Your Town With Cass – Cairns QLD

In this month’s Your Town with Cass column Move To More blogger and Eugowra local, Cassie Gates, chats with John Dunne about his life in the tropical town of Cairns

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Far North Queensland Sunset

What’s your Cairns story, John? 

I started a traineeship with Services Australia (previously known as Department of Social Security) after leaving high school in Central West NSW, and adventure was calling when a few friends asked, “Do you fancy coming to Cairns?”. I thought I’d stay for only 12 months, but I really fell in love with the place! I’ve thoroughly immersed myself in the Far North Queensland lifestyle. I joined a footy club, the Brothers Rugby Club, and with beautiful weather, lots to do and see and a totally different experience to inland NSW; how could I go back! 28 years later I’m still here and loving it!


What is life REALLY like in Cairns? 

As you know, we have recently experienced flooding as a result of Cyclone Jasper. We lost power for a couple of days, and there was a fair amount of damage to roads and infrastructure up here. The area is very resilient and gets back to normal quickly. It’s a shock at first when you experience a cyclone, but after that, you realise that if we all take precautions, you can return to normal relatively quickly. We are notified well before these events, and we all prepare for what might come our way.


Don’t get me wrong, the impact on the community is significant; you see friends and family who have experienced terrible damage because of the cyclones. I luckily haven’t been impacted personally. There is a great sense of community here, and when events like that happen, it is amazing to see everyone rally together to help each other; it’s wonderful.


Despite the cyclones, living here is incredible. There are around 180,000 people in Cairns. We have a mix of people who call Cairns home, from young families to retirees. We also have a lot of FIFO workers who work in the mining industry across the country and when not on site they call Cairns home. We have an incredible airport which provides flights to almost anywhere! There is a mix of nationalities that call Cairns home and as a result the place has a real multicultural feel.

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Cairns Cable Ski

What sort of jobs are available in Cairns? 

As you would expect, we have loads of tourist-related employment, but there are also many government-related jobs; federal and state governments have offices in Cairns. The hospitality industry is one of our major employers with the number of tourists we attract. Post-COVID, we have seen the Backpackers return to the area for various fruit-picking and farm-related jobs, which is excellent. COVID was a strange time in Cairns without tourists, and back-packers around.


Our major tourism season is usually during the ‘dry’ season, April through to August when it’s a little less humid and hot. But generally, there are always tourists around.



What do you do on the weekend for fun? 

When I’m not running around with the kid’s sports, I love getting out and about. Cairns is such a great base. Only an hour up the road, you can be in Port Douglas or out to the Atherton Tablelands, Mission Beach; many options exist. We have many great Breweries and Distilleries in town that always have a variety of food trucks visiting. It’s a very social lifestyle with a great live music scene. There is a place up here called The Tanks, with a stellar lineup of acts performing here. These tanks were used for fuel storage during the Second World War and are now transformed into a fantastic acoustic live music venue and arts space.

Really, it is just getting out and enjoying the outdoors, whether at the beach or inland at the many creeks and lagoons found around Cairns like Davies Creek or Crystal Cascades.

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Cardwell Spa Pools

What is the art & culture scene like? 

It is incredible! We have so many multicultural events throughout the year. At the moment, we are celebrating Chinese New Year with our many Chinese residents and tourists. The Cairns Festival in late August is a really fun weekend. We have the Italian Festival in late July or early August. Another music event that is a must is Savannah in the Round up in the Cairns Hinterland town of Mareeba.

We also have the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in July, which brings many people to town. There is always incredible art on display that weekend, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.


Is there a sporting culture in Cairns? 

Footy is very popular here in Cairns. All codes, including Rugby League, Union, and soccer, are well-supported and played. AFL is one of the biggest sports played. I’ve noticed in recent years that adventure sports, like mountain biking, have grown in popularity. We have world-class facilities at Smithfield. UCI World Championships are regularly held here, and coming up in May, we have a competition called Crankworx for 3-4 days of downhill racing action!

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I bet there are some nice restaurants/pubs to eat at in town. What ones can you recommend? 

Absolutely! Nu Nu is a must! It is up in Palm Cove, on the beach. Nick is a great chef, a modern Australian menu with an Asian twist. There is a really good Cantonese restaurant called Yum Sing; it is a local restaurant rather than a touristy one so you will find the locals prefer this one. There are some really great restaurants at The Pier, Cairns complex. To be honest, there are plenty of incredible places to eat. The food scene is simply amazing!

As I mentioned, we have a few Craft Breweries, five to be exact. My favourites are Macalister Brewing Co. I love the story behind the place. The founder, Rob, was once a school science teacher who took a year off teaching and started brewing beer! It overlooks the cane fields and has a really lovely vibe about it. Hemingway’s down on the Pier and Copperlode Brewing Co south of Cairns are also good too. There are a couple of distilleries worth mentioning, too. Wolf Lane (Cairns CBD) and Distil on the Hill which is based in Kuranda but plan to open a cellar door space in Cairns soon.

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Macalister Brewing Co
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Nu Nu Palm Cove

What are the schools like in town? 

There are some really good public and private schools here in town. To name a few, St Augustine’sSt Monica’s CollegeSt Andrew’sTrinity Anglican and Mackillop College are good private schools. My boys go to Smithfield State School and have had a great experience there. Cairns High School has a good reputation for being a ‘Sports School’ with many going on to achieve great things. Some do send kids away to boarding school in Brisbane. We have James Cook University and Central Queensland University, which have only recently opened. Again, it is excellent for the kids to get tertiary education here in Cairns without travelling away.


What is the housing situation like in the region? 

There isn’t a shortage, but the market is pretty hot! Since COVID, prices have gone up around 40%. Renting is a bit difficult, especially after the floods. Many people are displaced and are now in rental accommodation, while their homes are repaired. We are looking at 12 + months before they can return to their homes. Prices are pretty high, too. We are lucky there are plenty of tradies around, and when events like the floods and cyclones occur, we get an influx of ‘out-of-towners’ coming in to help as well.

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Port Douglas

Can you get in to see a doctor? 

It’s relatively easy up here. You can get in usually on the same day and, if not, within a few days. You probably won’t find a bulk-billing doctor as they are very scarce. No issues getting to see a doctor, though. Cairns Base Hospital provides much of what the community needs. There are a couple of private hospitals, so we have most of the medical services we need here in Cairns. Even most specialists are available here, so there is no need to travel.


Ok. Here’s your time to pitch! If you had to give someone one reason to move to Cairns, what would it be?

It has to be a lifestyle, particularly for families looking for an all-year-round outdoor lifestyle. You can get out and about and be as adventurous as you like. The thing I love about Cairns is that it is green, set along the coast and the mountain range wherever you look. Being outdoors and in nature is such a fulfilling lifestyle. It’s a big enough city to have all you need, but in some ways, it’s small enough to feel part of a community, and the family feels safe on the streets. The kids have a great life, mountain biking, fishing, playing sports and getting out to the reef; there is so much you can do here; we absolutely love it!

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Palm Cove

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