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How to Get Your Arts and Culture Fix in Tropical North Queensland

Explore beachfront markets, local art galleries and a tropical gin distillery.
By Eliza Crisp
March 01, 2022
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By Eliza Crisp
March 01, 2022
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HOW TO GET YOUR ARTS AND CULTURE FIX IN TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND

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Explore beachfront markets, local art galleries and a tropical gin distillery.

Tropical North Queensland is so rich in natural beauty that it's easy to forget that the region also boasts an impressive art scene. Local and international artists flock to the tropics, finding inspiration in the stunning scenery throughout the area. From local theatres and art galleries, to beachside markets and concert venues, there are plenty of ways to get your culture fix while in the tropics. 

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    Tanks Art Centre

    Ever been to a concert inside a WWII-era decommissioned oil storage tank? Head to Tanks Art Centre you can tick that off your bucket list. When the Cairns Regional Council was looking to reimagine the local Cairns Botanic Gardens precinct, it decided to get a little bit creative.

    The three enormous tanks now make up a multi-use arts centre, with sheer concrete walls and oil-daubed fixtures giving the venue a mysterious charm. Local and international acts perform in the main space, which boasts a 650-person capacity and a fully licensed bar. 

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    See a Live Show

    Cairns has two incredible venues located in the CBD where you can catch a local production — JUTE Theatre Company and the state-of-the-art Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC).

    JUTE’s upcoming production of Queenslandera darkly funny political drama – will run from Friday, March 11 till Saturday, March 19 at Bulmba-ja Arts Centre. Nearby, CPAC will showcase a mix of local and international entertainment including the mesmerising production of The Wider Earth by Brisbane theatre company Dead Puppet Society.

     

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    Cairns Art Gallery

    Cairns Art Gallery is a charming creative space housed in a repurposed heritage building dating back to 1936. This three-storey public gallery is home to both traditional First Nations artworks and contemporary works, allowing visitors to sample the best of the region at the CBD venue.

    The legacy of famed First Nations artist Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori was recently honoured by her daughters, who created a piece called ‘Our Mother’s Country’ for the FNQ Contemporaries exhibition held throughout summer. Previous exhibitions have included impressive works by Patricia Piccinini and Sir Sidney Nolan. And from Saturday, March 19, you can catch Archie 100: A Century of The Archibald Prize which will feature artworks from every decade of the prestigious Archibald Prize. The gallery also connects to the newly refurbished historic Court House Gallery next door. The best bit? Both galleries have free entry.

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    Mission Arts

    Driving through Mission Beach on your way to Dunk Island? Make sure you stop in at the local community arts centre for a visit.

    Mission Arts is located within MARCS Park and features an exhibition space, gift shop, pottery studio and community meeting spaces. Feel like getting creative? The arts centre has regular open workshops in drawing, pottery and knitting that you can attend. Or, stop by to check out the upcoming exhibitions including Focus Photography and Language of Intimacy.

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    Explore Local Markets

    Bustling local markets are a thriving part of Tropical North Queensland. In the Atherton Tablelands, the Yungaburra Markets are held on the fourth Saturday of each month (except December, where they are held on the third Saturday). Here, you can expect loads of local produce and unique handmade crafts in the quaint mountain village. Port Douglas has markets held twice a week. On Wednesdays, they’re held on the marina boardwalk from noon until sundown and feature entertainment from local musicians. Then on Sundays, a slightly larger market runs weekly from 8am until 1.30pm at Market Park and ANZAC Park. These Sunday markets are in a particularly stunning location, with stalls perched between palm trees and backdropped by sweeping ocean views.

    Further south, the Mission Beach Markets are held on the first and third Sunday of each month with a bumper edition (the Monster Market) held on the last Sunday of the month from Easter until November. Here you’ll find local crafts, food stalls and curated antiques in a shady beachfront park. In Cairns, the Tanks Market is held on the fourth Sunday of the month between April and November (excluding August). Running from 9.00am to 2.00pm, you’ll be able to discover local art, vintage clothing, natural health remedies and more.

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    Davies Creek Rock Art

    Located a one-hour drive inland from Cairns, the Davies Creek National Park (and nearby Bare Hill Conservation Park) is home to one of the largest Aboriginal rock art complexes in the region. The Bunda Bibandji rock art walking track is a two-kilometre loop that winds through an open forest dotted with pink bloodwood trees.

    The track eventually widens to reveal several granite outcrops, with two rock art galleries featuring red and yellow ochre. This incredible artworks have been dated at over 3500 years old by James Cook University scientists, making this a particularly significant sacred area. We recommend taking a 4WD to get to this ancient art gallery. 

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    Wolf Lane

    Every tropical holiday needs a fruity cocktail to cap off a balmy day. The local legends at Wolf Lane Distillery have you covered with boutique batches of gin, infused with locally sourced ingredients. The tropical gin features 13 botanicals plus vapour-infused mango, finger lime and ruby grapefruit.

    Run out of room in your suitcase to stash your distillery purchases? Wolf Lane offers free delivery Australia-wide on orders over $30, so you can order online and have the drinks waiting for you when you arrive back home. Our pick is the bottled Davidson Plum Negroni cocktail. The on-site bar is open from Thursday to Sunday, with distillery tours also available. 

     

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    Kuranda

    Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway or drive 30 minutes inland from Cairns to visit the eclectic rainforest village of Kuranda. Here you’ll find a plethora of artists and street performers roaming around town as you explore the town’s quirky art shops and market stalls. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch a live show at the much-loved Kuranda Amphitheatre

    Also in Kuranda is the Rainforestation Nature Park showcasing the very best of the tropics. Want to gain in depth knowledge of the region? We recommend taking a guided walk with the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Djabugay People, via the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience.

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    Janbal Gallery

    Owned by renowned First Nations artist Brian ‘Binna’ Swindley, Janbal Gallery offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about Aboriginal culture through art and storytelling experiences. Binna is a local Kuku Yalanji man from Mossman and the gallery is lovingly named after his late mother.

    Binna hosts painting workshops on weekdays, with morning and afternoon sessions available. Choose from either a small boomerang or canvas to paint, with all paints and tools supplied. An impressive range of traditional Aboriginal artwork is on display at the gallery, with items available for purchase, too.

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Ready to extend your summer in Tropical North Queensland? For more information, visit the website

Images: Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

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