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Cairns Regional Information and History

Welcome to Far North QLD. Below you will find general information and historical facts about our Cairns Region and beautiful surrounding areas. Learn more about Cairns, Kuranda, Atherton Tablelands, Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Cooktown, Cape York and The Great Barrier Reef.

Islands and Sandy Cays

Michaelmas and Upolu reefs are part of the Arlington reef complex, which sits atop a platform reaching approximately 30 m below sea level. Michaelmas Cay is a leeside sand cay, running north-east to south-west, on the western tip of Michaelmas Reef. It was formed by the accumulation of broken coral, shells and remains of calcareous algae, continually washed over the reef by currents. Over time, seeds were deposited by visiting birds and the resulting vegetation helped to stabilise the cay. The formation of beach sand and other reef remnants cemented into a rock by the action of algae has further established the cay. The cay continues to build up and erode away depending on wind, sea conditions and currents, with mobile spits at either end. Michaelmas Cay is reportedly moving about 1 m north every year.

Low Isles: Situated 15 kilometers north-east of Port Douglas, the Low Isles comprise a four acre coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef. The reefs are very close to the island, which makes snorkelling an easy and enjoyable experience. The two small islands are separate but share the common reef. Low Isles consists of two islands, Woody Island an uninhabited coral/mangrove island, but the main attraction is Low Isle - which is a smaller vegetated, sandy, coral cay coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef.

Lizard Island: The name Lizard Island was given to it by Captain Cook when he passed it on 12 August 1770. He commented, "The only land Animals we saw here were Lizards, and these seem'd to be pretty Plenty, which occasioned my naming the Island Lizard Island. Today, Lizard Island offers the best of the Great Barrier Reef, both the inner and outer Reef experiences. Here you can snorkel off a secluded beach, there are 24 powdery white beaches just waiting to be explored, and swim in the famous Blue Lagoon. Lizard Island is renowned for its diving. At the world famous 'Cod Hole', one of the many unforgettable dive sites that are close by and a favourite spot that fascinates divers, you'll get to experience the countless and dazzling array of tropical fish, and come face to face with a massive yet curious Potato Cod swimming right up to inspect you with child-like curiosity.

Green Island is a very unique island. It is one of 300 sand cays on the Great Barrier Reef, but it is the only one with a rainforest. Green Island and its reef is very close to the mainland, lying only 27 km (16miles) from Cairns. The island sits on the north-western edge of the reef flat. The surrounding reef is classified an inshore patch reef. This island supports many diverse plants in a very small area. In fact, there are over 120 types of native plants. The coastline is ringed by short, scrubby coastal vegetation that can survive the dry harsh conditions along the beach. But, step a few feet in to the centre of the island, and the vegetation changes abruptly to a dense, shady vine-thicket rainforest. There are over 55 species of birds regularly seen on Green Island. Of these, 13 are seabirds and 38 are shore and land birds. About 15 types of birds regularly nest on the island. There are day boats departing daily or you can spend the night at Green Island Resort.

The Frankland Islands are outcrops of weathered metamorphic rock, once part of a coastal mountain range, separated from the mainland by a rise in sea level 6000 years ago. Round Island is a small rocky outcrop rising to 28 m in height. Normanby, Mabel and Russell islands have elevations of 20 m, 26 m and 78 m respectively. High Island is a steep rainforest-clad island, 10 km to the north of the other islands. It covers 69 ha and is 158 m high, making it the largest of the group. The island landforms are diverse and include shallow rocky reef, mangroves, sand spits, beaches, open woodland, exposed rock faces and dense rainforest. Extensive fringing reefs encircle the islands. There is only one commercial operator who visits daily, departing from Deeral (40 minutes south of Cairns) to Normanby Island.

Fitzroy Island is located twenty-nine kilometres south-east of Cairns, with transfers taking only 45 minutes by high speed ferry. Fitzroy Island Campgrounds are now open for those wanting to stay overnight. Fitzroy Island is a continental island, connected to the mainland over 10,000 years ago. When the Ice Age ended the rising waters from the melting ice caps flooded the valley between Fitzroy and the other mountain peaks. This left it an isolated island. Fitzroy Island is surrounded by fringing reef, which is the home to a variety of tropical fish and coral life. Fringing reef is a type of coral reef located only in the tropics, which is found directly off the shoreline growing in a thin strip. There are boats departing daily or you can spend the night at Fitzroy Island Resort.

The Great Barrier Reef

One of Australia's most remarkable natural gifts, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world's largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, you can understand why as it is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest marine park and stretches over 3000km (1800 miles) along the Queensland coast from Lady Elliot Island, off the coast of Bundaberg, up past the tip of Cape York.

Cairns History

Captain James Cook journeyed up the North Queensland coast on his first Voyage of Discovery in 1770, aboard the HM Bark Endeavour, arriving on Trinity Sunday and naming the area Trinity Bay. The journey was not a pleasant one as the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most difficult waterways to navigate in the world. Captain Cook was the first known European to visit the site where today's city of Cairns is located. The tropical far north is a rugged area which proved difficult for exploring. Aboriginal tribes had over thousands of years learnt to survive the harsh environment that white settlers found so inhospitable. One hundred years later white settlement took a firm hold in the region. This can be largely credited to the severe cyclones and wet seasons, treacherous reefs, impenetrable vegetation, disease and dangerous animals.Cairns History The discovery of gold by the early explorers began this development. Cairns was officially founded in 1876 as a frontier town to support the gold rush. The city took its name from the State Governor of the day, Sir William Cairns. The initial site for Cairns was a sandy bank lined with dense rainforest and mangroves. Cairns looked like it was about to pass into obscurity until it was chosen as a starting point for a railway line that serviced the Atherton Tableland. It provided a transport route for tin and timber to shipped to southern ports. The gold rush ultimately began to die out and the people of North Queensland began to look for other ways to make a living. The flat coastal lands became major sugar cane plantations. Cairns continued to thrive with fishing and pearling becoming large industries. During World War II North Queensland played its own part. The allied forces had troops stationed throughout the region and served as a supply centre for the Pacific Fleet. There was concern that following the fall of Singapore it would be only a matter of time before the Japanese would invade Australia shores. Post war North Queensland continued to develop and became a popular holiday destination for other Australians. Appreciation and awareness of the Great Barrier Reef sparked tourism growth both domestically and internationally. In 1984 with the arrival of the international airport, major tourism boom began which transformed Cainrs from a sleepy regional town to the thriving city of today.

Atherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tableland is a fertile plateau which is part of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, Australia. It is located west to south-south-west inland from Cairns, well into the tropics, but its elevated position provides a climate suitable for dairy farming. It has an area of around 32,000 km2 with an altitude ranging between 500 and 1,280 m (1,600 and 4,200 ft). The fertility of the soils in the region can be attributed to the volcanic origins of the land. Atherton Tablelands is a high priority on many tourists lists. With many beautiful places to visit including waterfalls, volcanic crater lakes and Lake Tinaroo just to name a few.

Cooktown and Cape York

Cape York Peninsula is noted for the strong, rich culture of the Aboriginal people and their Islander neighbours of the Torres Strait. Vibrant and diverse, this region offers opportunities to absorb and connect with the ancient rhythms of this ancient land and people. Aboriginal culture - Cape York Peninsula. Aboriginal history on the Cape dates back tens of thousands of years and, at the time time of European invasion, the region consisted of forty-three tribal nations, each with its own language and traditional practices. Although many of the languages have now been lost, Traditional Owners still exist for the whole of the Cape, and an estimated ten languages and possibly hundreds of dialects continue to be spoken. Today, Aboriginal communities are dotted over the Peninsula, with diverse histories, cultures and languages.

Daintree and Cape Tribulation




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