Cairns

City Profile : Cairns

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)

 

History

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: http://www.sunbus.com.au/sit_cairns.htm

 

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. 

 

Cairns
 

Exhausted!

Staying Fit for Charity

We arrived in Geraldton on a Saturday afternoon and went straight to the Visitor Information Centre to find out what was on for the weekend.  Juz found out there was a charity run the next morning for Oxfam and without batting an eyelid, she said she would do it.

 

 

Oxfam’s Walk Against Want raises awareness of the long distances that people have to travel just to collect fresh, drinkable water.  The event allowed participants to either run or walk and the two distances available were 5km and 10km.  When Juz arrived at the registration table on Sunday morning, she threw caution to the wind and ticked her name off for the 10km run, without expecting to complete the entire distance due to a lack of training.

 

The race started at 9am and the sun was already quite warm.  By the time she got halfway through, she was hot and thirsty and the chaffing was starting to hurt.  She found a tap at the 6km mark and doused her hair in cool water and a bubbler at the 9km mark quenched her thirst.

 

 

The course ended up being around 11km and Juz rose to the challenge of sprinting the last 100m to the finish line.  The distance was a personal best – she had done 8km with her mum for the Mother’s Day Classic less than a year earlier but this distance was really something to be proud of.  As expected, lots of stretching was required and the poor feet were a bit sore, but the real pain was felt in the shower with the hot water stinging all the chaffed spots.

 

Chaffing - the least fun part about fun runs...

 

The Blue Lake

City Profile : Mount Gambier

The Blue Lake

 

Our intent was to stay a while in Mount Gambier.  It is the first major city along the Limestone Coast and we were looking forward to rest and recuperation while checking out the attractions, including the famous Blue Lake.  Of course, our first stop was the Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre to get some maps and brochures, and they also offer a tour to learn about the history and geology of the area for $10.

 

Mount Gambier was first sighted in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant of HMS Lady Nelson, but it was officially discovered in 1839 by a guy from Portland.  The first pub was located on the same site as Jen’s Hotel, but the oldest remaining pub is the South Australian, which was built in 1860.

 

After we settled in at Blue Lake Holiday Park, located snugly between the two crater lakes, we went for a stroll into town for a mini pub crawl, which ended up being quite a big night.  We were putrid in the morning but still dragged ourselves out of the tent to go for a looooong walk/hike around the Valley Lake crater, and spent the day in the library, researching and writing at the air-conditioned library!

 

 

We loved Mount Gambier, its sinkholes and lakes, its friendly locals and health conscious community.  We were happy to hear that they are starting a campaign to promote local and organic produce by starting up a farmers market every Saturday morning.  To launch the campaign, the Main Corner was screening Food Matters, a documentary about how the quality of our food can either help us or hinder us.

 

PLACES OF INTEREST

The Lady Nelson Information Centre

This landmark should be the first stop for anyone passing through Mount Gambier.  Collect a map of the town, information about local attractions and a few souvenirs after checking out the full size replica of HMS Lady Nelson, the first ship to sail eastward through Bass Strait.  It was upon the Lady Nelson that Lieutenant James Grant sighted two mountains and named one Mount Schanck and the other Mount Gambier.

 

The Crater Lakes

What a sight!  The beautiful lakes of Mount Gambier were formed by volcanic activity which left craters rimmed with ash and basalt.

 

Blue Lake provides the drinking water for the entire town and has a great walking trail around the rim that is 3.6km long.  Each year in early November, the lake changes colour from dark blue to deep turqoiuse, which remains until February.

 

Next door is Valley Lake, which is guarded by the Centenary Tower – a monument that was built in 1900 to commemorate 100 years since the first sighting of Mount Gambier.  It also has a walking trail that is a bit more challenging, but there were so many butterflies and cicadas around that we were too busy admiring our surroundings to notice the workout.

 

 

Main Corner

This great building at the corner of Commercial Road and Bay Road is a multipurpose space that provides documentary screenings and insight into the history of the area. It is the home of the Riddoch Art Gallery and there are spaces available for concerts, lectures and private functions.

 

 

Cave Gardens

Right in the centre of town, between the Main Corner and the Library is the Cave Gardens, a beautifully landscaped area surrounding a sinkhole.  There are multiple viewing platforms and a nearby rose garden.  The sinkhole used to be the original water source for the town.

 

 

The Library

We have nothing but praise for the Mount Gambier Library.  It was awarded the best small city public library in the world and is a vibrant space that was built 3 years ago.  It offers free internet via wifi and 18 public access computers, TV and video game access, and private room bookings, and has an onsite café.  It also hosts craft markets seasonally on Sundays from 11am.

 

We spent a lot of time here, not only to escape the midday sun, but also to research the history of the area and write about our past adventures.  The staff were super friendly, very accommodating and went above and beyond to show us around and ensure we were comfortable.

 

Umpherston Sinkhole

Another landscaped sinkhole to the east of town.  The hole is filled with hydrangeas, with bees building their hives in the cavities and holes of the surrounding limestone. There was a very friendly possum that wasn’t afraid to come up to us for a sniff, and they even had an electric BBQ and picnic area at the bottom of the sinkhole, shaded by overhanging rock.

 

 

Caroline Sinkhole & Hells Hole

Just south of Mount Gambier is a pine forest that conceals two sinkholes – Caroline Sinkhole and Hells Hole.

 

Caroline Sinkhole was easy to find and after a quick walk from the car park, we were confronted with a breathtaking view.  The sinkhole was formed by water erosion.  Acidic rain water dissolved the limestone along weakness points, eventually developing vertical and horizontal caves that increased in size over time.  The caves got bigger and bigger until the surrounding limestone collapses, leaving a sinkhole.  The Bunganditj people of the region once used the sinkhole for shelter, and the European settlers used to pump water from the bottom for farming.

 

Hells Hole was a little more ominous.  A locked fence prohibited us from driving closer so we parked at the edge of the pine forest and walked in.  There was a clearing about 100 meters that featured a tiny forest.  An overgrown walking path led us to the hole, which was full of dark, stagnant water.  There was a gated platform for people who wanted to dive in, which we immediately thought was a silly idea.

 

 

One of the information plaques along the walk had a really great quote on it:

 

“Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.”

 

FOOD & ACCOMMODATION

Metro Bakery & Cafe

We were keen on second breakfast so we checked out Metro Bakery & Cafe.  It was spacious and clean inside so we ordered a continental omelette with greek sausage, fetta and pumpkin, and eggs benedict.

 

Our food and coffee came out quickly.  The eggs benedict was a little different than usual – it had bacon instead of ham.  Dave got a little excited and inhaled it.  The omelette was tasty but needed something refreshing in it like spring onion or spinach.

 

Overall, it was pretty good and we walked away will full bellies.

 

 

Blue Lake Holiday Park

Bay Road – 08 8725 9856

 

This place was awesome.  Only 2km from the center of town and right between Valley Lake and the beautiful Blue Lake, this BIG4 holiday park was the perfect place to spend our nights in Mount Gambier.

 

Camping at BIG4 Blue Lake Holiday Park

 

Check out our post on this great BIG4 Holiday Park.

 

 
 

 

Juz doing the Tough Bloke Challenge

Fitness Profile : Juz

Juz was not a particularly active child, but she wanted to be.  In her primary years, she dabbled in karate, softball, scouts and ‘rounders’, an old British bat-and-ball game similar to baseball, but nothing really took her fancy.  She preferred to be on stage – playing guitar, acting and singing in the choir.

 

When she got to high school, she was encouraged to join the athletics team because her strength and weight was an advantage for shot put and discus, and she even tried the swimming team but hated diving into a cold pool at 6am.

 

She retreated back to the stage, and by the time she got to uni, any inclination towards sports had disappeared.

 

It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with PCOS that she realised that her weight had ballooned out of control.  Twisties, Cheezels, chocolate, smoking, drinking, not eating properly – all these things were taking their toll and for the first time in her life, Juz had to start take responsibility for her own health.

 

 

Over the next 5 years, she worked hard at the gym, researched healthy eating, pounded the pavement, tried a handful of diets, signed up for fun runs, won a Biggest Loser competition at work, started practicing Krav Maga, reduced the boozing, and quit sugar.

 

She fell off the horse and got back on so many times, and after an epic battle with the struggles within herself, she has managed to lose about 20kg and be in the best physical condition of her life.

 

There have been so many achievements to be proud of but there is always room for improvement.  Juz wants to use her time travelling around Australia to get even leaner and meaner, and has asked Dave to train her like he was trained at his gymnastics club.  Plus, she’s gotta be able to fit into the bridesmaid dress for her friend’s wedding in March!

 

 

Dave as a young gymnast

Fitness Profile : Dave

Dave started gymnastics when he was just 6 years old.  He excelled at the rings and parallel bars, eventually becoming the national champion of his division when he was 12.

 

His physical strength, flexibility and coordination were at an all time high and he got involved in his school’s athletics and footy teams, and played a bit of baseball too.

 

A few years after starting high school, he decided to give up his regimented training and self-discipline for beer, cigarettes and Metallica.

 

 

When he was 17, he tried taekwondo for 6 months but didn’t warm up to it so he stopped.  That was the last time he was involved in anything physical, other than pub crawls and games of volley ball in the park.

 

Despite such a long period of inactivity and lack of training, most of his lean muscle has remained, but since taking up smoking as a teenager, his overall fitness has declined.  Dave hopes to use this time on the road to regain his fitness.