The Flecker Botanic Gardens
The Flecker Botanic Gardens were created in 1886, which means that many of the large plants and trees are lush and well established. The extensive selection of tropical flora includes some rare plants seldom found elsewhere in the world. These include exotic species of palms, gingers, orchids, bamboos, vines, aroids and tropical fruit trees. Some of the rarest plants in the world can be found at Flecker Botanic Gardens, including a tropical flower known as the Amorphophallus Titanum, which weighs up to 70 kg with a single leaf almost 7 meters across. The exotic rainforest plant is only one of two found in Australia. Amazing arrays of orchids are spotted throughout the gardens, boasting beautiful bright colours that contrast perfectly with the variegated shades of greens. Tropical fruit trees such as the Durian, Purple Mangosteen, Soursop and Black Sapote are star attractions of the Botanic Gardens. A carnivorous plant, the Nepenthes, can be found lurking amongst the lush rainforest vegetation, waiting for unsuspecting prey to enter its domain. The Nepenthes is a cleverly designed plant, whose leaves form into a 'pitcher'. Inside the pitcher is sweet nectar, luring the insects and bugs onto the rim of the pitcher, which is very slippery, causing the insects to fall into the 'trap' where they get stuck in more nectar and digested by the plant.
Babbling brooks and waterways meander throughout the Cairns Botanical Gardens, and small ornate bridges over these waterways create picture-perfect photograph opportunities. Lush rainforest vegetation gives way to large grassy lawns, the perfect place for the children to play and the adults relax. Tall trees provide shaded areas to relax and watch the incessant flitter and flutter of exotic butterflies and birds.
Located underneath the lush canopy of the rainforest is the Botanic Garden Restaurant. The Botanic Garden Restaurant is open-air and undercover, allowing diners to immerse themselves in the abundance of natural beauty that is the Botanic Gardens. The Cairns Botanic Garden Restaurant features sumptuous breakfasts, brunches and lunches, and is renowned for its Sunday Champagne breakfast, exquisite café menu that features 100 % natural produce, and their famous strawberry waffles. The Botanic Gardens Restaurant is open everyday for breakfast and lunch, operating daily from 7:00 am until 4:30 pm. For those that want to learn more about the exotic plants and trees of the Cairns Botanic Gardens, free guided walks operate every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Visitors must meet at the Cairns Botanic Gardens visitor centre. Personalized, private tours are available at a cost and all inquiries should be directed to the Cairns Botanic Gardens Information Centre.
The Flecker Botanical Gardens hours are from 7.00 am to 5.30 pm, weekends and public holidays 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The Botanic Gardens Restaurant opens at 7:00 am and closes at 4.30 pm.
Cairns Botanic Gardens is situated on Collins Avenue, 4km north of the CBD. Public transport services the area frequently.
Next to the Botanical Gardens is Centenary Lakes - an exotic wilderness parkland. This area has a long boardwalk that meanders through tropical rainforest and mangroves. It ends (or starts, depending on which end you begin your walk from) at a freshwater lake surrounded by a grassy park. This is a fantastic place for a picnic lunch, and birdwatchers will be impressed with the 130 species that are known to inhabit the area. The freshwater lake is home to an amazing array of wildlife including fish, turtles and water birds. Water lilies adorn the smooth surface of the lake, transforming it into something from the pages of a fairytale. A saltwater lake also features at Centenary Lakes, featuring a diversity of wilderness including mud-crabs and mangrove dwelling species. There has been the odd occasion, that after much rain (especially in the green season) a saltwater crocodile has decided to reside in Centenary Lakes so keep an eye out for beady eyes looking at you from the murky waters. Considering these lakes are not suitable for swimming, the crocodile posses only a little threat, and is removed swiftly by a National Parks and Wildlife Rangers. However, if you're lucky you might catch sight of a 'croc' lurking beneath the still lake waters or basking in the sunshine! Be warned do not go anywhere near crocodiles as they will definitely bite!
Mt. Whitfield Conservation Reserve is a 300 hectare forested mountain reserve nestled behind the Flecker Botanic Gardens. Mt. Whitfield Conservation Reserve features two renowned walking trails for those seeking an adventurous and active nature experience. The 'Red Arrow' trail is a steep ascent into the heart of this Eucalypt forest, with exquisite views of Cairns City at the top. The return journey takes 1 hour, and a reasonably high level of fitness is required. The second walking trail, the 'Blue Arrow', is ideal for serious bushwalkers. This is a 5 hour return journey, winding through some of the most pristine forest. This is a rugged track that features steep climbs and at times difficult terrain. Sensational views are offered at several intervals along the trail, and an abundance of wilderness is often spotted. This is not for the fainthearted, and only those with a high level of fitness should attempt walking this track. For more information, visit the Flecker Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre. Always make sure you take a buddy on these walks with you and keep a mobile phone handy along with some water for security.
Tanks Art Centre is one of Cairns and Tropical North Queensland's premier art and performance facilities. Housed in three converted WWII naval oil storage tanks, this is one of the most unique venues, one which features a range of performing and visual arts. Art exhibitions, musical performances and dramatic performances are regular features of Tanks Art Centre. Markets are held fairly frequently at Tanks Art Centre, and for more information, or a program of events, contact Tanks Art Centre on (07) 4032 6600. Visitors to these tropical areas are advised to apply insect repellent before visiting, and keep some handy if you need to reapply during the day along with sunscreen which you also need to continually reapply. Tropical insects can be a nuisance if you are not protected.