Cairns Botanic Gardens are located 4km from Cairns City Centre and were founded in 1888 by Eugene Fitzalan. It sits on an impressive 94 acres (38 hectares) of native Australian gardens (excluding the Mount Whitefield Conservation Park), and is home to many plants that cannot be seen elsewhere in the world!
Cairns Botanic Gardens comprises of three main areas; The Flecker Botanic Garden, Centenary Lakes and Mount Whitefield Conservation Park and the Gardens are renowned for having one of the best exhibitions in Australia of tropical plants.
It is truly a tropical paradise which you can easily spend the whole day exploring and getting lost in its beauty of tropical plants, relaxing with its picturesque and tranquil surroundings as well as learning about tropical flora and horticulture.
There are several spaces that demonstrate the diverse plant life that can be found within a tropical climate, with specimens from Northern Australian rainforests, along with plants from the steamy jungles of South East Asia, South America and Africa which easily adapt to the warm, wet climate of Cairns.
It is also home to some of the world's rarest plants, including vibrant species of orchid, a large variety of unusual plant species that many may have not encountered before; a number which give off a truly "prehistoric" feel and giant Amorphophallus Titanum- a flower which can weigh up to 70kg!
Highlights include The Flecker Gardens, Centenary Lakes, Saltwater and Freshwater, The Rainforest Boardwalk, Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, Zhanjian Friendship Garden, and The Gondwanan Heritage Garden.
This exotic wilderness parkland is home to a spectacular long boardwalk that meanders through tropical rainforest and mangroves, passing the Freshwater Lake that surrounds the grassy park and birdwatchers will not be disappointed by the 130 species that are known to inhabit the area.
The Freshwater Lake is home to a wonderful array of wildlife, including water birds, fish and turtles. It adorns with water lilies that smooth the surface of the lake, transforming it into a magical scene from a fairytale.
The Saltwater Lake is also a feature to the Centenary Lakes, with features of diversity of wilderness including mud-crabs and mangrove dwelling species. Do keep an eye out for the saltwater crocodile who decided to reside at the beautiful Centenary Lakes. He/she can be spotted in the murky waters after much rain, especially in the green season.
Mt. Whitfield Conservation Reserve:
This 300 hectare forested mountain reserve is nestled behind the Flecker Botanic Gardens and features two renowned walking trails for those seeking some nature adventure or an active nature experience.
The Red Arrow Trail is a steep ascent which leads into the heart of Eucalypt forest and offers breathtaking views of Cairns City once you reach the summit. The Trail takes around 1 hour return, and a reasonable high level of fitness is required.
The Blue Arrow Trail is for serious bushwalkers and takes around 5 hours return, winding through a magnificent pristine forest. The Trail is rugged and features numerous steep climbs and at times difficult terrain. It is not for the fainthearted, but certainly worth it as you will be welcomed to sensational views. High level of fitness is required to conquer this splendid walk.
The Blue Arrow Circuit begins near the Lookout on the Red Arrow Trail and is 5.4km and takes around 3-4 hours. It is rugged bush track through mainly rainforest to an elevation of 300m. There are steep climbs and a reasonable level of fitness is required.
The Green Arrow Circuit is 3km and starts towards the top of the Blue Arrow Loop and branches off to the west ending in Whitfield. There are breathtaking views to admire on this circuit.
The Yellow Arrow Trail links Aeroglen to the Red and Blue Arrow walking trails and is a total of 2.34km approximately. It incorporates key viewing points over Cairns Airport and features a number of natural features along the walk including large rock slabs and boulders, rock-lined gullies, a Pandanus tree garden and large native trees.
The trail does provide a circuit route via the Red Arrow, Collins Ave and Saltwater Creek back to Aeroglen. It also services a dog off-leash area at Aeroglen.
Why you must visit:
There is a massive diverse display of rare tropical species and numerous relaxing walking tracks suited for almost all fitness levels and ages.
Plenty of shade and cool spots to enjoy, especially on those hot Cairns days.
Flourishing flora and fauna.
A stone's throw away from downtown Cairns.
The Gardens are wheelchair accessible and pram/stroller friendly.
The obvious reason- It is so tranquil, you will feel like you are a world away from the hustle and bustle!
There are two cafes on site both open 7 days:
Botanic Gardens Restaurant Cafe (inside the Flecker Botanic Gardens- 7am-4:30pm)
TANK Sixty Four (next to the Visitor Centre- 7am-4pm & dinner on Friday & Saturday nights: From 6pm)
There are four Tours available:
Birdwatching Walk (2hrs):
Every Tuesdays from 8:30am from the Friends House, Flecker Garden.
Gardens and Tanks precinct history tour: Every Tuesdays and Thursday mornings from 10am. Meet at the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre.
Audio Tours (Self-guided):
There are a series of audio tours which allows you to become your own guide. Each tour has a downloadable map that contains reference points for the coloured markers mounted on plant identification posts, corresponding to the audio track numbers.
Heliconia Tour: This self-guided tour will take you to a selection of Heliconia plants around the Flecker Garden.
Buses 130 & 131 will get you to the Gardens from Cairns City Centre
Free parking available at the Gardens.