Sun kissed and single
With its tropical beaches, permanent warm climes and plenty of beverage venues happy to serve up cocktails featuring a mini-umbrella, Cairns comes across as the ideal spot for finding love.
Visions of couples strolling romantically along idyllic sand strips saturate tourism brochures, the region exudes a laid-back lifestyle where everything, including finding a mate, should be a piece of cake and everyone appears tanned, sun kissed and gorgeous.
But try telling this to anyone who has spent any time in the city searching for that special someone – not an overnight fling you met when manhandling a kebab at the Lake St taxi rank, but a genuine, long-term relationship.
Christine Johnson, 53, moved to Cairns three years ago for work and feels like she has stepped into a dating black hole.
“I think with Cairns, there’s just a lot of tourists and people who pass through so no one is here long enough to make a relationship, just short-term things,” she says.
“I’ve met some nice people, that’s about it. But I want to meet someone.
“The places where you can meet someone are limited when you get to a certain age group; it just gets harder and harder.
“I’ve been on the internet, but you’re just talking to a computer screen so it’s very hard to judge what people are like and it’s good to see their body language.”
Christine has been prepared to give just about anything a go, from internet dating to speed dating.
Stacy Belada runs a local group that hosts various social mixers from Latin dance to speed dating nights and says she tapped into the singles market after realising the massive gap there when she first moved here more than two years ago.
She says Christine’s case is far from an exception, particularly for women in Cairns.
“I think it’s a tough market – there seems to be more women than men,” she says.
“I’ve experienced that it’s harder to get women out in general. They’re either going to ladies nights only or doing ladies nights of their own at home.
“I only started the singles part of it last October. People are saying Cairns needs it, especially for the 40-plus age group.”
Success-wise, she says there have been a few couples that formed through the nights, but the focus is more on social interaction than guaranteed romance.
“I say to people, don’t come to singles nights thinking you’re going to find your prince charming. You have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince,” she says.
“If you have your hopes high and they fall short, you’ll be let down.”
Like every smaller city, it can often be tough for people new to Cairns to break down the barriers and unearth local networks and people.
But even those born and bred in the city admit it can be tough to meet a partner.
Local singleton Stephen Walker, 29, says he has always shunned pubs and clubs as potential locations to find anything long-term, having met his former girlfriends at either university or through work.
“I find it very difficult in town to meet people,” he says.
“But I find it really easy when I go to house parties or barbecues or something like that. If I went out in town, it’d just be to go out. I’d never go out just to pick up.”
He says meeting someone through friends or common interests is a far better alternative.
“If you get involved in a sports team or a club, a community group or something like a not-for-profit organisation, that’s a good way to meet people,” he says.
“It’d be pretty tough (if you didn’t know anybody here).”
Student Annie Howard, 21, says even though she’s been single for more than a year, she isn’t actively looking at the moment, although agrees it is tough.
“I’d say it’s pretty hard to find someone. It’s not like I’m looking but it would be hard,” she says.
“I don’t know where I’d go if I wanted to meet someone.
“I’ve got a couple of friends who go out and hook up with someone, but it doesn’t go anywhere.
“If you’re a guy looking for someone it’d be easier because there’s a lot more girls who want a relationship.”
With plans for travel and family commitments she says it will be difficult to find someone to fit into her lifestyle.
“I work and got to uni, see my family on the Tablelands, catch up with friends and I’ve got lots of travel plans,” she says.
“It’s a sense of couldn’t be bothered to look for someone because they’d have to be flexible enough to live my dreams.”
It is animalistic nature to find a mate, settle down and grow old, but unfortunately instinct doesn’t always live up to reality, particularly in Cairns where the transient lifestyle, nubile backpackers and somewhat soulless nightlife does not often pertain to endless love.
It’s a search that yields the ultimate results though, and one that Christine says she’s not about to give up on, even as Stacy says, a few frogs need to get in the way first.
“They are out there, you’ve just got to find the right one.”
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The Tropical North may seem the perfect place to find love but paradise has its turn-offs. photo // THINKSTOCK