By Beth Morris Browne and photography by James Travers-Murison
Step off the plane
in Cairns, and that’s it! You’re on holiday. The warm, humid air melts your stiff body and the perfume from the frangipani trees immediately switches your tired brain
into vacation mode. Stress evaporates, and serious relaxation sets in.
Suddenly, all you want to do is laze in a hammock slung between two beachside coconut palms, down a few mellifluous juices and watch as the raging
beauty of a north western sunset takes hold on the sky. Ah, the tropics…
Cairns is one of
the world’s top travel destinations and it’s a tourist’s dream. Nowhere tries harder to give the visitor what he or she wants. Not only is it a glittering city
with happening restaurants, art galleries, gorgeous hotels and fabulous shopping. Cairns holds the key to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
It is backed by hills covered in lush rainforest which no chain saw has ever met, and it is just south of the stunning World Heritage Cape Tribulation
region. And then, of course, there is one of the most magnificent wonders of the world: the Great Barrier Reef.
Madison Plaza, Cairns with Creative art in the making on a table in the Madison
Madison Plaza provides luxury suites and self contained flats bordering the sea which are a stroll along the esplanade to the centre. The famous,
the rich and the Japanese head straight to the Mirage in Port Douglas, the less-of-a-hotel, more-of-a-palace that infamous Christopher Skase had built - and then rebuilt,
many, many times until his wife Pixie was satisfied. He now resides in Majorca, although may be returning courtesy of the commonwealth.
Historic regional art gallery
Backpackers, for once, are spoilt for choice and when the decision making gets too much they resort to the bayside Italian coffeehouse to scan the
Lonely Planet. The locals head north to the beach suburbs, while families load up their fishing boats and roar off to an island retreat.
But everyone who visits has one thing in common. Whether they fly over it, dive into it, or snorkel on top of it, everyone goes to the
View from plane at the Tip
The reef stretches from near Gladstone to the Torres Strait , and gets closest to the mainland in Cairns. Some of the coral reef is 18 million years
old and is a living organism, like an underwater forest. Each year in late spring or early summer, the coral spawns and it’s spectacular – imagine, if you can, a
priceless, technicolour, 2,000 kilometre long pyrotechnic show, and you’re about halfway there.
Sail and dive and sunbake
Dropping down into the jade Coral Sea is tantamount to a spiritual revelation for most people. Once you’ve managed to stuff your head
into the mask and widen the corners of your mouth to Wallace and Gromit dimensions to fit the snorkel, you’re floating in God’s aquarium, and it’s
Which-ich is Gromit? Or is he below?
Last PHOTOG MARK NISSEN Both COPYRGHT TOURISM QUEENSLAND http://www.tq.com.au/imagelibrary/
The first thing that strikes you is that the photographers and TV camera people weren’t making it up: the fish really are that colour,
and there are thousands of them. Even better, the reefs are pristine despite constant, full-on tourism: there are no rusty Coke cans or plastic bags in sight.
Beachless not quite, but not Benidorm
Since Cairns was first built as a port for a goldfield on the Hodgkinson River, it has no beach, a fact which causes great outrage amongst visitors.
When confronted with the distressing news, their faces collapse in disbelief. "You’d think they’d have moved it - or at least imported one by now!" And
by gad they have or at least they are working on a mini one, despite the protests of a 'save the mudflat' group. For the more discerning take a bus to Trinity Beach or sail over
to Green Island.
Cool on The Espie
Cairns has an Esplanade. You can pick up a didge, eat ‘roo, croc and emu flesh, buy a regulation outback Aussie hat complete with swinging
corks and come dangerously close to the city’s resident pelican, which, it has to be said, fails to understand the concept of personal space. Just one leisurely
perambulation along this grandly named strip is an initiation into the glossy but confusing world of tour operators and tourist dollar catchers.
Tully River - meet and make friends rafting and cheer up
You can book a trip to the Daintree, go white water rafting in Tully, watch the Tjapukai Aboriginal dancers, or while away the hours on glorious
Fitzroy Island. You can trigger a few thousand endorphin rushes with a skydive, a bungee jump, or a para-sail. You get the picture. There are over 600 tour options on offer in
this city, every day. Trying to choose one is like being Jennifer Aniston, and opening up your wardrobe (or wing, more likely) and wondering, hum, which one shall it
FROG - or is he prince charming? Bronzed aussie adonises adorn The Espie
Although Cairns has a population of over 100,000, it is also home to an astonishing plethora of wildlife - which is heart warming when you’re
cooing at rainbow clouds of lorikeets, or locked into a staring match with a bright green frog in the bathroom.
CROC - watch out for this fellow at the Woolshed; don't ask her to clean her teeth
It’s less reassuring, however, when you understand just how many crocodiles lurk in creeks close to town, or hear that the wet tropics area is
the favourite habitat for some of the most venomous snakes on the planet. Still, it’s the sort of thing that impresses those folks back home. "Look, mum! There’s me
with a Taipan!"
COME TO CAIRNS - View from Kuranda road to Yorkey's Knob
Even so, Cairns is the closest most of us earth dwellers will ever get to paradise. It’s a pearly gate to endless relaxation or non-stop
adventure, depending on your taste. There is blazing sunshine and intense blue sky, crystal clear water with fish dressed in colours you never knew existed. Six hundred journeys
of a lifetime are just a phone call away. It’s permanently summertime and the evenings are long, languid and balmy.
Oh, pass me another mango juice darling, would you. I’m feeling a little lazy…
Daintree's Huge Trees