Cairns it is the last stop on our trip to Australia. After 1800 km between campers, 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: winter is hot, 30 ° C during the day with a good temperature range in the evening that allows children and tourists to crowd the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, an artificial beach, complete with a salt pool, a stone's throw from the city center.
Cairns, like many other cities on the coast, does not allow bathing on the beach: the sea is populated by crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish and molluscs, 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 viable alternative, or one ginger beer produced in the historic Bundaberg distillery. Cairns is full of places for recreation and relaxation: restaurants, pubs, supermarkets, shops of all kinds (for example, UGG sheepskin boots are sold in a place where in the winter season it reaches 30 ° C) but above all agencies that they 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 the Australian metropolis but retains its own charm. Therefore…what to see in Cairns?
The 3 experiences to do in Cairns in Australia
In a couple of days, in Cairns it is possible to live different experiences touching the pristine nature of the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest and the traditions of a forgotten people like that of the Aborigines.
1 - Visit the TJAPUKAI - Cultural Center
In the vast Australian territory it is possible to find numerous cultural centers, scattered in various areas. The centers range from the most spartan to the most touristic and all inclusive, all with the aim of making known the culture and traditions of an ancient people.
The center is located just outside the city of Cairns and, if you don't have a car, you can reach it in several ways:
- By taxi -> cost of Australian $ 20 which corresponds to about € 13
- By public transport-> through Route 123, you can find various information and timetables at this link: https://translink.com.au/cairns.
Tickets can be purchased online with a 10% discount on the centre's website https://www.tjapukai.com.au/ or directly at the ticket office (adults $ 62, children $ 42 for general admission or classic admission, or adults $ 108 and children $ 70 for classic admission with the addition of extra activities).
Le ways to visit the center there are two:
- By Day: at morning
- Night Fire: in the evening, where it is possible to attend the fire ceremonies, typical dances, didgeridoos and dine on typically aboriginal dishes.
We have chosen daytime entry with an option at 9.00 and 13.00. The route is led by Aboriginal boys and girls and, depending on the package chosen, various activities are done.
With the entrance General Admissio By Day one takes part, in the Bulurru theater, in the show on the birth of the aboriginal people, in a performance of typical dances and in the magnetic sound of the didgeridoo.
Moving inside the center you get to the Bush foods and medicine. Here, you will discover objects and utensils useful to the Aborigines to hunt, heal, eat and the musical instruments used to recreate and pass on the rites and values of the Dreaming stories.
Il Dreaming "Time of the Dream" is therebased on the Aboriginal animist religion and it identifies with the time when the ancestor spirits gave rise to creation.
The visit to the center continues with the launch of the boomerang and the spear: tools used to hunt.
The experience ends with a stop at the shop, full of reproductions of boomerangs, fabrics, didgeridoos and many other souvenirs.
Pros and cons of visiting Cairns' Tjapukai Cultural Center?
PRO: it was possible for us to speak directly with the young people who work in the center and who often escape from realities of decay, alcoholism and marginalization.
AGAINST: the center is large and often attracts not very attentive mass tourism.
2 - Try the SKYRAIL - Rainforest cableway
Queensland is crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn at Rockhampton, 1067 km south of Cairns.
Cairns is therefore located in one tropical zone. In fact, the climate alternates between a rainy season and a drier one. The vegetation is exaggeratedly lush and verdant.
The Skyrail Rainforest 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 thriving ecosystems in the world.
THESkyrail entrance of Cairns, the Smithfield Terminal, is next to the Tujapukai Cultural Center; by deciding to do both activities, there is the possibility to buy a single ticket with a slight discount.
The Skyrail flies over a lush rainforest and concludes its ride in the small town of Kuranda, which can also be reached by car or train.
The journey lasts an hour with the possibility of descending in two points:
- First stop -> The Red Peak Station, in the heart of the forest, where you can walk among enormous plants and glimpse the dense vegetation that characterizes this humid tropical forest, discovering the fauna and flora that inhabit the forest.
- Second stop -> it is still in the forest but with a beautiful "glimpse" of the Barron Falls which are spectacular in the rainy season.
Arrived in Kuranda, one encounters an extremely touristy reality where hordes of tourists pour into the one street and the various souvenir shops.
The train station, another fascinating means with which to reach the town, externally has a charm from Orient Express and is located near the Skyrail terminal.
Important: please consider the latest departure times from Kuranda to Cairns. Both by train and skyrail, the last runs are around 15.30-16.00.
Pros and cons of trying Cairns Skyrail?
PRO: the skyrail experience allows you to immerse yourself completely in nature
AGAINST: Kuranda does not have its own identity and certainly does not reflect the naturalness and authenticity of the forest that surrounds it.
3 - SNORKELING in the Great Barrier Reef - Great Barrier Reef
Cairns overlooks the Coral Sea and there are many companies that offer different tour to visit the Great Barrier Reef; they can be found under the arcades of the city center or in the port area. However, it is possible to book with more confidence online.
The Tusa company, to which we have entrusted ourselves, with an expense of about € 200 each operates a tour that departs at 8.30am from the Cairns jetty and returns around 17.00pm.
For these experiences it is better not to rely on companies that offer excursions at bargain prices, because diving will most likely take place in areas of the reef where 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 snorkel.
The boat is large and full of people but everyone seems to have their own space, wetsuits, snorkel masks and fins are provided.
The exit to sea takes place without a guide. However, you are instructed (in true Australian style with photos and images) by the staff who teaches the gestures to be used at sea in case of need and informs everyone about the possible dangers that could exist in the water.
In some areas of the Reef it is possible to go scuba diving even if you are unable. These areas are considered, in fact, 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 the one made on Lady Musgrave's Island, we have seen larger fish and more intense and vivid coral colors.
Service note: Lunch is served on the boat and you can dive back into the water when you want.
Pros and cons of discovering the coral reef?
PRO: the opportunity to see with your own eyes the majesty of this huge living organism.
AGAINST: the lack of awareness and care regarding the fragility of this ecosystem.