Trip Report: One Day in Cairns

Old Apr 18th, 2024, 05:49 AM
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Trip Report: One Day in Cairns

This was a port stop on a cruise but since I explored independently and did not do the “popular” things, I wanted to share with Fodorites in case it’s helpful.

Cairns is a great tropical town – I really liked it - and would come back to explore the town and surrounding area more. Cairns is an old town that was primarily settled in the turn of the 20th century around the mining, timber, sugarcane industries. Most buildings are two-story, although there is a section of high rise hotels; now people come here primarily for Great Barrier Reef snorkeling and diving and visiting the Kuranda or Daintree rainforests. A lot of the new buildings are two stories and there are a number of 1906 buildings in the downtown area that have been nicely restored It was sunny and steamy but I had a plan. When I here 30 yrs ago, I did the GBR and decided not to do it again. The cruise terminal is right in town so it was about a four block walk to the main drag and one side was shady.

I had researched and decided to go to the Cairns Museum first. It was great –one of these small local museums that do a very good job at telling their unique story. The top floor was all about the people who have settled and lived in Cairns from 1907 through now, and they told the stories via photos of a person and a vignette about what they did. Good blend of male/female, whites, aboriginal, Europeans and I thought it gave a good flavor of the town. The next floor was displays around themes like dressing, cooking, safety, home life, work, etc.. more photos and the tools that people used with explanations; the home life part was very interesting to see the rather primitive washing machines from the 1950s, the wooden screened cabinets with the four legs set into metal rings, filled with kerosene to keep the ants out. Very evocative section. They had a docent in the room and I normally give them short shift because I’m perfectly capable of reading explanations myself and sometimes they burble on and on. But she and I started talking and she was very helpful and pleasant.

They have a veranda on the second floor as part of the museum and originally when they told me oh, don’t miss the veranda, I thought “yeah, right – it’s a trillion degrees and you want me to sit outside” but when I saw the door I went outside. Well, I was 100% wrong.! There was a pleasant breeze, ceiling fans, white wicker furniture, and a very nice view over Main Street and the trees. I talked to the same docent later on and she explained that the key in Cairns is to get up high so that you get a breeze; and that’s why a lot of the houses (Queenslanders) are raised and have lots of windows to let the breezes come through. Okay, I was convinced. We were chatting and she asked what else I was going to do, and when I said the botanical gardens, she said she lives right near there, and since her shift is almost over she’ll give me a ride. I was going to take the local bus, but I certainly couldn’t turn down a very kind offer! She gave me some good information about the best time to visit Cairns when it’s more tolerable weather and other things see in the area so I made notes for a future trip. I would definitely recommend this museum if you want to learn about the history of the town.

The Cairns Botanical Gardens are big, but it was stultifyingly hot (at least to me) and a garden isn’t necessarily the best place to be unless you’re in the shade. But this garden has a rainforest boardwalk, which is just what it sounds like - a raised boardwalk through a mini-rainforest. Theoretically, it sounded humid and full bugs to me, but I was here, it was there so off I went. Another scenario where I had it all wrong – the rainforest was shady and the palms reached so high skyward. Sunlight dappled the floor of the rainforest, there were various birds and sounds of big leaves dropping, plus other noises. There were two types of palm groves and a boggy area. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed looking at the bark on the different trees, how the palm leaves/fronds grow, all the dead leaves on the floor and searching out any floral growth on the palms; it was very quiet, velvety air and warm, but I was glowing, not dripping with sweat. Three people passed me who were striding briskly on their way to somewhere – or just getting exercise. Although the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden is small, it was interesting to me, as was the Bamboo Collection (I had no idea there are so many varieties) and the Flecker Gardens.








The local bus stops just outside the Rainforest Boardwalk so I hopped on; it was inexpensive and the driver took cash. My final mission for the day was to go to the Cairns Central Shopping Center to stock up on various things at Coles. (I know Coles from watching all the seasons of MKR-My Kitchen Rules which I loved.). There were a number of other ship’s passengers on the bus and they also wanted to go to the shopping center, but I guess I was the only one who asked the driver which stop it was, since they all got off a few stops early. I bought my things and since the sodas were heavy, I took a cab back to the ship - $6AUD which was well spent! Back on the ship, I went to the aft deck for a great view of the Esplanade and watched the birds (bats? Swallows?) swirl and soar.

All in all, I had a wonderful day in Cairns which made me curious to return in the May-July timeframe and stay for a bit. I really want to visit a sugarcane plantation or museum and go back to GBR again; if the weather was cooler/dryer, I’d even go to the rainforest. I’m thinking of a trip next year that starts in Cairns, goes to Darwin (for Kakadu & the Bungle Bungles), then Broome and maybe Perth. Maybe do a land tour for part of it….lots to research but the top of Australia appeals to me.
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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 02:28 AM
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Thanks for posting this, you managed to fit a lot into the day and the heat can make it more tiring. I was thinking if you wanted to see sugarcane growing, you might also enjoy a chocolate farm/factory we visited a few years ago. It's south of Cairns, near Mission Beach. Charleys grows cocoa pods and has a small factory where they turn the pods into chocolate. They run a short tour of the farm and give samples with an explanation of how different flavours are created. And, of course, they sell their chocolate. It was very lowkey, all outdoors, but enjoyable and something different. You must prebook, check website as tours are not every day. It was fully booked when we went. https://www.charleys.com.au/tours/

Mission Beach is a lovely area, not a huge amount to see but the beaches are gorgeous, there are caravan parks (with cabins) and some shops, places to eat. We've seen a cassowary in the wild on our last two visits. They are fairly rare and if you do see one, keep your distance. If you wanted, you could do a circle trip, from Cairns, across to the lovely Atherton Tablelands (Yungaburra is nice), down to Mission Beach and back to Cairns.

North of Cairns is Palm Cove, the local bus goes there. It's a small area right on the beach, very touristy with accommodation and places to eat. North of there is Port Douglas, you need a car to get there or book a transfer by bus. Port Douglas is my favourite place in that area, it is more expensive but has a wonderful beach, a laidback feel and lots of places for shopping and eating. The Sunday market is great. You can do tours to places further north - Cape Tribulation, the Daintree, Mossman.
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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 04:58 AM
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KayF - thanks for your kind words! But even more so for your suggestions about things to do in general Cairns area. I've already pasted your response into my Australia - Next Trip mail folder. Mission Beach sounds like my kind of place and somewhere to spend 3 or 4 nights, mostly for beach relaxing! I like the idea of doing a circle. This is how I plan my future trips - grab a little info here, a suggestion there, an article, a mention, etc.... and then try to put it into an itinerary!
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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 02:22 PM
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And if you go to Mission Beach, you must visit Paronella Park. Absolutely unique - google it for an interesting story - https://www.paronellapark.com.au/
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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 04:05 PM
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Paronella Park also has a nice outdoor cafe. Do the tour, it was included in the entry fee when we visited and made the place come alive with stories of how it came to be.

Also worth mentioning, its not always safe to swim in the ocean in the north of Australia so a pool can be a good idea. There might be stingers, jellyfish which are potentially dangerous, sharks and crocodiles. It's unlikely you'll come across any of these but definitely good to know about.

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Old Apr 20th, 2024, 07:55 PM
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Thanks for your interesting & entertaining Trip Report, Vickiebypass. Yours is an excellent example of the value of research and flexibility - you were easily able to fit a lot into your one day in Cairns & arrive back at your ship with provisions in good time.

A friend & I had a week in the Rockhampton - Bundaberg - Maryborough area last October, part of a 10 day jaunt that started with the Spirit Of Queensland train out of Brisbane, continued with a road trip from Rockhampton to Byron Bay. That's a fascinating area, largely founded on the big rivers which provided transport for stock & produce to markets in the south - and of course goods, services, provisions and passengers for the growing population.

We did a Trip Report on Trip Advisor which you may/may not find interesting. I'll see if I can find a link to it.
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Old Apr 21st, 2024, 01:03 AM
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No idea what's going on - I've tried 3 times now to attach the link and it doesn't stick.
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Old Apr 21st, 2024, 04:48 AM
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Bokhara2 - I found your TA report "Two on a Train - Travelling North"!! I'm excited to read it..... I'm sure it will create more notes for my "Next Australia Trip" folder (funnily enough, I had a dream last night about taking the Ghan to Alice, but I think the Alice of my imagination - based on "A Town Like Alice" - is long gone."
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