So anyways, Sarah and I spent four nights in Cairns last week and I have so much to tell you about – the reef, Port Douglas and Palm Cove, Kuranda Scenic Railway – but for now we’ll take a wander around…
Located in tropical Far North Queensland, Cairns is about 1600kms north of where we live in the south of the state. Yep, Queensland is that big – about 2700kms if you follow the coast.
The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is the only place on the planet where two world heritage sites meet – the reef and the rainforests.
While the area was originally opened up by gold mining, and then agriculture (sugarcane, pineapples, bananas, corn and rice), these days the economy runs primarily on tourism – which means that Covid-19 has had a massive impact up here.
All the reef cruises head out from one point on the waterfront, so the strip from Cairns Wharf to the Reef Terminal and beyond is full of parks, restaurants and even a city “beach”.
That’s another thing about up here – it’s not advisable to swim in the sea between November and May on account of the deadly stingers, or Box Jellyfish and Irukandji. Then, of course, there are the crocs in the rivers and streams. But, I digress.
I love is how the indigenous culture is wound through the public spaces up here. I also love how this magnificent tree has become a playground.
Mostly though, I love the movement – on the water, at the reef terminal, in the waterfront restaurants.
Tony the taxi driver told us we need to visit the aquarium as an adjunct to our reef adventure. It will fill in the gaps of any fish you don’t get to see, he said. While it hadn’t been on our list, we made the time on our first afternoon and thought that it prepared us for the wonder of the reef – until we were on the reef and swimming with the fish…but that’s for next week.
Seeing the eel (above) reminded me of a headline I once read in the NT News: “When you’re walking on the reef and you feel some sharp teeth, that’s a moray…” Get it?
I can’t remember where I read about this place, but it’s an absolute must do.
Essentially, it’s a prawn trawler serving seafood; although there are three boats in operation – Prawn Star, Prawn Star 2, and Prawn Star 3.
The menu is simple: prawns, oysters, bugs, sashimi and crayfish. Nothing else.
We went for the platter between the two of us and it was absolute perfection. Tropical winter sun, great choons, excellent seafood, cold wine, on a boat. #whywouldntya?
It’s advisable to book – especially at the moment when social distancing is in play. You can find their Facebook page here.
I accidentally wandered in here and was glad that I did. A micro-distiller these guys have won both Australian and international awards for their gins.
I was wowed by their Davidson Plum gin – the Davidson plums are steeped in the tropical gin for months – and a really unusual Sherry Barrel Aged Gin; both of which found their way into my suitcase.
Their Tropical and Navy-strength Gin are also pretty special.
Cairns Night Markets
It felt a little like Phuket when we walked in here – the same type of t-shirts, beach dresses etc in the same kind of stalls, a number of which were closed (presumably because of Covid-19). While I’m not into the shopping so much there are some good street food style stalls here too. If you’re interested there’s more info here.
Where we ate
Cairns has a great range of restaurants and cafes ranging from cheap and cheerful, to Asian street food at the night markets to more high-end options.
We loved the noodle soups and dumplings at Café China Noodle Bar just outside the Reef Casino, but for our “special” dinner out we chose Dundee’s (yes, I cringed at the name too) on the waterfront.
Disappointingly the menu was limited a tad due to, well, by now you know what, but our meal was pretty great and you certainly couldn’t fault the view.
We shared duck spring rolls and soft-shelled crabs to start and followed that with bug-tail spaghettini (Sarah) and wild-caught barramundi with roast sweet potatoes, a mango salsa and lemon beurre blanc (me). No dessert.
Where we stayed
I cashed in some Accor points and we stayed at the Pullman Cairns International. While our room was a tad “tired” it was plenty big and comfortable enough for us. The pool was great and, with the wharf just across the road, we couldn’t have chosen a better location.
Next week: we’re off to the reef.