Cairns. It’s quite possibly the second most difficult word to correctly pronounce in the entire Australian vocabulary. Sure – I’ll admit that I’ve heard grammar rules in my life about what to do when two vowels are together in a word, but I’ve never found any rules about silent r’s being added just for fun. Subsequently, I cannot tell you why “Cairns” is pronounced as “Cans,” but I can tell you that I hate that stupid “r.”
Cairns was the last Australian city I visited before my exodus back to Asia. As a city, it’s typically used as either a starting or ending point for travelers going along the east coast of Australia. Armed with a large airport and supported by a few low-cost airlines, it’s easy to see exactly how Cairns has become an extremely transient and backpacker friendly city. (Although it’s nowhere near as backpacker friendly as “no rules a little money can’t fix South East Asia.”)
There were two things that surprised me during my quick visit to the city. The first was how small the city ultimately felt. Downtown Cairns can be walked over the course of a day, and a lazy day at that. The city can become very small very fast. The second thing that I wasn’t expecting in Cairns was the fact that it’s surrounded by mountains. Although I didn’t get to them (I’m a bit bummed about it actually), there are day long hiking trails up through the mountains that can be accessed with a quick bus from nearly any hostel around town.
If you’re in Cairns and you aren’t hiking in the mountains, odds are that you’re down near the esplanade. The esplanade near the shore is the place to be – weekday or weekend. With an abundance of grassy areas and a giant city pool it’s the perfect place to sit in the sun and either reflect on the trip you’ve just finished, or contemplate the journey about to begin
There were two things I appreciated in town more than anything else. Nearly every other city block has a grocery store, which was a massive improvement from the mom-n-pop type shops that dot the cities along the eastern coast. It’s clear that produce comes in daily instead of weekly, and finding fruit that isn’t over ripe takes no time at all. Similarly, I appreciated the fact that Cairns has a long biking/running trail that follows the coast for 5 miles or so, which led to some pretty intense days of running while I was in town.
In the end – Cairns was a fun little city. It’s possible that its backpacker vibe is a bit overpowering, but once you get outside of the city I can only imagine that this problem is immediately remedied. Just watch out for Australia’s national pet – the spider.