Food and Fun: Cairns Style

Article by Patti Morrow & Photos by Kary Kern

Cairns, on the Coral Sea in tropical northeast Australia, is considered to be the gateway to Great Barrier Reef – one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. the city is stylish and laid-back, and a central location for exploring an area pulsing with adventure and culture.


The Great Barrier Reef

No visit to Cairns is complete without seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, made up of nearly 3,000 individual reefs stretching out 1800 miles. It’s even visible from outer space. You can dive, snorkel, or just enjoy a boating excursion out to the reef system with operators such as Deep Sea Divers Den.

The Esplanade
The Esplanade is the waterside boardwalk on Cairns Bay. It has a festive vibe with restaurants, cafes and shops. The night markets are the best place for variety and price to find your Australian souvenirs. There are no beaches in Cairns, but there is a large, open-air, manmade saltwater swimming lagoon on the Esplanade. The lagoon is surrounded by a sandy beach and tropical gardens, and looks out to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Food
While Cairns is not known for having fabulous food, there are a few things you should try. The Raw Prawn on the Esplanade serves an “all-in-one” dish called “Hop, Skip, Jump, and Swim” which consists of kangaroo, crocodile, emu and barramundi. Other Australian favorites to look for are fish and chips, meat pie, the famous Tim Tam chocolate candy, and of course, vegemite. And for the very daring, there’s locally-grown durian fruit, which has been described as “eating custard out of a toilet.”

The Culture
Cairns lays claim to hosting the oldest living Aboriginal culture, dating back over 40,000 years. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park is an educational, authentic Australian Indigenous experience, combining live performances of music, dance and storytelling. Visitors can also learn how to throw a boomerang and spear or play the Didgeridoo – the ancient natural wooden trumpet.

The Island
Stunning Fitzroy Island is reachable by a 45-minute ferry from mainland Cairns. The 833-acre private island is freely accessible to the public. Visitors can snorkel in crystal clear Welcome Bay, hike in the island’s tropical rainforest, or take a sea kayak to explore hidden beaches and coves along the calm shoreline.

The Rainforest
Experience Cairns’ pristine ancient rainforest from a gondola on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, gliding over the tropical canopy. You can get off the gondola at various points to explore hiking paths through the lush vegetation.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway treats passengers to a bird’s eye view of old bridges, mountain vistas and Barron Gorge on the iconic restored historic train.

Grab Perry from Rainforest Journeys, whose family has lived in the rainforest for generations. Hop on one of his ATV’s (all-terrain vehicles) and follow him into the rainforest to explore the incredible wetlands. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a cassowary.

Kuranda is the colorful little village at the top of the rainforest with markets, restaurants, walking paths, a butterfly sanctuary and a wildlife exhibit. The rich indigenous Djabugay culture survives there, showcased in the art, pottery, paintings, woodcarving, jewelry and handcrafts in the marketplace.


Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of Luggage and Lipstick – a travel blog for baby boomer adventurers. She was recently named by TripAdvisor as one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials), and is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone.” Patti has over 100 bylines in 35 publications, including The Huffington Post and The Washington Post. She has traveled throughout most of the USA and more than 50 countries and islands abroad.



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