Gateway to the Tropics – Cairns

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 5.34.12 pmWe’ve been living in the sun in Far North Queensland, hiding from the chill weather fronts of winter passing over southern Aus. these last weeks and it has worked well. The tropic is a great place to be in an Aus. winter and there is a heap of things to keep us busy. It is tourist season up here and people abound everywhere you go. I know over the humid Christmas of Aus. this place is largely left to the locals, not many can deal with the high humidity and the strong cast of the sun. We too will be outa here by then but in the mean time it has been a lot of fun.   

Traditional tribesmen of the Tablelands

Traditional tribesmen of the Tablelands

I’ve already blogged about a few of our activities in visits to Paronella, The Bloomfield Track and The Chillagoe Caves but in-between times we have been exploring further. Cairns is great place to base yourself from to explore the region. Unlike the Gold Coast much further south, which is a mecca for families and kids as well as tourists in general, Cairns is more for couples and backpackers.

It doesn’t have the ‘Worlds’ entertainments that the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast have. But it does have worlds apart all of its own. The least of which is the Daintree rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands and the wonderful Chillagoe Caves. These are perhaps more nature-based adventures but there are also places which I know kids just adore.

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 8.08.37 amOne of these that I personally love is Tjapukai Cultural Centre. A great place to experience Aboriginal Culture and it is both entertaining and enlightening.

You can find out more about some of the activities there on ‘The Dreaming Series’ Facebook page, which features articles on Aboriginal knowledge and skill… plus

Tjapukai has a great show and a delectable feed available at their restaurant and café, currently up for refurbishment (2014). Their night-time program is a lot of fun and this I can vouch for personally.

What I enjoy most about Tjapukai is that, like many Indigenous activities the children are naturally part of the activity and they encourage the kids to be involved. This is one thing that I love about their culture and something that would be of benefit in other societies. Childhood is valued in the traditional story of the Australian Aboriginal way of things.

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An Emu in Drag

Another favourite is Hartleys Crocodile Farm where you can experience the wildlife and native bush animals in a near natural environment. The crocodile shows and displays are both entertaining and informative and the presenters there are lots of fun.

While many of the tourist centres have ‘courtesy coaches’ available, particularly if you are experiencing all that Cairns has to offer through local tour groups, it is handy to have your own wheels. It makes access to the tablelands much easier and venturing into the many other places to be found around Cairns, which are well worth a visit. With your own car this is something you can do in your own time and at your own pace.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.18.54 amThe least of these is of course the Chillagoe Caves that I posted about recently. There is also the beautiful Mosmon Gorge and something very special for the coffee lover is Coffee Works, which can be found at Mareeba on the Tableland. This place is simply spectacular and an absolute must for the coffee addict. Their museum on the history of coffee service and prep. is a wonder to explore. Best though is the opportunity to taste and appreciate coffee from all around the world along with chocolate and coffee liqueurs. As much as I love chugging my coffee of a mourning I had never before come to appreciate where I stood on the flavour scale. Now though I have a clear appreciation of what coffee I prefer and how best to make it to my tastes… what a gem of a place Coffee Works was.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.49.05 amIf you are venturing up onto the tablelands than make the effort to visit the renown ‘Curtain Fig’, a real wonder of natures form. On a hot day, take the swimmers for a dip into the Millaa Millaa Falls along the way, it is simply a great little stop. We found a bus load of backpackers braving the winter water and I thought they were insane!

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.48.06 amAnother experience worth a run is the escarpment township of Kuranda. This ‘tourist’ town sits on the very edge of the escarpment above Cairns and is accessible by both a specialized tourist train… and it is an interesting trip for the train people amongst us. For the adventurous there is the Skyrail, which is a long line gondola ride departing and arriving from near Tjapukai. It travels up over the rainforest canopy where it delivers you into Kuranda and out again, also allowing your to venture deep into the rainforest at platform stops along the way.

Kuranda is a great little market town with gear and clothing for the tourist and locals alike. My particular favourite is the pub lunch near the rail-head not to mention the spectacular mango smoothies that they serve on the rail platform. The mango smoothie has now been claimed by other cafés nearby but the reality is… there is nothing like the mango smoothie from the station platform and it is worth the steps to enjoy it.

Kuranda has picked up its game some in the past years. At one point it fell into a trinket market mentality but now has lifted itself out of this mire once more to be simply and interesting entertainment for the tourist shopper. One serviced by not only the tour busses but the rail and skyrail as well. Not a bad day out at all.

Yes… Cairns is a tourist town, the gateway to the tropic north and the Great Barrier Reef, even if you do need a kings fortune to experience some of the wonderful activities… many are well worth it, particularly if you have your own set of wheels.

The 'Freshie' - A 'Saltie" - An Aligator

The ‘Freshie’ – A ‘Saltie” – An Aligator

Jan is an Author and you can find out more about her books here under the tab ‘The Dreaming,’ for fiction tales of the Ancient Aboriginal Lore woven through contemporary times. Tales of the ancient Kadaitcha, or the Featherfoot of a truly unique Lore.
Or enjoy some of her travelogues and tales of past adventures, published in both e-book and print under Around the Campfires and Oldies at Large.

You will find her on Facebook where you too can become part of the adventure. You never know… you might just catch up with her and The Man around the ridges somewhere.

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