Mangrove boardwalks and croc-infested rivers by the airport, busy retail areas bursting with Ken Done clothes and stuffed koalas, and a unique tropical air make Cairns a spread-out city of surprises. The beautifully designed and perfectly located lagoon on the Esplanade is an attempt to make up for the fact that waterfront Cairns doesn’t actually have a beach, and when the sun comes out so do locals and backpackers, creating a bikini-clad mirage in the city centre.
Cairns can be a boom or bust town, depending on who’s flying whom in; Japanese and Korean tourists are well catered for, and everyone’s offered a good ol’ Aussie time in the nightclubs and hostels. It’s a city where the casino doubles as a rainforest, and you can walk straight from the nightclub to the pier and catch one of the many morning boats that make the daily island or reef, diving or snorkelling pilgrimage.
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Tjapukai Cultural Park
Allow at least three hours at this Indigenous-owned cultural extravaganza, incorporating the Creation Theatre, which tells the story of creation using giant holograms and actors, a dance theatre and a gallery, as well as boomerang- and spear-throwing demonstrations and turtle-spotting during a canoe ride on the lake. A fireside corroboree is the centrepiece of the Tjapukai by Night dinner-and-show deal.The park is about 15km north of the city centre, just off the Captain Cook Hwy near the Skyrail terminal; transfers are available for an extra charge.
Cairns Foreshore & Lagoon
In the absence of a beach, sunbathers flock around Cairns' shallow but spectacular saltwater swimming lagoon on the city's reclaimed foreshore. The artificial 4800-sq-metre lagoon is patrolled by lifeguards and illuminated at night.Northwest from the lagoon, the boardwalk promenade, stretching for almost 3km, has picnic areas, free barbecues and playgrounds lining the foreshore.
On the Esplanade, the Lagoon is popular with kids and is patrolled all day. There are ‘Tiny Tacker Tuesdays’ every third Tuesday of the month at the Cairns Regional Gallery as well as theme-based workshops for children during the school holidays.
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