I'm travelling. Lots of exciting places to drink in, experience and enjoy, come and see what I see before you get to go see yourself.
Published December 6th 2012
Once you have been to Cairns more than once, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, walked a few rainforest tracks and done the odd hot air balloon ride, do what the locals like to do on a weekend and just chill and hang out at Grafton Street in Cairns city. Admittedly if you really want to relax, try a hammock between two palm trees off Palm Cove beach, but if you'd rather eat and drink and do some people watching in the tropics, then Grafton Street is the best spot. Yes, this one small city block is jam-packed with places to stop and watch locals in the tropics stroll by. Definitely nothing happens at a fast pace on Grafton Street.
Back in 1880 the street was the heart of Cairn's Chinatown, with the Chung Shan Mui Temple and lots of Chinese merchants open for business. Sadly this Joss House fell into disuse in the 1950's but there are still connections to the past to see and next February Cairns City Council are moving all their Chinese New Year street celebrations back to Grafton Street. If you're after a tasty Asian snack, pop in to see Sim at Asian Foods, after 30 years, she definitely has the best range of exotic Asian ingredients all in a large shed, next to the Crown Hotel.
Across the road wander down the first arcade off Grafton Street, it's not hard to miss as an entire wall a city block deep has been painted top to bottom in colourful graffiti. Half way down you'll find Caffiends. They don't advertise and they don't need to, great staff and good coffee, read the walls, it's definitely worth your while.
Of course, I have to mention one of the highlights, keep an eye out on Grafton Street for all the street art, whether its embedded brass in the footpath or a steel sculpture of a heart with beating angel wings or a wall painting of the building that used to stand in that very spot, local artists have done a fantastic job on a public art project called "Changing Lanes". My favourite is called "arf a truck of Bananas" that's about how local chinese pioneered the banana, pineapple and sugar cane markets. Even now, we've only covered a fifth of the block that is Grafton Street, and I haven't even mentioned the best stalls to find at Rusty's Markets.
If you want something truly tropical to wear, that fits in whether you're in Byron Bay, Portsea or Port Douglas, visit Shiva Moon boutique, turn right as you leave the Arcade. They've got clothes, jewellery, hats and shoes that you won't find anywhere else in the tropics.
Further down the arcade is Kevin Shorey's Jewellery, a treasure chest of a shop, full of antique pieces and nothing you'll find in a catalogue. It's always difficult to walk out without buying something for you or a friend. If you head a few doors down, find Lillipads, the café that definitely serves the best value for money breakfast and lunches anywhere in Cairns. Just a tip, share a meal between two, as their portions here are really generous.
Try the brekkie burrito and they make just like the old days shakes with local Mungali Creek Dairy products. The thing to remember is to get food that tastes this good, in a café with no air conditioning, means the hard working staff don't go so fast. But hey, plenty of time to drink in watching the hippies, the backpackers, the Europeans relocated to Cairns and the cool Asian kids on working visas.