Great Barrier Reef
Larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The 2000km (1240mi) conglomeration of colourful coral stretches along the Queensland seaboard and makes for some of the most spectacular diving landscape imaginable.
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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.
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Crystal Cascades & Lake Morris
About 20km from Cairns, the Crystal Cascades are a series of beautiful waterfalls and (croc-free) pools. The area is accessed by a 1.2km (30-minute) pathway. Crystal Cascades is linked to Lake Morris (the city's reservoir) by a steep rainforest walking trail (allow three hours return). It starts near the picnic area at Crystal Cascades and climbs steadily uphill, coming out on Lake Morris Rd, about 300m from Copperlode Dam (turn right).
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Flecker Botanic Gardens
These beautiful tropical gardens are an explosion of greenery and rainforest plants. Sections include an area for bush-tucker plants and the Gondwanan Evolutionary Trail, which traces the 415-million-year heritage of tropical plants. Free guided walks depart Tuesday and Thursday at 10am and 1pm from the information centre. There's an excellent cafe here.Opposite the gardens the Rainforest Boardwalk leads to Saltwater Creek and Centenary Lakes. Uphill from the gardens, Mt Whitfield Conservation Park has two walking tracks through rainforest, climbing to viewpoints over the city; follow the Red Arrow circuit (1.3km, one hour) or the more demanding Blue Arrow circuit (5.4km, three hours).
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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.
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Tanks Arts Centre
Three gigantic WWII fuel-storage tanks have been transformed into studios, galleries showcasing local artists' work and an inspired performing-arts venue, plus a lively market day.
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Four Mile Beach
You're likely to put in at least a few hours or days on the
gorgeous Four Mile Beach: a band of white-sand beach backed by palms that goes as
far as your squinting eyes can see. Hire a jet ski or go on a reef snorkelling foray
or just lie there for hours - the Munch buggy plies the length of the beach selling
ice creams and snacks.
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The excellent Rainforest Habitat is a wildlife sanctuary
showcasing native animals in enclosures that closely mimic their natural
environment. Koalas, kangaroos, crocs and tree kangaroos reside here alongside
parrots, wading birds, cassowaries, the world's only pair of breeding jabiru in
captivity and an unusually vocal lorikeet renowned for 13 different calls. You can
dine with winged companions at Breakfast with the Birds or Lunch with the Lorikeets
- both options are included with admission.
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St Mary's by the Sea
St Mary's by the Sea is a tiny nondenominational white-timber
chapel that was built in 1911 and nominee for prettiest church in the Land of Oz
(hence the two-year wait for wedding ceremonies).
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