The 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer Esplanade Boardwalk is the heartbeat of Cairns. Running along the scenic coast in the Cairns CBD, the promenade features picturesque lawns and landscaped parklands along the palm-fringed waterfront. It’s the perfect place for joggers, cyclists, and travelers to stretch their legs and take in the sights.
The main draw along the Cairns Esplanade is its human-made saltwater swimming lagoon, carved out of the city’s reclaimed foreshore. The timber boardwalk has picnic areas, birdwatching vantage points, sculptures, and free-to-use barbecue facilities and fitness equipment. Just north of the lagoon, Muddy's Playground has water park features, rope bridges, slides, and more for younger children.
The Esplanade Boardwalk is a typical stop on Cairns sightseeing tours. Bicycle tours in particular offer the opportunity to check off multiple other attractions—such as the Botanical Gardens and St. Monica’s Cathedral—in just one day while soaking in the views at a more relaxed pace than on a bus tour.
Things to know before you go
- Lifeguards patrol the lagoon daily.
- The lagoon is free to enter.
- Swimming off the natural beach in front of the lagoon is not allowed because of the presence of crocodiles and marine stingers.
- There are several restroom and shower facilities along the Esplanade.
How to get there
The Esplanade Boardwalk is centrally located in Cairns CBD, and within walking distance of several major hotels and attractions, such as St. Monica’s Cathedral. It’s a 10-minute drive from the airport. There is parking along the length of the Esplanade and on-street car parking spaces throughout Cairns CBD. Parking restrictions and fees may apply.
When to get there
The numerous scenic viewpoints along the Esplanade make it a particularly attractive place to take in at sunrise or sunset. The lagoon is open from early morning until late evening daily, except Wednesdays when it is closed until midday for maintenance. Playgrounds are open from mid-morning to mid-evening. Concerts, festivals, and markets regularly take place on the Esplanade; check its website for details.
Memorials on the Esplanade
Cairns’ rich history is highlighted in the memorials and monuments along the Esplanade foreshore. The most notable include the Cairns Cenotaph and memorial site, which honors the 142 men and women from the region who served in WWI, and the Merchant Navy Memorial dedicated to Australia's commercial shipping crews who served in WWII.
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