Sunday, 26 July 2009

Cairns: The Verdict

I'm going to come right out and say it. I didn't think Cairns was that great. The place has been over-run by backpackers and consequently all of the decent shops and cafes (I'm sure that they must have existed once) have turned into places desperately trying sell your a tour of some description, tacky souvenirs or over priced and bad quality food. It probably explains why nearby Port Douglas has taken over as the destination of choice for the more discerning traveller.

There were some highlights.
The Cairns Regionally Art Gallery is definitely worth a visit. It is pretty small and seems to have no permanent collection of its own, but contained some interesting exhibitions by local artists and from the wider Queensland area. The attached cafe was nice, but over priced.

The slick Art Gallery is in complete contrast to the Cairns Historical Society Museum which is totally disorganised. My personal favourite were the displays boards that had Biro revising the printed dates and correcting spelling mistakes. I am sure there are some gems in the museum if you could only find them amongst the clutter.........

The local council has been pouring money into The Esplanade over the past few years and this has created a very pleasant sea front to Cairns, stretching from the Marina in the south a couple of kilometers northwards. The highlight is a large free lagoon / swimming pool, pictured above, which is perfect for a dip during the heat of the day. Promenading along the Esplanade in the cool of the early morning or evening was very pleasant too.

Tandoori Oven was a decent local Indian restaurant that we found. One of the few places that seemed to serve decent food at sensible prices. Surprising because it was a bright spot in Cairns and also because I have generally found the standard of Indian cuisine in Australia to be pretty bad. On our second visit we had a pumpkin curry which was fabulous. I am going to have to do some searching for recipes and experimentation.

Reef Teach
is supposed to be an excellent talk on the Great Barrier Reef and marine biology by an eccentric Cairns resident. Unfortunately the location has changed since both Ruth and my guidebooks were written, and we didn't discover it's new location until it was too late to fit in a visit. Included as a highlight because all the reviews I have read eulogise about Reef Teach, even is I didn't experience it personally.

One of the highlights of the trip. Getting to hang out with Ronald who was wearing my latest purchase, a Top Aussie Bush Hat:


  1. There isn't much to Cairns. It's like a pleasant suburb without the city centre to go into. When I was there a new "lagoon" was under construction I expect it's long finished now. I couldn't escape the feeling that the whole place was a bit artificial and "twee".

  2. Spot on analysis BE.

    The lagoon is now there and is actually a good addition.

  3. Hi Richard,
    Must agree about Cairns itself.Travelling up from the south we turn left just after Gordonvale and climb up to the Tablelands.We can go on to Cooktown or sneak down into Port Douglas without seeing Cairns.Far too many Traffic Lights for me.
    Check out our Queensland Armchair Guide Travel Site.
    Liz Welch.