Even though my favorite kind of travel is wildlife adventures to remote locations, there are inevitably cities that an adventure traveler has to pass through to get out to the wilderness. If you aren’t a rock star chartering your own plane, there is usually a train, bus, jeep, boat, or puddle-jumper plane required to get out to the wild side. The City of Cairns (pronounced “cans”) was such a place for me on three different occasions.
This is a small city as cities go (population less than 200,000) and is in northeastern Australia in the state of Queensland. You can access the Great Barrier Reef from here, or drive further north to Cape York Peninsula, west to the Atherton Tablelands or other remote jewels.
This palm-studded photo is one of my favorite spots in Cairns: the Esplanade. Tourists like to go here because there are shops and restaurants down near the marina, as well as a departure dock for snorkel and dive boats. The main part of the Esplanade is this long park that flanks the ocean. It has a well-maintained path (or “track” as Australians call it) for locals and tourists alike. We saw several dozen species of birds here, from parrots to pelicans.
At the marina end of the Esplanade is an interesting gathering place, the Swimming Lagoon. It is a public swimming pool, and it sparkles under the searing Australian sun. This photo of the pool is where it begins. You enter it like a beach, just walking gradually off the pavement and into the pool, but it’s a concrete pool. The pool is built right next to the ocean, like an infinity pool, so when you’re in it the glittery turquoise sea stretches out as far as you can see.
Things are different in Australia. They’re always different. Here in the United States we have elaborate luxury resorts with numerous pools built right next to the ocean. Sunbathers lay beside the pool on chaise lounges so they never have to experience sand grains on their feet or the unpredictability of a crashing wave tossing them down. In Australia they have a pool beside the ocean for a different and more sympathetic reason: so the box jellyfish can’t kill you.
There they have beaches with giant nets in the water to keep the predators out, daunting jellyfish signs on shore, and dedicated life guards who really do save numerous lives. The box jellyfish have seriously fatal stingers and the undertow is like nowhere else in the world. You can read more about it in my Australian travel mystery Wicked Walkabout.
But if you’re not inclined toward smashing waves, convulsing undertows, or jellyfish that suck the sap out of you, then you can tiptoe into this man-made lagoon and enjoy an easy and refreshing soak in crystal clear water. Cities have their joys too.