City Profile : Cairns



Cairns is a city in tropical north Queensland and is a major tourism destination for both Australians and Internationals.  We were here for around 7 months and really got to know Cairns – we even got to meet a fellow blogger, Kate Richards (AdventureMumma).


Outdoor fitness is a big focus in Cairns, with a timetable of free activities on offer along the Esplanade, like yoga, Zumba and tai chi.  The Lagoon is also popular with everyone.  Many locals also run along the Promenade or work out at one of the fitness stations.


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One thing you’ll notice about Cairns is the smelly bats.  They hang around in the trees near the library and Cairns City bus terminal during the day and once the sun starts to set, they get active and take flight to find their dinner.  If you’re looking for a car park and don’t mind a bit of poop on your car, there is usually a spot or two available next to the library.


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Fast Facts

  • Cairns is one of the fastest growing towns in Queensland, with a population of over 151,000 people and is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
  • Over 2 million Aussie and international tourists visit Cairns every year.
  • The region is home to the world’s most dangerous bird – the cassowary – and the world’s largest moth – the Hercules moth.
  • Queensland’s highest mountain Mount Bartle Frere (1622m) is 51km to the south.
  • Cairns has the highest youth unemployment rate in Queensland with over 21% of 15 to 24 year olds not working (December 2014)



Cairns, like many other towns in Australia, was founded after the discovery of gold.  The city was named after Sir William Wellington Cairns, an Irish fellow who was appointed the governor of Queensland in 1875, one year before Cairns was founded.


Cairns started off as an uninhabitable swamp with nothing much to offer until a railway was built to connect the coast to the Tablelands.  After nearly 30 years of settlement, Cairns finally became a town in 1903 with a population of 3,500.  Once the gold rush died down, the railway was used for agricultural purposes to transport fruit and dairy to the coastal flats, where the sugar cane grew and still grows to this day.


Being in the tropics isn’t all sunshine and coconuts – cyclones can sweep through at any time during the wet season and cause some serious damage.  Cairns met Cyclone Willis in 1927 and Cyclone Agnes in 1956, and while both were fairly destructive, Cairns recovered.


Tourism in Cairns became a major industry in the 1980s with the opening of the international airport and listing of World Heritage areas in the surrounding rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.  It is still a major tourism city that attracts visitors from all over the world who want to see the reef and explore the Daintree.


Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling


Places of Interest

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

This awesome place is located in the dome on top of the Casino.  Meet some cute Aussie animals and brave the zip line and rope course above, all in one day!


Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome


The Esplanade & Marina

Cairns may be a major tourism centre but for the locals, outdoor fitness and activities make up a big part of the culture.  The Esplanade is reclaimed land that has been renovated into a wonderful outdoor venue for everyone.  Have a picnic on the grass, go for a run along the promenade, or have a splash in the lagoon.  There are free fitness activities on every week, like yoga, volleyball or Zumba, and there is also a Saturday morning market.


The marina is just around the corner and is a great place to buy some fresh seafood straight from the fishing boats.  The Pier Shopping Centre nearby has a variety of bars, restaurants and retail shops.



Rusty’s Markets

Rusty’s is open on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, but the best time to go for cheap fruit and vegetable is between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday.  There’s a huge variety of tropical fruits, Asian greens and unusual produce.  There’s also a few food trucks and stalls selling bags, bibs and bobs.


The Night Markets

On every night from 4:30pm, the night markets are accessible from the Esplanade and feature a variety of stalls from jewellery and lanolin creams to massage and souvenirs galore.  The food court on the Esplanade side is a good place for a cheap feed.  For $14.90, purchase an extra large tub and fill it with ALL THE FOODS – octopus, battered fish, fried prawns, omelette, everything…


Centenary Lakes Botanic Garden

A few clicks out of town you’ll find the Cairns botanic gardens.  There is a beautiful rainforest section, bamboo gardens, lakes with turtles and a variety of birds and for the fabulously fit, the Red Arrow Walk will reward you with great views over the airport.


Nearby is the Tanks Art Centre, which holds monthly markets during the dry season, and the Flecker Gardens display a diverse range of tropical plants and pretty flowers – keep your eyes open for the White Bat Flower – amazing.


Cairns Botanic Gardens


Palm Cove

About 27km north of Cairns is Palm Cove – a little beach community that is popular with holiday makers and weddings.  The esplanade is choc-a-block with fancy and award-winning restaurants, hotels and tourist outlets that are built around old Melaleuca trees, while the long white beach lined with palm trees is perfect for wedding photos or a great holiday snap.


We rocked up to Palm Cove just in time for the Reef Feast festival, and sampled some of the food on offer from some of the best restaurants in the village.


Palm Cove, Cairns


Behana Gorge & Walsh’s Pyramid

Walsh’s Pyramid is visible from the top of the Casino in Cairns, but it is about 28km south along the A1 highway.  At 922m, it is believed to be the highest freestanding pyramid in the world, and is a part of the same mountain range as Queensland’s two highest mountains, Mount Bartle Frere (1622 m) and Mount Bellenden Ker (1593 m).


Nestled in between the peaks is Behana Gorge.  Be prepared for the long walk but it’s worth it once you get to explore the gorge and cool off in the waters that make up Cairns’ water supply.


Behana Gorge Cairns


Crystal Cascades

A little closer to town is a secluded swimming hole that is quite the local hotspot.  Crystal Cascades is about 5km south of Redlynch and is popular during the summer months as visitors cool off in the fresh water pools.


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Big Captain Cook & Big Marlin

Cairns has two Big Things – one can be seen as you drive along the Cook Highway while the other is near Stockland Shopping Centre in Earlville.


Food & Drink

Our first visit to Cairns started with a pub crawl through town, and from that venture, we can say that the Union Jack and the Courthouse Hotel are great pubs for a Sunday sesh, while the Croc Bar at the Grand Hotel is a sight to see.  If you prefer to party, check out Gilligan’s.



We also went to a few trivia nights throughout the week.  Thursday nights was at the Salthouse – meals and drinks are expensive but the pork belly pizza is delicious, and there are plenty of prizes to be won.  Sunday nights at the Serpent Bar at Nomads on Lake Street is a very cheap night in terms of meals and drinks, but there is only one prize – a round of drinks for the winning team.  Monday nights at the Red Beret in Redlynch was our favourite trivia spot – not only because it was close to home and the trivia format was good, but the chicken fajitas won Juz over.  Don’t try the pizza though – Roscoe’s across the road is much better.


Here are a few other eateries worth mentioning…


Asian Delights

If you love noodle soup and dumplings, there are two locations that are perfect.  Rest assured that if the wait for a table at Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is too long, you can wander around the corner to Tokyo Dumpling and still be satisfied with a great value meal.  Another great Asian place is BaMien Vietnamese Cafe.  We had visitors from Melbourne and took them here for lunch.  It was a fluke that this place turned out to be fantastic.  The dishes were well priced, well portioned and absolutely delicious.


Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum Cairns


Great Cafes

Coffee lovers can head to two locations in the city – Caffiend and Smith Street Cafe.  Both offer great coffee in a funky environment.  If you’re after a tasty breakfast, try the Lillipad Cafe or Ozmosis near the Botanic Gardens.  Lillipad has some great vegetarian options while Ozmosis gets you out of the city with their scrumptious Eggs Benedict.


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Ochre Restaurant

Having won multiple awards, Ochre Restaurant is considered to be the best restaurant in Cairns. Juz’s awesome sister got us an Ochre gift voucher for Christmas so we got to indulge in a bit of modern Australian cuisine, like wallaby steak, Davidson plum jam and lemon myrtle sweet chilli sauce.


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Pizza Quest

We were in Cairns for around 6 months and took it upon ourselves to find the best pizza.  Some pizzas were too soggy, lacked flavour or were overpriced.  All in all, we found some great pizzas


Information & Accommodation

Cairns Tourist Information Centre – Cnr Alplin St & The Esplanade, Cairns.  Ph: (07) 4031 1751

Public transport in Cairns is mainly a bus network operated by SunBus.  For information about ticketing and timetables, go here:


Cairns Central YHA is conveniently located in the city at 20-26 McLeod Street.  To make a booking, call (07) 4051 0772 or visit their website. 



Cutta Cutta Caves

Wildlife : Ghost Bat


Ghost Bat

source :

Name: Ghost Bat

Scientific Name: Macroderma gigas

Alternative names: false vampire bat

Distribution: caves and mineshafts in Northern Australia


Ghost bats get their name from the super thin membrane of their wings, which makes them look like ghosts when they’re flying at night.  These little pale-coloured bats grow up to 13cm in body length and weight up to only 140g but they have a huge wingspan of 60cm.


They use sharp little teeth, big eyes and huge ears to hunt, and find their food using echolocation.  The high-pitched sound they make rebounds of objects and the echo tells them where things are with reasonable accuracy.  Once they’ve locked on to a target, they swoop and wrap their big wings around it before killing it with strong bites.  They then take their dinner to a designated feeding place to eat.  Being Australia’s only carnivorous bat, they mainly eat insects, reptiles, frogs, birds and small mammals, including other bats.


Mama bats separate themselves from daddy bats by creating nursing colonies to raise their young.  They are pregnant for about 3 months before giving birth to one little critter.  Once they are old enough to hunt, they join their mum on food runs until they become independent.


Their conservation status is vulnerable due to the destruction of caves and mine shafts, and when one home is destroyed, up to 400 bats go with it.  Their feeding grounds are also being destroyed by agriculture.



Our Encounter:

The one and only time we saw a ghost bat was at the Cutta Cutta Caves, just south of Katherine.  We went on a tour and there they were, hanging about on the ceiling of the cave, occasionally chirping and flying over our heads.


Cutta Cutta Caves

Cutta Cutta Caves

Natural Wonders : Cutta Cutta Caves

Cutta Cutta Caves


On our way out of Katherine, we stopped by the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park.  While we had seen plenty of caves and sinkholes down in South Australia, we hadn’t really heard of any in the Territory so we were curious to find out more.


Our tour guide, Ethan was very friendly and super knowledgeable about the caves, and we soaked up as much information as we could.


Cutta Cutta Caves


The History

The main cave was accidentally discovered in the early 1900s by cattle drover Mr Smith, who was leading his cattle across the land when a few disappeared down a hole.  In the 1940s, soldiers would enter the cave and use the stalactites as target practice, but it wasn’t until 1967 that the area became protected and named Sixteen Mile Cave Reserve.  In 1979, the area was renamed the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park and there are a total of 52 caves in the park.


The traditional owners of the land that the caves are located are the Jawoyn people, but there is no rock art or signs that they ever lived in the cave.  Apparently, living in the cave was seen as a bit of a taboo for local indigenous folks – probably because the caves would’ve been pitch black at night, echoes may have been mistaken for evil spirits and if any animals had fallen in and died the cave wouldn’t have smelt very nice.  The words Cutta Cutta mean place of many stars, probably named so because of the twinkling of the calcite crystals.  It was believed that stars would hide in the cave by day and explode into the sky at night.


Cutta Cutta Caves


The Caves

Cutta Cutta Caves are Australia’s first cave system to be lit by solar power, which we think is pretty cool.  The cave are in a subtropical climate, and as the main cave only has one opening, there is no ventilation so the atmosphere inside is quite dry and warm.  On our way to the main cave, we passed a large depression, and when it eventually collapses, will change the atmosphere within the cave completely because it will create another opening.


The caves are made of 570 million year old tindall limestone, which is only found in NT, but the actual caves are only 350 million years old.  The main cave is 650m long and reaches the water table at the far end, but the tour only takes you in 250m because going any further in would be very dangerous.  Our tour guide Ethan is an experienced caver and has been all the way to the far end.  He told us that the passageway gets so narrow at some points that you have to crawl through on your stomach, there are sinkholes that are 80m deep, and the ammonia from the bat droppings further in is enough to make you pass out!




Each chamber of the cave has its own microclimate; it was cool at the entrance and got more humid as we got deeper in the cave.  The spectacular cave contains the usual features – stalagmites, stalactites, columns where stalactites and stalagmites have joined up – but there were also flowstones that look like melted ice cream, pretty shoals, and super thin straws.  These formations are formed with calcium carbonate and water combine and dry to become sparkly calcium crystals.  In some places, tree roots have made their way into the ceiling of the cave by releasing a weak acid that dissolves the limestone.


The Critters

There are about 300 bats that live within the cave, including ghost bats, aka false vampire bats, are one of Australia’s biggest bats and can have a wingspan of over a meter. They have big eyes and huge ears that point upwards from their face.  When we first entered the cave, we saw a brush trail rock wallaby.  There are a few other microspecies that live within the cave too – mostly insects, but also pythons, tree snakes and huntsman spiders, as well as the occasional visit from echidnas.




The Essentials

The Cutta Cutta Caves are open from the 1st of April every year – they close during the Wet Season because the cave floods (from the bottom!).  Entry is $20 per person but if you have a group of more than 10 people, discounted entry can apply.  The tours run daily at 9am, 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.  Allow an hour for the tour and also a bit of time to check out the information in and around the office.


Phone number: 08 8972 1940


We found our time at Cutta Cutta Caves really enjoyable.  It’s a great way to learn more about limestone caves, how they were formed and used, and eventually protected so that everyone can enjoy them.  We’d also like to thank Ethan for showing us around and answering all our questions.