Month of Australia: Cairns

We blew into Cairns, Australia’s tropical town of mango trees and a certain reef, on a damply hot Wednesday morning. Walking out of the airport was like stepping into the middle of a freshly baked banana cake. At just 8.30am, the humidity was thick and inescapable. Our coffees took forever to cool down. Possibly hours. In fact we were still drinking them when, back in the kitchen of our outstandingly hospitable hosts’ Queenslander, a box of lamingtons were cracked out. Indeed, the lamingtons marked the beginning of something of an Aussie immersion course for SG – from that point on it was all tropical fruit and leg-pulling, hot sun and yarns spun in that peculiar Australian accent where vowels are flat and the ends of sentences go up, as if someone is tugging that final syllable with a needle and thread. It was a crash course in our love of abbreviations – sunnies, breaky, arvo, undies, cossies, ta – and the funny way hihowareyou is like a one word greeting, not an actual question about your well-being. And, of course, the most beloved Australian past-time of telling foreigners exactly how much flora and fauna we have that can knock you off, kicked off with the story of a fish who has no qualms punching you in the face with her own beaky one if you threaten her nest.

Cairns as a town is a funny one. As a Sydneysider, I will be the first to tell you Queenslanders are weird simply because … they are a bit. And they’ll be the first to give us New South Welshmen and women a serve because that is just how we do things around here. Having never been further than Brisbane in the sunshine state, I had little concept of what Cairns would actually be like. I had the hot part sorted (although not the bloody hot part) but beyond that hadn’t given it any great deal of thought … in fact, had given it such little thought, until SG expressed his desire to go to the Great Barrier Reef, I hadn’t ever really thought about Cairns being the part of mainland Australia from which one could launch themselves into those famous waters. One might say my knowledge was embarrassingly lacking.

So, Cairns. There is something of the 90s to Cairns, with its wide streets and surf shops. It’s as casual as a town can get with that sense of slowness that comes from people having to wade through the summer heat. There’s a big old ‘lagoon’ in the middle of Cairns, a bright blue public swimming pool open to all and sundry and full of hot and bothered tourists. Ill-prepared for just how draining that kind of heat can be, I wasn’t wearing my swimmers. A $2 bikini later and we were in the lagoon watching the Germans and Italians and lobster-red Poms splashing about. The prices of food and drink are more than fair, one might say inexpensive. A glass of white wine and a beer at a waterfront bar set us back a massive $12. The seafood and fresh fruit prices aren’t even worth discussing, it’s too depressing knowing we pay 3 bucks a mango and the Cairns locals pluck them from their trees.  A little drive out of the town’s centre will take you to Palm Cove, a colourful beach village with one of the best Greek restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of eating at, El Grekos. Here the ouzo flows and the lamb is extraordinary, all against the backdrop of, apparently, Australia’s Cleanest Beach. It’s a good life up there in Cairns. A hot one, a slow one, but a good one.

Cairns locals seem to embody that classic, laconic, twinkly-eyed spirit the rest of the world thinks all of us Aussies do. There is no sense of hurry up there, no urgency. There is no skyline, just the rainforest-covered mountains draped with full-to-bursting clouds, looming over backyards full of coconuts.

Looking for quality budget accommodation in Cairns? Try the central, friendly and excellent-value Corona Backpackers Hostel.

Coming up on Month of Australia – The Great Barrier Reef, The Daintree Forest & Cape Tribulation.

7 Replies to “Month of Australia: Cairns”

    1. It is a cute little place! Next time I will definitely spend a few days in Port Douglas and Palm Cove. But definitely worth a visit, the surrounding environ is breathtaking.

  1. Brilliant. LOVE this! Thank you for your kind words!

    We hope you and SG loved your time here, it is a little piece of paradise and your words described it perfectly!

    Sending our love to you both from the Far North! xoxo

  2. I’ve been to Cairns and Port Douglas couple of weeks ago and that was AWESOME! I definitely recognise it in your post and through your pictures! Thanks for sharing it
    Looking forward the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Forest and Cape Trib (that I didn’t have the chance to see :()

  3. Sounds like a place I ought to visit! Why is Australia so prohibitively FAR away! I hate long haul flights, but there are few other places in the world that would take longer to get to. Strange thing is, that when you get off the plane, everyone speaks English and you feel like you’ve just gone to a different corner of London. OK OK not quite like that AT ALL 😛 Aussies have a vast treasury of nature and weathers that us Poms could only dream of for a start (no, that endearing petname you have for us did not go unnoticed) 😛

    1. Hahaha yes, I do understand that feeling of not being ‘far away enough’ when everyone is speaking your language. Which is why you need to go to all of the remote places, where it is just you and endless skies and a few strange animals. Plus the small country towns, the bush, the ocean, the big cities, they all have their own cultures.

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