Cairns' Best Museums | Cairns Tours

History comes alive in Cairns – Cairns’ best museums

By James Dixon | 5th August 2015


To really get to know a city, you need to delve into its past. Most Australian towns and cities have amazing histories and Cairns is certainly no exception! From pre-European Indigenous history to the interesting adventures of Captain Cook and crew in the Cape Tribulation area and beyond – Cairns has its own fascinating stories to tell and the area’s museums are the narrators. Visit these museums to discover all of Cairns’ captivating past:

Australian Armour and Artillery Museum

This fascinating museum will enthral military enthusiasts and novices alike. Open since the 6th September 2014, this military museum is situated in Caravonica only 11 kms from the Cairns City centre. This relatively new museum has a vast collection of military paraphernalia, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in Australia.

The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum collect, preserve and restore equipment for eventual display and are always scouting around for new and interesting pieces. With a collection dating back to the 1800s, covering both World Wars (but concentrating on World War II), you will definitely have plenty to stare at in amazement, with anti-aircraft guns, tanks,, combat equipment, self-propelled guns, armoured vehicles, anti-tank vehicles, field guns and howitzers, to name a few. Subject to weather and availability, the museum offers enthusiastic patrons to join us in an army style escapade in one of our genuine, decommissioned armoured vehicles.

Mulgrave Settlers Museum

Have you ever wondered how our forefathers went about their daily lives? Well wonder no more! This museum illustrates just how this was achieved. With a fully equipped blacksmiths workshop, a pioneer woman’s domain, miner and timber cutters displays, you will really be able to soak up the atmosphere and take yourself back to yesteryear. You will definitely appreciate some of the ingenious tools used in days gone by. During World War II, the 503rd Parachute regiment came to Gordonvale for training – see what impact they had on the community. A beautifully handmade Chinese Joss (idol or cult image), Indigenous artefacts and even a penny-farthing bicycle are well worth the look.

Mareeba Heritage Museum and Information Centre

This award winning little gem is a must for all to see. Located on one acre of land with outbuildings and artefacts focusing on the district of Mareeba, just run your eyes over these awesome exhibits:

·      The Mareeba Tobacco Display – tobacco was made illegal to grow in Australia in 2003, but prior to then, the Mareeba area had a long tobacco growing history

·      Carriers Arms Hotel – a scaled down version of this Irish hotel built in 1892

·      Mareeba Rail Ambulance – outback Queensland’s first reliable ambulance service

Enjoy hands on interactive activities in most of our exhibits, e.g. dairy shed, telephone party line or working schoolroom. See John Atherton’s rocking chair and hear about the life of the man who founded Mareeba.

Cairns Regional Gallery

While not technically all historical, the amazing Cairns Regional Gallery is housed in a Heritage Listed, old Public Curators building. Meticulously refurbished, the gallery was completed and open to the public in July 1995. This museum is the largest of its kind in regional Queensland and you have two storeys of exquisite art to peruse at your leisure, in temperature and humidity controlled comfort.

Their first floor encompasses the public gallery, curator gallery, access gallery, niche gallery, and focus gallery, plus an education room. The second floor houses administration offices and the loft gallery. This gallery exhibits works from local artists and community exhibition programs.

Doongal Aboriginal Art and Artefacts

Indigenous Dreamtime storytelling through art is itself historical. These stories have been passed down from generation to generation and today; you can see and buy your own little piece of Indigenous culture at the Doongal Aboriginal Art and artefacts gallery. They specialise in showcasing and selling authentic local Aboriginal Rainforest Art, plus artwork sourced from Indigenous Central Australian artists.

Cairns Museum

The Cairns Museum is usually the place to go for an overall look into Cairns’ past; however, the museum is unfortunately temporarily closed. With major refurbishments in progress on this heritage listed School of Arts building, the Cairns Museum will not be open to the public until July 2016.