Cairns Botanic Gardens. Provided by Cairns Regional Council.
Cairns Botanic Gardens. Provided by Cairns Regional Council. Tony Gorell - Imagination Photog

Cool change comes with visit to Cairns Botanic Gardens

No matter how hot and humid it is in Cairns, drive along Collins Avenue in the inner suburb of Edge Hill past the botanic gardens and you instantly feel cooler.

About 10-15 minutes from Cairns Airport or four kilometres from the CBD, the gardens are a luxuriant haven, a tropical paradise within a tropical paradise.

Instantly relaxing, welcoming, green, cool. It's like stepping into nature's air-conditioned garden after being out in the midday sun. And entry is free.

There is a lot to do in the gardens and a guided tour should be your go-to if you want the Full Monty of information. A wide variety of tours will include something to suit you. Stop at the information first and find out what's going on.

We chose to wander on our own, a couple of grandchildren in tow, to slowly take in the lush growth, the verdant abundance, the flourishing plants, the cool trees, the fertile foliage and towering bamboo.

Add in babbling streams, cooling waterways, leafy canopies, plenty of seating beneath shady trees, grassy areas for the children to romp ... and you may never want to step outside again.

The Cairns Botanic Garden Restaurant within the grounds will keep you hydrated and fed with breakfast, brunch or lunch, or for the big weekend experience, a Sunday champagne breakfast.

Rare plants and trees throughout the gardens, many of them found nowhere else in the world, include exquisite orchids, tropical fruit trees, and a bevy of ginger plants. Information boards give all the information you need to get to know all the species (if you are up to it ...we think best just to absorb it all naturally, let it have its way with you).


Ann Rickard
The ulysses butterfly. TTNQ

The butterfly sanctuary and fern house with its dazzling orchid displays is a highlight within the gardens. Before we knew it, we had whiled away almost an hour in there with the grandchildren fascinated by the outlandish colours and diverse butterfly specials. I think the children could name them all by the time we left the sanctuary.

Next to the botanical gardens, and you can walk through the gardens to it, is Centenary Lakes, where more than 100 bird species live.

The freshwater lake is also home to fish and turtles ... and ... the occasional saltwater croc who might pop in for a sticky-beak. No one, to our knowledge, has been harmed, even frightened, but you need to keep a wary eye out for beady eyes beneath the surface of the water, and obey the signs. The rangers are on the constant lookout and quickly remove any intruders.

Botanical gardens all over the world are a gift to visitors and a treasure to locals, but a tropical garden is a tad above them all (in our opinion).



Edge Hill, a five-minute walk from the gardens, has a lively buzz, an inviting neighbourhood/cafe culture. Noa is just one of the popular eating spots and a lunch of crayfish and coral trout ravioli or crispy soft-shell crab roll will let you know you are in far north Queensland.


A short drive takes you to the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, and you can't miss that. The meandering lagoon is safe for swimming and with barbecues and picnic tables along the boardwalk it's BYO paradise ... but then there are the dozens of cafes, restaurants and pubs dotted along the boardwalk if that's your thing.


Rusty's Markets from Friday to Sunday in the CBD is a Cairns must-do even if you just wander and gasp at the exotic fruits on display at the 180 stalls. If you go late morning, the vendors practically give away their left-over produce. Go early to enjoy the atmosphere and free tastings.


Ann Rickard
Pineapples at Rusty's Markets. TTNQ