Cairns and surrounds

For years, Cairns has been a Mecca for those seeking the tropical pleasures of Australia. Set on the ocean, with good access to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, this large city has the capacity to lodge many visitors.

On our recent visit, we travelled via Kuranda, which is a scenic but winding way to go, and headed to the foreshore.

Stopping in at Muddy’s café, they provided coffee and vegan brownie slice before we walked the entire foreshore and saw the lagoon, various playgrounds (some with water parks) and the birdlife on the mudflats.

Many people don’t realise that Cairns is a mudflat and when the tide goes out it is less attractive. Beware of crocodiles along the foreshore and look for boats heading out to the reef along the channel.

Cairns Botanic Gardens was next on the list and it’s incredible, with tiered walks and historical information. We had a map, but spent so long trying to photograph butterflies in the conservatory, that the day proceeded quicker than we did and we only saw about a third of the Gardens.

On leaving, we saw a very unusual tree, with a heavily spiked trunk and blossoms like a cotton field. It explained the tufts of white gossamer that lined the path on our entry to the park and the culprit is Malvaceae, or the silk floss tree, of South America.

I’ve since learnt that the Gardens are divided into three sections, so look into that before you go so that you can prioritise what you see. We headed out early for Kuranda and stopped first at Lake Placid Recreation Reserve.

A popular, picturesque destination, with BBQs, toilets and a playground, we were surprised to see several ‘beware of the crocodiles’ signs, given that many people hold weddings here. My imagination runs away with me.

It was a short drive from here to Kuranda and we stopped at the Barron Falls Railway Station and lookout, having taken the train from Cairns to Kuranda some years ago. The view is pretty impressive and optimised in the wet season, but we don’t usually go then, as it curtails many activities and is very humid. We arrived when the train was in the station, so in time to see it snake away through the forest.

Barron Falls

The train is a wonderful experience, as it is an old train that enables you to have the doors open as you travel, and passes through stunning scenery. Many people return via the chairlift, but there’s also the community bus.

Kuranda scenic railway

The Barron Gorge scenic drive was very pretty and most people, unlike us, were walking or jogging it. At the end is the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station, complete with bridge. As with the Falls, at the end of Winter there was merely a trickle, but the bridge is quite high and beware, as it is windy and not for the faint hearted.

Wrights Lookout afforded sweeping views of the valley before we headed for the town.

Our plan was to go to Kuranda, fondly remembered as a place where the train dropped us off and we drifted among craft stores and local goods. Like many places, 20 years does a lot of damage and we found a quiet commercial centre selling goods from India and Bali, with a few very special shops selling local artwork. The ArtCo-op had glass beadwork, pottery and silk, along with painting and other craft. It was really good and the prices are as you’d expect, with a few bargains amongst the treasure. There are Indigenous goods for sale, but not all are from the area, as commercial products are sold through a kind of co-op, which is Australi-wide, so if you want local goods, just ask.

There are coffee shops (buy local), a supermarket and plenty of eateries, although with Covid so recent the busy multicultural vibe was missing.

Cairns is the best place from which to board a boat and travel to the Great Barrier Reef, but you can see our last trip there, here.

Cairns won’t disappoint. Take hats, sunscreen and water.

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