CairnsCairns is the heart of the Tropical North, and with the Cairns International and Domestic Airports only a 5 minute journey from the city centre, it is also the gateway to the many nearby towns and villages and as such provides an ideal base to begin exploring the rich and varied pleasures of this region. Stay a few days to discover the many delights before venturing further.
The Cairns Esplanade is a major focal point of the city, and invites you to stroll along the foreshore, fly a kite, relax on the grass under a shady tree, eat at it's many alfresco eateries or simply share a barbecue or picnic with friends. It is actually a big misconception that Cairns is a beachside town, it actually lies next to tidal mudflats which at any time of the year, you'll see the flocks of different birds which migrate annually from around the world to feed on the mudflats, much to the delight of the world's birdwatchers who pack cameras and binoculars and follow them here.
Having said this the local government is in the process of constructing a manmade beach at one end of the mudflats. This will include a swimming pool complete with white sand. It is a very large development and one that has the blessing of some locals and cursed by others. For more information on this click here. Link to Cairns City Council Esplanade redevelopment.
City shops and duty free stores are well stocked with souvenirs and luxury goods from top Australian and overseas designers. There are two large leisure retail centres, one at the Pier at the end of the Esplanade and another at Cairns Central, part of the main railway station. Both have a great deal to offer visiting shoppers. There are also large shopping centres in the suburbs, Smithfield, Earlville and Westcourt. The city center also has many interesting arcades, plazas and malls, interconnecting the streets. The city center also boasts a Regional Art Gallery which has permanent and special exhibitions. There are also many private galleries who sell original works by resident artists.
On the city's northern fringe, within walking distance of each other, are the Tanks Art Centre, the Royal Flying Doctor base, and the century-old Botanic Gardens which include spectacular walks through the Mt Whitfield rainforest and relaxing Centenary Lakes. A free city bus can take you here to explore.
Cairns by night comes alive with restaurants, bistros, cafes, coffee shops and food halls open to late evening. Menus range from genuine Australian bush tucker, mouth watering seafood platters to the tastes of home for overseas visitors, with many being alfresco. See our restaurant guide for some great recommendations. The most popular thing for locals and visitors is to sit on the esplanade, sip a latté and people watch. The colourful and diverse characters, the groups of visitors from every corner of the world all simply enjoying the passing parade, you really never know who you may bump into!
Please be warned that although the city center is safe and well lit, and no matter how tempting it may be to stroll back the 20 minutes or so to your accommodation, catch a taxi instead. Although not bad by many cities standards, there have been a few incidents, and most of these at night.