Exploring Cairns City

I have two favourite websites  / apps that I use when we are travelling around Australia.

Aussietowns.com.au is a wonderful source oif information on the major towns that we visit. It provides the origin of a town’s name, its history and things to see and do both in the town and around it. It was a great help today as I wandered around Cairns looking at some of its historic buildings.

The second resource is an iPhone app called ‘GPS My City’. It describes various walks to points of interest in major towns and cities along with a map that you can foillow in real time as you follow a pre-defined route. I used it extensively when Jill was in hospital in Singapore and today, I found an historical walk of Cairns major historical buildings.

A small township was established on the present site of Cairns in late 1876 but it was short-lived because the land was swampy. With the growing of sugar cane in the nearby area, the town developed as a small ‘frontier town’. It is now an aggressively modern city driven by tourism. Its fundamental raison d’etre is to attract tourists and to provide them with a wealth of ways to spend their money. Sadly, many of the grand old buildings are now being swamped by modern developments that include high rise apartments, hotels and resorts. 

I found about twelve buildings along my walk today. While they have lots of historic value, they are scatterd through the city so there is no grand streetscape or chaming nucleus of the town.

Some of the more prominant ones that I saw are these:

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Built between 1929-1930, these council chambers (now the city library) are, according to the Queensland Heritage Register, a building of “considerable aesthetic and architectural significance, and together with its surrounding grounds and mature plantings, imbue a formal expression of classical interwar public architecture adapted to suit a tropical climate. The building makes a considerable contribution to the Cairns streetscape, and is an important member of a group of classically detailed inter-war civic buildings designed to re-affirm the power and presence of government in the community.” 


This handsome, two storey building, erected in 1930 as a monastery for Augustinian fathers, is now the residence of the local Roman Catholic bishop.


St Monica’s High School Administration Building. Located as part of the Catholic complex which includes the Bishop’s House, this unusual building was built in 1941. It cost over £5,000 which, because of wartime restrictions on all buildings over £3,000, had to be approved by the Federal Government. 

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The facade of the Cairns Courthouse Hotel which is combined with the Cairns Regional Gallery, is an impressive combination of buildings that were built between 1919-1921 on a site which had been reserved by the government since 1876. 

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This historic hotel, originally known as the Empire Hotel, was built in 1926 and captures the spirit of the early wild Cairns. 

Central Hotel

Central Hotel – This remarkable building looks like a hotel but it houses a number of boutique shops. It was built in 1908-1909 for Cairns businessman, William John Munro, with the idea of constructing a hotel and a number of shops on the street corner. 


Cairns Masonic Temple is a heritage-listed former masonic temple. It was built from 1934 to 1935 and  was added to the Queensland Heritage Register in 1986.


Construction of this building began in 1934 and was completed in 1936. The building originally housed many government departments for north Queensland including the State Government Insurance Commission, Tourist Bureau, Land Commission and Agricultural Bank, Forestry Offices, District Supervisor of Works and visiting Tax Inspectors. It became empty in 1979 when it was used as the Cairns Magistrates Court. In 2000, the Cairns Regional Gallery Foundation was formed to help raise money for permanent art pieces and maintainenance of this building.


The former Cairns Post Office is now the premises of the Newspaper “The Cairns Post” 

The weather had turned into a cloudy day with drizzle but it was only a few degrees cooler than yesterday. We spent a couple of hours exploring the shopping mall in central Cairns. It had many of the same stores as you would find in any Ausralian shopping mall but one of the cafes was good for a toasted sandwhich for lunch.

We had heard about a new harbour installation at Yorkies Knob, a northern suburb of Cairns so we finished the day by driving there to have a look at it. There are parking spaces for dozens of cars with boat trailers and a boat ramp that must be cleared within 15 minutes of launching your boat.

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The town is named after a Yorkshireman (Yorkie) who blew of his arm while fishing with dynamite near the hill (Knob) at the end of the beach.

Today was Jill’s birthday so we celebrated with an excellent seafood meal in a restaurant along the Esplanade.

One thought on “Exploring Cairns City”

  1. Thanks for the tip about aussietowns.com.au. ( I looked up Corowa NSW and Rutherglen Vic.) I was born in Corowa and saw my first few years in Rutherglen.
    Rutherglen was a gold town in the 1880’s. There was one particular “lead” that did well for a while, before it petered out and was sold to a bloke who bought it on the off-chance. He dug down a couple of feet and lo & behold, he found a very rich “lead” which eventually yielded heaps of the yellow stuff.

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