The Jack Barnes Boardwalk was opened in 1988 to commemorate the Queensland Bicentennial, however it has been closed since April 2019, when it was deemed in need of repair. A dedicated maintenance team from Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation were appointed to restore the Boardwalk in 2020 after significant consultation with stakeholders, engineers and community groups. The boardwalk officially reopened to the public on Friday 19 August 2022 (read more here). The Jack Barnes Mangrove Boardwalk Precinct continues to be managed in partnership with Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation.

The boardwalk was originally named in honour of Dr Jack Barnes, a Cairns physician and toxicologist known for his research on the box jellyfish. Dr Barnes is also accredited with having discovered that a thumbnail-sized jellyfish could cause the Irukandji syndrome. In fact, the jellyfish is named after him–its scientific name is Carukia barnesi.

Over the years, the Boardwalk has been explored by hundreds, if not thousands, of students, researchers and members of the public to learn more about our vital mangrove ecosystem. 


Located off Airport Avenue on the way to the airport, the boardwalk offers two walks through different zones of mangrove forest including a mature stand of Stilt mangroves that can reach heights of 30m. Worldwide there are 69 recognised species of mangroves belonging to 20 plant families. Queensland has 34 species and 3 hybrids while Cairns has 29 species.

The mangrove wetlands in the vicinity of the Jack Barnes Boardwalk precinct have additional value for environmental, indigenous ecological-social-cultural, educational and tourism purposes. 

How to get there?

The Jack Barnes Boardwalk is located on the doorstep of Cairns Airport, along Airport Ave. To access the boardwalk car park simply drive towards Cairns Airport along Airport Ave. As you approach the first roundabout, continue right around the roundabout to the 4th exit and head back along Airport Avenue. Turn left into the Boardwalk Car Park Entry.

The Mangrove Ecosystem

Once regarded as sand-fly and mosquito infected swamps of little or no value, many mangrove areas were destroyed by landfill or used as garbage dumps. All Queensland mangroves are now protected under State and Federal legislation.

These highly complex and productive intertidal ecosystems support a range of complicated food webs and are nursery areas for a wide range of commercial and recreational fish and invertebrates.

Decaying mangrove leaves and organic materials provide nourishment for algae and microscopic organisms. These are food for shrimp, prawns and filter feeding molluscs such as oysters and clams, crabs, including mud and fiddler crabs, who in their turn are a food source for large fish species, such as Barramundi, Jewfish, Threadfin, Bream and Mangrove Jack. This environment is well populated with a variety of birds and insects.

Many recreational and commercial species that are normally found in the open ocean and on the coral reefs return annually to the mangrove creeks to spawn. Their larvae and juveniles which also include various prawn species, remain in these nursery areas protected by the stems, branches and roots of the mangroves from predators and wave movement until they are mature enough to move out to sea.

Adult sea-mullet live and spawn at sea, but their fertilised eggs and larvae along with those of a variety of reef fish are swept into the mangroves where they develop through their early stages.

At low tide mudskippers and fiddler crabs emerge to graze on the nutrient rich mudflats. As the tide flow changes garfish and mullet feed on food caught by the flowing water, while large whelks and other shellfish feed on decomposing vegetation and a variety of small animals.


Jack Barnes Boardwalk Restoration Project Overview