The point of cruise ships coming to Cairns is not to visit the city itself, but either to visit the Great Barrier Reef or the Rainforest that's just outside the city. Seeing as we've done both those a few times, today we decided to see if there was more to Cairns than we've given it credit for in the past.
Since the International Airport was built in the city in 1984, the city has grown exponentially from being a fairly unremarkable upcountry town, into the (possibly overdeveloped) tourist playground that it is today. There were plenty of building sites all around town, as yet more hotels are built to cater for the increasing numbers of Chinese and Japanese tourists attracted here. But, the town also retains a real down-to-earth backpacker feel to it, as groups of shirtless young tourists wander from bar, to travel agency, to all-you-can eat buffet restaurant.
It doesn't combine to create a particularly cultured or charming feel to a town, where it can feel that most people you see are just passing through. However, we did find a nice café for lunch, before we headed to Cairns's latest cultural attraction – The Cairns Museum – which opened this year after a $1.8 million refit.
You could see that a lot of effort had been put into the museum, but for some reason we didn't find it particularly engaging. It could have been that the energy-sapping heat outside had left us unwilling to stand in front of information-heavy display boards with long sections of text. It could have been that the exhibits themselves weren't that exciting, so they had to rely on these long texts to give the objects some context. Or, if I were being cynical, it could just be that Cairns's history isn't that interesting.
Having said that, the aboriginal history was fascinating, but every time it got you wanting to know more ,the information ran out, and you'd be left looking at a telephone from the 1950s, or a tourist poster from the 1960s. Anyway, I probably shouldn't have had high expectations, and as I said, they had put a lot of effort in.
Basically, our day taught us that you should have high expectations of the Great Barrier Reef and for Rainforest, but don't expect too much in the way of culture or charm in Cairns itself.