cairns aboriginal attractions

Cairns Aboriginal Attractions and Cultural Tours

‘Aboriginal’ means ‘from the beginning’  in deference to Australia’s original inhabitants. It has its roots in the two Latin words ‘ab’ meaning from, and ‘originem’ for conception. Thus we could call the oldest rocks on earth aboriginal too if we knew where they were. Humans have always been curious about their ancestry. Perhaps we inherited a fortune if only we knew. But the real value lies in who we are now. Cairns aboriginal attractions are hence far more than just tourist stops. Because they are also places where Australian aboriginals are rediscovering their roots, and the history behind their ways of doing things.

cairns aboriginal attractions

An Aboriginal Australian Playing the Didgeridoo: Graham Crumb: CC 3.0

The Ancient People With a Common Thread

Australian culture contains many traditions that settlers brought with them from Europe. But our country has a certain something more we may find nowhere else. Here we think of our aboriginal compatriots and their belief in transcending time while dreaming. Plus our fabulous wide open spaces and strange mammals. A visit to Cairns is incomplete without a day exploring our aboriginal heritage.

Australia’s earliest inhabitants believe history began when First Peoples travelled across the land, naming features as they went. Later, separate tribes emerged with their own territories in their trail. Vast distances often lay between these. And so each tribe developed their own ways of doing things, and languages and belief structures. However, the various tribes do overlap in terms of ancestral spirits. They name these key spiritual personalities  the Serpent snake, the god-like Baiame, the Dirawong rain spirit, and Bunjil since he has the personality of an eagle.

cairns aboriginal attractions

Queensland Rock Art of Arranged Simple Figures: Djulirri 46: Public Domain

Things to Learn from Ancient Knowledge Passed Down Millennia

Archaeologists believe the first Australians crossed the Straits of Borneo 50,000 years ago.  That makes their civilization one of the most ancient in the world. It certainly beats the Greeks, Romans, and Phoenicians by quite some. They gained knowledge of insects, plants, herbal medicines, and mammals as they travelled through the bush. Remember, they had only sticks and stones for weapons. We can learn much from them, because they discovered renewable ways to shelter during tropical seasons, and live through the drier months. We have special places in Cairns that share this knowledge handed down to the current generation.

The Tjapukai Aboriginal Park Minutes from Our Holiday Rental

The Tjapukai Aboriginal Park provides morning and afternoon tours barely minutes from Wanggulay. These showcase the aboriginal culture in innovative ways. There are ongoing opportunities to engage, and discover natural bush foods and medicines. The name Tjapukai derives from Djabugay people of the coastal rain forest. They inhabited the rich ruggedness of the Great Dividing Range of mountains in season. The park is laid out like a village, with interactive huts featuring traditional music instruments, and mysterious art forms.

Moreover they have an outdoor amphitheater circling a lake, and a modern theatre inside for presenting drama. They will tell you stories in dance and music that may lead you to believe their story of creation at least for a moment. The bush tucker food is good, if a little unusual. The show follows a rotating timetable. For you, it starts when you arrive. Tjapukai is a wonderful opportunity to learn to play a didgeridoo wind instrument, or make your own souvenirs according to indigenous art. There is a shuttle from Cairns central, and a cable way up to Kuranda, where you can let your hair down if you want and perhaps join in the dancing…

cairns aboriginal attractions

Dancing at Kuranda: B Gabel: CC 1.0

Walk with Aboriginals to Wujal Wujal Falls In Daintree Forest

There’s a place called Daintree Forest some 125 kilometres (80 miles) north of Cairns. This can take over two hours to get there because of numerous attractions along the way. Daintree Forest is the the last remaining piece of primeval forest left in Queensland. Since the tree ferns and some plants are pretty much as they were when dinosaurs roamed. Descendants of the Kuku Yalanji people will be there to meet you, and escort you to the Wujal Wujal Falls in their protected sanctuary.

The Kuku Yalanji tribe are the first people in this place of great natural beauty. We owe them a great deal for respecting nature, and preserving this incredible resource. To them, you see nature has a humanized personality that they can speak to. They share space with it, because they adapted their lifestyle to the cycle of the seasons. The Walker family are members of the Kuku Yalanji tribe who are custodians of the area.

They will take you on a bush walk, and introduce you to more custodians.  These will share their ancestral knowledge of plants as food, medicine and ceremonial symbols. In this way, you can learn to see the world through their eyes. The 400 metre  (quarter mile) walk is easy going and takes 15 minutes. You can also follow it on your own but do avoid the Wujal Wujal Falls in rainy season, because the going needs extra care then. We recommend an experienced guide. Hire one because you contribute to the community they are.

Wujal Wujal Falls: Rob and Stephanie Levy: CC 2.0

Try To Sense What is Was Like Before Settlers Arrived

You should visit our city museum if you are researching the underlying meanings of the Cairns aboriginal attractions that we showcase here. We say so, because history has obscured memories now only preserved  in photographs, books, costumes, and diaries in the Cairns Museum. They are waiting for us to tap into. This national treasure is the primary store of Cairns historic data. Thus, there is much to learn from the Cairns Museum, a non-profit initiative curated by the Cairns Historic Society.

The museum is eclectic, for it offers in its own words, “Stories of heat, sweat and hard work. Of cane, railways, rain forests and reefs. Of white Australia, Aboriginal resistance and European isolation. Tales of tourists, hippies and local celebrations amidst humidity, cyclones, toads, mould and mozzies.” Yep we have them all here in our cultural melting pot on the shores of the Coral Sea, where far out in the ocean a momentous Second World War naval battle took place. That was the day Australia and America stood shoulder-to-shoulder because we faced Japan alone, now our loyal friend.

The Main Departments of the Cairns Museum

cairns aboriginal attractions

Ye-i-nie, King of Cairns,1905: A Atkinson: Public Domain

The Cairns Museum has a fascinating series of separate themes. However, our interest here is Gallery One: ‘Cairns Over Time’, where traditional owners and others tell their special stories of our Cairns aboriginal attractions. But, we’ll touch on the other areas first before we get down to our special focus for today.

  • ‘Old Cairns’: How we imposed a port town on a steamy, tropical landscape
  • ‘Living in the Tropics’: A playful look at how insects make life different here
  • ‘Changing Cairns’: How successive generations changed their own town
  • ‘The Verandah’: A genuine, pre-aircon verandah to view the passing parade
  • The ‘School of Arts’: Cairns art in the making at an eclectic artists’ workshop
  • A ‘Temporary Gallery”: Place to explore the current, the local, and the quirky

With that therefore a drum roll please.  Let’s enter the Cairns Historic Society Museum and see what we can discover at the ‘Cairns Over Time Gallery’. As we write, it is in these transitional premises while its permanent home in the School of Arts building is undergoing much needed renovations.

Cairns Museum Transitional Premises: Image Cairns Museum

Cairns Museum History of a Turbulent Past

Before British settlers arrived uninvited in the 1870’s when gold was discovered, the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people owned the land where Cairns stands. Although they might not have put it that way as to them the land belonged to everyone.  The Yidinji had ancestral land rights bordering on the Ngajanji and Wanyurr tribes to the south, and the coastal Djabugay north of them. The first settlers evicted them during the 1880’s, to establish cattle stations and sugar plantations.

However the Yidinji continued to insist it was their land. The Queensland police dealt brutally with their protests.  In 1910, the authorities moved survivors to a church mission station in Yarrabah where things were appalling. Legends abound of poor working conditions, inadequate food, health problems and harsh administration. Finally in 1986, the people received a grant of land allowing for a self-governing Aboriginal council in what later became a pleasant place.

cairns aboriginal attractions

Yarrabah: Cape York, Australia: CC 4.0

Let’s Take Time to Visit Yarrabah

The people of Yarrabah now have state pre-school, primary school, and high school education, a primary multi-disciplinary health care centre, municipal services, a small supermarket, a bakery, hot food takeaways, a drive-in pub, and a service station. For anything else, they have to travel to Gordonvale or Edmonton each approximately 40 minutes away. So they are okay in terms of basics.

However they are still cut off from Cairns with its potential for higher education, more rewarding employment, personal development, and business opportunities. There was a Yarrabah-Cairns ferry service once, but the flat-top boat and its wharf fell into disuse, and neither were replaced. There are now plans in place for a new wharf to reconnect them to Cairns Waterfront a tantalizing eleven kilometres north by ferry.  So we have hope now for a place where not much changed, since someone took this photo in the early 1970’s.

cairns aboriginal attractions

Aerial view of Yarrabah Mission Station, c 1972: Queensland State Archives: Public Domain (digital image of original photo)

Now How About a Really Nice Place to Stay in Cairns

We have a lovely holiday rental especially for you in the place we call Wanggulay. Well two actually, although they are discreetly separate, so you may never know the other exists. These are luxury habitations that melt into a heritage rain forest through skillful use of renewable, indigenous timber. To our guests, they provide perfect harmony with the canopy of tall trees. No wonder Wanggulay is one of Australia’s most highly praised rain forest retreats.

Wanggulay is where guests come to unwind and relax, after a day soaking up the surf and sun on one of our glorious white sandy beaches. More adventurous ones drift across the Great Barrier Reef in the company of fishes and corals and seaweed. They may even take a ride down the Barron River on a white-water raft. You can check our availability now as you prepare for the best holiday of your life, in Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia.

cairns aboriginal attractions

Wanggulay Pool and Deck

 

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Strike Gold on Your Luxury Cairns Holiday

Cairns and gold dust went hand-in-hand in early pioneering days. In fact Cairns might not be here at all without the precious metal. Prospectors found rich seams that kick started development. You could strike gold on your luxury Cairns holiday too with a bit of luck, although this may just be a  trace because the dust is largely panned out.

We have ship’s commander J.S.C. Mein to thank for getting us into the Sydney papers in 1866. Although he was really only reporting on his bêche-de-mer sea cucumber processing plant on Green Island not far out to sea. Perhaps Chinese indentured labourers were pining for their favorite delicacy in Sydney. But that’s how happy coincidences begin in our tropical paradise on the edge of the warm Coral Sea, and the Great Barrier Reef,

Where Opportunities to Strike Gold on Your Luxury Cairns Holiday Began

Four years after J.S.C. Mein’s visit, an intrepid stock farmer-cum-explorer named William Hain commanded an expedition to the Palmer River far inland. This flows down from the Great Dividing Range before joining other rivers and eventually finding the ocean on the west side of North Queensland. More importantly, he found an extensive field of alluvial deposits waiting for prospectors to literally shovel them out the sand.

Cairns owes its origin to the prospectors that followed the discovery, and began a stampede to strike gold themselves. They needed a suitable harbour, and supply points where they could find what they wanted. Cairns became the obvious choice after a surveyor reported “an excellent anchorage and watering point” in Trinity Bay where Cairns Esplanade reaches down to the sea.

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Cairns Esplanade: Donald Ytong: Public Domain

“I believe very little engineering difficulty will be encountered in forming the necessary wharves on deep water,” he added. And, from the appearance of the ranges, I do not anticipate any difficulty in obtaining a passable road over them to the interior.” And so it was that gold mining began in Far North Queensland, and opened up this part of the country and its glorious natural wonders.

Tens of Thousands of People Flock to Our Part of the World

Nowadays we get several hundred thousand tourists visiting Cairns annually because it is such a wonderful place to holiday. Back then, the tens of thousands of prospectors would have overwhelmed the few hundred residents if they arrived at the same time which they luckily did not. They arrived in a small fleet of ships some of which only just made it, or so it seems from this pic. They were brave pioneers, desperate to get a leg up from nature’s bounty in days when it was ‘every man for himself’.

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

SS Merriwa: John Oxley State Library: Public Domain

Rules of the Game for Fossicking in Queensland

The Far North Queensland gold mines all closed within a few decades after the seams mined out. They are largely abandoned and stripped of anything of scrap value. Fossickers are about the only visitors going there nowadays. Fossicking is a term from Cornwall, England for rummaging through old mining tailings for recreational fun, not profit. Anybody fossicking in Australia needs a license from the state authority.

The Australian government defines fossicking as, “the gathering of minerals as a recreation; and without any intention to sell the minerals or to utilise them for a commercial purpose”. Hence these activities fall outside the Mining Act. You can purchase fossicking licenses and fossicking camping permits for Queensland online at this link. Prices are reasonable. For example a family license for a month could set you back AU$11.55.

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Fossicking Tools of the Trade: CHRC Libraries: CC 2.0

You Could Strike Gold in Georgetown North of Cairns

The first profitable reef found was at Georgetown 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Cairns. The scenery is spectacular, and they still find topaz, quartz, spinel, garnet, caringorn, aquamarine, and sapphire precious stones there. The odd nugget of gold still occasionally turns up too. As recently as 2002, a fossicker found a 1.2 kilogram crystallized gold nugget with a metal detector. It was lying under just 45 centimetres (17 inches) of earth.

There are a few fossicking sites outside Georgetown that supply camping sites with toilets and showers, and good chances of uncovering a few topaz stones and other semi-precious gems. Fossicking requires a permit as does overnight camping. Before you try to strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday on private land, remember to ask the farmer first and agree how to share any finds. The Georgetown population is around 250, but they do have a camping/caravan park, public library, tourist information centre, racecourse, and swimming pool.

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Entrance to Georgetown, Far North Queensland: Gondwana Net: CC 3.0

The Next Big Find Was 80 Kilometres (50 Miles) North of Cairns

The Hodgkinson Minerals Area was the big one that put Cairns on the map a few years later, and spawned another 21 towns. Ten thousand avid prospectors stormed into the area  through the gateway of Mareeba mainly following rough-hewn tracks through the bush. The task that lay before them was tougher this time, because the gold was in quartz veins running underground. Nowadays, the area is largely deserted with many towns having closed.

Just a handful of people remain, gleaning a living from fossickers arriving by rugged 4×4 vehicles. The Tyreconnell Gold Mine is a popular destination with some interesting mine relics. Gold panning is possible in a local river, and the views are quite spectacular. The area largely belongs to the state. Who knows what you might find here with patience and good luck. Certainly people who went before you did.

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Tyrconnell Gold Mine Stamper Battery in Glory Days: Unknown Author: Public Domain

That’s Far North Queensland in a Nutshell Really

You are never going to get mega wealthy fossicking for gold on the Atherton Tableland west of Cairns. In fact, you may never strike gold on your luxury Cairns holiday at all. But you will encounter a generous quantity of what Australians call “mateship’. This is the sense of equality, loyalty, and friendship between like minded people doing things together. You may travel together deep into unpopulated areas, with mile after mile of bush and the occasional friendly  overnight accommodation and fossicking tips.

That’s Far North Queensland in a nutshell really. Vast open spaces where hardly anybody goes. In the midst of this we have fabulous waterfalls, wonderful beaches, and one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef just offshore in the Coral Sea. We’re not promising you will strike gold on your luxury Cairns holiday. But we are promising you memories that will bring you back again.

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Fossicking Trip: Ian Sutton: CC 2.0

Speaking of Which, Let’s Talk About Our Holiday Accommodation in Cairns

We’ll let you into a little secret. You are not going to spend your entire holiday endlessly fossicking in the Far North Queensland bush. You are going to spend a day out there, possibly strike gold on your luxury Cairns holiday, and spend a night sleeping under the stars. Then you will want to head back to take in the myriad of awesome Cairns attractions. But this time you will find the allure of big number hotels and resorts is gone. You will want your own private space after a day in the crowds. Somewhere you can kick your shoes off and put your feet up. Somewhere where the only sounds you hear at night are the sounds of the forest.

We have two luxury villas on the edge of Cairns, where the fringes of the suburbs merge into heritage rain forest. You can read more here about the exceptional luxury of the place, and the exclusive standards we maintain. A FlipKey review confirms, “From the moment you walk in to Wanggulay you feel a sense of peace and welcome. The decorations of this extraordinary home are tasteful and relaxing… The rainforest surrounds are just incredible, providing a sense of opulence that you can literally enjoy with the deep plunge pool/hot tub. Plenty of room to spread out and enjoy time with friends!” Need we say more …

strike gold on your luxury cairns holiday

Wanggulay Early Evening Before the Birds Go to Bed

 

 

 

cairns fun for kids

Cairns Fun for Kids That’s Incredibly Cool

Cairns is truly an amazing place for family holidays. Today we want to concentrate of fantastic fun for young teens. We plan to introduce you to six day-out adventures we know well. We have lined up 6 activities that have a bit of everything, including amazing experiences in nature. Please remember to dress casually according to the season. We don’t stand on ceremony in Far North Queensland, although do remember to bring hats and sun-blocker cream. So let’s get started with Cairns fun for kids right away.

cairns fun for kids

Lower Skyrail Terminal: Michael Coghlan: CC 2.0

Fun for Kids on the Sky Rail to Kuranda

The Cairns Sky Rail is a cable car experience in which small gondolas ascend gently from the coastal plain to an escarpment above. On the way, it dives through lush rain forest, serenely follows the Barron River, and finds a spectacular waterfall. We slip out from a forest 15 minutes’ drive north of Cairns. We could also have taken the shuttle from the city centre, or several of the northern beaches. The trip will take 90 minutes with stops. As we settle into our comfy private cable car we discover we can see through the floor.  Too late for tears. We relax, open soft drinks, and explore our new surroundings.

Our first stop is at Red Peak Station. We come on it quite suddenly as we descend sharply through the forest canopy from our birds eye view above. We discover our tickets include a boardwalk with a ranger who explains things nicely, and is patient with the kids’ excited questions. Then it’s all aboard again for the amazing Barron Falls Station, with three separate dramatic lookouts to discover. The falls are peaceful on the day we visit, although  they really thunder down in rainy season. This main drop is 107 metres (350 feet).

cairns fun for kids

Main Drop at Barron Falls: Kyle Taylor: CC 2.0

The dream continues as we gradually ascend to the top of the waterfall, and look back on Cairns now a distance away. The forest beneath us is 100% natural. They even used helicopters to build the sky way so they left no vehicle tracks behind. The Kuranda Station sweeps suddenly into view. Could we be there already. Could ninety minutes of Cairns fun for kids have passed so fast.

More Fun for Children on the Plateau

Kuranda is an old railway station built to serve the train line we glimpsed through the floor of our gondola as we travelled gracefully  through the air. We’ll tell you more about this shortly, when we hop on board a vintage train for our journey back to Cairns. A pioneer village grew like topsy around the railway station in the 1870’s, as streams of prospectors passed through in the hope of finding rich seams of gold on the Atherton Tableland which is a vast, fertile plateau.

The gold is all gone now, but Far North Queenslanders found new treasure worth infinitely more. Kuranda reinvented itself as a magnet for tourists flocking to Australia after World War Two. The Battle of the Coral Sea really put us on the map. Some Kuranda attractions come close to being the best of the Cairns fun for kids we heartily invite you to enjoy. Like feeding parrots and getting close to koala bears and other curious Queensland mammals.

cairns fun for kids

Can You Spare a Peanut (Kuranda Koala Gardens and Bird World: Photnart: CC 3.0 )

Kuranda is Not Shy with More Cairns Fun

The village and surrounds are packed full with much more fun for kids. Take your pick from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda Riverboat Tours, and the Australian Venom Zoo.  There are fabulous cafes and restaurants ranging from formal sit downs, through alfresco eating to delicious takeaways, to DIY sandwiches at Kuranda Foodworks, where they have great choices for all tastes.

Kuranda is also tops for souvenirs and art galleries, and jewelry and opals, and for sweets and treats to. But before we say “all aboard” for Cairns down a steep slope in a vintage train, we want to tell you about the walking trails and tracks that surround this graceful village. So let’s head directly to the rain forest where there are 1,200 species of flowering plants along gentle board walks.

But wait, what was that? That sound was the loco hooter calling from Kuranda Railway Station. Prepare yourself for a fun vintage train ride down the selfsame escarpment we ascended in a peaceful gondola when things seem to stand still, which they won’t now. All aboard, all aboard for more fun for kids. Quick, quick the train wants to go. Toot toot!

cairns fun for kids

Kuranda Railway Station: Composition Department: CC 2.0

All Aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a spectacular way to return to Cairns, offering as it does unsurpassed views across rain forest, down steep ravines, and across to waterfalls. It follows the contours for close to two hours. This was an engineering miracle in its day, but not for people in a hurry. Hundreds of men literally dug it out of the cliff face with picks and shovels for nine years from 1882 t0 1891.

In the process they created 15 tunnels, and 37 bridges along a relatively short distance of 37 kilometres (23 miles). The railways stands as a monument to the determination of early miners, whose only energy source was their own bare hands. After a pleasant journey with several stops, we trundle through Freshwater Connection Station where we might also  have alighted, and arrive at length in Cairns Railway Station itself.

cairns fun for kids

Kuranda Scenic Railway: Bgabel: CC 1.0

Cairns Fun for Kids in a Wildlife Dome

Cairns Wildlife Dome challenges the zoo experience and turns it upside down. Instead of putting wild animals into cages, and viewing them from outside, it reasons how about we put animals and humans in a single cage allowing close-up encounters. Please don’t stress though. Everything happens to high safety standards. However you will still suffer adrenaline rushes as if you were alone in the wild …

Cairns Wildlife Zone is the new home of Cairns Zoo, which has an enviable reputation for creating awareness of fragile life on earth. The spacious ‘pleasure dome’ is on the roof of the famous Reef Hotel Casino so it’s hard to miss. Take your pick between zip lining over giant saltwater crocodiles, feeding exotic parrots and cockatoos, and cradling butterflies in the palm of your hand. Cairns fun for kids simply does not get better.

cairns fun for kids

Cairns Wildlife Zone: Image Cairns Zoom

Take a Swim in Nature for Green Fun

There’s little point in trying to convince children they have a responsibility for preserving the environment. Their minds are too full of daily events, just as we adults often are. We stumbled over the truth ourselves while swimming in sun-kissed rocky pools just outside Cairns. Although it took a while longer to move from conviction to action.  That’s when we decided to build our Wanggulay eco retreat to pass on the premise ‘if not us, then who will pass on the message and become Mother Nature’s custodian not just her beneficiaries.

We have wonderful spots in nature for special Cairns fun for kids. Where water safe to drink flows freely through pools, children are children still, and lovers linger longer in secret, private places. We could tell you where to go when you holiday in our Bali-style cottage in the rain forest that’s a symphony of style in organically harvested natural timber. Sure that’s a hard act to follow, but our customers tell us we are among the very few that achieved it. You will have to come and stay because this is now on your bucket list.

cairns fun for kids

A Quiet Spot in Daintree Forest: Jorge Láscar: CC 2.0

The Special Joys of Nature Awaiting You

We have two fab holiday rentals on the western edge of Cairns, set discreetly apart where city life yields on our doorstep to encroaching rain forest filled with wild birds, butterflies. and flowers. Both luxury villas sleep up to thirteen guests. Or just two and a few if you are a young family. We also do couples in search of privacy and romance. What sets us off is unlike other resorts, there are no neighbours, no lifts and staircases to share, no one else around when dining or just relaxing. The place is yours exclusively for as long as you want.

We won’t bother you with tales of infinity pools, luxury spas, and world class technology, including fast wi-fi and latest movies streaming online. Not to mention a food lover’s kitchen with every device you ever wanted. These are all ancillary to our core offering. Our core offering is a perfect rest at night in the comfiest beds ever. And a fresh awakening every morning to the joys of nature and birds calling you outside.

cairns fun for kids

Wanggulay Too Treetops: Image Hotel-R

battle of the coral sea

Battle of the Coral Sea Memorials in Cairns

Few Australians are aware how close their country came to invasion in May, 1942 because of the passage of time. The Japanese Navy had Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea firmly in their sights. Besides, this was a mere 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) away from our naval base at Darwin across the Arafura Sea, so within striking distance too. To complicate things further Cairns was only half that distance, although our harbour was fortunately too small to sustain a large invasion force. We wrote this post to highlight the Battle of the Coral Sea memorials in Cairns. Because this stopped the Japanese in their tracks. Moreover, we know these monuments are of great interest to our American visitors, especially ex service personnel.

Japanese Advances from December 1941 to April 1942

Australia was lightly defended by the “Malay Barrier” under South West Pacific Command at the time. This was an imaginary line reaching through the Malayan Peninsula to Singapore, and all the way to the southernmost islands of the Dutch East Indies. Japan began testing Australia’s resolve after this cordon proved ineffective. On 19 February 1942, 242 aircraft  attacked Darwin in several waves, and bombed ships in the harbour as well as its two airfields.

battle of the coral sea

Japanese Advances from December 1941 to April 1942: MacArthur’s General Staff

Japanese Advances from December 1941 to April 1942

Bombs also fell on the coastal towns of Broome and Wyndham, 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) to the west. And seaside Townsville too, 350 kilometers (200 miles) south of Cairns in July.  Finally, a lone bomb fell near a house in Cairns itself on the night of 30 April 1942. We got away lightly. Because a second bomber lost its way, found the wrong river, and dropped its load in scrubland near Mossman, 77 kilometres (48 miles) north of us.

For the first time it dawned on Australians that Japan was planning a seaborne invasion, and was exploring the light defences of our coastal cities in preparation for the onslaught. The current balance of power suggested their forces would be difficult to dislodge once they entered our territory, and established their presence. Therefore, challenging times lay ahead for the allied navies. But they had the will to win – and they would for the first time in the war – in the legendary battle of the Coral Sea although things did not always go their way.

battle of the coral sea

Sinking of USS Lexington: US Navy Employee: Public Domain

We Shall Always Rember Those Gallant American Sailors

Strategists believed their only hope lay in breaking the back of Japanese naval power far out in Coral Sea. A series of naval engagements followed between American, Australian, and Japanese forces from 4 May to 8 May 1942. The allied goal was to prevent the invasion of Papua New Guinea and then  Australia. For its part, Japan hoped to weaken Allied naval resistance further. The world held its breath as Australia and her allies stood firm with their back against the wall.

The overall Japanese strategy relied on aerial superiority. However they depended on aircraft carriers to refuel and rearm their planes far out on the ocean. The allies came up with an audacious plan to break through their cordon of surrounding ships. And then sink their aircraft carriers using saturation aerial bombing. After several false starts they finally engaged fully on 8 May 1942.

Both sides fought the battle with great bravery and determination. However that day luck was on the side of the Australians and Americans. And so they were able to destroy Japanese naval superiority in the Pacific Ocean. Japan abandoned its plans to invade New Guinea and Australia. As the tide of war turned, both sides prepared for the deciding sea battle at Midway. We give thanks for this achievement, and we commemorate it with three war memorials of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial at Cardwell, North Queensland

Cardwell is a quiet coastal town 180 kilometres (110 miles) south of Cairns the home of Wangullay where we invite you to stay. The town hosts the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial Park on a peaceful village green featuring a white wall with round metal plaques . The link to a ship’s portholes is as inescapable as the Stars and Stripes that flutters overhead. A simple notice reads:

This memorial commemorates the Coral Sea Battle during WWII. When American and Allied Forces defeated the Japanese in an air and sea battle to save Australia. Elsewhere a poet wrote: You may say it’s an old piece of bunting, You may call it an old coloured rag. But freedom has made it majestic, and time has ennobled the flag.

There are two other bitter sweet memorials nearby. The Cardwell Library Roll of Honour recalls the names of “our gallant boys and nurses’ who perished in the First Great War. While the Cardwell War Memorial pays tribute  to those who participated in South East Asian campaigns. At the going down of the sun we shall remember them. And in the evening when the night bird streaks across the sky. HMAS Brisbane saw sterling service in the Vietnam War hence her valediction.

Cardwell Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial: Queensland War Memorial Register

Cardwell, Queensland – The Small Town with a Big Heart

Beyond the memorial itself, Cardwell is a peaceful haven of some 1,200 souls. Although it is set in an enclave of great natural beauty on the Coral Sea.  The battle was 800 kilometres (500 miles) away. We have no idea why they chose to place the Memorial here. Although the immediate area is an outstanding spot to be alone in nature, and meditate on these things.

Take Hinchinbrook Island for example, across a narrow strait from the mainland in the Great Barrier Reef National Park. This isolated, uninhabited spot is accessible by boat, but then only with a permit. It is a blend of sandy beaches, lush rain forest reaching up to misty, heath-covered mountains, paperbark and palm wetlands, and extensive woodlands. Overnight camping is permitted.

The area is renowned for sightseer cruising, outrigger canoeing, sailing,  sea kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The climate is warm to mildly cool by Australian standards. The 32 kilometre (20 mile) Thorsborne Trail follows the east coast of the island for those in search of  soul food. Inquire in advance because the going is not easy in some places. The reward is seeing nature in the wild from crocodiles, dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles, to bright butterflies and birds hovering over waterfalls.

battle of the coral sea

Zoe Falls on Thorsborne Trail: Pattercakes: Public Domain

Lovely Murray Falls in Girrimay National Park, North Queensland

Our warm moist tropical climate fills torrents in season creating the lovely waterfalls that are a hallmark of the Cairns region. There’s a rare beauty awaiting your discovery 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Cardwell just off Bruce Highway. This makes it a great place to pause on the way back to Cairns.  Of course, the Girrimay people who are the traditional owners would have had no idea of the Battle of the Coral Sea raging at the time.

The area around Murray Falls is noteworthy for lush tropical vegetation, and soaring rugged mountain ranges. Access roads are navigable by car although some are dirt. There is a wheelchair-friendly camping area with toilets, showers, picnic tables, gas barbque, and fire rings. The grassed campsite is suitable for tents, camper trailers, caravans, and motor homes. Pay a fee in advance for a permit. Try to get their by midday because there are no defined sites.

The Queensland Government Department of National Parks, Sports and Racing describes Murray Falls as ‘one of the prettiest waterfalls in north Queensland, with spectacular water-sculpted rocks and crystal clear pools.’ It is popular with daytime visitors owing to an easily-accessible viewing platform. The more energetic may follow a walking trail through forest to a lookout, offering splendid waterfall views, and a fine vista across the Murray Valley.

battle of the coral sea

Murray Falls: Infotech Monkey: CC 3.0

The Kuranda Memorial of the Battle of the Coral Sea

On 3 December 1952 a group of Rotarians gathered on the Kuranda Range Road at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. This was a high spot in the mountains on the tableland escarpment above Cairns that seekers for closure after the Battle of the Coral Sea still visit. The Rotary President placed a military direction-finder atop  a simple concrete cairn overlooking a wide panorama.

“This is to perpetuate the memory of U.S. and Australian men who lost their lives its the [then] last war,” he said to a representative of the United States. “We hope it will help to cement friendship between our two peoples.” 

The upper surface was a round plaque pointing to significant places where there were battles during the war recently past. The base of the Cairns monument bore a second plaque reading:

“Erected to honour the victory of our gallant Australian and Allied forces in the Coral Sea battle, May, 1942, Pacific Theatre of World War II, 1939-45, and to perpetuate the friendship of Australian and American people.”

This simple statement has been through the wars too owing to a local tribe not understanding its purpose. But you can still visit it, and reach out a virtual hand to our girls and boys who died so valiantly in outposts remote from anywhere. Who knows what the world would have been like without their valiant sacrifice of youth.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.” We will remember them. Let us never forget. We understand  this was once a world map.

Battle of the Coral Sea

Battle of The Coral Sea Memorial Kuranda: Image Monuments Australia

Obtaining Closure with St Monica’s Cathedral Peace Windows

Cairns people were often visibly moved by the sight of Battle of the Coral Sea casualties, and opened their hearts and their minds to help them recover. After the last service-people returned to America, and the last Australian boys and girls came home, they tried to forget what happened and get on with the lives.

The traumatic days Cairns lived through soon became distant memories forgotten by many. Construction of the huge St Monica’s War Memorial Cathedral helped obtain final closure when it opened in 1968 as a dedication to the fallen many of the Battle of the Coral Sea. The reinforced concrete frame created huge openings admitting masses of natural light and inviting swirls of decoration.

battle of the coral sea

St Monica’s Cathedral Chapel: Image Catholic Church

In 1952 the great church unveiled a magnificent set of stained glass windows commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. These face east to welcome in the morning light heralding a new day. The windows incorporate layers of natural, historic, and spiritual meaning. Whatever your religious leaning you will surely find meaning here.

The ‘Chaos’ window depicts the historic sinking of the Shoho submarine tender that took three torpedos, and the USS Sims which three bombs split in two.  The ‘Rest’ window shows an Aichi bomber, and the USS Lexington resting on the ocean bed. The ‘Peace’ window shows the smoke of battle and the  Hiroshima nuclear cloud dispersing. Calm has returned to the tranquil Coral Sea as white doves fly over whales and dolphins frolicking below.

Battle of the Coral Sea

Memorial Peace Windows: Cairns Catholic Diocese

 

 

what to wear on holiday in cairns

What to Wear on Holiday in Cairns

Cairns has an idyllic position on the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula, where it nestles between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range. We have good rains pouring down accordingly, from November through to May. Thereafter, we have a relatively dry period from June to October with occasional showers. These are our ‘winter’ months when the weather seldom turns cold. Thus, what to wear on holiday in Cairns does vary between seasons, but not markedly as it may elsewhere on the planet.

In truth we have a summer climate all-year-round by European and North American standards. It never freezes, snows nor sleets. Average temperatures vary from 28C / 82F in January our hottest month, all the way down to 22C / 72F in our ‘chilly’ June, July and August. What to wear on holiday in Cairns is strictly a casual affair, and you could swim all year round in our balmy lagoon if you were feeling energetic.

what to wear on holiday in Cairns

Cairns Esplanade Lagoon: Michael Coghlan: CC 2.0

Bathe All Year Round in Our Balmy Ocean

We have average daily sunshine of 7 to 9 hours, although we will be the first to admit we do have cloudy days. Our sunniest months are October to December. While even January to May, and July manage 7 average hours a day of sunshine. This keeps the Coral Sea delightfully warm with a high of 29C / 84 F in summer, and a winter low of 24C / 75F. Thus our ocean provides a delightfully refreshing dip all year round. And you could spend all day soaking it up if you like.

Swimming Costumes on Holiday in Cairns

We have no set values regarding swimming costumes, or ‘cossies’ as the kids call them, as long as they respect other peoples’ values. Cairns has several nude beaches offering overall tans where these are optional extras. Australians are a laid back nation in terms of what to wear on holiday in Cairns, and you will find we offer among the easiest-going holidays anywhere.

what to wear on holiday in Cairns

Cairns Esplanade at Dawn: Paleontour: CC 2.0

We also pride ourselves on our  spirit of invention. While have fabulous golden beaches strung up and down the coast like pearls, there are times when jellyfish trouble us between November and May. That’s when we head directly for our huge lagoon right on the Cairns Esplanade. We shaped it to look like Queensland, and there are trusty lifeguards in attendance all day long.

Please have your sunscreen handy when out in glorious Cairns sunshine, and remember to wear a hat. This is particularly important for small children, and those with fair, sensitive complexions. Our nights are generally milder with light clothing indicated. What to wear on holiday in Cairns at night is delightfully simple too. Dress standards at most restaurants are undemanding, because Cairns is so cool and casual, but do remember to wear shoes.

what to wear on holiday in Cairns

Fabulous Beach North of Cairns: Kiwi Flickr: CC 2.0

What to Pack For Your Stay at Wangullay

Plan for all-round summer weather even in the midst of winter. Shorts, tee shirts and tank tops are the order of the day, with a swimsuit and flip flops essential unless you choose a ‘nudie beach’. By all means dress a little posher for dining out, although most restaurants and nightclubs are equally casual.

Do be prepared for flying insects, especially from November to April. Apply bug repellent several times a day, not forgetting your ankles and your feet for sand hoppers. Your body evaporation rate can be higher than you are used to. Avoid over-exerting yourself, drink plenty of liquids, and carry a water bottle even on a short stroll. Pretty much the same applies to hiking expeditions and bush walks. Wear sensible shoes, carry water and basic emergency gear. Make sure someone knows where you are going, and when you will be back.

Check with the provider when booking a visit to the great barrier reef. Unless they provide them, you will need your own snorkel, mask, and optional wet suit and scuba gear. Take a sensible cossie with you, as you will be climbing in and out of boats and do want to look your best. An underwater camera will provide you with many lovely memories like this.

what to wear on holiday in Cairns

Agincourt Reef: Robert Linsdell: CC 2.0

Sheer Luxury is ‘On the House’ When You Rent Our Holiday Space

For the rest, we take care of almost everything for you during your delicious stay at our delightful rain forest hideaway. We are on the inland edge of town. However Cairns is a small place and you can be anywhere you want in fifteen minutes by car. We originally built Wanggulay as our private holiday cottage. That’s why you will find it so beautifully appointed. I was an airline pilot then and I was earning good money. I could afford the best Bali art, and furniture as you will see.

Things have become simpler since I retired. We rent the place to visitors who value peace and quiet in nature, and the sounds of birds in the trees all day long. There is a lovely river a short stroll away past streams and small waterfalls. There kids kissed by the sun can clamber on rocks, and dive into safe, tranquil water. We’ll even help you order supplies in, and stock the food in the fridge for you. What to wear on holiday in Cairns is the least of your worries. In fact, you should have your most relaxing, tranquil vacation ever.

what to wear on holiday in cairns

Any Time is a Good Time to Relax at Wangullay

salt water crocodiles

Cairns Salt Water Crocodiles – To Treat with Respect

We have the largest of all living reptiles in North Queensland. These ‘saltie’ Indo-Pacific monsters measure up to 6 meters (20 feet), and originally arrived in our estuaries from the open ocean. Since then, they have settled into our mangrove swamps, deltas, estuaries, lagoons, and the lower stretches of our rivers. Salt water crocodiles are large, stealthy hunters best not taken at face value. They are the most dangerous of their species, and formidable and opportunistic predators to boot.

How Salt Water Crocodiles Bear Their Young

‘Salties’ court annually between September and October, when seasonal monsoons ensure water levels are at their highest. The female lays her eggs two months later. She often chooses the nursery site on a shoreline, alongside a tidal river, or on the edge of a freshwater swamp. Once chosen, she and her mate will defend the site against all comers.

salt water crocodiles

Large Salt Water Crocodile: F Van Renterghem: CC 2.0

The nest is a mound of mud and vegetation 1.75 meters long (69 inches), by 50 centimetres wide (21 inches). And with an entrance of half a meter diameter.  A layer of leaves scratched over it helps keep 40 to 60 eggs warm and incubating happily. These eggs are relatively small by species standards, at 8 centimetres long (5 inches) by 5 centimetres (2 inches) wide.

The gender of the newly hatched salt water crocodiles weighing 70 grams (2.5 ounces), depends on the incubation temperature. They are invariably girls when incubated between 28 to 30 °C (82 to 86 °F).  Between 30 to 32 °C, 86% are boys. Above that point, girls predominate again. We have no idea why this is the case. However, the system clearly works, since salt water crocs have been around for at least 6 million years.

Salt Water Crocodiles Make Good Mothers But Not Pets

Do not let a loving crocodile mother fool you for a moment. She is constantly on the lookout for an opportunistic meal as she responds to the yelping cries of hatchlings in the nest, and gently rolls stubborn eggs in her mouth to crack them open. Then she gathers her babies in her mouth and carries them to the nearest patch of open water. By now dad has lost interest, and may already be courting another girl.

salt water crocodiles

Hatchling Salt Water Crocodile: Richard.Fisher: CC 2.0

Baby salt water crocodiles have a tough life, with just 1% surviving to adulthood.  They are exceptionally aggressive – even against each other – and fight among themselves almost immediately after their mother takes them to open water. Here, they hone their fighting skills, and a sense of territoriality that ensures their survival. This is another good reason to back off when encountering an adult in the wild, even in the presence of a guide.

Salties Have Sheer Brute Force in Adulthood When Biting Down

While it takes 10 years for crocs to become sexually mature, they can live for 70 years, with some centenarians reported. Their young are open season for goanna monitor lizards, barramundi fish, wild boars, rats, and flying raptors. However, once they reach adulthood they are generally invincible, with their heads alone weighing 200 kilograms (440 pounds), and the highest bite force of all mammals, including the spotted hyena.

salt water crocodiles

Now Where’s That Duct Tape: AngMoKio: CC 2.5

Despite this immense power, salt water crocodiles have a weak point. Nature invested most of their jaw muscles for chomping, leaving just a few to open their jaws again. They say a few layers of duct tape can keep them tightly shut. We are not about to try this gig. We prefer our crocs under controlled circumstances behind a stout fence.

Salt Water Crocodiles in Aboriginal Tradition

We will let the indigenous Wandjina legends from the mythology of ancient Australians have the final say about Australian salt water crocodiles. For the Wandjina are cloud and rain spirits who have watched over everything since time immemorial, and feature prominently in rock art. Dreamtime legends hold the Wandjina created our landscape, and our nation’s inhabitants that live here. Then they painted their images on cave walls when they died.

When they are angry, they punish the unjust with lightning, floods, and cyclones. According to their tradition, they banished salt water crocodiles from fresh water for becoming full of bad spirits, and growing too large, unlike the freshwater crocodile they somewhat revered. Hence, salt water crocodiles are largely absent in rock art, although a few examples from 3,000 years ago remain in Kakadu and Arnhem caves.

We offer great holiday accommodation in free-standing luxury lodges, if you need a base for exploring Queensland’s numerous natural wonders.

salt water crocodiles

Cairns Luxury Holiday Rental Accommodation at Wanggulay

waltzing matilda

Who’ll Come A Waltzing Matilda With Me?

waltzing matilda

Original Waltzing Matilda Manuscript: Christina Macpherson: Public Domain

We have three patriotic songs in Australia we like to sing. First, in moments of colonial fervour we may sing God Save the Queen. Then our official national anthem is Advance Australia Fair which is a tad ‘dull and unappealing to most Australian people’. And thirdly there’s  our national bush ballad, Who’ll Come A Waltzing Matilda With Me. Many Australians prefer it because it represents the true spirit of our pioneering country. Before we tell you more about it, here is the full version of Waltzing Matilda we would like you to enjoy.

Who’ll Come A Waltzing Matilda With Me

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

000o00

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
You’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

000o00

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
Whose is that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

000o00

Up jumped the swagman, leapt into the billabong,
You’ll never catch me alive, said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

Now Hear Waltzing Matilda Sung by Slim Dusty

Unpacking the Meaning behind The Australian Strine

Australian settlers were largely cut off from the rest of the world for the first century after they landed. In fact, their ‘old country’ was an eight-month sailing ship voyage away. And so they developed their own culture, and their own extended English vocabulary using  terms cobbled  from Aboriginal languages, and slang used by settlers. We call this strange collection of words ‘strine’. Strine itself is a highly exaggerated pronunciation of ‘Australian’ expressed with an extremely broad accent.

The Unofficially Official History of Waltzing Matilda

We did not have too many museums and libraries when poet Banjo Patterson wrote the words of the bush ballad down in January 1895. He was staying at Dagworth Cattle Station in Central West Queensland when he heard the Celtic Folk Tune ‘The Craiglee March’ played on a mechanical harp by a young girl. Life in the isolated settlement was pretty basic. Since then, some holiday establishments are as fine as our exclusive Wanggulay holiday rental. Banjo decided the tune needed some words to go with it, and based them on a true incident during the Great Shearers’ Strike of 1892.

waltzing matilda

A Group of Shearers During the Strike: John Oxley Library: Public Domain

What’s in a Word, and Title of the Song

The violent end to the shearers’ strike that almost became a civil war, left the Queensland farming industry in disarray. Small groups of farm hands, and individuals became itinerant tramps. They wandered through the countryside with their worldly possessions on their backs, and surviving on what they could lay their hands on because they knew no other way.

waltzing matilda

Elderly Swagman c 1901: New South Wales Government Printer: Public Domain

Australian strine, or slang for wandering was ‘waltzing’. Our ancestors borrowed this from the German tradition of artisans taking gap years after qualifying, ending their indentureship, and wandering the countryside with their ‘matilda’ shoulder bags slung over their backs. There’s something tragically-comical about the poet applying this romantic phrase to a tragic period in Australian history. But then we Australians do have a habit of bouncing back from hard times and laughing about it.

waltzing matilda

Banjo Patterson’s Book of Old Bush Songs: A B Patterson: Public Domain

Let’s Unpack the Strange Words of the Song Together

First Verse of Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

A Swagman, meaning a hobo or itinerant worker has paused to rest under a shady Coolibah  tree, being a eucalyptus found growing near Billabongs, or waterholes and shallow ponds. We can assume he has his worldly belongings wrapped up in a blanket or Swag, and is planning to have a jolly old time catching up with himself.

First he gathers together some kindling. Then he lights a fire to boil tea in a Billy tin can with wire handle, and sings ‘Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?’ He is calling out in his heart for a lady friend to join him. But alas, he only has his ‘Matilda’ Tucker Bag containing his food supplies slung over his shoulder for company.

waltzing matilda

Billy Can on Campfire: Flickr user “Johan Larsson“: CC 2.0

In those days an itinerant wanderer was said to be ‘waltzing matilda’ as his tucker bag swayed to and fro across his back. All is peace for a while though. Matilda is at rest. But there is opportunity on the horizon for some ‘grub‘ i.e. fresh food …

Second Verse of Waltzing Matilda

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
You’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

As luck would have it a Jumbuck, or sheep strolls down to the waterhole for a refreshing drink. Our swagman grasps his opportunity with both hands with glee, being great delight. After he stuffs it in his tucker bag he knows this will swing more slowly on his back.  The pace of the song slows a little too, for there is trouble brewing as surely as the tea is in his billy can nestling in the embers of his campfire. A shepherd and his dogs are out hunting for the missing sheep …

waltzing matilda

Australian Red and Blue Merle Sheepdogs: Tshay: CC 3.0

Third Verse of Waltzing Matilda

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
Whose is that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

The story and the song gain pace. A squatter, meaning a wealthy rancher or owner-farmer rides up on his expensive horse. He is in the company of three troopers, being mounted policemen the equivalence of local cavalry. Poaching was a serious problem in Australia back then.  Between 1787 and 1852 16,280 men, and 920 women were exported from Britain for stock thieving and arrived with the required skills loaded onboard…

The rancher will want to present the swagman, and his matilda to a local magistrate as evidence. Conviction could earn the swagman a lifetime of hard labour. Hardly the way an itinerant  worker would choose to end his days after roaming on the plains.

Fourth and Final Verse of Waltzing Matilda

Up jumped the swagman, leapt into the billabong,
You’ll never catch me alive, said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
Who’ll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?

We hope you’ll come to stay in our luxurious accommodation in Cairns. We have super-comfortable facilities for couples of all ages, their children, and their pets. At a pinch we can accommodate twelve people provided the kids don’t mind roughing it a little. While you may not go dancing matilda in the moonlight we are confident you will love what you find. 

waltzing matilda

Wanggulay 5 Star Accommodation

Let’s Hear Waltzing Matilda Sung by Slim Dusty One More Time

the catch at cairns

Catch at Cairns – A Fish to BBQ at Wanggulay

What’s the catch at Cairns, we hear you say. How can our superb location possibly be so affordable, and so incredibly quiet and peaceful outside of peak season? And our beloved Wanggulay holiday rental. Why is it a fraction of what you might expect to spend at other top-end locations? We’ll let you into a secret. There is no catch at Cairns, or Wanggulay for that matter, except what’s swimming in the ocean, reservoirs, rivers and lakes.

We are a bit of a bargain actually. Because of that we have bookings all year round. We earn more money than expensive resorts that may stand empty week after week which enables us to deliver the very best. The only catch at Cairns is the rich harvest of fresh and seawater fish waiting for you to catch. And deliciously barbecue at our exclusive, private holiday home on the fringe of Cairns we call Wanggulay. Why not stay on, and revel in our part of paradise? Who knows, you might decide to book our place when next in Cairns.

the catch at cairns

Chargrilled Baramundi: Kurman Communications: CC 2.0

The Catch at Cairns – Cast Your Hook and Relax

Cairns and its environs are a perfect place to cast your hook and relax. First, we have a warm tropical climate and we are far from being over-fished.  Secondly, our generous monsoon season keeps our rivers and dams full. So, make your choice. Dangle your hook in fresh or salt water as you prefer.  We can’t promise you a record catch while you are staying at Wanggulay on the forested fringe of Cairns. But we may be able to suggest the best fishing places depending on the season.

Cairns and its environs are an ideal place to discover the immense fishing potential of Far North Queensland. The vast Coral Sea offshore and the lakes, rivers and reservoirs inland abound with marlin and barramundi barracuda deliciously grilled over an open fire using a recipe we may share. There are many more tasty species besides for you to relish and enjoy. Many visitors say we are as close to an angler’s paradise as anywhere on earth.

the catch at cairns

Marlin Caught off Cairns: Kris Hamilton: Public Domain

A Broad Take On the Catch at Cairns That’s Available

Shall we dive in, so to speak and see what’s for supper tonight? We will, but first we have some Cairns fishing basics to share with you …

  • We are a regional city in the ‘wet tropics’ of Far North Queensland, Australia. Therefore we have a wet season from November to April (our summer). We have regular monsoons that fill our rivers and create spectacular waterfalls and cataracts. Our drier season is from May to October (officially winter).  The water temperature in our Coral Sea seldom drops below 23 Celsius (73 Fahrenheit).
  • You will have better luck catching certain fish at particular times of the year.  Barramundi (Asian Sea Bass) come inshore in summer when the water is warmer, while Marlin spawn  from September to December when they are easier to hook. Trevally, Kingfish and Queenfish are regular visitors to river mouths during dry winters. They may even swim inland a short distance.
  • Cairns is an easy-going place to fish because a virtual wilderness surrounds us. And we have a generous number of fresh- and saltwater fishing spots. Being a popular angling destination guarantees abundant tackle shops. These range from ‘moms and pops’ offering personal advice, through to warehouses with every imaginable hook. line and sinker.
  • Locals and visitors do not need fishing licenses, except for privately-stocked ponds and ‘closed waters‘ reserved for conservation. We ask you not to return Carp, Tilapia and Gambusia because they are invasive species. Here’s a list of Coral Reef legal sizes and take limits.

Barramundi can grow to 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) and weigh 60 kilograms (130 pounds), but that would be an exceptional size, seldom seen except in aquariums …

the catch at cairns

Large Barramundi with Barcoo Grunter in Background: Nick Thorne: CC 2.5

The Catch at Cairns: River Fishing Trevally and Queenfish

Cairns has great sand bars, weed holes and riverbeds  to cook these delicious fish. The best spots are the Daintree River 110 kilometres north of our luxury family accommodation,  and Mulgrave and Russel Rivers south of us. Use 4 t0 10 kilogram tackle (9 to 20 pound) to land a good one. We have healthy populations of blue salmon, bream, estuary cod, flathead, and whiting king waiting to challenge your angling skills. Rest assured these fish are good fighters.

Rich Estuary Fishing in Trinity Inlet off Admiralty Island

Let’s pause for a moment at a remarkable spot offshore from Cairns. This was where the Mulgrave River once entered the Coral Sea before volcanic activity shifted its course. Sediments accumulated over volcanic rocks during this event. These gave birth to the mudflats, mangroves, and the muddy Admiralty Island  these great fish love.

The Trinity Inlet does more than shelter inbound berthing for the Port of Cairns, the region’s sole tanker berth, and a Royal Australian Navy base. It also hosts renewable resources of barramundi, flathead, fingermark,  grunter, mangrove jack, trevally, and salmon in 90 kilometres of waterways where you may freely fish. Although subject to quota to preserve the rich resource.

the catch at cairns

Flying Fish Point: Archmage01: CC 2.0

Beach Fishing Off Golden Sands for Families with Children

The catch at Cairns beaches may not be the richest in the warm Coral Sea, but this is a super way to introduce kids to the open air joys of angling. Take Flying Fish Point for example, where fishing off the beach may land a plump barramundi, or a fighting red mangrove jack. Other popular spots are Palm Cove, Yorkeys Knob, Port Douglas, and along the Captain Cook Highway between. All have good facilities, with a likelihood of landing queenfish, trevally, whiting, and mackeral too.

Cairns beach fishing is a great recreational activity for everyone in the family. Because our beaches offer golden sands for suntans, rock pools to explore, and safe swimming with lifeguards. And places to build sandcastles while the barbecue sizzles under your fresh catch of Far North Queensland line fish. And for those that prefer it, we have some quiet, private naturist beaches too. The catch at Cairns you get is what you fancy, on the day.

the catch at cairns

Sweetlip Emperor Fish: Jean-Lou Justine: CC 4.0

‘Bottom Bouncing’ the Catch at Cairns off the Great Barrier Reef

Our Great Barrier Reef is rich in sea-bottom-feeding fish, with some real whoppers lurking there including red emperor, coral trout and nannygai saddletail snappers lurking in the depths. The gorgeous sweetlip emperor fish in the photo grows up to 90 centimetres long (35 inches) from head to tail. Fry the fillets in extra virgin oil. Then spoil them with a half tomato finely sliced, a tablespoon chopped pine nuts, two teaspoons oregano leaves, and the juice of a lemon freshly squeezed.

Bottom fishing, or bouncing is a matter of trawling a 30 to 45 kilogram (60 t0 100 pound) hand line to attract predatory, carnivorous fish rifling through the larder in the sand and coral formations below. This gives you the best possible chance of snagging one, since they are already in a feeding frenzy. You may like us to recommend an experienced charter for your fishing holiday when you arrive. You can’t do this easily from a distance, because the right choice depends on the climate and the season on the day.

the catch at cairns

Boats Ready to Deliver The Catch at Cairns: Neal Jennings: CC 2.0

Deep Sea Fishing – The Catch at Cairns for Serious Anglers

The Great Barrier Reef, and the continental shelf nearby us are both great places to hunt for our local denizens of the deep. Our black marlin are always ready to put up a fight and may win. Our numerous smaller barracuda, dorado, sailfish, wahoo, and spanish mackerel make tasty eating.  It’s no wonder there always seem to be fishing charters leaving Cairns harbour. You could enjoy great views of them from the Cairns Esplanade where the seafood restaurants are excellent.

The preferred times for deep-sea angling in Far North Queensland are from November through to March. Charters travel a way out to sea, and so the rates for basic services are $395 per person assuming  a party of at least five. You could pay up to $1,950 to deep sea fish under the guidance of a an expert. If you want just the two of you on board, then budget up to $5,000 for an experience you could remember for a lifetime. And perhaps have a magnificent trophy for your den too.

The Finest Catch for Serious Holidaymakers at Cairns

When you have done your day of fishing – and we sincerely hope have landed a great catch – thoughts turn to a pleasant evening dining on the tasty proceeds. We have several restaurants in town that will prepare and cook it for you with pleasure. However you may prefer to do the same at our holiday rental some angling parties have called ‘the best catch of all’.

We have super outdoor barbecue facilities, and a five star kitchen with all the appliances you expect to find at home. Our freestanding, very private accommodation nestles cheek and jowl with pristine, indigenous rain forest. And there’s a river a short walk away where you may find no one else besides yourselves. So do come on in and enjoy. Enjoy the finest holiday rental in Cairns. We can’t promise that you will land the catch of your lifetime. But we do promise to do our very best to make you feel welcome as our very valued, very special guest.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland

The wet tropics of extreme northeast Australia extend 450 kilometres (280 miles) along the coast. Rain forests watered by seasonal monsoons  maintain a moist environment where curious mammals of Far North Queensland roam. UNESCO lists the region as ‘an area possessing outstanding scenic features, natural beauty, and magnificent sweeping landscapes’. It praises ‘an exceptionally high level of diversity of both flora and fauna’ too.  This diversity includes rare plants, unusual birds, strange reptiles, and 107 mammal species living in dense vegetation, some seen nowhere else.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Swimming Holes but Mind the Crocs: Jim Bendon: CC 2.0

Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland to See

These cute, and not so cute and cuddly creatures are among the oldest surviving species in the known universe. Scientists divide them into three main groups. These categories are:

  • Egg-laying monotremes (platypus and  spiny ant eaters)
  • Marsupials with ‘kindergarten pouches’ (kangaroo and wallabies)
  • Unusual mammals that bear fully-formed youngsters like us

Some of these curious mammals of Far North Queensland live in trees, from where they peer down upon inquisitive humans curiously. One lives in the water and lays eggs. The rest live on the forest floor, often near human settlements where we may disturb their prey. Please do drive carefully at night through Far North Queensland rain forests, because some may forage for freshly-killed food on roads. Night-adapted eyes are sensitive to light. Car headlamps and torches can distract attention for one critical moment, and then their life is gone.

curious mammals of far north queensland

The Agile Wallaby: Glen Fergus: CC 3.0

The Agile Wallaby Macropus Agilis, or Sandy Wallaby

Although Agile Wallabies are solitary creatures, they may feed together in ‘mobs’ in open pasture to guard each other. The males weigh between 16 and 27 kilograms (35 to 60 pounds), with a head-to-tail length as much as 1.7 meters (5.5 feet). The females are on average one third smaller. These curious mammals of Far North Queensland raise their babies in their pouches for eight months, and finally wean them after eleven.

These generally harmless creatures were once endemic to northern Australia, especially in grasslands, dunes, heaths and open woodland. They prefer to feed near rivers, and bilabongs being isolated ponds. They are close to becoming a threatened species owing to farmers hunting them legally to protect their crops, and cars colliding with them on roads. This short report suggests our Cairns Agile Wallabies are among the last surviving mobs in Queensland.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo: Sandra Lloyd: CC 3.0

Another Curious Australian Mammal – Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo

These elusive creatures have adapted to living semi-permanently in trees, although they can bound between them if they need to, across open ground.  They have been seen leaping as much as 9 meters (30 feet) down to a lower branch. And drop 18 meters (59 feet) from a treetop to the ground without harming themselves. This surely qualifies Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo for the shortlist of the most curious mammals of Far North Queensland. The females weigh 8 to 10 kilograms (17 to 23 lbs), and the males some 25% more so they must have ‘springs in their legs’.

Bennetts Tree-Kangaroos are a ‘near threatened species’. Although their numbers are increasing, we only find them between Daintree some 125 kilometres (8o miles) north of us, and Cooktown a similar distance further on. Their habitat extends for some 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland through tropical rain forest leading to isolated mountains. The shy creatures are herbivores hunted by pythons and wild dingo dogs.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Daintree Ringtail Possum: Australian Wildlife Conservancy

More Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland – Ringtail Possums

This rare, elusive creature inhabits upland and highland forests far away from dingo territory. From head to tail is measures around 65 centimetres (25 inches), of which the latter makes up half. Its favourite habitat is high-rainfall, misty tropical rain forests, where it lives on tree leaves and a few choice fruits. The solitary creature rears its young in a pouch kangaroo style, and shelters in daytime in hollow trees.

It is vulnerable to attacks by pythons, owls and other raptors, especially when it carries its older young on its back before weaning. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is doing it’s best to preserve the three remaining colonies at Thornton Peak, Mount Windsor Tableland, and Mount Carbine Tableland. The best time to spot ringtail possums is at night, when driving slowly along Mount Lewis Road with flashlights some 150 kilometres (100 miles) north of our luxury holiday rental home on the fringe of Cairns.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Yellow Bellied Glider Receiving Tender Care: Doug Beckers: CC 2.0

Rare and Curious Australian Mammals that ‘Fly’

We have no idea what happened to this little fellow, but he seems happily content. Good photos are hard to come by, because Yellow Bellied Gliders AKA Fluffy Gliders live high up in tall eucalyptus trees, and glide between them. They manage this by leaping into the air and spreading out their arms and legs. This in turns stretches out a membrane between their 5th fingers and their ankles. After leaping forth from up on high, Yellow Bellied Gliders have been known to travel 100 meters (320 feet) through the air high above the forest floor.

These marsupials about the size of rabbits are gregarious, preferring to spend their days together in family groups in tree hollows. They are possums and so from the same tribe as the Daintree Ringtails. These curious mammals of Far North Queensland enjoy a delicious diet of nectar, honeydew, insects, pollen, and sap from eucalyptus, corymbia, angophora, and lophostemon trees. The furry little fellows are classified vulnerable, owing to loggers and farmers chopping down their habitats without providing sustainable alternatives. The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland is trying its best to mitigate by proving nesting boxes, but results are inconclusive.

The Arboreal Herbivorous Marsupial We Call a Koala Bear

We hate to a spoil a secret but a Koala is not a bear at all. It’s closest relatives are wombats.  Koalas are also somewhat irritable, preferring to sleep for 20 hours a day. That’s about the only other thing Koalas do besides snacking on their favourite take-away eucalyptus leaves. They are also fairly solitary, spending an average 15 minutes a day socialising, or 1% of their time.

If another Koala bothers them they snarl and grunt and bite. Sorry to have to dispel your illusion of cuddly Koala Bears. We think it best you know they have an attitude and are best viewed quietly from a distance in the forest. Koalas are commonest in South Queensland, although you could likely spot one in riverine rain forests north of Cairns.  Koala Gardens in Kuranda provides close-up views of Koalas looking cute, eating eucalyptus leaves, snapping at each other, and yes, sleeping.

curious mammals of far north queensland

“Duckbilled” Platypus: Peter Scheunis: CC 1.0

So Mammals Hunt on Dry Land and Give Birth to Babies?

The last of our curious mammals of Far North Queensland is the oddest of them all. National Geographic goes as far saying early scientists believed ‘nature’s most unlikely creatures‘ were a hoax. “The animal,” they explained,  “is best described as a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill and webbed feet), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). Males are also venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow to any foe.” Well, we Aussies always have been an independent lot!

Fortunately for us, platypuses are not particularly large. Males average 50 centimetres (12 inches) and weigh a maximum 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) with females slightly smaller. They are meat eaters that find their prey through electro reception, by detecting the electric fields muscles cause when they contract. They hunt under water  by covering eyes and ears with folds of skin, and closing nostrils tightly. At Wanggulay we do the opposite by being sensitive to guests’ every need.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Al Fresco Dining On the Deck at Sunset: Image Airbnb

At Wanggulay,  We Are Sensitive To Your Every Need

Guests come from around the world to our tropical paradise on the fringe of rain forest, where you may spot a few curious mammals of North Queensland yourself. We wish we could, but we can’t promise though. Cairns is a modern city of near 150,000 residents, and the animals are gradually retreating deeper into the shadows of moist tropical forests. Our government has nature conservation well in hand, and their numbers are stabilising and then increasing.

It would be wonderful to welcome you some day to Wanggulay. We built it for ourselves to use on holidays, and so you will find it quite different from other holiday rentals. Our family still comes here from time to time. We never fail to marvel at how close we are to nature, and how perfectly the timbers of the building merge into the forest almost within reach. A short stroll away are there are peaceful streams and waterfalls, and gorgeous coloured butterflies and birds. We would really like to welcome you some time to Wanggulay, your exclusive holiday home and springboard for trips to the Great Barrier Reef.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Blue Starfish on Great Barrier Reef: Copyright (c) 2004 Richard Ling: CC 3.0

cairns art galleries and museums

Cairns Art Galleries and Museums

Cairns is a young city by european standards founded in 1876. Although when Captain Cook visited Far North Queensland in 1770 he found a well-established Walubara Yidinji indigenous population that may have been there for tens of thousands of years. Settlers and aboriginal people  fought tooth and nail during a period most Australians would hope to move on from. Today the two cultural streams are learning to share a common vision. The Cairns art galleries and museums we feature salute our history, and the new directions we are moving in.

What Makes Cairns Art Galleries and Museums Unique

Far North Queenslanders are proudly different. Hence our art galleries are not exactly the Louvre in Paris, or the Tate in London on the River Thames. In a similar vein, please do not expect a replica of the Victoria and Albert Museum when you come and visit us. Instead, experience our art as a reflection of our diverse range of humanity in all its facets. Because our Cairns museums are the store of the tangible, and intangible record of our endeavours, and we tell it as it is.

cairns art galleries and museums

Function Venue: Tanks Art Centre

The Multi-Function Tanks Art Centre in Edge Hill Cairns

No, we are not talking about the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum here. That one comes up next. The connection here is the buildings look a bit like a collection of round water tanks if you scroll down at that link. The Tanks Art Centre is an eclectic self-supporting place some say is the best contemporary music venue in our region. It also also hosts local and visiting arts expo’s, where you can wander through and see work in progress unfold before your eyes.

But that’s not all by far. Tanks also entertains visitors staying in our luxury holiday accommodation with drama productions. These sometimes feature adaptions of Shakespeare’s well-known plays, and they also present children’s theatre too. They have great workshops for learning exercise and dancing, while their Monday Monthly Market Day is the perfect place to experience a unique slice of culture in the tropics. We recommend this highly.

Armour Displays at  Cairns Art Galleries and Museums Newbie

The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum is one of the newest Cairns art galleries and museums, having opened in May 2014. The curators dedicate themselves to showcasing tanks, artillery pieces, and armoured vehicles from World War I onward. This is a rare opportunity to see a part of Cairns history less traveled nowadays. For many young men from Cairns and further afield have left our shores to do battle, and never returned.

The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum hosts armoured vehicle rides super for kids. They even have a shooting range for older ones and adults, where they can test their shooting skills with British and German bolt action rifles. There is a great souvenir and gift store with construction toys for children. On the 2nd and 3rd September every year they fire up a dozen historic armoured vehicles, so visitors can experience ‘actual combat conditions’ although some may find this an uncomfortable way to spend their time.

cairns art galleries and museums

Doongal Aboriginal Art: Cairns Today

Discover the Unwritten Culture of Australia’s Original People

Australia’s oldest citizens did not have a written language. They expressed themselves in words instead, and set their thoughts down in song and dance and art. You can sense their souls in the remarkable gallery of Doongal Aboriginal Art. The display is regularly refreshed, as the current generation makes its own unique additions to the growing collection.

Our Wanggulay, bali-style holiday rental reflects the unique architecture of our remarkable region. We are conveniently located for visits to Tjapukai Cultural Park where the Djabugay people celebrate their joy of living with fire and flame. Cairns in Far North Queensland is an amazing mix of cultures. You really ought to visit sometime. After we meet and greet, our Wanggulay becomes your own exclusive space you share with nobody.

cairns art galleries and museums

Clearing Mangrove Swamps: Cairns Museum

The Cairns Historical Society’s Record of a Pioneering Past

The Cairns Historical Society formed in 1958 to preserve the history of North Queensland in Australia. Its showcase display is probably the leader among Cairns art galleries and museums in terms of size of collection. For it has 3,100 books, 23,000 photographs, 2,250 maps and 25,000 documents on local and area history. These provide a must-see timeline for anyone interested in how our city evolved.

There are four main galleries, plus a fifth one for temporary expo’s. Thus you have a choice of a broad timeline, a snapshot of early days, a view into what it is like living in the tropics, and how a settlement became a modern city. The Cairns Regional Museum is generally open Monday through to Saturday from 10am to 4 pm. However it is closed from 25 to 26 December, on News Year’s Day, and Good Friday when the staff take a well-deserved break to spend time with their families and friends.

cairns art galleries and museums

Cairns Indigenous Art Centre: UMI Arts

A Non-Profit Among Cairns Art Galleries and Museums

UMI Arts in downtown Cairns has an indigenous board of directors dedicated to helping aboriginal people participate in, maintain and protect their cultural identity. It’s remit includes those living in Far North Queensland, and the islanders of the Torres Strait beyond which lies New Guinea. The UMI Cairns Indigenous Art Centre is part of this outreach, for it exists in turn to encourage local artists.

UMI is a creole word meaning ‘you and me’, and we need to work together to keep our culture strong. The gallery partly funds itself through facility and equipment hire, and event management services. It also has an active program of visual arts, music, and performances. From time-to-time they hold street markets to showcase indigenous creative business If the idea twangs a tune a tune in your heart then visit them. You could end up buying an original work to treasure for a long time.

The Winding Walkway: Crystal Caves Cairns

The Crystal Caves – René Boissevain’s One Man Vision

Our dictionary insists a museum is ‘a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.’ Well that certainly is the case at the Crystal Caves, one man’s vision of the beauty he desired. After a lifetime searching he still travels to every corner of the world, to add to his collection of crystallised fossils, gemstones, mineral specimens,  and rocks of all kinds. Only the most perfect are good enough for René Boissevain’s collection.

There are over 600 works of natural art in the virtual caves this remarkable person built. They create the impression of entering deep grottoes underground, and discovering the formations for yourself. In his own words, René and his young family arrived from Holland in 1964. It took a while for his interest in minerals to develop, but when it did there was no looking back. Crystal Caves, for us, is a tribute to the multi-faceted society we call Australian.  As also is this post: Saluting our history, and the remarkable talent in Far North Queensland on show in Cairns art galleries and museums. We’ll sign out, but just for now. See you soon.