The cosmopolitan, colourful city of Cairns, in far north Queensland, is a tourist hub and the gateway to two of the world's most awesome World Heritage Sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the 110-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest.
Cairns Beach © WANG-HSIN PEI
Cairns started life as a small fishing encampment, which received an injection of prosperity in the 19th century when gold was discovered to the north and tin and timber began to be exploited in the nearby Atherton Tablelands. The harbour and fishing operations increased in importance, and tourism arrived in the early 20th century when marlin fishing became popular, and the world discovered the delights of exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
Aided by its pleasant, warm climate, the relaxed tropical town has now become a frenzied international tourism centre, flooded with visitors most of the year, its streets lined with souvenir stores, eateries and some first class hotels. The harbour is clogged with streamlined pleasure boats, and the offshore islands bristle with resorts. To cater for tourists the city fathers have even created a man-made salt-water lagoon and sandy beach on the Esplanade to replace the original muddy swamp that crowned Trinity Bay.
To holiday in Cairns is to holiday in a city that has a mission to make tourists as happy as possible. Facilities and fun recreation opportunities are excellent, and the city is a relatively inexpensive destination. Anyone who enjoys a sunny beach holiday should travel to Cairns, where the magnificent man-made lagoon offers safe swimming all year round, the sunshine guarantees a suntan, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants and nightclubs to indulge in. A Cairns holiday is also popular among young adventure tourists, with pursuits like scuba diving, skydiving, and ballooning on offer. And, of course, the Great Barrier Reef is just a hop and a skip away.
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