Cairns is the last stop on our trip to Australia. After 1800 km between RVs, kangaroos and campsites we arrive in a typical Australian city where 147,993 inhabitants live overlooking the Coral Sea.
Cairns reflects theAustralian soul of North Queensland very well: winter is warm, 30°C during the day with a good temperature range in the evening that allows kids and tourists to crowd the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, a man-made beach, complete with a saltwater pool, a stone’s throw from the city center.
Cairns, like many other cities on the coast, does not allow swimming on the beach: the sea is populated by crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, and mollusks the smaller they are the more dangerous they are, however, making this area one of the areas with the highest biodiversity in the world.
The center is full of pubs where you can enjoy a good Australian beer, the Great Northern brewing co. beer is a good alternative, or a ginger beer brewed at the historic distillery in Bundaberg. Cairns has a wealth of places for recreation and relaxation: restaurants, pubs, supermarkets, stores of all kinds (for example, they sell UGG boots, made of sheepskin, in a place where in the winter season it reaches 30°C) but above all agencies that organize excursions to the Great Barrier Reef.
It is easy to get carried away by the spirit that animates this city, which is very different from Australian metropolises but retains a charm all its own. So…what to see in Cairns?
2 experiences to do in Cairns, Australia
In a couple of days in Cairns, you can have several experiences touching the pristine nature of the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest and the traditions of a forgotten people like the Aborigines.
Try the SKYRAIL – Rainforest cableway
Queensland is crossed, at Rockhampton, 1067 km south of Cairns, by the Tropic of Capricorn.
Cairns is therefore located in a tropical zone. In fact, the climate alternates between a rainy season and a drier one. The vegetation is exaggeratedly lush and verdant.
The Rainforest Skyrail is a special experience for those who love nature and want to experience it from a different perspective. It also allows you to discover one of the most active and lush ecosystems in the world.
Theentrance to CairnsSkyrail, the Smithfield Terminal, is next to the Tujapukai Cultural Center; if you decide to do both activities, there is the option of purchasing a single ticket at a slight discount.
The Skyrail flies over a lush rainforest and ends its ride in the small town of Kuranda, which can also be reached by car or train.
The ride takes one hour with the option of getting off at two points:
- First stop -> The Red Peak Station, in the heart of the forest, where you can walk among huge plants and catch a glimpse of the dense vegetation that characterizes this humid tropical forest, discovering the fauna and flora that inhabit the forest.
- Second stop -> is still in the forest but with a beautiful “glimpse” of Barron Falls which are spectacular in the rainy season.
Upon arriving in Kuranda, one encounters an extremely touristy reality where hordes of tourists pour into the only street and the various souvenir stores.
The train station, another fascinating means by which to reach the town, externally has an enchanting Orient Express and is located near the Skyrail terminal.
Important: Consider well the latest departure times from Kuranda to Cairns. Whether by train or skyrail, the last rides are around 3:30 to 4 p.m.
Pros and cons of trying the Cairns skyrail?
PRO: The skyrail experience allows you to fully immerse yourself in nature
CON: Kuranda does not have its own identity and certainly does not reflect the naturalness and authenticity of the forest that surrounds it.
SNORKELING in the Great Barrier Reef – Great Barrier Reef
Cairns overlooks the Coral Sea, and there are many companies offering different tours to visit the Great Barrier Reef; they can be found under the downtown arcades or in the harbor area. However, it is possible to book more quietly online.
The Tusa company, which we relied on, at a cost of about €200 per person runs a tour that leaves at 8:30 a.m. from the Cairns wharf and returns around 5 p.m.
For these experiences, it is best not to rely on companies that offer bargain-basement excursions, because most likely the dives will take place in areas of the Reef where the corals are no longer alive.
Once you get on the boat you are divided into groups based on who will try their hand at diving and who will try their hand at snorkeling.
The boat is large and loaded with people but everyone seems to have their own space; wetsuits, snorkel masks and fins are provided.
Going out to sea is done without a guide. You are, however, instructed (in true Australian style with photos and pictures) by the staff who teach gestures to use at sea in case of need and inform everyone about possible dangers in the water.
In some areas of the Reef it is possible to go scuba diving even if you are not able. In fact, these areas are considered real natural pools, where it is possible to dive even for beginners and take lessons with qualified instructors.
The Barrier Reef, the largest living organism on earth, is characterized by different corals along the entire length of the coast. In this experience, unlike our experience on Lady Musgrave Island, we saw larger fish and the colors of the corals were more intense and vivid.
Servingnote: Lunch is served on the boat and when you want you can dive back into the water.
Pros and cons of discovering coral reefs?
PRO: The chance to see with your own eyes the majesty of this huge living organism.
CON: the lack of awareness and care regarding the fragility of this ecosystem.