The Cairns Botanic Gardens occupy a 38 hectare precinct in Edge Hill, 4kms north of the Cairns CBD, including Flecker Gardens, Centenary Lakes, Mt Whitfield Conservation Park and Tanks Arts Centre. The Flecker Gardens are on Collins Avenue and open to the public, for free, every day of the year from 7.30am to 5.30pm. If you like tropical plants, then this is a must-visit, as the gardens are renowned as having one of the best exhibitions of tropical plants in Australia. Bromeliads cluster under giant heliconias, climbing vines drape over fences and walls, orchids are scattered across the garden, as are cycads and palms, to numerous to mention. There is a delightful café on site, serving breakfast, brunch and lunch.
The Cairns Esplanade is the waterfront precinct of the city and a focal point for locals and visitors. For many years, the Cairns Esplanade looked over mud flats, which provided a rich habitat for a variety of birds, making it a popular place for twitchers to set up with their binoculars. In recent times, Cairns Regional Council spent millions of dollars redeveloping the Cairns Esplanade and it now features an amazing pool, extensive boardwalks, interpretive displays and signage, public art, a skate ramp, covered seating and BBQ facilities that are all completely free. Relax on the grass, enjoy markets on the weekend and meet friendly locals at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon.
Crystal Cascades is a stunning rainforest swimming spot, much loved by local residents, affectionately called ‘Crystals’. Featuring a series of freshwater waterfalls and pools, that are kept cool and refreshing all year round thanks to the surrounding rainforest, Crystal Cascades is big enough to accommodate many visitors but diverse enough for you to find your very own pool to slip into the waters and relax. Floating in the water, looking up at the overarching rainforest, bordered by mossy rocks, you will think you have found nature’s paradise on earth. Crystal Cascades is just 20km from the Cairns CBD and is sign posted from Redlynch.
Although not strictly at the Cairns Beaches, the Mangrove Boardwalk at Cairns Airport is on the way to the beaches, as you drive north from Cairns city. There are two separate walks here, a northern walk, which is 700m long and includes a viewing tower and observation platform by a saltwater creek and the southern walk, which is 600m long and has a viewing tower over Cairns city and the inlet’s seagrass beds. These comfortable and easy grade walks, allow you to explore Cairns’ mangrove system, with 11 different mangrove species visible alongside the boardwalk. These walks are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week but are not lit, so you should visit during the day.
Mount Whitfield Conservation Park is home to the red and blue arrow walking tracks, a favoured place for locals to get fit and healthy, whilst enjoying the great outdoors just 4km from the Cairns CBD. The red arrow circuit is 1.3km long and takes you from the car park, up a steep, staired walkway through the rainforest to two lookouts over the Cairns Airport and city. The blue arrow is more strenuous and is only recommended for fit and active people. It is 5.4km long and takes about four hours return, there is no drinking water along the way, so make sure you take supplies with you. Both tracks take you through the rainforest with amazing views over the city and of flora and fauna.
Tanks Arts Centre is a vibrant, multi-use, contemporary arts facility situated in the Cairns Botanic Gardens precinct, 4km north of the Cairns CBD on Collins Avenue. Housed in three converted World War 2 naval oil storage tanks, Tanks Arts centre presents an exciting program of visual and performance art throughout the year, in its historic venue, surrounded by lush rainforest. Indeed, the venue itself is an attraction, where you can see the rainforest flora reclaiming the concrete stairs and wrapping itself around the tanks. Art exhibitions are free and displayed in Tank 4 which is open weekdays and weekends. Musical events are usually ticketed and range from local to domestic and international artists. Free market days are held on the last Sunday of every month from April to November.
The Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorkeys Knob was constructed in 1994 at a cost of $12 million. The marina supplies power, water and shelter to over 200 berths that are protected from trade winds by Yorkeys Knob headland, a natural feature that rises 100 metres above sea level. The marina is a lovely place to stroll along the water, admiring the boats and Coral Sea scenery. If you get peckish there are a few options for your consideration, the Yorkeys Knob Boat Club or a BBQ on the beach. The Boat Club is adjacent to the marina and has the only overwater, undercover deck in Cairns, providing the best place to sit back and watch the sun set over the Coral Sea. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Alternatively, make use of the free BBQ facilities that are scattered along the Yorkeys Knob beachfront. Often situated next to a playground, it is first in, best dressed with these facilities, which are popular with locals.