Palm Cove and an army of brides

Palm Cove and an army of brides

It’s one of North Queensland’s prettiest, most stylish beaches, and this weekend (while visiting newly wedded friends, Kellie and Damian on their honeymoon) we spotted five weddings along the beach at Palm Cove! Great that they all chose Saturday afternoon (because it was gorgeous, especially compared with Sunday which was a bit drizzly and disgusting); but I was wondering how they all came to divvy up a spot on the beach front. Seems all went off without a hitch though, and we didn’t notice any runaway brides later on in the evening – just a few tipsy revellers resort-hopping.  Seems it ’tis the season for tying the knot, but we were just as happy watching the spectacle and indulging in $10 cocktails during Vivo‘s happy hour from 3pm. This 2-minute video offers a dreamy snapshot of what it’s like in this idyllic little beach precinct 25-minutes drive from Cairns (on the way to Port Douglas):



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Tropical delights in Cairns Queensland

Tropical delights in Cairns Queensland

CIAF and Cairns Festival are just two of the exciting events on the horizon; in eager anticipation then, here are some of the city’s best travel secrets. 

[re-blogged from the 2012 archives: Please note, check the website for this year’s details – Cairns Festival and Cairns Indigenous Art Fair]

Everyone has heard of Cairns. It’s just a little bit famous because of … what was it again? Oh that’s right, the Great Barrier Reef! Did you know that between June and September is the best time to visit Cairns? Not only is the weather generally perfect, but this contemporary little city by the sea is a hive of activity and at the height of its annual tourist and festival season.

As you read this story, Cairns Festival will just about be ready to launch, as will the extraordinary Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) which showcases Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Cairns Festival is the city’s lively annual event celebrating life in the ‘Far North’. When I was a little kid growing up in Cairns, the festival used to be called Fun in the Sun – actually, quite an accurate description! Across September, the fun continues because from around September 15 for a couple of weeks you can take part in any number of Peace Week / multicultural festival activities. It’s like the party never stops (actually, ask some backpackers in the north and they’ll tell you it doesn’t in Cairns), because the city centre and Esplanade will be alive with entertainment, markets, art exhibitions, drama, comedy, dance and much more. On September 21 (International Day of Peace), a special welcome will be hosted by Study Cairns for international students in the region (a very popular study tourism destination), and a huge free concert, the RUTHLESS Festival, will take place. In fact, this event will be broadcast live around the globe with simultaneous peace concerts being held in New Zealand, London, Paris, New Orleans, Hiroshima, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Ireland, Kashmir, and Cairns has been selected as the representative location for Australia!

With cheap flights, school holidays and a little window of ‘escape’ on offer before the Christmas rush settles in, now would be a terrific time to head north for a long, relaxing, fun weekend away.

What else to do

The city is a playground for those who want adventure, romance, delicious dining options or just a bit of R&R. A brand new phone APP, Taste Paradise, was recently released that offers details on numerous self-guided food and wine trails throughout the region. One such trail takes visitors up to the picturesque Atherton Tablelands where you can explore organic farms, vast swimming and kayaking areas formed of extinct volcanoes, and the interesting Herberton Historic Village, an outdoor museum showcasing Australia’s pioneer heritage.

Obviously you will want to experience the Reef while in Cairns. Day-trips abound, just visit the convenient tour offices on the waterfront, or check with your hotel for suitable options. For an unsurpassed experience, consider investing in a chartered helicopter flight with Skysafari.

Kuranda is a quaint village in the rainforest, 25-minutes from Cairns, famous for its fabulous markets. You can drive, or take the popular Kuranda Scenic Train – and why not come back down to Cairns via the Skyrail cable-car for views that stretch across Cairns, the Reef and surrounding landscapes. If you’re keen for a bit of culture then Cairns offers several options in the form of JUTE Theatre (located in town; where you’ll catch quality, locally produced theatre), TANKS Arts Centre (nestled in a rainforest enclave close to the city, often featuring live music and chic clientele), and the world-renowned Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. For more travel inspiration download another brand new APP, ‘Tropical North Queensland’.


The Pier Bar by the waterfront offers delicious $12 meals, $5 pizzas and a great kids menu all week, drink specials and a vibrant ambiance. If you’re seeking something a little more stylish, book a table at the divine Salt House by the marina. Indulge in fine fare then dance the night away as a band and DJ enter the premises after dinner.

Locals adore the super cute Candy Cafe Bar, 70 Grafton Street, particularly for its quaint decor and interesting variations on breakfast options. If you’re on holidays and keen to let your hair down, stop by the sexy Attic Bar on Grafton Street, renowned for delicious $6 cocktails on Friday nights after 9pm. For a low-key but glamorous evening out, you can’t go wrong with Bar8 below the Shangri-La Hotel on the waterfront – decadent food options, lovely wine list and views to die for.


Cairns Central is a large shopping centre in the middle of town. It’s a vibrant space to explore all the usual chains at your leisure. If eclectic is more ‘you’, take a wander down Grafton Street (between Spence and Aplin Streets) which is popular for its collection of chic boutiques, eateries and left-of-centre shopping experiences. Keep an eye out for markets along the Esplanade – perfect for souvenir hunting; and don’t miss the vast night markets located under-cover, 71-75 The Esplanade, 7 days.


Doubletree by Hilton (formerly Holiday Inn) on Cairns’ Esplanade is a family-friendly, economical option boasting a variety of rates, on-site restaurant and convenient, waterfront location – prices start at around $150 per night. You’ll love the luxury of Shangri-La by the marina (from $200 per night), with resort pool, surrounded by restaurants and spa options. Rydges Plaza is located amongst the city action, a few blocks back from the Esplanade, priced from $130 per night. This hotel has recently revamped its delicious buffet breakfast options, and often offers competitive rates for couples and families. Cairns is quite aged and disabled-friendly too, and if you need to hire equipment for family members, Phoenix Healthcare will be able to assist.


Escape the city limits to a serene little spot called Trinity Beach, just 20-minutes drive from the centre of Cairns (on the way towards Kewarra Beach, Palm Cove and Port Douglas). Here you will discover all the attributes of other more famous Queensland beaches – soft sand, warm ocean – but without the crowds. In fact, sometimes you will enjoy having the entire beach to yourself. If you get bored or hungry though, pop across the road to the terrific Trinity Beach tavern, or indulge in fine Italian at a favoured local haunt, L’Unico’s.

Images courtesy Cairns Festival and Tropical Tourism North Queensland.
What didn’t I do in Cairns this past weekend?

What didn’t I do in Cairns this past weekend?

Things to do in Cairns Queensland

The weather has been so perfect here that I decided to take the chopper out for a spin …


Oh wait, that’s not mine – I get so easily confused these days. Alas, I was on foot on Friday, headed firstly towards Canopy Arts Space on Grafton Street to find out all about Inkfest initiatives (awesome!)  + Inkmasters as part of Festival Cairns.


Inkfest is an innovative addition to Cairns Festival showcasing the fascinating and diverse artform of printmaking 17 August – 2 September, 2012. The Inkfest program includes a number of inter-related printmaking activities, for indigenous and non-indigenous artists, emerging and experienced professional artists, and community engagement. It includes two exhibitions, at the Tanks Arts Centre and Canopy Artspace (pictured below), where some of the best local print media artists will be showing works alongside Australia’s most celebrated printmakers.


Visitors are welcome to drop by the gallery on Grafton Street – it’s huge, interesting and informative. Well worth it!

Next on Friday’s adventure …


It’s not as scary as it looks. A bunch of travel journalists and I visited James Cook University’s Cairns campus to explore some uniquely ‘Tropical North Queensland’ areas of education.


Baby Nemo! :-)

We went behind the scenes of a marine research centre that is used to film nature docos including the BBC’s The Great Barrier Reef that aired internationally earlier this year. And we discovered impressive research into the Eliminate Dengue project.


It was actually really interesting to hear about this research, and we did learn that mozzies are attracted to those of us who have ‘hotter body temperatures’ or people wearing dark clothes – so be warned.

The aim of the experiment is to breed the dengue gene out of the mozzies that have it, then all these new mozzies are released into the ‘wild’ to hopefully breed with the other evil mozzies. Such amazing stuff – but we don’t envy the poor guys at JCU who are continually getting bitten!

All this talk of mosquitoes made me thirsty, so we decided to nip out for a quiet Friday afternoon drink at The Pier Bar. A few champers later and it was time to dance, so we visited one of my fave clubs in town, The Attic. Even discovered an awesome new mix of Super Bass mixed by Liam Keegan (love it).

Attic DJ you *rock* for sharing Liam’s details with us! Cheers to you :-)




OMG… empty much?


Panic over… thank you kind lady. BTW these fab cocktails (think Appletinis, Cosmos, Martinis) are all just $6 at The Attic on Friday nights – they have a new menu and are testing it out. Bargain!


We’re looking to reno our bathroom soon (too much The Block for us, methinks) so paid a visit to Status Plus‘ fabulous showroom in Cairns on Saturday morning. Good timing too – they were hosting an outdoor broadcast with Zinc FM, there were cook-offs, demonstrations and much more. Big thanks to Shar’ron for all her knowledge and help during the morning. One such delight we discovered was this magic tap – the stream is blue when it’s cold, and red when … you guessed it, hot.

Beer o’clock (actually, we were waiting for Cooper’s mum who got lost among the Cairns shops – as you do), so we decided to take a quick pit stop at The Courthouse, sipping on $4 Coronas under the winter sunshine. .


On Sunday, after a little morning clean up and walk with the dog, we took a drive to stunning Paradise Palms Resort & Country Club for a catch-up with some friends and family. Nice day for it too.


There’s a beautiful under cover dining area, and Sunday was blissful here. We ate, drank and were merry.


Then? Time for a nap!


Too hot? Too wet? So what?! Add FNQ to your dream destination list this year.

Too hot? Too wet? So what?! Add FNQ to your dream destination list this year.

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For some reason many Aussies perceive that Cairns is simply too hot to visit. Further to that, thanks to so much negative press regarding cyclones people often assume it’s hot and wet. Has anyone been watching the weather channel this summer? Temps everywhere else in the country over Christmas, for example, were over 35 degrees yet Queensland, and in particular the Far North, were cool – under 30. Granted, it’s not always like that, however, everywhere in Australia is hot over summer, so don’t let this be a factor deterring your trip to the gorgeous tropical north. Similarly, the wet season is a part of life. Again, where has it been raining severely this year though? Down south!

Importantly, when you’re on holidays does it really matter if it’s hot and wet? No!

As a fan of North Queensland, and as someone who has been lucky to see some amazing places around the world I’d like to set the record straight. Not only is Far North Queensland one of the most gorgeous places in the world – literally – think about what you would be missing if you judged the region on negative connotations?

Nowhere else can you visit The Great Barrier Reef in all its glory. You’ll also discover rainforest, super chic clubs, bars and restaurants… it’s like Summer Bay!

Recently, Chinese visitors told us that this is a perfect area to experience what life is really like in a small Aussie city by the sea. Not only is Cairns a terrific city – unlike any other small city in Australia – but from this base you can choose your own adventure – head to Tully for some exciting White Water Rafting, go up the mountain to shop at the Kuranda markets or bungy jump with AJ Hackett. Not keen to hang out in the city if its due to rain? Easy fix – take a drive to the Atherton Tablelands and visit Mareeba – famous for its sunny weather 300 days a year! Escape to a sublime beach not overcrowded with tourists – try Trinity Beach just twenty minutes from Cairns, or drive along the highway to luxurious Palm Cove or Port Douglas. On this note, if you want to experience one of the most beautiful drives in Australia, take the coastal road from Cairns to Port Douglas – you’ll see what I mean!

Shopping, dining, spas, animal adventures, reef, rainforest, typical Aussie country towns – from a city by the sea to the true blue Aussie Outback – it’s all accessible within one idyllic location. Consider a $5000 budget for the ultimate vacation… I’m dreaming of lush resorts at Palm Cove, several divine spa treatments (why not one in each luxe stop – Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Cairns), delectable dining at L’Unico Italian Restaurant (Trinity Beach), cocktails at Salt House by the marina in Cairns, a shopping spree at DFO and several trips to the rainforest and the reef!

Perfect for families, couples, backpackers or honeymooners. Everyone who visits Cairns loves it! It’s the ideal place to boost Vitamin Me levels, and with more flights just added to the schedule from all major cities into the Far North, there’s never been a better time to design your own unforgettable adventure under the Queensland sun. And if it happens to rain, who cares? There’s always something fabulous to do in FNQ regardless!


Image from TTNQ/TQ.




Alight Here (series): London Fields

Alight Here (series): London Fields

All about London Fields

I’m presently sitting under a sky threatening to pour with rain (probably no different from 300 years ago); there’s some kind of Reggae music playing loudly over the bar’s sound system, Wimbledon screening live on the surrounding TVs and the simultaneous sounds of coffee and beers being expertly served.

Pub on the Park          pub on the aprk

A couple of minutes walk up the road on Hackney‘s high street, people are going about their Friday afternoon business: shopping for the weekend, rounding up their day’s work and preparing to head to the closest pub for a traditional Friday afternoon pint (again, I imagine this is no different to 300 years ago, where apparently there was something like 21 pubs along the main streets in this precinct… it must have been just like Shoreditch High Street today)!

  London Fields 1                londond ields 1

Hackney, the borough in which London Fields belongs, was the largest parish in the county of Middlesex. Being so very close to the City of London, the ‘suburb’ as we would deem it in Australia, had been a favourite residence of wealthy Londoners for several hundred years. Hackney was known for its healthy air and pure spring waters, and apparently became increasingly attractive following the Great Plague of London in 1665, because comparatively, with only 132 deaths, the region had not been extensively affected. The following year of course, was the Great Fire in London, which was further cause for residents to seek alternative locations to live. The area where we reside today was attractive to wealthy ‘locals’ who wished to be close to the Court, entertainment and the financial centre of the Kingdom; but because there was so much space available, these residents could also enjoy the benefits of ‘country living’ – I definitely wouldn’t deem the area ‘country’ today – imagine that!

londond ields 4


Hackney was declared in 1756 to “excel all other villages in the Kingdom in the ‘opulence’ of its inhabitants” (trust us to like it here then, although we are only a couple of hundred years too late)!


I’ve just seen a dog that very closely resembles an Australian Kelpie, jumping around on top of a pile of grass and dirt that the council has obviously recently cleaned up. He proudly produces a large stick to his owner, then proceeds to dig for other inevitable hidden treasures. It seems appropriate though, that this dog should be here playing amongst the others (all small ‘toy’ dogs by comparison), because as I study an old map of the area, I notice that there are many references to its farming past: Sheep Lane, Mutton Lane, Lamb Lane (now Forest Road) and the popular Cat & Mutton pub (in the 1800s known as Shoulder of Mutton and Cat) on a diagonal corner from where I’m located at this very moment. The Cat & Mutton is positioned on the corner of Broadway Market (as it was eventually Christened in 1937), the area that will be buzzing with its lively Saturday market tomorrow (as it is every weekend), and that was evidently developed to its present state in around 1860. Until the 1860s (when apparently much of the area was finally built-up), the whole precinct was in fact pastureland. It would have been a bit like Cairns when I was growing up. Again, imagine that!

 autumn-leaves-through-the-window    broadway markets


At the moment (as I wait patiently for the crowd at the bar to fall back so I can order another beverage) I gaze out upon the famous old trees of what is now known as London Fields (park). These trees are over 100 years old (and actually quite similar to those lining Ruthven and Margaret Streets in Toowoomba (Queensland) outside the Grammar School – somehow I always knew those trees reminded me of England, although I’d never been here…). I can imagine the cricket games that were played (the first recorded here was actually in 1802 when a team of ’11 gentlemen’ from Clapton played a local team of ’11 gentlemen’ for a wager of 500 guineas); and military training that occurred (first for fear of French invasions, then German…).

What those trees must have seen. And what they’ve survived! I was saddened to read the date, September 21, 1940, when the area was heavily bombed – Richmond Road and Eleanor Road received direct hits.

Surprisingly, given its prosperous past and thriving development booms, the ‘east’ fell into misfortune around the turn of century (during the Industrial Revolution), and the situation continued to worsen following the two world wars, and then a string of government decisions and funding cuts that negatively affected the surrounding areas. Prior to moving to London even I was prejudiced against the area, claiming “I don’t want to go east”. Again, I learn my lesson to not judge before I’ve experienced! Turns out the ‘East’ is undergoing a renaissance – a reformation, if you will. With the opening of the brand new London Overground line but one year ago, the area has transformed overnight from being under serviced and lacking transport and convenience amenities, to being super-trendy, popular with young and old alike (although there is an extremely contemporary crowd that floats around London Fields each weekend… you know, like us ;-) ; there are new apartment developments surrounding every stop along this convenient and extensive modern London train line (including Haggerston, Hoxton, Dalston and Hackney), and once again the gorgeous Georgian period homes that we’re so enamoured of are reflecting their former glory, as the area resurrects into what we anticipate will one day, once again, be one of the areas to reside in London.