tale.
Classical Music: hah! no chance in
this food 'n' booze, sports town!
Dance: dance, didgeridoo and Aboriginal narratives at Tjapukai.
Live Music & Clubs: Most clubs
are backpacker dens, half pub, half high school disco, with roughly
equal quantities of noise and vomit. Toad racing, yah!
Classy: Pier marketplace, opal and
other precious stone stores catering for upmarket tourists.
Note that authentic Aboriginal Crafts are best
bought from shops displaying a sign saying 'aboriginal owned'.
Wacky: quirky hawkers on the esplanade
in this commercial town.
From kebabs and pizza stalls to expensive seafood restaurants lining
The Esplanade, this is not a gourmet town but does provide varied
and good value eating.
There is a particularly low-cost food court called the night market
and some excellent Japanese restaurants.
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