While many will fly into Cairns to then experience the Great Barrier Reef, the most exciting thing to do in Cairns is actually above sea level.

AusArmourFest is held at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum each year and if you have any interest in Army war history then this is the place for you. Originally a private collection for one mans enjoyment, this facility is now open to the public with a growing number of tanks, trucks, guns and more. On this special occasion however visitors are able to experience these tanks in the way they were intended, outside a museum and driving around.

We’ve attended as guests of WarGaming.net who produce World of Tanks, a game for tank lovers and strategists worldwide. While the game is very relevant to the collection in the museum, on the weekend of AusArmourFest they have a totally different way to experience an army tank.

While the collection of tanks at the museum is sensational, they are missing a Sturmtiger, so to experience this beast Microsoft Hololens enables users to see and walk around/through the tank. The experience is marvellous and seeing people use the augmented reality device is fascinating, many are moving their arms around trying to touch it, others simply walk around the tank (which isn’t physically there!) and enjoy the narration behind it. It’s a great idea and something we are bound to see more of in the future.

The Tiger tank from the movie Fury

Outside the museum is the opportunity to take a seat, or stand, in restored and functioning military machines. This varies from the Bren Gun Carrier to the Leopard Tank T72. The costs vary depending on the prestige of the machine and is absolutely worth every penny. Standing through the hatch hole of an army tank which has seen service in a world war and looking down the turret ahead it’s a surreal experience and one you’ll never forget.

The drivers are generally ex-military and know how to handle these machines. There are no firing demonstrations and for good reason, however some reenactments take place throughout the day creating some dramatic flare around the whole day.

Onboard the Leopard T-72 tank

Unlike many festivals, there is no rorts when it comes to the food and drink, they’re really well priced and the seafood is delicious (we recommend the lobster nuggets). The people who attend the event are mostly enthusiasts or with a military history, they all love to chat about what they know, how they know about each tank and in some cases you’ll hear stories from people about their personal experiences with the machines in service.

If there is ever a reason to visit Cairns, this is it. If you think the marine life is amazing, head inland a few minutes and see the ultimate military collection.

Info: ausarmour.com