Cairns, Australia & environs - nice to visit? Nice to live there?

I just saw a short documentary about the rain forests in Australia, and I think it was focused on the NE corner where Cairns is. Then they showed a residential area of a town or city and the houses looked very nice, all the living was on the 2nd floor to allow air flow, and to avoid flooding during the heavy rains. They didn’t seem to use air conditioning, just ceiling fans and open windows (made me wonder about insects and other pests too).

Weather type maps show this area as hot and humid. Worse than Hawaii (as an example)? How’s the economy?

Tell me what you know. I’m thinking maybe I should retire there.
Roddy (in the USA)

Yes, nice to visit; I don’t live there, but after a holiday, my husband and I have been thinking about moving one day. A lot of people do retire up that way.

Positives: you’re right on the Great Barrier Reef. Rainforests. International airport on your doorstep. Great facilities in town. In winter, it’s still summer (think the best of Florida winters).

Negatives: tropical cyclones and resultant damage and flooding. Shitloads of tourists every year. Mosquitoes and related diseases like Ross River, dengue, chikingunya. In summer, it’s even more summer (think the worst of Florida summers).

Cairns is 16 degrees south. So more than Florida (25 north) your equivalent would be Central America e.g. Guatemala. Hawaii is 21 north.

Oh yes they do. The old style “Queenslanders” were built because the elavation allows a degree of cooling and because evapourative air conditioners don’t work well in that level of humitity. Reverse-cycle aircon sells very well in Far North Queensland (as the southerners retiring into the north).

+1 on the the shitloads of tourists … seemingly predominantly Scandinavian

Do Ozzies pronounce it as “Cans”? That’s how a friend who’d been there said it when she was telling me about her trip down under. For a while, I couldn’t figure out why she was suddenly talking about the French Riviera (a lot of North Americans pronounce Cannes as cans; not me of course).

Yes they do, I don’t know why. They insist on pronouncing NZ cricketer Chris Cairns’ name the same way.

The Aussie pronunciation of Cairns can be slightly different from the Aussie pronunciation of Cans, but they’d sound identical to anyone else.

OP: roughly 1% of Australians live in Far North Queensland. You might take that as meaning it’s an unspoiled and quiet place. Or, as a sign that even Australians can’t stand that kind of weather.

Disagree. We say “kænz”. I suppose it might sound a bit like “cans” if the speaker has a Qld accent, though… :slight_smile:

OP, before you make any plans, check out the logistics of retiring to Australia.

Cost of living is also very high, especially in more remote areas.

Lots of older houses in tropical north Australia have the open plan thing down - with screens, to protect you from those disease-ridden mozzies. But they’re not too cyclone proof, so modern houses tend to be air-conditioned concrete boxes. Unglamourous, maybe, but sturdy.

This sort of thing is my exposure to the Australian pronunciation of Chris Cairns.

I worked up that way (Well, Townsville, so not quite as far north as Cairns, but still Far North Queensland) for a bit a few years back and my overwhelming recollection:
Soooo Hooooot.

The scenery was incredible and locals extremely friendly, but the heat, risk of cyclones and the reduced infrastructure etc means it wouldn’t be my first choice of places to live. However, I can see why a lot of people like to retire up there.

I was going to mention the cyclones. That would be a deal breaker for me. It seems there’s no such thing as paradise, everywhere has a downside and it’s usually severe destructive weather.

I used to work for a company that had bases in Cairns, Darwin, and Broome. Cairns was the most stable base as it was the pick of the bunch. Probably says more about Darwin and Broome than Cairns though. It is a nice spot to visit and I wouldn’t say it is hot so much as humid. Melbourne and Adelaide get a lot hotter than the tropical north although not as consistently.

And the Australians do seem to pronounce Cairns’ name oddly - whereas I (not born in Australia) would pronounce it something like “Kaerns”, the Aussies all seem to pronounce it something like “Kannz” or “Karnz”.

I’ll echo what most others have said. It’s a nice area of Australia, but watch the heat. It’s a humid heat that if you’re not used to it can be very draining.

Don’t buy into the whole, open windows thing. Any house built in the last 20 years at least will very likely have A/C.

I wouldn’t get too worked up about the whole cyclone thing. As long as you’re prepared, and don’t do anything stupid you’ll be fine. Building standards since the late 70’s (post Cyclone Tracy) make any building constructed after that able to withstand any cyclone.

The cost of living may be an issue if you’re looking at Cairns for retirement. Australia is an expensive place to live. Particularly if you want to buy a house. The property market is a nightmare, although Cairns is not too bad if you’re comparing to say Sydney. If you’re curious go to and have a look at property prices. Youch.

Since someone started in on the accents, be prepared for the localism to end virtually all their sentences with an ‘eh’. It’s a North Queensland thing.

My sister has lived in Cairns for nearly 20 years. Her house is not a Queenslander, but one of the modern concrete boxes (with an irregular shape), on the side of a hill so it has a lower level for garage and a bedroom. When they moved in there was no a/c, only ceiling fans. As the years have passed and she and hubby get older, more rooms have had a/c added (split unit reverse cycle heat pump style, not central). The wet season, our summer, is diabolical as far as humidity goes. Temps around 30 degrees with high 90s humidity for weeks on end, and lots of drizzly rain outside. My mother (in her 80s) usually goes to stay with her during the winter but has to come home again in October before the temp and humidity starts rising to uncomfortable levels.

As others have said, it does get cyclones there (hurricanes in North American terms) Nothing as devastating as Cyclone Tracey in Darwin in 1974, but non-trivial damage can occur.

If you live a bit further from the coast, Kuranda is nice but small and it’s up a hill so benefits from lower temps. Also Mareeba which is inland a bit further again and at 400 odd metres. It still has a tropical feel with maximum temps up to 38 degrees in January but can actually get close to frosts sometimes during the winter.

The Great Barrier Reef extends for 1200 km along the Australian east coast and there are many tours available from Cairns or Port Douglas to various parts of the reef off shore. That and the rain forest in the area are the main attractions for tourists. Ocean swimming is something I am reluctant to take part in from the mainland. There are warning signs at all main beaches about sharks, crocodiles and stingers. They’re enough to put me off. However, diving or snorkelling out on the reef is great. Too far out for most crocs and the stingers hug the shoreline. Only the possibility of sharks to worry about.

If you want to visit, go during the dry season, April through to October. November starts to get too hot and also starts to get wet and the humidity rises. Cyclone season is also November through to May.

Cairns is relatively isolated from the rest of Australia too. Its about 350km south to Townsville, the next major city. North, there’s virtually nothing past Cooktown which is 330km from Cairns. West, there’s a whole lot of nothing for hundreds of kms to the Gulf of Carpentaria for more nothing. (There are a few towns out there but their total population would only be between 1 and 2 thousand people.)

Wow, I read the first part of the logistics and thought that I could (barely) make those, then the second part knocked me right out. Bye bye, Australia, I won’t be moving there.

Exactly the response they want I imagine. Why would they make it easy for someone who has never paid a cent of taxes to the country to retire here?


The speed bumps on the road to the Daintree change location every night.