Cairns, Queensland

Cairns, the ‘gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’, is a great place. In winter it is about 28 degrees centigrade most days, which is great (my kind of winter!) By day, the sounds of birds and geckos fill your ears and as dusk settles over the Esplanade bats hurry about the darkening sky.

Cairns City

The town itself is pretty much a two-storey place, especially in the centre. It is an easy town to walk around and laid out simply. It is difficult to get lost. A few historical buildings have survived the cyclones and can be seen around town. There is a museum too, proudly explaining Cairns’ history.

Cairns Historical Museum, Queensland, Australia

Cairns has all the normal high street stores, as well as a high proportion of surfer brand clothing stores. If shopping is your thing, head to Cairns Central Shopping Mall. There are also night markets between the Esplanade and Abbott Street. They are open after 4pm and sell a plethora of things, mostly souvenirs, jewellery, T-shirts and snacks.  If you need your name engraved on a piece of rice you are in luck! The night markets are an enjoyable way to stroll off dinner. There are market stalls selling arts and crafts by the lagoon on weekends too.

Cairns Night markets, Australia

Of course the main reason a lot of people come here is to dive the reef. Cairns is certainly well furnished with dive centres. It feels like there is one on every corner. There are also lots of companies who deal in trips to the reef for snorkelling and or diving. An evening stroll around the marina brings it home just how many operators there are.

To Swim or Not to Swim?

Having said that, the sea nearby is fraught with dangers. There are signs at all the local beaches warning of jellyfish and I’ve even seen signs warning ‘Crocodiles may be present in these waters’ eek! That’s quite a deterrent! Cairns itself doesn’t really have a beach, so locals head to the beaches just North of town. The tides here mean the (crocodile infested remember) water by town, is very shallow and a lot of the time the esplanade looks out over endless stretches of mudflats.

Beach sign warning of jellyfish and crocodiles on Cairns’ beaches, Australia

Cairns Lagoon

Beyond all the tourism though, there is a real feeling of community in Cairns and life centres around the lagoon. Cairns lagoon is a recent addition to the Esplanade and people flock here at the weekends. It is a large pool near the centre of town. Parts of it are shallow and beachlike; parts are deeper for swimming. There is a man made beach complete with sand and those who don’t like sand can sit on the far side which is more pool-like with decking up to the water’s edge. The now iconic metal fish that stand at the seashore end, spray water from their fins, delighting children. For a passionate swimmer like me, it is disappointing not to be able to swim in the sea, but when there are crocodiles involved, I’ll happily stick with the lagoon.

Cairns Lagoon, Queensland, Australia

At weekends there are people in the lagoon swimming and playing ball games. Friends meet and sunbathers laze all around the lagoon in the sunny and shady spots. There are also wide expanses of grass just back from the esplanade where there are picnic tables and even barbecues available for the public to use. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons a live band plays.

Cairns Esplanade

A short walk away along the esplanade, there are also a few children’s play areas, as well as two workout stations where gym equipment is available for the public to use.

Exercise equipment on Cairns Esplanade, Australia

Cairns also has a community fitness program called Active Living. The council organises various activities which take place around the esplanade and lagoon. These include boxing, yoga, bootcamp, pilates, tai chi, aqua aerobics and beach volleyball to name a few. So far, I have only managed to get to the beach volleyball, but it was great.

Beach Volleyball at Cairns, Australia

Of course, people eat in Cairns too. There are lots of restaurants offering different cuisines, cafes and bars along the esplanade in which to enjoy that hard-earned drink as the sun sets after another day’s exertions.


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