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Situated in Far North Queensland, Cairns is synonymous with Australia's tropical climates and oceanic bliss intertwined. Popularly known as the gateway to the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, this city is the home base for those who wish to explore the abundant tropical riches of the region. While soothingly laid back in some parts, Cairns is rife with chic cafes, bustling markets and beaches spotted with bars and clubs.
With 3000 coral reefs, 600 islands and 300 coral cays, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral system in the world and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is only natural that the coastal city of Cairns sees scores of tourists coming to admire and experience this reef in every way possible, be it snorkelling, scuba diving, island getaways, or even helicopter rides that presents the beauty of the reefs from above. Its proximity to the ocean means that it offers a range of restaurants, cafes and pubs offering delicious food with amazing views of the coast found along the Cairns Esplanade, with the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon offering visitors a relaxing swimming experience as they admire the beautiful foreshore of the city.
Visitors looking to explore the greenery of Cairns and North Queensland can hop on the Kuranda Scenic Railway from the Cairns Railway Station and be delighted by the most scenic train route of tropical Queensland. Those not wanting to stray too far from Cairns have the option of visiting the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. More of the natural beauty of Cairns can be found at the Flecker Botanic Gardens, home to verdant rainforest species found in the area. Visitors can also learn about Aboriginal plant use in these gardens.
While it is a haven for natural beauty, Cairns is so much more than that. It also has a thriving art scene, being the city where you can find three huge and real former World War 2 tanks converted into art galleries at the Tanks Arts Centre. The Canopy Arts Centre and Cairns Regional Gallery are also interesting places where one can see the beauty and talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. To learn more about the rich aboriginal history of the area, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park not only explores the history of the indigenous community, but also has regular cultural performances to showcase the Tjapukai culture.
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Spend the first day exploring the cafes and shops of the wharf district. Later in the day stroll along the harborfront esplanade and watch the sunset.
Head to Kuranda Rainforest Region and enjoy a guided tour of the forest and through the village. Later, enjoy a ride on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over the forest canopy and take in some breathtaking panoramic views.
For the third day, head on a tour to Green Island, which is a part of the Great Barrier Reef. Cruise across the reefs and later also indulge in activities such as kayaking and snorkelling around the island. You can head back to the mainland at the end of the day or choose to spend a night on the island.
1. Palm Cove
Palm Cove is the best neighbourhood in Cairns for first-time visitors. With plenty of open spaces and easy access to beaches, it is an ideal area of the city to live in for those who love to spend the days outside under the sun. Most tours to the Great Barrier Reef also begin here, so it is a better choice for those who are looking to head to the reef area.
2. Central Business District
The Central Business District, or the CBD, is the central neighbourhood of Cairns and is where the only appreciable nightlife scene exists. One can expect some great bars and clubs to choose from. There are also some fantastic museums and art galleries in this neighbourhood for cultural aficionados.
A separate town outside Cairns, it is connected to the larger city by the scenic railway line. Kuranda is the gateway to the northern Australian rainforest region, and for those who wish to explore the dense treelines, this is where to stay. Tourists can partake in guided tours on land and even on amphibious vehicles and also learn about the culture of the native Aboriginals.
4. Trinity Beach
A beachside neighbourhood in northern Cairns, this area is a great place for families to stay as it is calmer than the rest of the city. Swimming is generally safe, and there are many tour operators here which specialise in family activities and experiences.