Cairns Aquarium: Why We Love It

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If you want to experience all the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet or going snorkelling, then the Cairns Aquarium is the perfect place to visit.

This incredible three-level aquarium cost around $54 million to build and is home to a range of rainforest and marine life, with plenty of opportunities to see creatures you may not have ever seen before and to learn a little bit more about our reef.

The aquarium takes you on a journey from the moment you step through the front door.

Starting with a single drop of rain it follows it’s path as it travels from the rainforest into creeks, rivers, mangroves and then out to sea.

Along the way you learn about these habitats, what lives there and why they are so unique to our region.

These are all the reasons we love the new Cairns Aquarium:

1. focus on Far North Queensland

It’s the first and only aquarium in the entire world to focus on the biodiversity of Far North Queensland, taking you on a journey through the region’s 10 eco systems.

The aquarium has recreated a variety of habitats including creeks, streams, river systems, mangroves, rainforests, reef and the ocean.

2. more than fish

cairns aquariumThe Cairns Aquarium doesn’t just have fish and marine life, it also has reptiles and bugs too.

There are actually 71 different live exhibits incorporating over 15,000 aquatic animals, sharks, fish, organisms and plants.

You can see turtles, snakes, blue tongue lizards, Boyd Forest dragons, baby saltwater crocodiles, giant cockroaches, stick insects and much more.

3. dangerous creatures

stonefishYou can learn all about dangerous marine life and see them up close.

There are box jellyfish, crown-of-thorns starfish and stonefish, just to name a few, and you will be amazed when you see them.

It’s certainly worthwhile learning what they look like and how to avoid coming in contact with them in the wild.

4. coloured fish

aquarium in cairnsHave you ever wondered why fish are all different colours and not the same?

The Cairns Aquarium has an entire section of colour-coded tanks.

Each one is dedicated to different coloured fish with explanations about why we have white fish, blue fish, purple, green, yellow and black fish.

5. Tide Tank

great barrier reef aquariumThere is a tide tank, an ACTUAL tide tank!

The tide tank at the Cairns Aquarium is one of only a few in the world.

It enables you to watch what happens to the coral and marine life at low tide and then at high tide when the water level rises again.

There is also a tunnel running underneath the tide tank that visitors can climb through and pop up in the middle of to see the tank up close.

6. Touch Tanks

aquarium cairnsThe touch tanks allow visitors to handle rainforest animals and marine life.

Both touch tanks have aquarium staff on hand to help and to provide facts and information about what’s in the tanks.

The rainforest touch tank allows visitors to pat lizards and other creatures found in the forest.

The marine touch tank has starfish, sea cucumbers, urchins and baby sharks, all which are very popular.

7. Glass Tunnel Walkway

aquarium great barrier reefThis is definitely impressive and all the good aquariums have them.

There is a huge glass tunnel walkway through the largest tank at the aquarium, allowing you to watch sharks, stingrays and other marine life swim beside you and above you, as if you are not there.

You feel like you are at the bottom of the ocean and watching them go about their daily lives.

8. Reef ‘Drop Off’ Tank

sting rays great barrier reefThe 10 metre high reef ‘drop off’ tank is 8.5 metres wide and shows exactly what the reef is like far off shore and is only ever normally seen by scuba divers.

The tank is two-storeys high and you can sit and observe the marine life in this tank from either the bottom or second floor of the aquarium.

9. Sleep with the Sharks

Now, obviously you can’t get in the tank with them (for health and safety reasons) but the Cairns¬†Aquarium is going to offer ‘sleepovers’ on Saturday nights where visitors can sleep underneath the shark tank.

It means shark-lovers get to watch them when the lights go out and observe their behaviour in a dark and quiet environment.

10. Restaurant

The Cairns Aquarium restaurant, ‘Aqualuna’, has a floor-to-ceiling, 70,000 litre tank with marine life providing a spectacular backdrop for diners.

The restaurant has been themed as ‘Under the Pier’ and the enormous fish tank at the back of the restaurant really is amazing.

Photos: Fiona Arnfield and Amanda Cranston

travel nq fast facts:

  • The Cairns Aquarium is located at 5 Florence Street, close to the city centre and close to the shops, restaurants and Esplanade.
  • It is open 9am-5pm every day.

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