Unfurl your wings and fly north for the winter – all the birds are doing it.
The most popular spot north of Brisbane is Cairns, a sprawling oasis on the edge of Australia. It’s the place to vacate to, offering plenty of rewards for all your hard work this year. Imagine catching some rays at Cairns’ many beaches, or delving underneath or hovering above forest canopies, or even trawling through the markets for gifts and trinkets. Whatever your pleasures, Cairns will satisfy. Here, let us show you why:
If the smell of French food makes you think ‘délicieux!’ then look no further than C’est Bon – because it really is good as the translation says. Laden within the menu are plenty of French-inspired dishes, dressed up with fancy names and flavours. Tickle your tastebuds with some ‘Poitrine de Porc’, featuring twice-cooked pork belly, corn purée, charred corn, roasted carrots, hazelnut crumble, puff quinoa and thyme jus. Or how about ‘Canard, The French C Word’, with shredded duck, poached eggs, cheesy crushed potatoes, soft green leaves, beetroot balsamic reduction and crushed hazelnut.
20 Lake Street, Cairns – C’est Bon
It’s true: the best seafood is best eaten on a boat. But some of us are too strapped for cash to even consider a ride out to the open sea. That’s where Prawn Star comes to the rescue, with their restaurant housed on a pair of boats. Hop aboard either boat on the wharf and get a front-row seat to Chinaman Creek (river) and the Coral Sea. Whether you fancy some prawns, salmon slices, crab, oysters or a smorgasbord of the lot, Prawn Star is your go-to for fresh seafood in Cairns.
E31 Berth, Pier Point Road, Cairns – Prawn Star
Most of us call them toasted sandwiches, but true Aussie slang dictates them to be called ‘Jaffles‘ thanks to the all-Australian Jaffle iron of the 1950s. At JaffleHead, you’ll get a wild assortment of various toasted sandwiches (jaffles), much wilder than ham and cheese. How about Baby Cheesus, with Three Cheese Blend and Camembert? Or the Bay of Pigs with smoked pork belly, leg ham, cocktail onion, pickle, jalapeno mayo and cheese? Oh, and they do doughnuts, as well as sweet puff pastry desserts.
39 Lake Street, Cairns – JaffleHead
The Conservatory Bar
Cairns – being shrouded by jungles – cannot be Cairns without a safari-themed bar. That place is The Conservatory Bar, dressed in a conglomeration of survivalist art and decor – even the architecture gets in on the action. Their cocktails are divine, from the sickly sweet to the pinchingly bitter. Tipple on a Tropic Like It’s Hot, with house-infused jalapeno tequila, passoa, lime, passionfruit pulp and simple syrup. They even house a wine menu to swell the hearts of the hunters.
12/14 Lake Street, Cairns – The Conservatory Bar
Salt House is both a bar and a restaurant, but we think the bar is more worthy of a mention. Stretch out over a daybed on a sunny wooden deck surrounded by greenery, with a Passionfruit Caipirisma in one hand and a handheld fan in the other. Welcome to Cairns’ most enticing oasis; a classic location for you and your posse. As well as a titillating collection of cocktails, wines and beers, Salt House also serves up some tasty small, large and shared dishes for you and friends to nibble on.
6/2 Pierpoint Road, Cairns – Salt House
Elixir Music Bar
At Elixir Music Bar, one comes for the drinks and stays for the live entertainment. There’s always something going on throughout the week, from open mic nights to bingo and (naturally) popular home-grown bands. Feel what the locals feel by immersing yourself in their music tastes and tasting their quirky concoctions at the bar. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.
92 Abbott Street, Cairns – Elixir Music Bar
Kuranda National Park
Kuranda National Park is quite a popular landmark in Cairns, with plenty to do and see. Take the well-trodden path and soak up the fresh smell of timber, soil and leaves, which also includes some beautiful sights and scenes. If you’re not up for breaking a sweat on holiday, there are two other ways to see the forest: one is through the clouds on the Kuranda Skyrail or along the train tracks via the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
One doesn’t travel to Cairns without swimming in one of their beaches or, at least, check one of them out. Whether you want a sneaky hideaway or a popular sandy retreat, you’ll find the right beach for you. Perhaps try Palm Cove, an instagrammable spot, with bonus palm trees to bring out your pictures. There’s also Oak Beach, a random stop along the Captain Cook Highway. And for the really daring, try out Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island. If you do go nude, keep your flip flops on – the island is not all white soft sand.
It would be rather silly of us to write up this Cairns Weekender without mentioning the Daintree Rainforest. It’s a World Heritage-listed site and is believed to be one of the oldest rainforests on earth. Stroll under sprawling canopies, trundle over boulders and rocks, take a canoe over the calm waters or even traverse the through trees on a zip line. Whichever way you wish to explore the Daintree Rainforest, make sure you have a car to get yourself around.
To truly immerse yourself in the local culture, cuisine and trinkets, one should look no further than the local markets. In Cairns and surrounds, there are around a dozen to choose from, each sharing its own vibe and collection. Play it safe and go for the popular such as the Night Markets or Cairns Esplanade Markets, or edge a little outwards and go for something very local.
Great Barrier Reef
Cairns lays at the beating heart of the Great Barrier Reef, sharing remarkable one-of-a-kind scenes for anyone who wishes to see it. Take a small cruise out to Arlington Reef and snorkel over the shallow reef or even a small cruise to Upolo Sand Cay and Michaelmas Cay at low tide for a special kind of sanctuary oasis.
Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Pullman Reef Hotel and Casino lies in the heart of the city, featuring a necessary pool, five in-house dining experiences, and of course plenty of gaming rooms. The location is perfect, giving you quick and easy access to local cuisine and culture, along with three of the popular markets in Cairns.
1/35/41 Wharf Street, Cairns – Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Blue Lagoon Resort
The city of Cairns is nice and all, but some of us want to escape the hustle and bustle and settle into something more serene. May we suggest Blue Lagoon Resort, featuring three necessary swimming pools, a tennis court, gym, and worthy collection of self-contained apartments for those who love independent living.
22-26 Trinity Beach Road, Trinity Beach – Blue Lagoon Resort
Wanggulay Luxury Resort
Want to really escape the hustle and bustle? Head to Wanggulay Luxury Resort for complete tranquillity. Wake up in the middle of the forest to the sounds of chirping birds and waving trees. Facilities include large open verandahs, a gourmet kitchen, private swimming pool, spa in the ensuite and home theatre entertainment system, matched with executive client service by staff.
7/9 Barklya Close, Kamerunga – Wanggulay Luxury Resort