After a tender boat trip from our cruise ship to the port at Yorkey’s Knob, we boarded a bus for a 25-minute ride to the city of Cairns. When Jim noticed the sugar cane fields along the road, he asked the bus driver about them. We learned most of Australia’s sugar cane crop is grown in the state of Queensland and my later research revealed the majority of the raw sugar is exported making Australia the third largest sugar exporter in the world.
Cairns, (pronounced Kenz) considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, impressed us as a laidback tropical paradise with a small-town vibe despite its population in excess of 150,000. Since we had visited the Great Barrier Reef the day before, our plan for the day was simply to wander a bit in this tropical city and find a place with a view and wifi to sit for a while. The bus dropped us along the esplanade near the swimming lagoon where we began our exploration.
Opened in 1995, this 4800 sqm free salt-water swimming lagoon protects swimmers from nasty stingers which invade the area from November to May as well as the occasional crocodile.
Speaking of crocs, this baby saltwater crocodile held by an adventure park employee was intended to attract attention on the street and it did. The area around Cairns is home to aggressive “salties” which can grow to 20 ft.
We strolled over to the nearby Pier Shopping Centre and settled into a restaurant with wifi and views of both the marina and the mountains beyond.
Once we’d caught up on our email and social media, it was time to move on and see more of the central business district of Cairns. Although the vast majority of storefronts housed operators offering Great Barrier Reef tours, Jim was intrigued by the shop offering didgeridoos.
An ancient wind instrument traditionally used by Aboriginal peoples of northern Australia, the didgeridoo was originally made by termites hollowing out the trunk of a young living eucalyptus tree. Interestingly, termites are very sensitive to light which is why they eat the inside of the trunk rather than the exterior. Today didgeridoos are fashioned from a variety of materials including fiberglass, PVC, and various kinds of timber but eucalyptus remains the preferred material due to its hardness which produces the best sound. The instruments sold in this shop were created by Aboriginals and sold for $200 to $2500 but they would ship them home for you. If you’d like to hear an authentic sample of traditional didgeridoo music, check out this YouTube video.
Soon after our visit to the didgeridoo shop, the rain began and quickly became torrential.
Since our exploration of Cairns was unexpectedly cut short, we dashed to the bus stop between downpours and rode back to Yorkey’s Knob where we hunkered down until it was safe to get on a tender boat for the return trip to our cruise ship.
As we returned to our ship we could see the storm breaking in the distance.
While Cairns didn’t get as much of our time as we would have liked, we were there long enough to learn it’s very tropical with lots of heat, humidity, and rain. That prepared us for our next port of Darwin which we expected would have a similar climate. Come back and check it out.
Based on events from February 2019.