Its official, Catriona has found a spot for safe swimming in tropical north Queensland.
Cairns has attractions in all directions: the Great Barrier Reef, coral cays and tropical islands to the east, rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands' plains to the west, wet tropics rainforest and world heritage national parks to the north and rugged ranges, waterfalls and lakes to the south.
Almost $2 billion is being spent on construction of accommodation in Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas, with a mix of colonial, tropical and modern architecture maintaining the laidback feel of the area.
The Cairns foreshore has been transformed from tidal mudflat swamps into a world-class facility, with amphitheatre, swimming lagoon, picnic areas, walking tracks, barbecues, playground, shops and restaurants, plus an environmental interpretation centre and reef cruise departure terminal.
The focal point of the Esplanade is the saltwater swimming lagoon, which can accommodate 1000 swimmers at one time. It covers four hectares and is free to use between 6am and 10pm each day, with lifesavers on duty during the day. Water is sourced from the sea and filtered every three hours. And of course, it is safe from stingers and other undesirable swimming companions.
Active Health Clubs run free fitness activities four days a week in and around the lagoon.
The Cairns Rainforest Dome gives an understanding of the intricate interdependence of rainforest fauna and flora. The all-weather wildlife exhibit, encased by a 20-metre glass dome, is on the rooftop of the Reef Hotel Casino. About 100 species of animals are able to wander and fly freely throughout the enclosure, which represents their natural habitat. It has an underwater viewing crocodile enclosure, allowing visitors eye-to-eye contact with the large saltwater creatures.
The Centre of Contemporary Arts brings theatre, visual arts and film together under one roof. The old Department of Main Roads building was gutted and transformed to hold climate-controlled galleries and a 250-seat theatre with excellent acoustics and retractable seating.
CoCa is home to three arts companies JUTE, a professional contemporary theatre company, KickArts Contemporary Arts and End Credits Film Club, plus the KickArts Shop and Cool Bar and Café. It exhibits works by local artists, as well as from remote Cape and Torres Strait communities. They run programs every day except Monday.
The Red Ochre Grill Restaurant uses abundant but only recently discovered traditional native fruits, berries, game meats and seafood, accompanied by the best in Australian wines and beer. The menu is seasonal and they provide a wonderful culinary tour of Australia. You can choose from a mallee wood-fire char-grilled dish, antipasto platters, wattleseed damper, grilled sandwiches and other mouth-watering dishes.