Destination Cairns: Welcome To Paradise

Welcome to paradise. Whether it’s a relaxing holiday or a thrilling adventure – if you want to revel in the great outdoors or get pampered in decadent day spas and tropical resorts – Cairns, in far north Queensland has something for everyone. The tropical city is not only the home of Ironman Asia Pacific Championships but is also the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest. It spans mountainous rainforests, gorges and breathtaking beaches.

So, throw away your appointment book, swap your power-suits for swimsuits and visit Cairns. With its vibrant tropical culture, the cosmopolitan city comes to life with festivals and events. The infamous Esplanade is lined with fast food restaurants, cafes, bars and fine dining. There’s no beach in town, but the relaxing Esplanade Lagoon more than makes up for it. But if the beach is what you’re after, the northern beaches are only a short drive away.

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What’s the weather like in June?
Cairns experiences hot and humid summers, and mild winters. While the weather can be a little volatile at times, even in winter – last year it was sunny and hot in the days leading into the Ironman, followed by a tropical downpour and humid conditions on race day – if you’re in town for the Ironman in June expect cooler conditions. The average winter temperature is 17.5 – 26°C with less rainfall and lower humidity. But, again, be prepared for all weather conditions on race day – especially if you’re coming from the south.

Getting there
There are many ways to get to Australia’s tropical paradise – by plane, sea, car, bus or train. The quickest way is to fly. Cairns Airport boasts international, domestic and general aviation terminals, and is serviced by major air carriers. If you decide to drive, the distance to Cairns from the major cities is:

1700km from Brisbane

2700km from Sydney

2800km from Darwin

3100km from Melbourne.

Otherwise, you can leave the car at home and come by train – The Sunlander or the Spirit of Queensland from Brisbane – or by coach. Major bus companies operate between the major cities around Australia and Cairns.

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Where to Stay
Cairns, the tropical tourist playground, offers accommodation for all budgets and tastes. From plush hotels, family-friendly motels to backpacker’s hostels, there is something for everyone.

Enjoy the luxury of the Park Regis, the Shangri-La, the Four Seasons and the Hilton or the convenience of Cairns City Motel and Cairns Holiday Lodge – wherever you decide to stay during the Ironman remember to book early, so you don’t miss out! Also, if you want to be close to all the action during Ironman week choose accommodation close to the Esplanade. There’s nothing better than being able to walk (or shuffle) to your accommodation for a much-needed shower, and maybe even a nice cold beer, once you cross that finish line.

Food and Drink
When hunger sets in, just walk the boardwalk to find your feed. The Esplanade has something to offer for all taste buds. From Australian, Asian, Greek, Italian, seafood to fast food, cafes, bars and fine dining – there’s something to satisfy even the most ravenous of appetites.

If you’re after a caffeine hit, don’t go passed Caffiend, Shop 5 78 Grafton Street, Cairns, www.caffiend.com.au. This well-run independent coffee shop with a ‘Melbourne feel’, is popular with locals and athletes alike, and is said to boast the best coffee in Cairns. For the coffee lovers,
The Chamber Room, 20 Lake Street Suite 43-47 Village Lane, Cairns, is also said to have ‘seriously good coffee’.

If you’re hungry and craving a healthier burger or some hot chips for a quick lunch, then Grill’d (77 The Esplanade, Cairns) is your place. It caters for all – they do gluten-free burgers – and the staff are friendly and helpful. Another food option for lunch is Ozmosis Café Kitchen (1/116 Collins Avenue Edge Hill). The locals rate it, and the food is said to be ‘amazing’.

Need to carb-up before the race? Don’t worry – Cairns has that all sorted for you as well. Italian restaurant, Little Ricardo’s (191 Sheridan Street) has all your carb needs covered – pizza, pasta and even has gluten-free options available.

For something a little more extravagant try Dundee’s Restaurant on the Waterfront (Harbour Lights 1 Marlin Parade, (www.dundees.com.au). It’s said to have good food in a great location and offers seafood, vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options.

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Do and See
There is plenty to do and see in Cairns – before or after the race. If you’re after something more relaxing, enjoy the beauty of the Cairns Botanic Gardens or relax in the stunning salt-water swimming lagoon, while overlooking the ocean – a bit safer than braving the crocs! To get your shopping fix, don’t miss the Saturday Esplanade market for all things clothes, jewellery and more.

Discover the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park (www.tjapukai.com.au), which is located 15 minutes outside of Cairns. This authentic Australian Indigenous experience includes live music, dance and storytelling.

Explore the Great Barrier Reef with the Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkelling Cruise (www.tripadvisor.com.au). Prices start from $149 and include a full-day diving and snorkelling tour of the Great Barrier Reef, diving instruction and equipment.   

To get your heart rate pumping why not take the Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures day trip – although, this one is probably better for after the Ironman. You can watch crocs leap into the air to snap up their food during the Crocodile Attack Show or observe crocs lounge around in the lagoon during the narrated boat tour. If you ever wanted to get up close to a croc, this one is for you!    

If you want to get extreme after the Ironman try white-water rafting (www.ragingthunder.com.au) on the Tully River and Barron River, or try a half-day of tubing (www.foamingfury.com.au/river-tubing/) on the Mulgrave River. Tandem skydives are also available for adrenaline junkies – what a way to get an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef! There is also bungy jumping, the Minjin Jungle Swim, quad biking, horse riding and hang gliding at AJ Hackett – the ultimate adventure company (www.ajhackett.com/cairns/).   

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Go island exploring and discover the breathtaking beauty of the reef’s unspoilt islands. Jump on the Fitzroy Fast Cat (www.fitzroyislandcairns.com/fitzroy-tours/Ferry-Transfers/) and be on Fitzroy Island in 45 minutes. Then make the crossing to Green Island (greenisland.com.au) for snorkelling and diving.

If you want to go on an ‘off the grid’ adventure, visit Hinchinbrook Island (www.porthinchinbrook.com.au/hinchinbrook-island), which is mostly uninhabited and isolated. What better way to relax after the Ironman!      

Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns, 11 June 2017

Ironman Cairns (the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship) has, over it’s six-year history, become known as the ‘Ironman in paradise’. Boasting one of the most spectacular bike courses in the world, competitors ride along the Captain Cook Highway, through the World Heritage listed rainforest, hugging the coastline from Cairns to Port Douglas. Athletes then run along the striking Cairns boardwalk, finishing the race in the heart of the city. This is ‘must-do’ race on the Ironman circuit.

This year, Ironman Cairns has 75 qualifying slots to the 2017 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.   

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Images: Korupt Vision

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aimee Johnsen

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