Cairns Introduction Walking Tour, Cairns

Cairns Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Cairns

A gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's most famous natural wonders, Cairns, Queensland, is surrounded by lush rainforest foliage and pristine shores iridescent in every hue of turquoise which mirror the sunlight dancing on the gentle ripples of the vast Coral Sea.

The Aboriginal people had inhabited the area of present-day Cairns for thousands of years before British Captain James Cook sailed along its shore in the 1770s. Nonetheless, the region remained relatively untouched by European settlers until the late 19th century when the discovery of gold in the nearby Hodgkinson River triggered a rush of prospectors.

The city itself was founded in 1876 and was named after Sir William Wellington Cairns, who served as the Governor of Queensland during that time. The establishment of a port in the area further fueled its growth, becoming a vital transportation hub for the surrounding agricultural and mining industries.

Today, the unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and adventure opportunities make Cairns an attractive destination for travelers from around the globe. You can wander along the resplendent Esplanade Boardwalk, where the swaying palm trees harmonize with the soothing murmur of lapping waves, or savor the artistry of St Monica's Cathedral, an architectural opus adorned with stained glass and soaring arches, creating an aura of celestial grandeur.

In the heart of Cairns, the City Council Chambers and City Library stand as bastions of knowledge and civic nobility, preserving the storied heritage of yesteryears. Nearby, the lively Cairns Night Markets enthrall with a myriad of delightful goods, including local souvenirs, clothing, and international cuisine, awakening the senses to a world of eclectic crafts and exotic flavors.

The Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, an aerial sanctuary amid the urban splendor, offers daring adventurers an intimate rendezvous with Australia's fauna. Meanwhile, the Cairns Aquarium allows one to explore the diverse marine life of the Great Barrier Reef and other aquatic environments found in North Queensland.

Such is the allure of Cairns, steeped in the echoes of indigenous heritage and pioneering exploration, beckoning the discerning voyager to bask in the embrace of its tropical majesty. If you seek to taste the essence of Australia's untamed spirit and some of Cairns' abundant offerings, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Cairns Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Cairns Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Australia » Cairns (See other walking tours in Cairns)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Cairns City Council Chambers and City Library
  • Cairns Aquarium
  • Saint Monica's Cathedral
  • Esplanade Boardwalk
  • Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial
  • Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome
  • Cairns Museum
  • The Cairns Night Markets
1
Cairns City Council Chambers and City Library

1) Cairns City Council Chambers and City Library

Originally constructed as the town hall, the Cairns City Council Chambers has witnessed the evolution of the city's administrative landscape and now serves a new purpose as the Cairns City Library.

The Cairns Municipal Council Chambers, a timber structure, initially graced the site, and in 1886, the council sought to expand its public presence by applying for a public market reserve adjacent to the municipal reserve along Lake Street. As Cairns continued to grow, so too did its municipal identity. The Cairns Municipal Council transitioned into the Cairns Town Council on March 31, 1903, and subsequently became the Cairns City Council on October 13, 1923. In 1926, the city proudly celebrated its 50th anniversary, marking a milestone in its history.

The Cairns City Council Chambers, constructed from 1929 to 1930, stands as a substantial reinforced concrete structure nestled on a prominent corner site surrounded by lush parkland. The building's architectural design, attributed to Hill & Taylor, radiates a sense of grandeur, with the symmetrical main entrance facing Abbott Street to the northeast.

A striking forecourt area greets visitors as they approach the building, adorned with a stylized pronaos—an architectural feature consisting of eight Ionic columns in antis. Each column is exquisitely fluted at the base, and the pilasters at either end showcase intricate stylized detailing, crowned by a coat of arms. The Cairns City Council Chambers' serene environment is further enhanced by the extensive grounds surrounding it, featuring mature trees and delightful flower beds.

Today, this iconic building has found a new purpose as the Cairns City Library—a repository of knowledge and a haven for learning. While its role may have evolved, the historical significance and cultural heritage it carries remain steadfast.

As a testament to its enduring importance, the Cairns City Council Chambers and Cairns City Library were inscribed on the Queensland Heritage Register on October 5, 1998.
2
Cairns Aquarium

2) Cairns Aquarium (must see)

Cairns Aquarium is Australia's newest and most captivating aquarium, focusing exclusively on the aquatic wildlife of Tropical North Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest. Visitors can explore 11 unique ecosystems, from ancient rainforests to the largest coral reef.

The aquarium boasts 71 exhibits showcasing rare species, including tropical fish, corals, rainforest creatures, and marine mammals. Animal presentations, habitat talks, and a marine touch tank offer interactive experiences. Guests can witness daily shark and ray feeds and participate in a behind-the-scenes Marine Life Encounter, including hand-feeding Cownose Rays. The aquarium also houses the Cairns Turtle Hospital for injured turtles.

At the Aquarium By Twilight event, visitors can explore the nocturnal behaviors of aquatic animals and enjoy a three-course dinner at Dundee's Restaurant, immersed in the marine life backdrop. Cairns Aquarium offers an immersive and educational adventure, highlighting the region's biodiversity and promoting conservation efforts.
3
Saint Monica's Cathedral

3) Saint Monica's Cathedral

Saint Monica's Cathedral is renowned as one of the prominent and historic churches in the area. The cathedral holds a rich history and has become a significant landmark in the community. Designed by Lawrence and Lordan, the construction of the church was carried out by Michael Garvey in the year 1927.

Originally established as Saint Monica's Church School, the building was later expanded to cater to the increasing population of Catholics and the needs of the parish. This expansion allowed the church to serve as a gathering place for worship and religious activities for a growing community. Even today, Saint Monica's Cathedral maintains a bulletin board to keep everyone informed about the latest events and activities taking place within the Cathedral Parish.

The cathedral boasts a spacious interior with a seating capacity that can accommodate up to 500 attendees. Throughout the years, Saint Monica's Cathedral has undergone numerous renovations and expansions to preserve its beauty and functionality.

One of the highlights of Saint Monica's Cathedral is its stunning stained glass windows, which have garnered positive acclaim. These windows narrate captivating stories of historical events, capturing the attention and imagination of visitors and locals alike. In fact, the cathedral's stained glass windows hold the distinction of being the world's largest themed stained glass windows. Their intricate designs and vibrant colors create a mesmerizing visual experience for all who behold them.
4
Esplanade Boardwalk

4) Esplanade Boardwalk (must see)

The Esplanade Boardwalk in Cairns is a vibrant and lively hub that serves as the heartbeat of the city. Stretching along the picturesque coast in the Cairns CBD, this 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) promenade is a popular destination for both locals and travelers alike. With its stunning views, manicured lawns, and landscaped parklands, it offers a perfect place to unwind, exercise, and soak in the natural beauty of the palm-fringed waterfront.

The highlight of the Cairns Esplanade is undoubtedly its human-made saltwater swimming lagoon, which has been carved out of the city's reclaimed foreshore. This inviting lagoon provides a safe and refreshing place to cool off and relax, surrounded by the tropical ambiance of the boardwalk. The timber boardwalk itself is adorned with picnic areas, allowing visitors to enjoy a leisurely meal while taking in the serene ocean vistas.

For nature enthusiasts, the Esplanade Boardwalk offers several birdwatching vantage points, where one can spot a variety of colorful avian species in their natural habitat. Along the way, visitors can also appreciate the presence of sculptures that add an artistic touch to the landscape, making the experience even more delightful.

The Esplanade Boardwalk doesn't just cater to relaxation and leisure; it also provides recreational facilities for those seeking an active experience. The area features free-to-use barbecue facilities, allowing visitors to enjoy a traditional Aussie barbie with friends and family. Additionally, fitness enthusiasts can take advantage of the fitness equipment available, enabling them to work out while enjoying the beautiful surroundings.
5
Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial

5) Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial

The Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial stands tall as a poignant tribute to the brave souls who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. This striking monument features a statue of an infantry soldier standing atop a stately clock tower, his gaze turned towards the vast expanse of the sea, forever vigilant and watchful.

Rising to an impressive height of 41 feet, the memorial once served as a functioning clock tower, a solemn reminder of the passage of time and the enduring legacy of those who gave their lives for a greater cause. For many years, it graced the intersection of Abbott and Shields Streets, an iconic landmark that resonated with the Cairns community and visitors alike.

In 1972, the Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial found its new home on the Esplanade, overlooking the serene waters of the sea. Though the clock may be absent today, the monument's significance remains undiminished. Instead of the clock dials, the time is permanently painted to read 4:28 am—an unyielding tribute to the moment when ANZAC troops bravely landed at Gallipoli during World War I. This poignant detail forever etches the sacrifice of those who answered the call of duty and embarked on a journey into history.

Amidst the grandeur of the memorial, a marble plaque bears the names of the locals who fell in World War I. This hallowed list serves as a solemn roll call of the fallen, ensuring that their memory lives on and their courage is never forgotten. The names etched in marble stand as a testament to the resilience and strength of the Cairns community and a reminder of the indomitable spirit that binds them together.
6
Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome

6) Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome (must see)

Perched atop the prominent rooftop of The Reef Hotel Casino in the heart of Cairns, the Cairns Wildlife Dome beckons visitors to step into a mesmerizing all-weather wildlife exhibit like no other. Encased by a grand 20-meter high glass dome, this spectacular attraction offers an immersive experience, transporting guests into the heart of a lush rainforest environment.

Upon entering the Wildlife Dome, visitors are greeted by a flurry of colors and sounds as parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, and other native birds from the Wet Tropics region soar gracefully above. Unlike traditional zoo settings, these feathered residents roam freely, creating a sense of connection with nature rarely seen in such close proximity. The magic of the Dome doesn't end with the birds, as free-roaming rainforest wallabies capture the attention of those seeking an authentic wildlife encounter.

Throughout the day, interactive animal presentations and tours are included in the entry price, providing valuable insights into rainforest wildlife and offering superb photo opportunities. These presentations allow visitors to learn about the unique behaviors and characteristics of the wildlife, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for Australia's native fauna.

For those seeking an even more exhilarating experience, the Cairns ZOOM within the Wildlife Dome takes adventure to new heights—both literally and figuratively. The ZOOM challenge ropes course allows participants to navigate through various elements at different heights within the Dome. This unique setup allows visitors to interact closely with the birds while simultaneously learning about and appreciating native fauna, creating a harmonious blend of fun and education.
7
Cairns Museum

7) Cairns Museum

Steeped in the stories and heritage of this bustling city, the Cairns Museum is housed within the picturesque heritage-listed School of Arts Building, exuding charm and character.

A visit to the Cairns Museum is an immersive journey through time, offering a captivating insight into the diverse layers of Cairns' past. As you step inside, you'll be surrounded by a captivating array of artifacts, photographs, and narratives, each telling a tale that weaves together the intricate history of this coastal city.

The museum's intimate size does not diminish its impact; instead, it adds to the sense of wonder as you meander through the exhibits, each one bringing Cairns' history to life. From the ancient legacy of the Indigenous people who have inhabited these lands for thousands of years to the arrival of European settlers in the 1800s, the museum traces the city's growth and development over the years.

One of the museum's highlights is a captivating exhibit dedicated to the Cairns Wharf, once the lifeblood of the city. Here, the importance and impact of the wharf on Cairns' development are showcased, providing a glimpse into the past when bustling trade and maritime activity shaped the city's identity.

Another not-to-be-missed exhibit immerses visitors in the history of the Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder that has played an integral role in the region's narrative. Through a mesmerizing collection of artifacts, photographs, and stories, the exhibit details the discovery of the Reef and the efforts to preserve its ecological marvels.
8
The Cairns Night Markets

8) The Cairns Night Markets (must see)

As the sun dips below the horizon, a lively transformation takes place in Cairns—the Cairns Night Markets burst to life, beckoning visitors and locals alike to indulge in an electrifying shopping and culinary experience. With over seventy retail outlets and a plethora of food options, the Cairns Night Markets offer an exciting evening escapade, where dinner and bargain hunting go hand in hand.

The origins of the Cairns Night Markets can be traced back to 1991 when visionary entrepreneurs Hayden Redfern and Elise Warring noticed a rising demand from tourists for locally made goods. Inspired by the charm of open-air markets in Hawaii and South East Asia, they embarked on creating a similar experience in Cairns. Little did they know that their creation would quickly become a beloved hotspot for both locals and visitors.

In its early days, the market humbly began with only 28 vendors and was granted a six-month term. However, its immense popularity soon surpassed all expectations. Word of mouth spread like wildfire, and soon enough, more than 100 vendors were eager to be a part of this dynamic market space. Exploring the market is an adventure in itself, as you discover treasures from local artisans and uncover one-of-a-kind finds.

Walking Tours in Cairns, Australia

Create Your Own Walk in Cairns

Create Your Own Walk in Cairns

Creating your own self-guided walk in Cairns is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Cairns' Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Cairns' Historical Buildings Walking Tour

The vibrant port town of Cairns, ensconced on the verdant fringes of Australia's sun-kissed northeastern coast, stands as a live manifestation of its storied past, adorned with a collection of historical edifices that exude an air of refined antiquity and cultural grandeur. Each architectural gem, a chapter in the city's chronicle, beckons admirers to embark upon a journey through time.
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles