Historical Information

The History of Cairns

Captain James Cook journeyed up the North Queensland coast on his first Voyage of Discovery in 1770, aboard the HM Bark Endeavour, arriving on Trinity Sunday and naming the area Trinity Bay.

The journey was not a pleasant one as the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most difficult waterways to navigate in the world. Captain Cook was the first known European to visit the site where today's city of Cairns is located.

The tropical far north is a rugged area which proved difficult for exploring. Aboriginal tribes had over thousands of years learnt to survive the harsh environment that white settlers found so inhospitable.

One hundred years later white settlement took a firm hold in the region. This can be largely credited to the severe cyclones and wet seasons, treacherous reefs, impenetrable vegetation, disease and dangerous animals.Cairns History

The discovery of gold by the early explorers began this development. Cairns was officially founded in 1876 as a frontier town to support the gold rush. The city took its name from the State Governor of the day, Sir William Cairns.

The initial site for Cairns was a sandy bank lined with dense rainforest and mangroves. Cairns looked like it was about to pass into obscurity until it was chosen as a starting point for a railway line that serviced the Atherton Tablelands.

It provided a transport route for tin and timber to shipped to southern ports.

historical ruins on poruma islandThe gold rush ultimately began to die out and the people of North Queensland began to look for other ways to make a living.

The flat coastal lands became major sugar cane plantations. Cairns continued to thrive with fishing and pearling becoming large industries.

During World War II North Queensland played its own part. The allied forces had troops stationed throughout the region and served as a supply centre for the Pacific Fleet. There was concern that following the fall of Singapore it would be only a matter of time before the Japanese would invade Australia shores.

Post war North Queensland continued to develop and became a popular holiday destination for other Australians. Appreciation and awareness of the Great Barrier Reef sparked tourism growth both domestically and internationally.

In 1984 with the arrival of the international airport, major tourism boom began which transformed Cainrs from a sleepy regional town to the thriving city of today.