Far north Queensland is not for the faint hearted. To start with there’s the heat.
On this February day it was 37 degrees in the shade, 100 per cent humidity, enough to shrivel a box jellyfish into a swimming noodle.
Cairns is a party town. Apparently. If you are under 30, a backpacker staying at the‘ koala beach resort’ (not as cute as the name suggests) and fancy a good night out at Outback Jacks, crocodile ribs optional. Okay, I’m being way too judgmental. Cairns is actually a lot more appealing than I had anticipated.
The town, which originally settled in the late 1800s used to exist as the last stop port for the Northern Seaboard. It was a sleepy little town surrounded by some of the most beautiful terrain in Australia. It’s evident that Cairns had its hey day in the 90s when developers poured money into the town, mostly to lure the Japanese, who came in their thousands, then the economy crashed and Cairns was in trouble for a while. Thankfully the Chinese are now taking their place, this is evidenced by the strangely out of place Gucci and Louis Vuitton, just down the street from the infamous Cairns night markets where you can get a good price on a Kangaroo scrotum bottle opener.
But I digress.
In this tropical part of Australia, life comes with many warning signs. The beaches might look enticing but watch out for crocs, or even worse, the close to invisible life threatening box jellyfish. The jellyfish, in season from November to May are so deadly that most beaches have stinger nets, which still come with a risk.
During my visit I heard that only one day earlier a prawn fisherman who was pulling in his net in ankle deep water failed to see the tentacles of the jellyfish was now on life support in Cairns Hospital.
The trouble with Cairns, is that it’s a tourist hub, it’s really hot, you are surrounded by Paradise but it’s not safe to swim.
So the Council came up with a cunning plan, and I’d say it worked. In 2003 at the foot of harbour, and end of the Esplanade they opened a 4,800 sqm salt water pool, part swimming pool part artificial beach.
Judging by the crowds that it pulled on this stifling Saturday, the lagoon has been a big success. The crowd was an eclectic mix of moneyed travellers, backpackers and crucially a lot of locals. Around 9 per cent of Cairns population is indigenous, and the lagoon and surrounding park was a big draw for Aborginal families.
A free band played nearby, pumping out some Fleetwood Mac covers, equipped with a dreadlocked wizard on the tambourine. Truthfully, I’m not even sure he was part of the band.
Moving on, it was difficult to find any real estate under the shade. We finally nabbed a spot then headed into the water, beach side.
The temperature was literally hotter than the outside temperature of 37 degrees. This did take some getting used to, and I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘refreshing dip’ however we did stay submerged like hippos in the water for a good two hours, watching Helicopters bound for the Great Barrier Reef hover over head. We were just missing the Mai Tai’s.
High points: the scale and design is a winner. With the police station near by and lockers for your bags you can soak without concern. This place is also AMAZing for small people.
Low points: it was almost a little too warm
Best for: soaking for hours
Attire: not stinger suits needed here, but bring on the sunscreen, sunglasses and hat for a long-term pool soak.
Cost: All free my friends. Nice one Queensland.
Overall ranking: 8.9