Tropical fruits are ripening, wildlife is awakening, and waterfalls will soon be pumping as Summer unfolds in two parts in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region. The world’s oldest living culture, Australia’s Aboriginal people, look to nature to determine the time of year with their six-season calendar marking the changes in their environment.
In the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region, the early December rains regenerate the landscape bringing wildlife out to forage and refreshing the rainforest before waterfalls put on a spectacular show as waterways replenish from January through to March.
Life in the tropics thrives on the rain – it sustains the region’s vibrant green backdrop year-round and is why the World Heritage rainforest is called the Wet Tropics. The best part about rain in the tropics is it’s warm and it tends to fall in heavy downpours at the beginning or the end of the day rather than dreary drizzle all day long.
The Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region’s extraordinary wildlife is especially happy when it rains. The 54 species of frogs get vocal with the first raindrop and their croaking reaches an orchestral crescendo when a downpour brings their friends out to play. The wetlands and rainforests are a haven for birdlife during Summer with the Wet Tropics home to more than 370 species.
Walking through the rainforest is a fresh experience when the many shades of green glisten with life-giving rain. Watch for the flash of blue of a cassowary or the electric blue of a Ulysses butterfly contrasting against the green backdrop. Discover an array of local wildlife including cassowaries at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.
If you’re chasing adventure, this is the time of year to go white water rafting as the Tully and Barron rivers are pumping with water. Those who like to get dirty can jump on a quad bike or head to one of the many mountain bike trails designed for all skill levels from beginners to downhill enthusiasts. Many of these trails wind through the rainforest crossing streams and encountering waterfalls and swimming holes where you can cool off.
Take a break from the outdoors and tackle a ropes course that takes you over Goliath the crocodile and puts you up in the air with the birds at Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome. When you are back on the ground you can cuddle a koala or snake and watch wildlife presentations.
The Great Barrier Reef is not to be missed, even if it’s raining. Try snorkelling with turtles at an island, dive on the outer reef to see extraordinary coral surrounded by colourful fish or keep your hair dry with a semi-submersible tour or helmet dive.
Waterfalls are at their most spectacular in Summer, especially the Barron Falls which thunder through the gorge spraying onlookers as they photograph it. The Falls can be seen from The Edge Lookout as part of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience. Kuranda Scenic Railway also takes in the Barron Falls as well as Stoney Creek Falls as the train winds its way on the historical track from Cairns to Kuranda.
For an insight into the region’s history visit the Cairns Museum which shares the stories of Cairns and its Traditional Owners, of the city’s growth from a small tropical port to an international city, and takes a playful look at what makes life different in the tropical climate.
Snuggle up at Bailey, the newest hotel in Cairns. It is the thoughtful, arty member of the Crystalbrook Collection and is located in the city’s arts precinct. Your room’s mini-bar includes a mystery book wrapped in brown paper and tied with string that you can relax with, or you can admire the local art on display throughout the hotel. If you need comfort food head down to the nostalgic Milk Bar for an Insta-worthy milkshake and a cheesy jaffle.
Traditional and contemporary art can be seen for free at the Cairns Art Gallery. ARTNOW FNQ 2019 from December 13, 2019 to February 2, 2020 brings together 34 local artists for an insight into the region’s cultural scene. Artists from remote Indigenous communities such as Aurukun’s Wik and Kugu Arts Centre and Erub Arts in the Torres Strait are included in the exhibition.
Summer is the ideal time to taste tropical fruit with mangoes at their best and exotic treats like lychees, mangosteen and rambutan in season. Call into Rusty’s Markets in the CBD to see the array of summer fruit and veg and shop for local crafts undercover. Discover how to use the fresh seasonal vegetables of the tropics at Oaks Kitchen & Garden cooking school where the produce is grown in their garden at Oak Beach.
Relax with an extraordinary choice of spa treatments whether you’re wanting hot stone therapy, a seaweed wrap, Vichy shower or a massage. The Cairns CBD, Palm Cove and Port Douglas are known for their many spa options with rainforest and beach outlooks among the choices.
As the sun goes down on the Great Barrier Reef, a whole new world awakens at the Cairns Aquarium with both reef and rainforest creatures coming out to play. Join an ecologist guide on a tour through the region’s unique ecosystems and end the evening with a three-course dinner at Dundee’s Restaurant while watching the colourful marine life.
Choose a cocktail and settle in for a seafood feast at your choice of restaurants overlooking the Cairns Marina and enjoy local prawns and fish while watching the rain descend on the mountains across Trinity Inlet.
Stay in a rainforest treehouse and listen to the rainfall as you nod off in a hammock or relax in a spa tub surrounded by the Wet Tropics rainforest. Many of these are tucked away in the Atherton Tablelands and Daintree rainforest.