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