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The Great Walking Tracks Around Cairns
Today's people are staying active. They care about their fitness and will work for it. Fighting a winning battle for a healthy life doesn't stop at home, though. It is also important to stay fit on the road. For those who want to spend their leisure time traveling, these are the best walking tracks you can find on your visit to Cairns. These great walks offer visitors a range of experiences, from short, easy strolls of a couple of hours to full-day walks. This mix ensures that people of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to explore and enjoy the parks and rainforests in Cairns.

Flecker Botanical Gardens and Centenary Lakes

The Flecker Botanical Gardens are a tropical oasis only 5 km from the heart of the city. 38 hectares of native Australian gardens are maintained to lush standards, and many plants found here cannot be seen anywhere else. Created in 1886, many of the large plants and trees are originally from the site. Next to the Botanical Garden is another wilderness parkland called Centenary Lakes. This area has a long boardwalk that meanders through tropical rainforest and mangroves. It ends (or starts, depending on which end you begin your walk from) at a freshwater lake surrounded by a grassy park. This is a fantastic place for a picnic lunch. The extensive selection of tropical flora includes some rare plants seldom found elsewhere in the world. These include exotic species of palms, gingers and aroids. A tropical flower known as Amorphophallus Titanum lives at the park which weighs up to 70 kgs with a single leaf almost 7 meters across. The plant is only one of two found in Australia. Walking through the botanical garden is easy for all ages. Visitors are advised to apply insect repellent before visiting. Located among the plants is a coffee shop and restaurant. It is open every day for breakfast and lunch. The gardens hours are from 7.30 AM to 5.30 PM. The restaurant opens at 9.30 AM and closes at 4.30 PM. The easiest access is off Collins Ave where you have the Botanical Gardens and Centenary Lakes on both side of the road.

The Red Arrow Walk

The 1.3 km Red Arrow circuit is one of a pair of tracks leading up the Mt. Whitfield Conservation Park few kilometers north of the city. A parking area on Collins Avenue next to the Botanical Gardens is the start of the track. The hike takes approximately 40 minutes to one hour to complete, has fantastic views of the natural environment, it's used regularly by locals and can be walked or run no matter what your fitness level is, the Red Arrow is the track of choice. The high number of steps along the path is superb exercise for your legs. Approximately halfway up the Red Arrow Walk, the track splits into two and forms The Blue Arrow walk. This steep climb ascends the mountain to a height of 365 metres above sea level. It is 5.4 km long, and is solid workout for those who are fit. The track contains plenty of lookouts and rest areas along the way. The mountain is predominantly rainforest with patches of eucalyptus, grasslands, and tall bamboo. At the top of the Red Arrow walk is a spectacular view of the Cairns International Airport, take a refresh and watch a few planes fly in or just gaze over Coral Sea and Cairns city. This track is excellent for photographers looking to shoot a wonderful sunrise or sunset. It is not recommended doing the Blue Arrow track unless there is plenty of light for your return. The walk is exhausting so make sure plenty of water is taken.

Crystal Cascades

Crystal Cascades is one of the secrets of Tropical North Queensland that locals like to hide from visitors. It is a secluded freshwater swimming hole, hidden in a tropical rainforest. It makes an excellent place to take the family for a packed lunch. Picnic facilities and toilets are also available in the area. For most, the only way of discovering the presence of Crystal Cascades is by being told by a local, or unwittingly following road signs to this unique sounding place.

Even though Crystal Cascades is very popular with Cairns locals, it is not serviced by public transport. The only way to get there is by taxi, or with your own car. Be warned however, there is no mobile phone reception in the area, so if you're hoping to call a cab to drive you back into town you may be in a spot of bother. Take the drive up Reservoir Rd towards Redlynch, take the Redlynch Connection Rd turnoff and simply follow the signs to "Crystal Cascades". The lush area is about 10 kilometres from the turn-off.

This area has 3 excellent tracks, 2 easy and 1 for the fit. Cascade Walk is a concrete path that follows a freshwater creek. It has a slight incline and is only 1.2 km long. The track has relatively easy access to swimming holes which are a blessing during the warmer months. It is not recommended swimming during the wet season as the water levels can rapidly change. The tracks are in the middle of lush rainforest and can be very hot during the summer months, water is recommended especially on the longer walk to Lake Morris. Another path leaves the south corner of the car park. It follows Dowah Creek for a short distance to a small waterfall and rock pool. The return walk only takes 15 minutes.

The rough track that climbs from Crystal Cascades to Lake Morris starts just before the second picnic shelter. It is a steep climb for fit walkers and takes about an hour to get to Lake Morris. The track weaves through dense rainforest and is marked with flagging tape. It passes through open eucalypt forest then enters a complex vine forest after a short downhill section. There is a locked gate across the end of the road. Turn right and follow the main road to the second gate of the water reserve. From here it is only a short distance to the kiosk where you can get a meal and rehydrate for the walk back. The track offers many opportunities for the birdwatcher and photographer.

Although Lake Morris Road is not a walking track as such, it is a road leading to the city's water supply. The experience of the 16 km road to Lake Morris has one of the most spectacular views of Cairns. Visitors wanting to walk or run should be aware that the road is used by cars and is quite narrow. Locals can be seen cycling the 16 km route though most will walk to the look-out which is only about 5 km from the start of Lake Morris Road. Also known as Copperlode Dam the reservoir is breathtakingly beautiful. Swimming, fishing and water sports are not allowed. However, there is a kiosk, picnic and barbecue area and Wet Tropics information displays to keep visitors occupied. This is one of the most beautiful, best kept secrets in the Cairns area.

Walsh's Pyramid

Possibly the toughest track in the region! Situated 20 km to the south of Cairns is the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world. This is a natural phenomenon that is one of the most distinctive landmarks for the small sugar-farming town of Gordonvale. The mountain is 922 metres tall and quite steep so you need to be fit and healthy to make the climb. For experienced hikers, the ascent and descent can take approximately 3 hours. Allow for longer if you are not an avid hiker or if you are taking kids with you. The track is flagged with orange markers and the difficult climb takes you through bushland and up to the summit. There are very little sections that are flat and the climb basically starts as soon as you leave your vehicle. Take plenty of water with you, and make sure to apply sunscreen regularly and wear a hat. The scenery from the top of the pyramid is spectacular and takes in 360-degree views - it makes the climb worth all the effort. The walk to the top must not be attempted anytime after midday as the trek can take up to 6 hours to return. Every year in August, a "Pyramid Race" takes place where hundreds of competitors run up the hill and back again. This is reserved for masochistically fit people who like pain, but if you think you might like to give it a go there is $5000 up for grabs. It has been argued that the most difficult part of hiking Walsh's Pyramid is reaching the bottom of the mountain by car. It's not that the road is in poor condition; it's just that it's difficult to find. Here are some directions to help. The pyramid comes into view nearly as soon as you leave Cairns. This takes just under 25 minutes to get there. A sign saying Pyramid Walking Track on the right just near Gordonvale takes you on a dirt road. Continue along this track for approximately 100 metres to the parking area and the start of the walking track.

Safety Tips

Never walk alone. If you are injured you will need someone to get help. Carry adequate drinking water. Treat water collected from creeks, lakes or tanks. Plan to complete your walk well before dark. Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Use a map or track guide and compass for longer walks. Wear boots or strong shoes. Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen, a hat and a long-sleeved shirt, even on cloudy days. Be prepared for wet weather. Tell friends or family where you are going and when you expect to return. If you change your plans, inform them. Stay on the walking tracks. Do not dive or jump into lakes or creeks.
About the Author
Australian Freelance Writer Jamie Stone jamiestone4870@hotmail.com
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