From Mission Beach we headed up to Cairns, where we stayed for three days in a campsite that was approximately 20 minutes walk away from the the city centre. On arrival we became aware of how different the climate is, even though we weren’t overly far from our last stop. The air felt thick and muggy, almost as though we were back in Thailand; it definitely took some getting used to that’s for sure!
We had three days of warm and mostly sunny weather and tried to make full use of them.
Day 1 – Exploring the City
We wandered down to the Esplanade and strolled along until we reached the main marina. This waterside strip is full of park land, sport courts, a skate park and public lagoon pools; all of which can be used by visitors and residents free of charge. Public outdoor pools are common along the East Coast as it isn’t always safe to swim in the rivers and sea. In Cairns crocodile warning signs are along both the sea front and in the swamp creeks so this is a great way for people to cool off without risking their lives. The marina is relatively small in comparison to others that I have seen but had some lovely looking restaurants, as did the waterfront facing street in the city centre.
The city itself is different to others we have visited in Australia in the fact that there are no high rises, skyscrapers or even much of a city bustle. It’s a place that feels very ‘small town’ on a large scale, with beautifully traditional buildings that make you feel like you’re in the Wild West. We spent the afternoon strolling around the shops, looking at traditional aboriginal souvenirs for home and getting a feel for the area.
Day 2 – The Great Barrier Reef
Our second day in Cairns was spent on a day tour to the Great Barrier Reef, which we had booked in prior to our arrival with a company called ‘Ocean Freedom’. We arrived at the marina for a 7.15am departure and had a whole day on the Reef which included two snorkelling sites, a ride on a glass bottomed boat and lunch and snacks. The boat was modern and extremely well kept and the food was great and plentiful, but the best part of the day lay underneath the boat. I have never seen anything so amazing – a whole other eco-system teeming with life. We saw parrot fish, clown fish (nemos), stingray, clams bigger than me and mind blowing coral, amongst hundreds of other amazing species. The afternoon got even better on the glass bottomed boat when we saw two Green Turtles and one Hawks Bill Turtle – a species that I have wanted to see in the wild ever since we started this trip! The guides were also really knowledgable, with many of them being marine biologists. Along with Whitsundays and my skydive, I think this trip has got be in my top 3 when it comes to my experiences in Australia.
Did you Know?
The sex of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand when the eggs are laid. Sand with a temperature of over 30 degrees leads to female turtles and less than 30 degrees leads to male turtle hatchlings. Climate change is therefore a massive threat to turtles; as global warming leads to hotter temperatures and therefore a gender imbalance.
Only 1 in 10,000 turtles makes it to adulthood. Which makes the protection of this species even more important.
Parrot fish are not called such because of their multicolours, but because of their teeth. Parrot fish have two big top and bottom teeth that are beak-like, that they use to bite into coral. They then have back teeth that move horizontally to break down the coral. This is then released from the fish as pure sand. According to the biologists, a lot of the sand along the ocean shore in the Great Barrier Reef will have been through a Parrot Fish!
Day 3 – Viewing Cairns Upon High.
For our last day in Cairns we decided to take a walk to the outskirts of the city, towards the botanical gardens and airport. Near the botanical gardens are a number of paved walking tracks that take you along the swampy rivers. It makes for a lovely stroll and allows you to see another part of tropical Cairns. We then cut up a footpath to a view point that we had found in both the Lonely Planet and on the internet, that apparently had views of the city. It turns out we never found this ‘lookout’ because the paths were either dead ends, dilapidated or closed. We did however find an old zip wire tower which had some relatively good views over the airport, so I guess if you’re into train spotting that would be for you! Although this walk didn’t go quite how we planned, it was still lovely to do some rural exploring; I don’t feel like we have done enough of it in Australia!
Although Cairns maybe isn’t a ‘happening’ city like Sydney and Brisbane, it has it’s own unique charm that other cities just don’t have. It’s also the main gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and that alone is enough to warrant this city of the tropics a visit.