Cairns & Port Douglas

A work colleague told me that she and her partner were taking a cruise (on a ship) along the east coast and will be visiting Cairns and Port Douglas. I told her I would send an email with suggestions of places to visit. The reality is that ship to shore visits are a waste of time. You don’t get to see and experience the real thing in the town. Not like when you live there for a decent period. On a ship visit, you just get to do a few mainies (ie. a walk down the main street), have a coffee, maybe a meal and buy a souvenir.
Anyway, in case you are passing by or decide to take the Love Boat, then the following email may be of interest.
Here’s my email to her.

Hi Jessica

Here are some tips on what to see and do in Cairns and Port Douglas.

In Cairns:
  • Visit St. Monica’s Catholic Cathedral, 181 Abbott Street (15 minutes walk from CBD); rather ordinary from the outside, but inside - you must see the 24 huge lead-light windows that depict creation (or evolution) with an Australian tropical theme. I was blown away! Spend 40 minutes in the church. Click here to view images inside the church
  • Visit the Botanical Gardens. Due to time constraints just visit the newly opened butterfly and orchid enclosure. Fantastic orchids and you will see the big blue Ulysses butterflies. Free. Take a taxi. I caught a public bus.
  • A lot of crap souvenir shops. Cheap stuff from China. Avoid these.
  • Visit UnderArt Gallery (shop) at 12 Spence Street. You will buy something. Best shop in Cairns. I went there several times. Bought forks, cheese knives, cheese cutter, …
  • Visit Crystal Cave (shop) at 14 Spence Street. You might buy something.
  • For the best coffee in Cairns, visit BlackBird Espresso, in Oceana Walk, off Lake Street. My rating 10/10. Oceana Walk runs between Lake Street and Grafton Street.
  • Across the road from BlackBird, on Grafton Street is Rusty’s Market, open Friday – Sunday. Buy tropical fruit (pawpaw, giant pink, sweet grapefruit, giant passion fruit etc.) to take back to the ship to ripen onboard.
  • You may care to visit KickArts Contemporary Arts Galley, 96 Abbott Street, perhaps on the way to St Monica’s. They have great souvenirs for sale. No cheap and nasties.

In Port Douglas:
  • The best coffee in town is at Origin, 21 Warner Street. Be careful, the place has attitude. You walk past it on the way up from the wharf. My rating 10/10.
  • The next best coffee place is Sparrow, 39 Macrossan Street. Takeaway only. I sat on the display furniture out the front. If you want exceptional milk then go there.
  • Visit a quaint little church (St Mary’s) on the foreshore.
  • Not much else to do in town other than shop and perhaps get a massage.
  • Shops are cheaper in Cairns; but fashion is probably higher in Port Douglas

Regards, Bob Schnell


  1. I have heard of the lead light windows in St Monica's Cathedral.
    I must get up there one day.

  2. So did you see it as creation or evolution?

  3. It depends on your viewpoint.
    You could either see it as depicting creation or evolution.
    Standing in a cathedral it did lead me to ponder.
    Whatever, it is a magnificent display of life forming on earth with an Australian flavour.


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