The Hidden Culture of Cairns

Cairns is commonly stereotyped as a holiday spot for beach bums and water-sport fanatics. However, there is more to Cairns than meets the eye. When you strip off the top layer, it’s a surprisingly cultural city. Read on for a guide to some of the coolest experiences in Cairns to get your cultural fix. When you’re searching for Cairns accommodation options, try to stay close to one of these attractions.

Aboriginal Encounters in Cairns

Cairns has an incredible aboriginal history that you can experience first-hand when you visit one of its aboriginal cultural parks. One of the best experiences is found at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. The Tjapukai, also known as the Djabugay or Djabuganydji people, are one of the oldest existing cultures in the world. They are the original inhabitant of Cairns and occupied the area surrounding the Great Dividing Range. Here, they co-existed in harmony with the mountains, gorges, forests and waters for thousands of years.

At the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, visitors can immerse themselves in an authentic cultural encounter and experience the traditional music, dance and stories of the Tjapukai people. A team of aboriginal performers and actors lead the crowd in several cultural activities, including boomerang throwing and didgeridoo playing. This is coupled with theatrical performances and the opportunity to try bush tucker. Not only do they provide top-quality entertainment, the tours also include a degree of education and insight about the history of Cairns, the background of the Great Barrier Reef and, of course, the heritage of the Tjapukai people. Sessions run during the day and in the evening, and although bookings aren’t required, you’re best to reserve in advance to avoid any disappointment.

Quirky Museum Culture in Cairns

You probably didn’t realise there were any museums in Cairns, so you’ll be even more surprised to learn there are a few of them. Although the main Cairns Museum is currently closed for refurbishment, there are a couple of other quirkier places for you to get a taste of the local culture. One for fishing fanatics is the Bransfords Fishing Museum, located near Clifton Beach. The collection consists of fishing gear from various eras, a large number of mounted game fish that are native to North Tropical Queensland and a gallery depicting the area’s biggest catches.

Another of the other weird and wonderful museums is the Crystal Caves. It’s located on the main drag of Atherton, easily identified by the “Crystal Car” found in the front of the building. Crystal Caves is home to one of Australia’s biggest private collections of minerals and crystals. The main attraction, though, is the amethyst geode. At over 3 metres tall, it is the largest of its kind of the world. It also happens to be approximately 130,000,000 years old — good luck trying to get your head around that!

Art Experiences in Cairns

A cultural trip isn’t complete without a visit to an art gallery. Lucky for you, Cairns has two that are worth checking out. The Tanks Art Centre is in the heart of the botanical gardens and the collection is stored in three naval oil storage tanks that were used in World War II. It is the frequent host to a diverse range of contemporary exhibitions, events and programs. Besides being a tourist attraction, it also exists to encourage the local communities to get involved in the arts. Check the website for updates on performances and details concerning current exhibitions.

The Cairns Regional Gallery is another hot spot for art lovers. It exists as a testament to, and a celebration of, the colourful history, heritage and culture of the North Tropical Queensland area. It boasts a large annual exhibition program; it features the works up to 30 local, national and international artists per year. The permanent collection has works by leading Australian artists including Ian Fairweather, Russell Drysdale and Margaret Olley. If your schedule permits, catch an art class or attend one of the talks with a regional artist.

About the Author: Blogger Marg Paton is a Cairns local who loves showing off the NTQ area to visitors.

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