We have to be honest about this. It does sometimes rain on a Cairns luxury holiday. The luscious vegetation surrounding us on the coastal strip is a dead giveaway. The good news is, that when it does there is still lots to see and do without getting a soaking. Here we think about the wonderful restaurants of every shape and size, our movie houses, and our glamorous shopping centres where you could buy almost anything you fancy. Not to mention our foreshore promenade, and historic heritage.
William Wellington Cairns, governor of Queensland, founded our city in 1876. and modestly gave it his name. He hoped to use it as a staging post for miners on their way to Hogkinson River Goldfield. It seems we were not up scratch, and so the operation moved to Port Douglas up the coast. Our fledgling city fathers turned their attention to exporting the gold instead, followed by sugar cane, other agricultural products, and minerals. The ships soon came, and the railway followed.
Cairns-to-Kuranda Railway Line: Ideal for Cairns Luxury Holiday Makers
The Kuranda Scenic Railway was an essential early step to begin trading with the hinterland, and exporting the goods via cargo ship down south to Brisbane and beyond. However, the first challenge was finding a route up steep cliffs to the fertile tableland above, and promises of instant wealth from mining. The brave project took from 1887 to 1891 to complete. It includes 15 tunnels, and 39 timber or steel bridges. And all this just to climb 327 meters, and travel 22 kilometres.
The views are glorious looking back towards our Cairns luxury accommodation. The train trundles past, and occasionally stops at waterfalls with romantic-sounding names like Stoney and Surprise Creek, before finally arriving at Kuranda Station. The period rolling stock is well maintained although creature comforts may be a little retro. Moreover railway buffs will want to know the motive power is a 1720 Class Diesel Electric Locomotive.
Take a Trip Back Down to Cairns by Skyrail Cableway
While the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is hardly a Cairns heritage site, it is too good a thrill to miss. Moreover, the project commissioned in 1995 is a perfect contrast to the period railway on the return journey. Expect to spend 2.5 hours gliding down past two rain forest stations and some really thrillingwaterfalls glistening in the sunshine, or being fed by wafts of gentle rain breezing across them. What a way to spend a few hours on your Cairns luxury holiday!
The developer spared no expense to save the environment from damage. They even collected the leaf litter and top soil, and returned it. Moreover, they planted saplings where they had to remove established trees to gain access. Workers even had to sterilise their tools and boots before they traveled there in helicopters. Thus, when you gaze down from on high you are seeing as close as possible to the real thing.
Cairns Chinatown and a Piece of History
A booming agricultural industry supported many Chinese farmers, market gardeners, and fruit and veg dealers. By 1886, they accounted for 60% of local farmers, and 90% of market gardeners. These folk gravitated to Sachs Street, which was soon famous for its stores, boarding houses, gambling dives, and opium dens. The building in the photo was built between 1892 and 1902, and is one of the very few of its type remaining in Cairns.
The owner constructed it out of wood-fired, handmade clay bricks and there are marks on them from hand tools. Clearly, he was no expert bricklayer judging by the uneven runs. Despite this, the building has withstood the weather for one-and-a-quarter century, which is more that one could stay about some grander edifices that have come and gone. This is definitely one to include on your Cairns luxury holiday city tour.
Our Cairns Heritage Walk Continues at the Old School of Arts
By 1907, Cairns had progressed from being cleared mangrove swamp land, to a busy port. A year before they constituted the Harbour Board in 1906, the locals decided they wanted a School of Arts. But this was not for the refinement of their children. In those days, Schools of Arts were the same as Mechanics’ Institutes in London. They were places where working class men came to improve their technical education and skills.
The idea must have proved popular, for the building gradually expanded from 1907 through to 1947. In the goodness of time the place became a library upstairs, and a shopping mall below. The structure represents one of the earliest applications of reinforced concrete in Queensland, and benefits for a period balcony on the street front. It has characterful shops to browse through, on rainy days while on a Cairns luxury holiday in North Queensland.
Old Court House: Your Essential Visit On a Cairns Luxury Holiday
This graceful building once saw many dramatic moments, but now it is a lovely place to while away a rainy afternoon. The government built it between 1919 and 1921, in order to replace a dilapidated 1884 building in a state of disrepair. Following an extensive upgrade 1968, the government vacated it in 1992 in favour of more modern premises. The Regional Council purchased it in 2016. Its future is uncertain, although the current intention is to use it as an art gallery.
The Old Court House is a single-storeyed masonry building, suitably embellished with classical interior and exterior rendering. It contains a central portico with columns, and verandahs with timber posts and other detailing. Setting the silky oak fittings on the judge’s bench aside, the Cairns Old Courthouse Building is a fine statement of a fledgling town become a city. Do include this classic statement in your Cairns luxury holiday schedule, for it would be incomplete without it.
Hides Hotel Continues to Flourish in Its Original Location
The Cairns School of Arts has long gone to a new location. Whereas the Hides Hotel continues to trade, albeit it in a 1928 building erected after the devastating cyclone. At the time of construction it was the largest building in the city, and the only other three storey one. After the owner extended it in the 1930’s, Hides was by far the leading hotel in Cairns.
From an historical perspective, the masonry building is unique because all the timber came from local trees. Culturally, the wide, shady verandahs reflect an era without air conditioning. Moreover The Hides was the place where the population gathered to celebrate events. Thus it really is a piece of history we can enter to celebrate.
No Cairns Luxury Holiday for Writer Xavier Herbert
Nobody seems to know much about the early days of this humble cottage, since a forestry worker built it sometime in the 1920’s. However it drifted into the limelight in 1951, when Australian author Xavier Herbert bought it as a residence for his wife Sadie, and himself. Xavier went on to become a legend. Indeed, many say he is the ‘elder statesman’ of the nation’s literature.
The house has been through a series of alterations and extensions although the original building is still there. The timber structure stands on wooden stumps. These witness to the days when Cairns was still emerging from a mangrove swamp. Some original features such as french doors to the verandah are still intact. Sadly, a subsequent owner demolished the shed where Xavier Herbert did his writing. He used to refer to it affectionately as his ‘million dollar dog house’.
The Adelaide Steamship Company Building: Milestone in the Life of Cairns
This building really is a must-see on a Cairns luxury holiday. By 1875, the steamship company already had a service to Brisbane. It extended this to Cairns in 1895 as part of its goal of dominating marine traffic in the eastern half of Australia. Ten years later, it opened a branch office in our fledgling city. We were already a minor port serving emerging mineral, sugar, and agricultural activities in North Queensland.
A Cairns architect managed construction of the Adelaide Steamship Company offices at 37 Lake Street. This was fast becoming a business hub. The design followed the new arts and crafts vernacular favouring simple elements often decorated in folk or romantic styles. The 1910 building adapted these principles with wide, shady verandahs in deference to the tropical climate. The Queensland Heritage Register lists it as a rare example of its type in Cairns.
Finally, Let’s Visit the Historic Cairns Wharf Complex
Cairns history literally flowed out the sea, for the beaches were the draw card for the marine trade that followed. Were it not for the need to connect with the hinterland, we might never have existed. In those days folk hardly knew of the Great Barrier Reef. By 1910, it was clear we needed a decent harbour. Engineers built the first 300-foot wharf in 1910 from reinforced concrete.
By 1915, the Cairns Wharf Complex boasted 1200 feet of concrete wharves, and a railway line and shed followed in 1920. The first equipment to handle bagged sugar arrived at about that time. In due course electric cranes and sheds followed. By the time World War II started we had a modern port facility able to take on fresh challenges.
There are Many More Heritage Sites to See on Your Cairns Luxury Holiday
We hardly scratched the surface, because we have an abundance of historic heritage we did not mention. Our aim was to introduce you to the idea, and we hope we tickled your fancy. When seeking Cairns luxury accommodation for your next holiday in North Queensland, look no further than our Wanggulay. We have two luxury bungalows at the entrance to a rain forest. And we hope to think, every luxury you could possibly want on a seaside holiday.