A COOL CHANGE IS COM­ING

STEP OUT OF THE HU­MID­ITY INTO NA­TURE’S AIR-CON­DI­TION­ING AND EN­JOY AN AMAZ­ING SANC­TU­ARY TO RE­JU­VE­NATE BODY AND MIND

The Northern Star - - WEEKEND - WORDS: ANN RICKARD PHO­TOS: CAIRNS RE­GIONAL COUN­CIL (MAIN) / TTNQ www.an­nrickard.com

No mat­ter how hot and hu­mid it is in Cairns, drive along Collins Av­enue in the in­ner sub­urb of Edge Hill past the botanic gar­dens and you in­stantly feel cooler.

About 10-15 min­utes from Cairns Air­port or four kilo­me­tres from the CBD, the gar­dens are a lux­u­ri­ant haven, a trop­i­cal par­adise within a trop­i­cal par­adise.

In­stantly re­lax­ing, wel­com­ing, green, cool. It’s like step­ping into na­ture’s air-con­di­tioned gar­den after be­ing out in the mid­day sun. And en­try is free.

There is a lot to do in the gar­dens and a guided tour should be your go-to if you want the Full Monty of in­for­ma­tion. A wide va­ri­ety of tours will in­clude some­thing to suit you. Stop at the in­for­ma­tion first and find out what’s go­ing on.

We chose to wan­der on our own, a cou­ple of grand­chil­dren in tow, to slowly take in the lush growth, the ver­dant abun­dance, the flour­ish­ing plants, the cool trees, the fer­tile fo­liage and tow­er­ing bam­boo.

Add in bab­bling streams, cool­ing water­ways, leafy canopies, plenty of seat­ing be­neath shady trees, grassy ar­eas for the chil­dren to romp … and you may never want to step out­side again.

The Cairns Botanic Gar­den Restau­rant within the grounds will keep you hy­drated and fed with break­fast, brunch or lunch, or for the big week­end ex­pe­ri­ence, a Sun­day cham­pagne break­fast.

Rare plants and trees through­out the gar­dens, many of them found nowhere else in the world, in­clude ex­quis­ite or­chids, trop­i­cal fruit trees, and a bevy of gin­ger plants. In­for­ma­tion boards give all the in­for­ma­tion you need to get to know all the species (if you are up to it …we think best just to ab­sorb it all nat­u­rally, let it have its way with you).

The but­ter­fly sanc­tu­ary and fern house with its daz­zling or­chid dis­plays is a high­light within the gar­dens. Be­fore we knew it, we had whiled away al­most an hour in there with the grand­chil­dren fas­ci­nated by the out­landish colours and di­verse but­ter­fly spe­cials. I think the chil­dren could name them all by the time we left the sanc­tu­ary.

Next to the botan­i­cal gar­dens, and you can walk through the gar­dens to it, is Cen­te­nary Lakes, where more than 100 bird species live.

The fresh­wa­ter lake is also home to fish and tur­tles … and … the oc­ca­sional salt­wa­ter croc who might pop in for a sticky-beak. No one, to our knowl­edge, has been harmed, even fright­ened, but you need to keep a wary eye out for beady eyes be­neath the sur­face of the wa­ter, and obey the signs. The rangers are on the con­stant look­out and quickly re­move any in­trud­ers.

Botan­i­cal gar­dens all over the world are a gift to vis­i­tors and a trea­sure to lo­cals, but a trop­i­cal gar­den is a tad above them all (in our opin­ion).

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