The fourth-most-visited destination in the land down under, Cairns is every diver's gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and every nature lover's base for trips to the Daintree Forest. But lest you get the idea that this area in Far North Queensland is only for the active outdoor enthusiast, the multimillion-dollar development in the heart of the city now holds a lot of attractions that many families come to enjoy for its own appeal.
The tropical setting of Cairns makes it an ideal holiday getaway for anyone seeking sun, sand and fun. While the outdoors lover (lubber?) can take a coach tour to Mossman Gorge, Cairns Highlands or the Daintree River, the sea lover can take day to go scuba diving or snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Moms, dads and children can swim in the massive 4,800- square-meter manmade saltwater lagoon at the heart of the impressive Cairns Foreshore Promenade. Once you're done swimming, you can stroll, rollerblade or cycle the 3-kilometer Esplanade Walking Trail. If you want to learn more about the city, there are a handful of museums that have interesting displays. Check out the Cairns Historical Society Museum, Ben Cropp Shipwreck Museum (fascinating relics of shipwrecks) and the Cairns Regional Gallery. The serious hiker can head for Mount Whitfield Conservation Park or the Gondwanan Evolutionary Trail in Flecker Botanic Gardens. The Crystal Cascades feature scenic waterfalls and pools that make for a refreshing dip in the summer.
Aussie-style eating means huge servings of steaks, seafood platters and barbecues. Many of the restaurants are clustered in the Cairns Foreshore Promenade, particularly along the Esplanade. There are also numerous dining places within the city, a lot of them located along Shields Street, Wharf Street, Grafton Street, Abbot Street and Aplin Street.
Shopping is centered in the city's downtown area. A wide variety of choices can be found at the best and largest shopping center in the area, the Cairns Central Mall. The shopaholic can also enjoy good buys at Raintree, Smithfield Centre, Westcourt Plaza and the Stockland Cairns. For the best and most authentic souvenirs of Australia, head to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park Gallery and Store. If you want to experience night shopping, the night market at the Esplanade offers many souvenirs and other knickknacks.