Historic Cairns Boardwalk Restored and Open

A highly unique and iconic part of Cairns will reopen to the public for the first time today (Friday) after being closed for more than three years.

From this afternoon, visitors can once again walk the Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk, which offers a rare and immersive snapshot of ecology and culture in Far North Queensland.

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.

Cairns Airport, following discussions with stakeholders, engineers, and community groups, worked with Cairns Regional Council to find a cost-effective way to save the structure.

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Barker said it became clear very early on that the Cairns community was passionate about the Boardwalk.

“It was important that we do everything we could to preserve this unique piece of Cairns for future generations,” he said.

“It is a vital piece of infrastructure in so many ways, from education, research and environmental factors to culture and tourism.”

Mr Barker said the key to the project’s success was the proactive and collaborative efforts of Cairns Airport, Cairns Regional Council, Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation and Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC).

“We would not be here today without the commitment, knowledge and expertise of all these organisations, and I want to thank everyone involved for their persistence,” he said.

A dedicated maintenance team from Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation were responsible for restoring the Boardwalk, making innovative decisions during the rebuild as they encountered challenges.

Yirrganydji man Brian Singleton, Senior Ranger of Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation, said the crew had taken great care to protect the surrounding mangrove trees and roots during the restoration.

“Our maintenance team did an incredible job in sometimes uncomfortable, humid conditions, not to mention the mosquitoes,” he said.

“The mangroves are an important part of our identity connecting the land and sea. The Boardwalk provides a space for the wider community to learn more about this incredible environment and for stories and cultural values to be shared and celebrated.”

Yirrganydji man Gavin Singleton, Project Manager for Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation, said it was rewarding to be part of the Boardwalk’s restoration.

“A lot of quality work has gone into this project,” he said.

“It is a special place for our people, but it is also important for everyone in the Cairns community to have access to the mangrove ecosystems.”

New signage is being developed to recognise the cultural connection the Yirrganydji people have to the Boardwalk and surrounding area.

The Boardwalk was 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.

Jenny Roberts, Jack Barnes’ daughter, said it was heart warming and remarkable that so many people had joined forces to ensure the Boardwalk would remain.

“Our father was a pioneering advocate for the preservation and protection of the natural environment,” she said.

“He would have been very happy to see everyone working together to ensure this important educational, cultural, and ecological facility was restored. This is an example of true North Queensland spirit and what can be achieved when we work together.”

CAFNEC spokeswoman Bess Murphy said: “The community push to save the boardwalk was strong and really demonstrated how much locals treasure this public asset.”

“The reopening of the boardwalk is a triumph of the Cairns community standing up for something they hold dearly.”

The Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk is located on the right-hand side of Airport Avenue, on approach to the Cairns Airport.

Visitors to the Boardwalk are asked not to turn across the middle of the road on arrival, and instead proceed to the main roundabout on Airport Ave.