Cairns City

Queensland's most northerly city of Cairns, framed by a backdrop of rainforest clad mountains and fringed by the Coral Sea, is the heart of Tropical North Queensland and an ideal base from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforests. Both of these most fascinating ecosystems are World Heritage listed, and there are very few places on earth where two such treasures rest side by side, and so easily accessible to visitors.

Named Australia's most liveable regional centre, which is reflected in its growing population of some 152,000 residents from all corners of the globe and expected to rise to 250,000 in the next few years.

The balmy climate dictates the leisurely, laid back lifestyle, focused on outdoor activities, and several large-scale projects have re-shaped the city in recent years. The upgrading of the city's heart, City Place, the Reef Fleet Terminal and the Esplanade Project, have transformed the CBD and waterfront into an area where recreation and relaxation make the most of the tropical climate.  

The 4800 sq metre saltwater swimming lagoon offers locals and visitors an all year safe swimming location, set on the Cairns foreshore overlooking the Barrier Reef and Trinity Inlet.  Saltwater is pumped from the inlet and filtered through a state of the art filtration system, to meet the high Australian standards. Children can enjoy the sandy edges, build sand castles and play in shallow water. On the other side, others can lounge on the timber decks, while the shady trees, landscaped gardens and open spaces all contribute to the leisurely atmosphere of the lagoon surroundings, often used for community activities from musical concerts to exercise and martial arts classes, workshops, competitions and festivals. Further along the Esplanade, Muddy's Playground is a delight for the little ones with a maze of water slides, playhouses, climbing nets and water jets. Along with the skatebowl and beach volleyball courts, the area attracts many locals and tourists alike.

The mudflats do remain however beyond the amazing Cairns Esplanade, and this is what attracts birdwatchers from around the world. As well as the regular flock of pelicans and spoonbills, the summer months sees the arrival of sandpipers, knots, godwits, whimbrels, tattlers and turnstones, as well as the rarer beach stone curlew.

Telescopes are provided on The Esplanade for a little birdwatching, and interpretive display shelters tell tales of many a legendary character of times long gone.

Carrying with pride the mantle of safest tropical city in the world, Cairns is rated Australia's third most popular tourist destination after Sydney and Brisbane. The traditional Queenslander homes sit side by side with the modern high rises and innovative family dwellings of the suburbs, and all architectural styles blend together along the tree lined streets.

Cairns International Airport is the nation's fifth busiest in terms of international and domestic passenger movements, and is just a few minutes north of the city centre. Visiting cruise liners tower over the wave-piercing catamarans at the Reef Fleet Terminal; while yachts and game fishing boats moor at the adjacent marinas, only a block from the main centre.

Cairns is renowned for its fresh, exotic produce and international standard restaurants, bistros and cafes open to late evening, with menus ranging from genuine Australian bush tucker to the tastes of home for overseas visitors. Art galleries, cinemas and quality nightclubs are located within the city centre; while live theatre and music take centre stage at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, the Cairns Civic Theatre and Cairns Convention Centre.

On the city’s northern fringe is the century-old Cairns Botanic Gardens containing the Flecker Gardens, Tanks Arts Centre, Centenary Lakes, Rainforest Boardwalk and the Mt Whitfield Conservation Park. Visitors to the Botanic Gardens are greeted with extravagant colours from the plethora of exotic and showy blooms such as the Flame of the Forest vine from New Guinea or the equally exotic blue green Jade vine from the Philippines. Gingers and Heliconias conjure up visions of far away steamy paradises with names like Hot Rio Nights, Chocolate Dancer and Barbados Flat.  

The gardens has a range of natural environments and ecosystems from mangroves, fresh and saltwater lakes and a boardwalk through the native lowland swamp rainforest. For those wishing to learn more, self guided walks in several languages are available from the Gardens Information Centre and Bookshop.

Further north of Cairns city, the landscape merges into a coastal strip bordered by rainforest clad mountains of the Northern Beaches, a sweep of golden sands, blue waters and palm trees, as the highway takes one of the most scenic trips in the country following the coastline for much of the way towards Port Douglas.

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