Cairns, Australia - Stein Travel
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Cairns

The cosmopolitan, colourful city of Cairns in far north Queensland is a tourist-orientated centre because it is the gateway to two of the world's most awesome World Heritage Sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the 110-million year old Daintree rainforest.

Cairns started life as a small fishing encampment, which received an injection of prosperity in the 19th century when gold was discovered to the north and tin and timber began to be exploited in the nearby Atherton Tablelands. The harbour and fishing operations increased in importance, and tourism arrived in the early 20th century when marlin fishing became popular, and the world discovered the delights of exploring the Great Barrier Reef.

Aided by its pleasant, warm climate the relaxed tropical town has now become a frenzied international tourism centre, flooded with visitors most of the year, its streets lined with souvenir stores, eateries and some first class hotels. The harbour is clogged with streamlined pleasure boats, and the offshore islands bristle with resorts. To cater for tourists the city fathers have even created a man-made salt-water lagoon and sandy beach on the Esplanade to replace the original muddy swamp that crowned Trinity Bay.

Information & Facts

Climate

Cairns has a tropical climate with little distinction between the seasons. Temperatures are warm to hot all year round, with the occasional cold snap during June and July. The rainy season is between November and May, characterised by sudden heavy falls and occasional tropical cyclones. Generally though, blue skies, sunshine, gentle breezes and pleasantly warm temperatures are the order of most days.

Getting Around

Central Cairns is compact enough to explore on foot. Visitors tend to congregate around the Esplanade and city centre, where there are plenty of taxis and bus stops. The public buses cover most areas with reasonable fares, services being less frequent at night and over weekends. The city's 'Sun Buses' run from a central transit terminal and maps and timetables are freely available from hotels and other tourist establishments. Black and white metered taxis operate day and night from ranks throughout the city, or can be flagged down in the street. Car hire firms are plentiful for those wishing to explore further afield.

Kids Attractions

An outdoor lover's paradise, Cairns has so much to offer those travelling with kids. With plenty of crocodiles, koalas and other native animals to meet, as well as fabulous parks and reserves, parents will have no problem keeping the little ones entertained. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and kit the kids out with sun hats as the sun in Cairns can be blazingly hot and young skin can burn very easily. Can't stand the heat? Take the kids to the Esplanade to cool off in the lagoon during the summer months, and make a day of it by enjoying a picnic or barbecue while you're there. Take the kids on a ride on the skyrail to view the rainforest and village of Kuranda, or check out the red pandas at the Cairns Tropical Zoo. The Wildlife Dome at the Reef Hotel Casino is the perfect place to view Australia's most infamous inhabitant, the salt water Crocodile. A must is a day trip to the nearby Paronella Park to enjoy the castle ruins surrounded by rainforest gardens right beside a stunning waterfall, and the kids can even enjoy feeding the turtles and fish, while Hartley's Creek, a working crocodile farm where kids can enjoy the 'Crocodile Attack Show' and view other animals including cassowaries, dingoes, snakes, koalas and lizards. With all these options and so many more, Cairns is the perfect holiday destination for families travelling with their kids in tow. With plenty of awesome attractions and activities to wear them, parents can enjoy a quiet evening for a change!

Language

English is the official language of Australia.

Money

The Australian Dollar (AUD) is divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change exchange most foreign currencies. Travellers cheques are also welcome everywhere, but banks take a small commission and it is better to take cheques in major currencies (e.g. US dollars or Euros) to avoid additional charges. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are freely available throughout the country. Banking hours are generally 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Friday, but some banks offer extended hours and some are open on Saturday mornings.

Night Life

Cairns has plenty of after dark activities to appeal to all kinds of visitors. With everything from chilled out lounges and cocktail bars to pumping bars and clubs, visitors on holiday in Cairns wanting to sample the city's nightlife will have plenty of choice. One of Cairns' most popular nightlife venues is the Reef Hotel Casino where plenty of bars, restaurants and of course, the casino, provide hours of after dark entertainment. But if that's not your thing, head to the centre of Cairns to sample the local nightlife. Start off in the one of the city's bars with a few pints and meal before hitting the lively 'strip' along Spence Street, while Lake Street has its fair share of hot spots to offer, including the Sapphire Tapas Bar and Lounge and the Heritage. Head to Shields Street for live music venues where local musicians and bands showcase their talents at venues such as the 12 Bar Blues Bar, while Giligan's on Grafton Street offers three bars to choose from. For more information, pick up a copy of Time Outin the Cairns Postor Xpress, a magazine aimed at backpackers.

Shopping

A shopping expedition in Cairns may not be on a par with shopping in some of Australia's larger cities, but Cairns has plenty of worthy stores, markets and malls that make for a good day out on the spend. A great souvenir from Cairns is Opal and pearl jewellery as well as the quintessential Australian souvenirs, didgeridoos and boomerangs. Head to the heart of the city's business district to Abbott Street to indulge in some duty free shopping, while jewellery stores, retail outlets and supermarkets are peppered along the city's roads and street corners. Lake Street is the best place to buy souvenirs where loads of gift and curios shops adorn the sidewalk and handcrafted pieces such as boomerangs can be found. And if it's straight, it's probably a stick. Cairns Central Shopping Centre on Shields Street is the biggest shopping centre is the largest in the city and contains two department stores, two supermarkets and a six cinema complex as well as more than 180 other stores and has been named among Queensland's top shopping centres. Markets such as Pier Marketplace, which is open seven days a week, is a must even if only to stroll and browse through the many stores selling everything from clothing, shoes and leather goods to food, souvenirs and music. Head to the night market on the Esplanade for a night of bargain hunting and bric-a-bric, and even take in a spot of dinner at the food court. Rusty's market between Grafton and Sheridan Streets which is open from Friday to Sunday is a good place to pick up locally grown produce and exotic fruit and vegetables.

Sightseeing

Any time of year is a good time to visit Cairns due to its tropical climate and, with a multitude of outdoor activities and natural attractions on its doorstep, it's a nature lover's dream come true.

Meet some of Australia's indigenous animals such as the crocodile, red panda or koala at Wildlife Zone or the Cairns Tropical Zoo, ride the gondolas above a canopy of the rainforest over magnificent waterfalls and gorges, to the village of Kuranda on the Skyrail, one of Cairns' most popular attractions, or pick out some stunning opal jewellery at Quilpie Opals.

Visitors keen on venturing out of the city should head straight for the coast where the Great Barrier Reef awaits avid snorkelers and divers, while the verdant Wet Tropics of Queensland, the oldest tropical rainforest still surviving on Earth are best explored on horseback or from the treetops and the nearby Cape Tribulation is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise, with activities like kayaking, snorkelling, jungle surfing and river cruising on offer. The Whitsunday Islands, of which 70 percent has been declared a national or marine park, boasts the resort village of Airlie Beach and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the picturesque surroundings.

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