Cairns History

The Cairns Hilton and The Reef Hotel Casino

Cairns is a small city by internationally standards.  Located by the sea it boasts a good balance of laid back tropical lifestyle and the excitement of a major tourist destination with lots to see and do.  The international airport is only about  6km from the heart of town.

Approximately 120,000.

Distance from closest major city
Cairns is located approximately 1729 km north of Brisbane.

Captain James Cook was the first known European to visit the site where Cairns is located, arriving on Trinity Sunday 1770 and naming the area Trinity Bay. 
A little further north Cook's ship the Endeavour went aground on the reef and he was forced to beach the vessel at the site now known as Cooktown.  On 1 November 1876 Trinity Bay was declared a port of entry and clearance. It was renamed after the then-Governor of Queensland, Sir William Cairns. In spite of these official actions Smithfield remained the more popular of the two settlements. By November its population had reached 150 and it was growing rapidly. The next year, however, Smithfield was totally destroyed by a freak flood on the Barron River. However, instead of moving to Cairns, most of the population resettled in Port Douglas, which immediately took the bulk of the maritime business away from Cairns.

Cairns looked like it would pass into obscurity until it was chosen as the starting point for a railway line that serviced the Atherton Tablelands taking workers and supplies and bringing back tin and timber. Sugar Cane farms were developed close to Cairns as there was now access to transport the cane to Southern Mills. Cairns began to gain a reputation as a tourist destination throughout the 1970's. In 1984 an international airport opened and a major tourism boom began which converted Cairns from a sleepy regional town to a thriving city.

Main Industry
Without a doubt tourism is the number one industry in Cairns. Industries that service tourism have grown proportionally over the years with the most notable being the building industry. Cairns is home to a large commercial fishing fleet that catch prawns in the rich waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait.

Feel of the town 
Cairns is a very green city built on the banks of the Trinity Inlet. There are parks and gardens throughout the town, large shopping centers and a few high rise buildings.  Cairns is surrounded by high forested ranges that provide a very lush backdrop to the city. The Esplanade is the area of most activity. This is a waterfront parkland where tourists and locals alike tend to congregate to relax and enjoy the views. The Pier Marketplace is a feature on the Esplanade. It is a great place to visit for excellent shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park - Photo By Peter Li

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
- located at Smithfield this unique attraction highlights the culture and lifestyle of a local Aboriginal Tribe, the Tjapukai. There is a museum, live theatre (which has some stunning special effects) and an Aboriginal Camp set up to show visitors bush food and medicine, how to light fires, throw boomerangs and spears and play didgeridoos. There is nothing like this park anywhere in Australia.

Kuranda Railway
The Kuranda railway is probably the most scenically beautiful railway line in Australia with one section actually running across the face of the Stony Creek Falls and other sections winding around the hillside and through no fewer than 15 tunnels. At various points there are views back across the Coral Sea. It was built by John Robb between 1886 and 1891 and is recognized as a masterpiece of railway engineering. In 1915 the Railway Station at Kuranda was completed. 
We did not take the railway since the clouds were very low and poor visibility this day.

This spectacular 7.5 kilometer journey over rainforest from the top of the escarpment to Caravonica Lakes Station north of Cairns must rate as one of Australia's most memorable tourist experiences. There is nowhere else on earth where you can travel across a tropical river, beside a huge waterfall and across untouched tropical rainforest and experience the beauty without damaging the landscape.

Returning to the cableway, the passenger then passes over the top of the rainforest before arriving at Red Peak Station where, again, it is possible to break the journey and inspect the rainforest from a wooden walkway. The diversity of the rainforest is evident with palms, ferns, epiphytes and towering rainforest trees surrounding the station.

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