Cairns is like a trip to Hawaii but half the price roughly at the moment because of the exchange rate difference for New Zealanders. It is best to visit during New Zealand's winter around August or so then you can enjoy a moderate but warm climate.

Arriving in Cairns becomes fairly straightforward, warmth, neat galleries, cafes food.

It is not until you have ventured out of the city and to its surroundings-including the neighbouring town of Port Douglas, that you experience the magic of Cairns.

It is filled with contrasting landscapes, almost as diverse as New Zealand but in a tropical manner. It is close to the equator when compared with New Zealand and has the 'turquoise lagoons' in white sand; and coral reefs - the biggest in the world - The Great Barier Reef.

But not only this, the inner landscape called the 'Atherton Tablelands' is dotted with rolling hills of green grassland and mountainous rainforest with all the flora and fauna expected both poisonous and non, and animals likewise, with some of the famous examples such as the platypus and koala bear.

There are waterfalls, there is even a Spanish castle said to have been one of the inspirations for a famous hollywood adventure film, built in the early 1900's set majestically in one of the rainforests and now brought to life again as a tourist garden with tearooms.

These are some of the images that recall this surprising Australian destination.


The best way to get around Cairns downtown is on foot and for the surrounding areas using buses or tour shuttles that are booked before you leave New Zealand. You will need to book these tours weeks in advance before you leave New Zealand because they are very popular.


City - Here you can walk to most places. There are beautiful galleries such as "Landmark Gallery" where you can buy deep glazed pottery, art and furniture. The "Universal Joint" is one of the many spots where you can get that special handcrafted boomerang or digeredoo. There are also many stores where you can get a well priced authentic Australian leather cowboy hat or belt or boots.

You can walk to the ocean front on the Cairns Esplanade where there are nice bars and cafes to get some lunch and a coffee or dinner.

Midway down the Cairns Esplanade are the 'Night Markets' that open until late at night and they have a food centre where you can get reasonably priced meals from around the world in addition to some exotic Australian dishes such as grilled crocodile or emu.

Deeper into this mall there are dozens of stalls with numerous items such as crocodile belts, hats, boots and clothing such as attractive bartique dresses with the latest colours and artwork, jewellry and other items.

The night markets are a welcome treat for the traveller and lessen the 'time - burden' on one's shopping schedule.

A couple streets in from Cairns Esplanade are the movie theatres, many restaurants and another beautiful mall with a science shop (great for gifts and kids), a gallery, cloth shops and a trendy cafe kiosk in the mall's centre.

There are also a couple nightclubs that are very popular with the young people at night.

Walking further on the southern end of the Cairns Esplanade takes you to the yachts and the "Pier Marketplace" mall with fast food chain restaurants and gifts for night shopping also, or try Cairns Central Shopping Centre which is open 7 days a couple of streets away from the Esplanade.


This is a neat tour on one of the islands on the enormous 'Great Barrier Reef'. You can board a power passenger boat, (normally book with your travel agent) or book in line at the ticket office on the dock (walking distance on the ocean front from downtown Cairns).

The boat takes you on a relatively fast ride to the little island resort that has beautiful white beaches and snorkeling,diving, restaurants and a crocodile zoo. They also have helicopter rides.

You can go out on a dive craft with a group and snorkel in 20 foot deep turquoise water between coral heads. You will enjoy the rare view of giant (3-5 feet) clams opening their shells on the sea floor while you drift on the surface of the water with a snorkel.

You are able to get a lunch or book so in advance from one of the food kiosks on the island.


The'Tablelands' are located inland from Cairns and are a combination of rolling hill grasslands and dense tropical rainforest.

There are beautiful lakes like Lake Barrine where you can ride on a sightseeing boat and see the bird life and snakes on the edges of the lake.

Riding on this boat you feel like you are on the Amazon in a early style vessel with 1920's style fittings and furniture and an old polished ships wheel with large windows more like a houseboat than a tourist boat.

The boat tour takes you around the lake and the captain pulls up close to the bank edge to look for resting snakes and wildlife. It is a pleasant trip and when you have finished you can get a cuppa at the neighbouring tearooms next to the lake.

The Curtain Fig Tree is also visited and is a facinating example of a massive tree that fell onto another tree and grew roots vertically to the ground in order to sustain itself with the topsoil.

There is an attractive deck style walkway that runs around the tree so that you can see it from different angles and admire its growth.

The Milaa Milaa Falls display breathtaking beauty as they cascade a mist laden waterfall framed by colourful tropical plants set against a dark rainforest canopy. The wave lapping lake at the base of the falls meanders from the lake into a small river that disappears into the forest.


This is a real 'treat'. Deep in a beautiful rainforest area, with a dramatic waterfall and wavy lake lapping on the lower level of the forest hill lies a subtlely designed Spanish style castle that evokes images of an aztec ruin and was said to have been a major inspiration for a famous hollywood film. Words are difficult to describe the subtle beauty and mystery that the designer - a Spanish immigrant, created in the early 1900's.

With its own hydroelectric plant it used excellence in both practical application of materials and inspired forethought for a beautiful design.

Visitors see the first tower then descend a set of concrete stairs into a rainforest and arrive at another castle building close to the misty lapping lake at the foot of the waterfall.

Moving along the path called lover's lane, you enter a corridor that take you from one part of the forest to another, and on exit, the deep green covering - almost pitch dark, frames diverted streams through small concrete channels along the dark and carefully designed and mysterious meandering path that delights the visitor to more parts of the forest close to a line of huge kauri trees and finally to the main castle pavilion with large grounds and architectural symmetry.

This part of the castle is adorned with fountains and tropical plants.

When it rains here, (which oddly enough can be one of the best times to see this spectacle) the moss grows on the concrete walls and accentuates the castle buildings with a beautiful green covering.

It looks like something you may have stumbled upon in South America as an early archeologist exploring the dense jungles or looking for artifacts (..reminisent of a greatly admired hollywood adventure film).

If I were a film producer coming to visit this place, I would be inspired to do something about it as well!


A good way to see the rainforest first hand is on a walking tour. Ask your travel agent if they can get you one to 'Boulder's Gorge'. Here you can follow an asphalt path through a rainforest and see rivers with Platypus (the tiniest creatures about the size of your foot) and enjoy the colourful flora and fauna under the forest canopy.

You are also able to see a beautiful river with emerald green rock pools set among large smooth boulders.

Although you can view at a distance, you cannot approach closer because it is dangerous and a few unfortunate people in earlier days have died as a result.

The strong currents and deep water although enticing can trap even the best of swimmers.

Legend has it that there is a lady of the river who entices those who approach the pools, so luckily there is a sightseers barrier to prevent people from wandering close to the river.


A tour of Kuranda will take you to the well organised cultural and habitat centre where you can begin with lunch.

After lunch there is a ride one of the amphibious vehicles into an onsite forest area, cultivated with dozens of indigenous trees and plants.

As you move through the forest the guides explain the flora and fauna.

There are rare fern trees and even dangerous trees that have leaves with a surface like glass fragments, when touched cause a painful rash and serious injury, even death in some cases.

The vehicles eventually moves into a lake and becomes a boat that tours the bank's edge.

The guide on you vehicle highlights the wildlife, lizards, birds and koalas.

If you look carefully (left) you can spot a creature in the foliage.

Later you get a first hand look at ancient aborigine hunting techniques using a slingshot spear and playing a digeredoo as well as using a boomerang.

When using the spear aborigine hunters were able to catch fast moving animals by using a slingshot stick to propel the spear further than using the human arm.

The digeredoo takes a certain degree of skill to work and requires practice in breathing and blowing consistently.

Unlike instruments such as trumpets the digeredoo can hold a longer sound by modulating one's breathing and blowing. Once perfected, a continous sound can bellow from these pipes - the pipes themselves hollowed by prolonged exposure of the wood outside to termites, that hollow out the centre.

Everyone however is given a chance to throw a boomerang with onsite tuition from the host. It's great fun for adults and kids!

The aborigine hosts at the centre explain the techniques, demonstrate, then ask for volunteers to also try. It is a lot more tricky than one imagines to get the boomerang to return in a circular fashion.

There is a traditional aborigine story dance performed and afterwards visitors can walk around the zoo areas at their leisure and view the indigenous animals.

The kangaroos, wombats, snakes, koala bears and even a giant crocodile with a shady history!

The crocodile - nicknamed "Jack the Ripper" was caught in the wild. When zoo keepers attempted to breed the crocodile with a dozen females , "Jack" killed the lot overnight!

Needless to say, you can watch him sunbathe and marvel at his size while breathing safely at about 10 feet above his cage.


This is a wonderful sightseeing tour with majestic views and great shopping!

The skyrail rainforest cableway takes you from the base of the mountain over the mountain and across a massive rainforest with pauses to view the forest, then arrive at the village to shop and eat, then ride the famous Kuranda scenic railway to take you back down the mountain.

There are few comparisons to the experience on the skyrail cableway in Cairns.

Traversing 7 and a half kilometres over the rainforest canopy, it ascends the mountain then descends a gentle slope of vast distance on top of the rainforest canopy, with breathtaking views of the flora and fauna and sights of the Barron River and its river banks, where you can see the occasional crocodile sunbathing or moving into the river.

The skyrail has several leisurely sub-station stops that descend into the rainforest itself, with information centres and suspended decks that allow you to experience first hand being close to the forest inside the canopy and small huts with displays where you can learn about the forest habitat.

At the completion of the skyrail trip you stop in the village of Kuranda. You can get some lunch at one of the cafes or restaurants then visit the Kuranda markets that sell unique gifts, crafts, jewellry and lots of tee-shirts.

Kuranda is filled with interesting shops, art and galleries. The 'Australian butterfly sanctuary' is filled with living examples of colourful butterflies that are found in the rainforests here. Galleries here sell aboriginal and general Australian art and gifts. There is also an 'arty' atmosphere with buskers playing their instruments on the footpath.

The finale to a wonderful day is the ride down the mountain. The Kuranda scenic rail begins at the Kuranda station, a short walk from the Kuranda village. It is a retro style platform that looks like it stepped right out of the early 1900's.

Spotting a 1920's style compartment you jump with camera in hand and your expectations are high!

The train moves along a sometimes elevated track around the edge of the mountain at a fairly rapid pace.

You can see valleys of rainforest flash by while the train drums across the tracks - evoking visions of wild adventure and lost worlds!

The train stops about halfway at a scenic viewing platform where passengers can get out for a few minutes.

You disembark the train and gaze on a spectacular view of a massive rock canyon and river zig - zagging its way down the sharp crevices to a lake far below.

It may be hard to see but if you look at the picture on the left it is two pictures joined together.

At the bottom right is a black oval area, this is the lake below. At the top left is the plateau where the white river cascades down the rock into the deep canyon.

After taking care of nature and snapping some fabulous shots, you reboard and prepare for the second part of this thrilling adventure!

On the second half of the journey the train crosses a beautiful spectacle.

Far above your head a waterfall splashes down the side of the cliff and then crashes beside the train in dramatic style before disappearing under the track and down the mountain.

If you're fast enough you can catch a photograph of both the train and the waterfall by leaning out the window while the train curves!

By the end of the trip the sun is setting like a wonderful finale to an action packed day and you shuttle bus or transport takes you back to your hotel.

You can also return to the base of the mountain (or tablelands) by return skyrail trip if you want to repeat the experience.

* TIP - Reserve your place on the skyrail before leaving New Zealand because it is heavily booked.

After a busy discovery of Cairns, a leisurely sojourn in Port Douglas is a welcome change. Click here to see, Port Douglas .

Copyright nztrip4u Limited, 2000, 2001.
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This is a test to ensure it wraps correct --coup,TAUPO

This is a test to ensure it wraps correct --coup,TAUPO

This is a test to ensure it wraps correct --coup,TAUPO

This is a test to ensure it wraps correct --coup,TAUPO

Copyright nztrip4u Limited, 2000, 2001.
Fly from New Zealand to Cairns. There are lots of tours so you don't necessarily need a car.
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