Warwick Daily News - - Weekend - WORDS: ANN RICKARD Read more of Ann at www.an­nrickard.com

If some­one had told me I’d hate win­ter in South­east Queens­land I would have scoffed. In fact, I did scoff. Newly ar­rived from Mel­bourne in July of 1993, I found it dif­fi­cult to be­lieve any­one in this en­chant­ing sub-trop­i­cal re­gion would com­plain about a 9C start to a win­ter morn­ing. I was used to a zero-de­gree wake-up.

But that was more than two decades ago and now I’m a lo­cal who hates the chill of win­ter in South­east Queens­land.

Es­cap­ing to Europe ev­ery Aus­tralian win­ter is the ideal sce­nario, but not so easy on the bud­get. Best al­ter­na­tive? Head north.

Cairns is beau­ti­ful in the win­ter. Gone is the hair-frizzing hu­mid­ity of the sum­mer months, fin­ished are the heavy trop­i­cal down­pours of Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary and over are the sweaty nights of rest­less sleep.

Ahead it is just blue skies and sun­shine with av­er­age tem­per­a­tures of 25C from June through to the end of Au­gust. Swim­ming ev­ery day, cool nights with­out need of heavy jack­ets, lush, trop­i­cal growth at ev­ery turn – there is a lot to ap­pre­ci­ate in a north­ern es­cape.

Cairns seems to be boom­ing now. Cranes dot the sky­line along The Es­planade, the hand­some Cairns Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre is just about com­pleted and ready to open af­ter the for­mer lesser build­ing was razed. The arts cen­tre over­looks Munro Martin Park where the fairy lights in the trees twin­kle mag­i­cally at night. This rest­ful park in the heart of the city is an oasis of trop­i­cal style with vine-cov­ered walk­ways and lush lawns lead­ing to an enor­mous stage, the place for free con­certs and events through­out the year.

The reef might have had its un­wanted share of bad pub­lic­ity over the past few years but the boats are leav­ing the ma­rina ev­ery morn­ing loaded with pas­sen­gers for a big day out – so some­thing good still re­mains out there.

Food tastes bet­ter in the north – maybe it’s the colours of the trop­i­cal fruit at Rusty’s Mar­ket, those big golden man­goes, gi­ant av­o­ca­dos and vi­brant limes. They sell for just a cou­ple of dol­lars, even less if you poke around the mar­ket at clos­ing time and ven­dors, keen to get rid of their prod­uct, prac­ti­cally give it away.

Fresh seafood – oh my – this is the place to let your­self loose. The co­ral trout is crumbed and moist and de­li­cious at Salt House Res­tau­rant on the ma­rina and comes with ex­cel­lent rus­tic chips and views of the moun­tains and ocean on Trin­ity In­let. It is as trop­i­cal North Queens­land as it gets.

Swim­ming in the la­goon on The Es­planade could be a daily ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially if you get up early and join in one of the free fit­ness classes be­fore. The la­goon with its sandy beach, grassy sur­rounds and clean, blue wa­ter is both re­lax­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing, and then it’s just a few steps across the road to res­tau­rant par­adise with more choices than you can cope with.

You can live cheaply in Cairns if your bud­get de­mands it. The la­goon is free, as are the many art gal­leries dot­ted around the city.

A walk through the lush rain­for­est of the Botan­i­cal Gar­dens costs you noth­ing. If you are fit, a hike along The Red Ar­row is free and will re­ward you with yet more ver­dant rain­for­est and a spec­tac­u­lar look­out at the crest.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions are many in Cairns with plenty of ho­tel choices from the high end to the bud­get. But if you are look­ing at a long win­ter break, an apart­ment is best, es­pe­cially one close enough to town to make walk­ing the best choice, and there is a wide va­ri­ety of apart­ment choices avail­able.

So come June, or even ear­lier if you feel cold, head north.

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