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  • Renee Cluff

    Email Renee Cluff

    South Pacific tiki trend makes a splash in Tropical North Queensland


    It was Hollywood’s take on Polynesian island life.

    Think Elvis in the movie ‘Blue Hawaii’, palm tree motifs, tiki god statues, rattan furniture and flamboyant rum cocktails.

    The lost world of so-called tiki culture is making a comeback across the globe and Cairns is riding the wave, through fashion, homewares and hospitality, in the form of the city's first tiki bar, which opened this month.

    The concept had its heyday in 1950s America, after being brought to Los Angeles by a man known as Don the Beachcomber, who’d travelled across the South Pacific.

    By the 1970s, the themed bars were going out of favour, considered tacky - but as all good fashions do, the trend has come full circle.

    The lads behind the CBD’s Three Wolves laneway bar, Darren Barber and Sam Kennis, along with their new business partner Andrew Paré, have embraced the re-birth through their Flamingos Tiki Bar at the southern end of the Esplanade.

    Andrew Paré told Tropic Now it provides a little escape from everyday life.

    "The main thing to remember about tiki is that it is all about having fun.

    "The response has been incredible.

    "Guests have been saying that Cairns needed this – something fun and energetic yet small and intimate all at the same time."

    Inside, the decor pays tribute to the tiki bars of old, albeit with a modern twist.

    "We wanted to take the traditional kitschy decor of a tiki bar but modernize it to suit today’s day and age as well as the space," Mr Paré said.

    "You’ll still find tiki masks, glass fishing floats, bamboo and Hawaiian pin-ups.

    "From the music to the cocktails we stay as near to the classic tiki feel, just with a modern spin on it."

    Of course, the main drawcard and hall mark of tiki bars is the specialty cocktail - and Flamingos is no exception.

    Andrew Paré said while the majority of its cocktails are rum-based, there are a few that aren’t, providing something for everyone.

    "The key to a solid tiki cocktail is using fresh ingredients, a quirky vessel, over-the-top garnishes such as fire, dry ice and fresh fruits and typically rum, rum, rum.

    "One of our top sellers is the Shipwreck, which is a mix of spiced rum, pineapple, lime and coconut cream garnished with fresh lime flamed cinnamon," he said.

    "It hits all the senses."

    It’s not only rum-fuelled tropical oases that are experiencing a new golden age in all things Polynesian.

    Old-school Hawaiian fashion is also in vogue.

    Emma Rowe from Vintage Seeker in Grafton Street’s Oceana Walk Arcade told Tropic Now the lifestyle of Tropical North Queensland certainly lends itself to the style.

    “Tiki style fashion has and continues to be popular at Vintage Seeker," she said.

    “People love to wear something fun, frivolous and a little bit left of centre.

    She said the style is quirky representation of tropical island holiday life.

    “It includes 50s sarong dresses, halter dresses, guy’s oversized button-front shirts in fabulous vintage prints, with an emphasis on palm trees, sandy beaches, hula girls, cocktails, and of course, pineapples!

    “Accessories we love to go with are cats eye sunglasses, big dangly pineapple, watermelon or lobster earrings, pin-up style hair with a hibiscus or frangipani flower pinned on the side, plus stacks of bangles and anything bamboo or coconut."