We had three nights in Cairns, which meant our days there were quite full. I'm leaving our trip on the Kuranda skyrail for another post, but even with that, I'll be taking you on a whirlwind tour today.
One of Cairns' smaller attractions is the Cairns Museum, tucked away in an old building and run by the Cairns Historical Society. For a small entry fee, you get a wealth of background information on Cairns and the surrounding areas, complete with exhibits and displays from the gold rush era, farming and mining exploits, World War II, local Aboriginal groups, and the Chinese migrants who contributed to Cairns' development. It was a good way to grasp the origins of the area, and has the benefit of being inside if you're caught in a humidity clearing burst of rain (this is the tropics after all).
|Rainforest boardwalk, Cairns Botanical Gardens|
Another 'small scale' attraction is the Cairns Botanical Gardens and surrounding parks and walk trails. I call them small scale because they are free, but the gardens are extensive and we enjoyed both the formal section and some of the attached park-based walks, including the rainforest walk pictured above. There are two cafes at the gardens, and one of them even provided us with Devonshire Tea.
|Jumbo bamboo, Cairns Botanical Gardens|
Lest I sound too grown up with garden viewing and Devonshire tea consumption, let me share two images with you that make me giggle even now.
This is one:
And this is the other:
There were some better behaved flowers too, and these ones caught my eye for their beauty instead of their, well, shape.
I touched on our trip to the Great Barrier Reef when I blogged some phone photos from the reef itself, thanks to the free WiFi on our boat. Given that post was a little brief (typing on a phone on a rocky boat with slow internet is quite an experience!), I am revisiting the island so I can grace it with some words.
Our trip was to Green Island, which is a small, rainforest covered coral cay 27km of the coast of Cairns. We did a half day tour, which gave us enough time for some brief, rather cold snorkeling off the shore - I'm too scared to snorkel deeper - as well as a walk around the island and a glass bottomed boat tour that took us over the deeper reefs. It was a great outing.
The magnitude of the event was highlighted by our passing of cyclists when we headed out in the morning (we'd already slept through the swimming stretch!), and then, some 8 hours later, passing runners coming back along the same stretch of road. A few hours later again, we headed out to dinner and saw people still running. Our dinner plans were paused while we watched athletes in various states of exhaustion run, hobble or walk down the final 2km stretch.
The atmosphere was incredible and the finish line was an inspiring place to be. I hadn't realised that Ironman events announce each competitor by name as they finish - so if I had run, I'd have heard "Kari, you are an Ironman" as I'd crossed the end.
We eventually left the Ironmen to their exertions and went on to dinner. I found it hard to fully relax and eat while people were running the tail end of a marathon nearby, but Mr Bite had no such qualms. Indeed, where I was inspired and awed by the athletes, and gave thought to whether I could do an Ironman myself, he was awed but uncomprehending of why anyone would do such a thing. It's probably for the best - if he suddenly took up swimming, cycling and running I'd never see the man.
Our food in Cairns was a bit hit and miss. Ironically, our best meal was on our first night when we gave up searching for a Vietnamese place I'd seen advertised and went to Grill'd Burgers instead, which we have at home fairly regularly. It seemed rather uninspired to eat at a burger chain that we have at home, even if it is a very good burger chain, but sometimes such things must be done. 8.30pm on a rainy night with increasing hunger is such a time. I did feel sorry for the runners passing it the next evening (pictured above), as I'm sure the burger smell must have been torture after 11 hours on your feet and 2km to go!
Our second night took in the Vietnamese place I'd been searching for on night one, Bobby's, but it was such a disappointment that I didn't even take any photos. I truly don't think I've had a worse dining experience. In fairness to the restaurant, it has reasonable reviews online and it's possible I like my Vietnamese food unauthentic. Even aside from the food, though, the service was poor and the atmosphere rather lacking. We were seated and left unattended for a very long time, and when we were served, my request for a half / side serve of stir fried vegetables was rejected cursorily. I stuck with ordering rice paper rolls instead, which were described as four "vegetable tofu rolls".
I had been dreaming of rice paper rolls with fresh vegetables and flavoured tofu. Perhaps if my dream hadn't been so strong, my disappointment wouldn't have been so great. As it is, it was crushing! I got rice paper rolls with some limp lettuce and large pieces of unflavoured egg tofu. When I asked about the egg, explaining I didn't eat egg, I was told quite insistently it was "just tofu, no egg". I didn't eat much.
Mr Bite ordered the vegetarian stir fry chow mein. He had been expecting soft noodles but received the crispy variety, accompanied by a considerable amount of sauce and limp over-cooked vegetables. He didn't eat much either. We finished with sorbet down the street and chocolate at home!
Our third night was, fortunately, much better. After being responsible for our dismal Vietnamese, I turned food choice over to Mr Bite and he selected pizza. We ate at La Porchetta, part of a chain of casual Italian restaurants. At least it isn't a chain we have in Perth! We shared a large gourmet vegetarian pizza, which the staff were happy to make so that half had no cheese. It wasn't the best pizza I've eaten, but it was enjoyable and much better than flavourless egg tofu.
The sophistication of our Cairns dining was boosted by a visit to the Cairns location of Coffee Works gourmet coffee, chocolate and tea. I bought dark chilli chocolate and dark lemon myrtle chocolate, and both were excellent, if unusual in the case of the lemon myrtle.
On that note, I'll leave this over-full post and suggest that you visit Cairns if you get the chance, but avoid Bobby's, be prepared to laugh at rude plants, and make plans to schedule in chocolate.
Have you visited Cairns? And what is your most disappointing dining experience?