The Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk
At the heart of the mangrove system in Cairns, you will find this mangrove wonderland, the Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk. On my days off from work, I love to go locally to this Mangrove Nature Boardwalk and explore the surroundings. The Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk is located on the right-hand side of Airport Avenue, on approach to the Cairns Airport.
There are two Mangrove boardwalks, known as the Northern and Southern Side. These two easy mangrove boardwalks are between 0.3 to 0.4 kilometres of a stroll on a beautifully wheelchair-accessible boardwalk through the bio-diverse environment. These boardwalks offer you the chance to get close to the nature and wildlife of the area while discovering how the plants and animals here have adapted to the environment. You will also get to take in some stunning views, with Little Barron Creek to the northern and Swampy Creek to the south.
The northern side section of the mangrove boardwalk has a circular route. Taking either side of the split part took me from the car park through the mangrove forests and back to the car park. Here, I made my way to Little Barron Creek, where there was a viewing platform at the end of the creek which had a stunning view across Barron Creek and the surrounding landscape. As I set foot on the northern side of the mangrove boardwalk from the car park, the smell began to hit me first. As I walked further into the mangrove forest, the deep, gaseous, almost sulfuric smell of the swamp told me where I was. The more I walked along this beautiful mangrove boardwalk, I get to learn all about the unique, tropical mangroves and saltmarshes of Australia – The dense, rich, pitched black mud, the alien fascination of their tangled and knobbed root systems and the mud of the mangroves that have the most characteristic of this unique eco-system. These salt-tolerant trees growing in the swampy, fluctuating intertidal zone of tropical coastlines, and mangrove forests muddle my best efforts in distinguishing land from the sea.
After 45 minutes of an easy stroll along the Northern Side of the boardwalk under the shady mangrove trees, I then headed straight to the Southern part of the boardwalk to avoid the sun. Unlike the northern part of the boardwalk, this section of the boardwalk wasn’t a circular route and instead terminates, near to the mouth of Swampy Creek. Here, I had a slightly different experience from the Northern Side, where I get to see a few different kinds of mangrove forests. As I explore this part of the region, helpful signs let me in on the productivity of mangrove forests and other fascinating facts. The tree roots filter water to trap sediments and pollutants that would otherwise choke the coral offshore. The roots provide homes for molluscs, crabs, prawns and young reef fish hiding from predators; hold the soil together to prevent coastal erosion. There was even more mud. The yielding, pungent mud of these liminal forests is pocked with bumps and holes. The knobbed pneumatophores creeping out of the much-like fingers and toes looked scary and spooky when it was dead silent without anyone nearby. Also, there were gouging burrows that gave the forest floor lumps and mounds. Mud crabs scurry from one hole to the next, up branches and between canopied Rhizophora roots.
The mangroves of Far North Queensland are known to have some of the tallest and oldest in the whole of Australia which makes these two Mangrove Boardwalks unique to visit. From the boardwalk, I could see Grey Mangroves, River Mangroves, bird species, crabs and other flora and fauna. This is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise. The wildlife here has amazed me and I saw things that I have never seen before. Though it may have looked like I was surrounded by Mangroves, the boardwalk had full of different things to see and enjoy. As I strolled along the boardwalk, I began to learn all about the incredible abundance of wildlife that lives in the region and discover what the purpose of the mangroves and other tidal wetland systems is. As I continued along, I began to observe and noticed many different mangrove species. Luckily, along the boardwalk, there is a range of information notices displayed strategically to assist me in identifying wildlife. There were also signs along the way that gave extra information on the plants and animals that have adapted over thousands of years to live in this unique environment and also detailed the history and inhabitants of the region.
Winding through the mangroves for 2km, the southern side boardwalk juts out several points to reveal magnificent views of Little Barron Creek. Like all tidal walks, both Mangrove Boardwalks differ considerably between high and low tide, the latter shows lively crustaceans and other revealing crab colonies. Being a nature lover and loves to explore locally but those looking for romantic and free things to do in the Cairns area should try this Mangrove Boardwalk for a romantic and relaxing stroll. It is a scenic, peaceful walk – around 1km long on each boardwalk through mangroves, next to the creek.
This place is such a beautiful spot and I have been back a few times. There are seating benches available were packing a few snacks is a great idea where you can enjoy a snack or a drink while soaking in the natural beauty around you. Try to spot cute crab colonies during the low tide. It is a great spot for taking photos so don’t forget your camera.