Cairns is a small city in the north east of Australia and is famous for its access to the Great Barrier Reef as well as the beautiful beaches and forests. All things that require good weather for visiting. But Cairns showed us its rainy side, and after three days of bad weather and a forecast of another 4 days of bad weather we decided to move south to Brisbane and maybe visit Cairns again later on our trip.
Just like Darwin, Cairns is a very small city for Australian standards, but unlike Darwin, it is very much set up for tourism. On its main street there are dozens of tour agencies trying to sell tours to the nearby attractions, many of them even have German-speaking girls in front of the shops to target the countless German-speaking tourists in Cairns. Also, there are restaurants from all over the world, and prices are set accordingly, and if someone wants to buy a didgeridoo, there is also a shop that offers lessons together with the purchase of one of those traditional wooden instruments. I felt very tempted to actually buy one, but priced up to USD 1000 it was a bit too much for something that will most likely just decorate my apartment back home.
Cairns is quite nice, has lots of trees, traffic is not very intense, and especially at the waterfront it is very beautiful. They have a very big public swimming pool called the Lagoon directly at the waterfront which on any hot and sunny day would invite hundreds of tourists for a swim. Given the wet weather however we decided to stay outside.
As the city center can be visited easily in one day, Cairns is all about the region. Towards the north, there are supposed to be beautiful beaches, and a few kilometers off the coast there is the world famous Great Barrier Reef. Inland, there is rainforest and also large food plantations. Given the ugly weather however we only went for a day to the rainforest, the remaining attractions we want to visit once there is better weather.
The only place outside Cairns we visited was Kuranda, a small village located in the hills behind the coast that is surrounded by tropical rainforest. It was a quiet place and the walks in the patches of rainforest were nice, but it cannot even closely compete with the almost endless tropical rainforest on Borneo, but for tourists who have never seen a forest in the tropics, in is a good introduction.
The highlight of our visit to Kuranda was the Butterfly Sanctuary. At this place, domestic butterflies are bred systematically in order to populate the tropical hall nearby with hundreds if not thousands of butterflies. The butterflies were literally everywhere, landing on people’s shirts, backpacks, glasses, etc. Apart from the butterflies, there were also some giant moths like the Hercules Moth with a wingspan of more than 30 cm around, however, due to the fact that they are nocturnal, they were in a separate building and only few species were on display.
Also in Kuranda there was a small bird park and a koala park that we decided not to visit because they looked quite small and had a steep pricing as well. E.g. for the koala park, the admission was around USD 18, and if you actually wanted to hold a koala and take a picture with it, the price doubled. Extra costs would have applied for a digital copy of the picture…
Diving and Snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef
Tours out to the reef are very expensive, and given the bad weather, we decided to not go and wait for better weather. I am very tempted to learn how to dive, but if the water is all brown from the rain, it is not that appealing to me. If the weather gets better next week, we might however go back to Cairns and catch up on that.
Animal Parks in Australia
I have not been very keen on going to any animal parks in Darwin and Cairns apart from the butterfly sanctuary. This is not only because of the high prices, but more because it seems that animals are squeezed into very tiny spaces and are treated like toys for tourists that want to take a picture holding a young crocodile or a koala. The most ridiculous thing I have seen so far was in Cairns’ Casino: They set up a zip-line over the pool of a 4m crocodile so people could attach themselves to the zip line and basically fly with a close distance over the crocodile, which, at least on the advertisement, jumps up and tries to catch the tourist. At the same location, there was a koala kept on maybe five square meters on an artificial tree trunk and some leaves, waiting for tourists to lift it, take a picture with it, and then put it back on the trunk. There was no place to retreat for the poor animal.
I hope that we will also have the chance to visit a decent zoo at some point on our trip where the animals are treated with dignity.
Heading Off to Brisbane
We either had to choice of another 4 days of rainy weather in Cairns, or go more south hoping for better weather. We chose the second option and booked a last minute flight to Brisbane. Being a very large city, the options for bad weather here are better, and also the forecast for the next few days is slightly better.