Cairns, Australia, where crocs keep the beaches empty

second in a series from Queensland, Australia

Ballooning out of Cairns, Australia

Ballooning out of Cairns, Australia

Much of what is accessible to travelers in northern Queensland, Australia, lies between Cairns and Cooktown. From Sydney, I flew into Cairns, then made my way north through Daintree National Park.

The primary reason to go to Cairns is to book a snorkeling or diving boat to the Great Barrier Reef, either out of Cairns or nearby Port Douglas to the north, where I ate my first spangled emperor for dinner (look it up). The Reef, at 1,200 miles long, is the world’s largest living organism.

Getting to the outer reef and back by boat takes a full, long day, though there are shorter snorkeling and glass-bottom boat trips to inner portions of the reef. Prices are $80 and up.

Feeding the lemurs at Cairns Tropical Zoo

Feeding the lemurs at Cairns Tropical Zoo

Tour operators can arrange bungee jumping, white water rafting, and a Skyrail cable car above the canopy of a rainforest. You can do hot air ballooning to spot wild kangaroo, or hug a koala at the Cairns Tropical Zoo.

You can swim for free in a large pool beside the ocean, built by the city because the ocean beaches are not safe from sea crocodiles that hide in the mud. Crocs do not venture ashore (local folks promise).

I never saw a Cairns croc. The most difficult task for me in Cairns was figuring out a way to say the name of the town. It’s not Canz or cahns. Somehow, you are supposed to sneak the “R” into the pronunciation without actually saying it, as I did, “carns” with a long “A”.

Cairns' downtown pool is next to the ocean, left, where crocodiles occasionally hide in the mud

Cairns’ downtown pool is next to the ocean, left, where crocodiles occasionally hide in the mud

The city name was as difficult for me to say as kvetch, which nearly everyone knows has a very soft “K” which I don’t seem to be able to say the proper way. Thing is, everyone in Australia knew which city I was talking about when I mispronounced Cairns, just as my friends at home know which Yiddish word I mean when I say kvetch, my way, so I’m not complaining.

Photos by David G. Molyneaux,

David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at His cruise trends column appears monthly  in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise.  He is editor of

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