Walk 128: Cairns, Australia Circular Walk

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Roughly 3 miles (4.83km)

Time to walk: This is an exploring walk, which took us around 3 hours, but you could easily spend all day

Difficulty: Easy & all on flat, hard surfaces

Parking: We didn’t have a car on our visit, but there appeared to be plenty of on-street parking

Public toilets: Lots of cafes, bars etc

Map of the route: None, but the route’s really easy to follow from the information below & Cairns isn’t a big place

Cairns sits on the east coast of Far North Queensland & is the 5th most populated city in Queensland & the 14th in Australia. It’s a major tourist destination because of its tropical climate & access to the incredible rainforest & the Great Barrier Reef. Prior to British settlement, the area was inhabited by the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people who still, quite rightly, claim their Native Title rights

From 1770 to the early 1870s the area was known to the British simply as… “Trinity Bay”. The arrival of fishermen from the late 1860s saw the first European presence in the area. On the site of the modern day Cairns foreshore, there was a large native well which was used by these fishermen. A violent confrontation occurred in 1872 between local Yidinji people & Phillip Garland, a fisherman, over the use of this well. The area from that date was subsequently called Battle Camp. Battle Camp was renamed Cairns in late 1876 in honour of the then Governor of Queensland, William Cairns

Cairns experiences a tropical monsoon climate, with a mean annual rainfall of just under 79 inches, although monthly totals in the wet season (Dec-Mar) can exceed 39 inches. We visited in February & had perfect clear skies

So…shall we see what we thought of this beautiful, little city?

Let’s Walk!

1. We think it’s pretty safe to say that all of our party loved Cairns. Our walk starts from beside the Cairns sign outside the Hilton Hotel on the city’s wonderful esplanade, overlooking Trinity Inlet…

The palm trees along here were roost to beautiful & noisy Rainbow Lorikeets each evening

2. Facing the harbour, turn left & follow the boardwalk towards the marina. In the evening this is a great place to be with lots of good restaurants, especially seafood

This is Marlin Marina & the statue reminds us that Marlin fishing is big business in this part of the world

3. The Marina hosts everything from cruise liners, to luxury yachts, floating restaurants  & fishing boats

Continue past the Cairns Yacht Club which has been part of the city’s history since 1908. It’s had quite a few bases over the years & it’s website says that one of them was simply blown away in a cyclone, which shows the type of weather that can hit this part of Australia

4. At this point the boardwalk swings left along the sea wall where the bars & restaurants are replaced by a greener park feel…

Even the local Dove Pigeons look more colourful & laid back than our own

There’s also great views across to the city itself. The platform in the foreground is from where you can get a helicopter flight out to the Great Barrier Reef

5. Slightly further on is one of Cairns greatest assets – the Lagoon which is a free, 4800 square metre, salt water swimming facility that offers an all year round, safe, swimming location without stingers & crocodiles! It’s a great place to chill for all ages. Children can enjoy the sandy edges, build sand castles & play in shallow water

6. There’s some beautiful beaches around Cairns but, when the tide goes out in Trinity Inlet, you’re left with ugly mudflats that are only fit for the local pelicans…

So far on the esplanade we’ve done restaurants, marinas, a park, & a lagoon. As it bends round to the right we continue the park feel, but with more recreation facilities. The entrance to this area is dominated by the excellent sculpture known as ‘The Citizens Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’

The artwork was unveiled on the Cairns Esplanade on 31 August 2017 & is a symbol for Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, a social movement to engage the world in the future of the World Heritage area. Nationally recognised Torres Strait Islander artist, Brian Robinson was commissioned to create an iconic artwork that would anchor Cairns as the primary entry point for visitors to the Reef.  His 6 metre high & 11 metre wide helix depicts a wave of marine creatures & birds led by a life-size stingray to reflect the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef

Stretching for 2300 km along the Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef is central to the life & livelihoods of many Queenslanders &, as a barometer of the health of our planet, its future should be important to people around the world. We were lucky to visit that amazing place

7. Continue along the boardwalk…

…to arrive at a monument that commemorates Cairn’s role in the the 1956 Olympics. The city was the host for the beginning of the torch relay which, at the time was the longest ever relay in the modern Olympic ear. It covered 2855 miles & was the first in the southern hemisphere

8. There’s lots of information boards along this stretch which give the history of the local Yidinji tribe which was made up of eight different clans. The Yidinji, along with many other tribal people in the tropical rainforest areas from Cairns to Ingham, & the Atherton Tableland were cleared off their land to enable the establishment of cattle stations & sugar cane plantations. It resulted in many massacres. For example one episode alone in 1884, during a week long campaign to round up the tribes, Queensland police & native troopers, encircled a Yidinji camp at what became known as Skull Pocket. At dawn, a shot was fired from one side into the camp to make them scatter, & then as they rushed into the ambushing forces elsewhere, they were shot down. The native police then stabbed or smashed the brains of the children. It was common of stories we heard all over Australia & ones that didn’t make us proud of our ancestors’ actions

Next up’s the Cairn’s Cenotaph & Memorial site

The Cairns War Memorial includes a granite, sandstone & marble monument with a ‘digger’ statue; an 1887 naval gun & a 1940 field gun…

There’s also a memorial garden walkway with plaques commemorating four post WWI conflicts, the military services, & emergency service organisations. Initially unveiled in 1926 at the intersection of Abbott Street & Shields Street, the WWI monument was relocated to its current site in 1972

9. What we particularly liked about everything in this area of Cairns was that it all appeared to be really looked after, with no graffiti or litter. This included the massive public barbecues & outdoor gyms. Sadly we didn’t think they would be in the same condition here in the UK…

10. It’s time now to leave the esplanade & have a look at the central area of the city, so cross over into Minnie Street…

Take a look at the superb mural on the building on the right. Keep your eyes open as there are many others around the city

11. We’re heading to look at St Monica’s cathedral, which is on the corner with Abbott Street. The striking white building is the ‘Bishop’s House’…

St Monica’s is next door & looks pretty nondescript from the outside, but just wait…

12. St Monica’s War Memorial Cathedral is a catholic church that’s dedicated as a memorial to the Battle of the Coral Sea & was constructed between 1967-68. We can honestly say we’ve never seen stained glass windows like it…

Even the baptistery is an incredible area…

13. Coming back out of the church, continue up Minnie Street, passing the Cairns Freemasons Centre

The first recorded gathering of Freemasons in Cairns was held in December 1885, & the first Masonic Lodge was constituted in April 1886. By the mid 1920s, there were six Lodges that met in Cairns, in a building in Lake Street. Prior to the destruction of this building by a cyclone in 1927, the Lodges moved to a building adjoining the site of the present Temple

14. Just before reaching Sheridan Street, turn into the wonderful Munro Martin Parklands

The Parklands was opened in 2016, primarily as an outdoor performance space for the city & it’s fabulous – even Mrs WWaW had to stand on the stage & perform!

This area was once famous for sport, however it was frowned upon on Sundays

15. Exit the park on the opposite side & across the road’s the Cairns Performing Arts Centre which opened in December 2018 & comprises a 941 seat main auditorium

16. So now we’re heading back to towards the harbour on Florence Street & fancied a coffee. There’s plenty of coffee shops in the area, but we can recommend the one on the junction with Lake Street – typical no nonsense Aussie hospitality & great pies!

Suitable refreshed walk back to Florence Street & look for the metal models of aussie creatures

17. Continue in the same direction & ahead’s the Cairn’s Aquarium…

…& at the end turn right passing the cenotaph once more. On the wall on the right’s an anchor from a Catalina Flying Boat

18. There’s several restaurants along here but, as any of our group will tell you, the Night Market is something else. Each evening when the sun sets, Cairns Night Markets come alive

Featuring over seventy retail outlets & home to a myriad of food options, Cairns Night Markets are the perfect place to grab dinner & hunt for a bargain. We loved it & ate there a couple of times, even if we didn’t quite know what a couple of the fish dishes were!

Also they specialise in foot massages…plus don’t forget to buy your Aussie Rugby shirts for less than £10

19. Walk through the market into Abbott Street & turn right. Now then…Cairns most famous inhabitants are massive fruit bats &, during the day, they’re all asleep in the trees along here

 

If you stand by the bay around 7 pm you’ll see them all fly off to eat – an incredible sight…

20. The white building on the left’s Cairns Library. Go inside & have a look at their exhibitions…they’re very good

What struck us though was how many cities around the world Cairns is twinned with & not one of them’s in the UK. When we got back we emailed them to see if they’d like to twin with Northampton. Sadly they’re not looking for more ‘twins’ at the moment…

21. Come back out of the library & turn left up Alpin Street…

Turn left again at the corner with Lake Street. Here there’s another huge tree with an incredible number of fruit bats in it…

22. At the corner of Lake Street & Shields Street’s Cairns Museum which is owned by their Historical Society…

23. Walk up Shields Street which has a park feel about it…

24. At the junction, turn left into Grafton Street, passing James Cook University

This is the second oldest university in Queensland & is a teaching & research institution. The University’s main campuses are located in the tropical cities of Cairns, Singapore & Townsville. The University’s main fields of research include marine sciences, biodiversity, sustainable management of tropical ecosystems, genetics & genomics, tropical health care, tourism & engineering

25. On the right’s Rusty’s Markets, the best market in Cairns. Every Thursday something special happens in this place. Trucks laden with quantities of fresh fruit & vegetables from local farmers arrive in convoy. Bins of produce are quickly unloaded, trucks move off to be replaced by others, & the procession continues well into the day. Stallholders soon follow, with trolley & forklift, to collect their designated product

Over the last years 30 years, Rusty’s Market has earned a rightful place as the unofficial cultural heart of Cairns—a meeting place where people come together. It exists because of one man’s vision, Emrys ‘Rusty’ Rees

26. After Rusty’s turn left down Spence Street & then left again along Abbott Street once more. Ever wondered whatever happened to Woolies – well a version of it’s on this street…

On the right’s Cairn’s Art Gallery…

27. To have a look inside, & it’s well worth it, turn right into Shields Street…

The Cairns Art Gallery was officially opened on 15 July 1995 as a not for profit company managed by a Board of Directors. The dream of a public art gallery for Cairns began to take shape in 1979 & over the next sixteen years it took a shared passion & vision for the future, as well as the tenacious commitment of Cairns Mayors, Councillors, State Ministers, artists & members of the community to raise over $2 million to repurpose the heritage listed Public Curators Building into an award winning gallery. The Cairns Art Gallery is now one of Australia’s leading public galleries recognised for the excellence of it’s programs & collections relating to the unique heritage & living culture of North Queensland in the context of the world’s tropic zone & the Asia Pacific region

28. Come back out & turn right along The Esplanade once more…

…crossing over Spence Street. Before we started this walk we visited the Information Centre on the corner & asked the question..”So you’ve given me a map of your city. If you wanted me to do a walk that covered all of the important sights, what would the route be & what would they be?” The answer was “Ermmmm….” So Cairns we hope we’ve done a decent job!

29. On the right’s The Casino…

It’s free to go in & have a look, plus also travel to the upper floors where there’s a great view over the inlet

30. Continue along The Esplanade & cut through the gardens to the Boardwalks once more…

This is where the cruise ships dock

31. Turn left along the boardwalk…there’s some great artwork on this stretch…

Plus a sign telling you what fish you can catch off the quay

Continue back 100 yards to where we started our walk

So Cairns…what did we think? Well, we agreed with our party that this is a small, lovely, laid back city. A word of warning though…we were extremely lucky with the weather as this is a rainy city so pick the time of year you go carefully. But it’s a great place so…

Go Walk!