We came to Cairns for the water. Strung along the Pacific Ocean, the city is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. We envisioned days on the water. Somewhere along the way we read jellyfish along the coast would mean no swimming in the ocean at Cairns. What a disappointment!
Prepared for the worst, we discovered a vibrant waterfront scene in Cairns. As soon as we arrived, we walked down to the large swimming lagoon by the marina. It’s a giant irregularly shaped horizon pool with varying depths. People of all ages – families, couples, groups of friends, joggers, walkers, toddlers — seemed to have found their perfect spot on the water’s edge.
A boardwalk starts at the wharf and extends about 8 blocks, overlooking extensive mud flats leading out to the ocean in the distance.
A park runs along the other side of the boardwalk. People sat at shady picnic tables with some conveniently placed grills nearby. A few steps away the lawn gives way to a ring of exercise machines. Further down the boardwalk, we saw a café for families and a children’s playground with brightly colored marine creatures in the play area.
Nearby, a tree overloaded with berries was filled with birds we couldn’t identify at first. The rings around the eyes gave it away: figbirds.
On our way back we walked on the other side of the boardwalk and watched the many birds that flourish on the mud flats. We were not the only ones with binoculars. Many others were ready with cameras in hand to take photos of Australian pelicans, masked lapwings, herons, egrets, and other shorebirds.
Now we understood the real reason that swimming is not an option on the waterfront at Cairns. Mud flats are not an appealing entrance to the water for people. Mudflats are for the birds. Once we arrived in Cairns and took a stroll on its boardwalk – and by its infinity lagoon – our disappointment vanished into thin air. We think Cairn’s waterfront is the nicest we’ve ever seen.