Cairns; how I learned to love ya

Click to see larger size Sunrise view of Cairns and the Esplanade shot from my hotel room

A city that is mostly purpose built for tourism is always going to feel just a bit contrived; a bit too constructed with a bit of a theme park feel to it. Cairns currently has a population of about 125 000 but millions of tourists stay here every year and most of them to dive on the Great Barrier Reef; making Cairns one of the most popular dive destinations in the world. There are an unbelievable amount of different tours available in Cairns and it can feel sometimes like one big tourist resort.

Click to see larger size Cairns from above shot from my helicopter tour

However; look beyond all that and stay for some time and you discover a charming tropical town that is indeed very nice to call home for. I admit I did not like Cairns much last year, I was there for two days (spent 8 days in outback Cape York) and all I saw was tourists and souvenir shops everywhere. I arrived from Brisbane high on photographing big Cityscapes and was blind to the charms of Cairns. This time I was here for two weeks and ended up really liking Cairns! So it’s touristy. So what, I’m a tourist as well. Cairns still has a really nice small tropical town atmosphere with many quirky fun people and many things that are very hard to beat:

  • Amazing best-of-the-tropics experiences just a few hours away. Not many cities can claim they have World Heritage sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest just next door and go further north (I did that last year) and you have the very remote Cape York outback. Cairns really is gateway to some phenomenal tropical experiences.
  • Tropical climate at this time of the year is just perfect. Sunny every day, around 27-30 degrees at day and around 18-20 degrees at night. Like some Cairns resident told me “It’s just pure hell living in Paradise”.
  • Cairns is right on the ocean’s edge and the 4km long Esplanade is a great construction and a super place to relax during the day. It even features a large pool with an artificial beach (since Cairns itself has no beach, it’s one long mudbank)
  • Laid back relaxed tropical lifestyle quickly becomes addictive!

Adding to this I managed to get a super nice (and huge, size of my flat back home) hotel room the last 7 days, top floor of Mercure Harbourside with a fantastic view of the Esplanade (see first picture in this post) from my roughly 6 meter long balcony. How to blag a room like this? Well the harbour view you pay extra for, but stay for quite a few days, say “make sure the room has internet as I’m a photographer and have business to do, lot’s of stuff to photograph here” (all the rooms have internet, but it helps to say you actually need it for business) Have your huge camera and lens on your shoulder when checking in and chances are you’ll get the best available room. It worked in Darwin, worked in Cairns! Waking up early every morning at 6am and watching the sunrise from my huge balcony on the 7th floor. Yeah, life’s pretty rough here!

Click to see larger size One of my shots from the Esplanade at sunrise

Click to see larger size The pool at the Pier on the esplanade

After spending two weeks in Cairns I have to agree with the bloke from Cairns who said to me “it’s pure hell living in paradise! More at my gallery.


  • I am now in big city Brisbane (known as “Brisvegas” or “Brissy”) and what a culture shock. I know Brisbane and really like it, have been here last year for a few days – but coming from the relatively small towns of Darwin and Cairns to a big city takes a lot of acclimatizing and is certainly a new chapter in this odyssey (I do miss my ocean view mega hotel room!). Brisbane is very good for gorgeous cityscapes at sunrise and sunset though so stay tuned for up-coming post about Brissy!
  • Same day as I thought my Canon 5D broke…I hit the max limit for 30 days use on my VISA card so the ATM denied me any money and I had to use room service and charge the food to my room bill so I could eat a bit. Didn’t know there was a limit; fortunately an email to my bank removed the limit altogether so I can now spend till I’m broke (will be once I buy that helicopter)! Sunday was not a good day.

Quote of the day:

“Why can’t you people learn to speak my language? I learned to eat your food!”
– Homer Simpson in an episode where The Simpsons visit Italy

3 Comments on “Cairns; how I learned to love ya”

  1. yep Cairns and FNQ are a great region – lived there once…I recall my first visit in 1992… My cousin said to me whilst picking me up from the AP…"A lot of people come to Cairns and don't like it – but if they stay a few weeks or more they never want to go home !"
    how true !

    Glad you like the region. 🙂

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