While Cairns enjoys world-wide fame as a spectacular tourist destination, locals love the laid back charm and relaxed tropical lifestyle of the region.
From the popular esplanade with its salt water lagoon and boardwalk along the Trinity Inlet, to the World Heritage forests and mountains of the Great Dividing Range and the rainforest village of Kuranda perched above it all, Cairns is a truly stunning location.
While the city of Cairns is recognised as the tourism and commercial hub of the Wet Tropics, sugar cane farms still nestle amongst the suburbs and the green, lush, tropical feel of the place provides a constant reminder that the natural world is at its heart.
Iconic Queenslander homes, with their shaded, open verandahs, sit modestly beside high rise tourist resorts. Views to the east provide awe-inspiring sunrises over the Coral Sea, while looking west are green vistas to the surrounding mountain ranges.
The monsoon climate provides an air of excitement, particularly during the summer wet season, when tropical deluges arrive with sometimes daily frequency. At times, the power and intensity of Mother Nature can be almost over-whelming, with springs and waterfalls seeming to materialise overnight on the mountain ranges.
The calm, warm, dry days of winter provide a perfect contrast to the summer downpours and make it an enviable place to live or visit.
The mighty Barron River, which begins life much higher up on the Atherton Tableland, tumbles 250m through the rugged Macalister and Lamb Ranges near Kuranda, before crossing the coastal flood plain to enter the Coral Sea just north of Cairns City. From a bird’s eye view, the flat coastal lands fringed with mangroves remind us that this is a vast delta system of flood plains and wetlands.
To the east of the city of Cairns lies the Great Barrier Reef, with its seemingly endless variety of neon-coloured corals and marine life, providing recreational opportunities for which the region is famous. The warm tropical waters and sandy shores of the Cairns northern beaches provide opportunities for year-round recreation and places to cool off and escape the tropical heat!
To the west, the city of Cairns gives way to the steep and stunning mountains of the Macalister Range, covered in the region’s iconic tropical rainforest, and as with everywhere in this region, teeming with many unique plants and animals.
Communities and Culture
With a population of over 150,000, Cairns is the major urban centre within the Wet Tropics region. There is something special about living in a tropical city – the outdoor living, wearing shorts to work, colourful tropical plants lining the streets and the constant sound of birds.
No wonder so many people want to live here. It is one of the country’s most multi-cultural and vibrant cities, with people from more than 35 countries choosing to call it home.
Clearly the economy has a strong grounding in tourism, but it is also a key shopping hub for smaller communities for miles around.
The colour and vibrancy of Kuranda, located in the midst of the rainforest just 300m in altitude above Cairns, has attracted a diverse and eclectic population, full of energy and passion.
Even the journey to Kuranda is memorable. From Cairns, visitors can choose to drive through World Heritage rainforest on the Kuranda Range, take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, gliding just metres above the rainforest canopy, or catch the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway train that winds its way along the steep cliffs of the Barron River Gorge. What a ride!
With its scenic location, regular markets and many tourist attractions, all options to reach Kuranda are popular!
Yarrabah Peninsula, south-east of Cairns, is home to a small Aboriginal community. Geographically isolated by the Murray Prior Range, the original Aboriginal inhabitants lived a traditional life for many years after European settlement of the area.
The eventual establishment of missions brought about a period of change and turbulence for local Aboriginal people. These days, the community is self-governing and a resilient and independent population resides there, with strong cultural and historical links to the region.
The whole Wet Tropics region is home to a rich and enduring Aboriginal cultural heritage, with at least 17 Traditional Owner groups made up of more than 20,000 Rainforest Aboriginal people. Click on the Local Cultural Connections link for more information on the Traditional Owner groups and history for this Local Landscape.