It’s often the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef that draws visitors to Cairns, but the natural beauty found back on land is another great reason to visit. Lush, green, and with a touch of wilderness, this tropical city has a rainforest feel only a few miles from the coast. One of the best places to experience this scenery is at the Flecker Botanic Gardens—specifically inside the swampy section known as Centenary Lakes.
Connected to the main Botanic Garden by a boardwalk along the water, the Centenary Lakes house a flotilla of water lilies and over 130 species of birds. The park around the freshwater lake is perfect for a midday picnic, where ducks and turtles casually stroll the manicured, park-like grounds. The adjoining section with the salt water lake is where the park gets a little wilder, as dense mangroves and a rainforest boardwalk create a true wilderness surrounding. While rare, salt water crocodiles have sometimes been seen poking their eyes from the lake, which adds a legitimate degree of adventure to wandering the forested grounds.
The Centenary Lakes are within Flecker Botanic Gardens about 2.5 miles from the city center. There is no official admission fee, although donation boxes are scattered about the park to help with the upkeep and facilities. Opening hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on every day of the year, and the dry season from May-October is a comfortable time to visit.