Cairns is touted as the "gateway to the Great Barrier Reef" and other destinations such as Kuranda and the Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland. Although the city has little to offer to travellers besides tour agencies, a handful of restaurants, cafes, and backpacker bars, and a long walk along the esplanade looking out at the swampy shoreline. Its 150,000 residents are regularly outnumbered by both domestic and international visitors.
The Cairns area was historically inhabited by the Indigenous Walubarra Yidinji people. Mapped by James Cook and named Trinity Bay in 1770, it was officially founded in 1876 as an export port for gold and renamed after the then-Governor of Queensland. The city's name is pronounced "Canz" by locals; use of the accepted pronunciation of the governor's surname, the Scottish town, and piles of stones is obsolete.
The main industry for the city is tourism, with a focus on the European, Japanese and increasingly Chinese markets. There is a plethora of clubs and coffee shops, all overflowing with international tourists. Cairns is also supported by agricultural businesses which include sugar cane, bananas, coffee, tea and the world's first tropical fruit wine region.
Peak season in Cairns is during the more comfortable winter months of June–August, especially compared to the hotter and stickier summer months. A particularly busy time occurs in the first two weeks of July during the school holidays.
There is no swimming beach to speak of in central Cairns, although there are many choices just north and south of the city. A large outdoor, lagoon-style pool is in the centre of the Cairns City area, which is very popular throughout the year with tourists and locals alike. For a beachside resort holiday, there are several resorts a short drive north of Cairns.
- 1 Cairns Tourism Office, 51 The Esplanade, ☏ , toll-free: 1800 093 300, fax: . M-F 8:30AM–6PM, weekends & public holidays 10AM-6PM. Official Cairns and tropical Northern Queensland tourism office at the Esplanade.
- 1 Cairns International Airport (CNS IATA). The primary international gateway into the region. It is also served by many domestic flights. Cairns Airport has two terminals: a domestic terminal and an international terminal, which are within walking distance from each other.
The international airlines serving Cairns are:
- Air New Zealand. Seasonal flights from Auckland
- Air Niugini. Flights from Moro and Port Moresby.
- Hainan Airlines. Flights from Shenzhen.
- Jetstar. Flights from Denpasar, Osaka Kansai International Airport, and Tokyo Narita International Airport; codeshares with their parent carrier Qantas and Japan Airlines.
- Qantas. Flights from Port Moresby
- Singapore Airlines. Flights from Singapore
The domestic airlines serving Cairns are:
- Airnorth. Flights from Darwin and Gove
- Qantas. Flights from most airports in Australia, e.g. from Ayers Rock/Uluru, Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Horn Island, Mackay, Melbourne, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville, Weipa. Their low-cost Jetstar subsidiary flies from Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney
- Regional Express Airlines. Flights from Bamaga, Burketown, Doomadgee, Karumba, Mornington Island, Mount Isa, Normanton, Townsville
- Skytrans. Flights from Aurukun, Cooktown, Horn Island, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw, Weipa
- Virgin Australia. Flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
Cairns airport has a paid Wi-Fi service.
Shuttle bus and taxi
Shuttle bus transfers are available from Cairns Airport, prices range between $15 and $17 (one passenger one way) and $25.00 to $35.00 (one passenger return) to Cairns city. The Cairns Airport shuttle buses typically depart the airport hourly. Cairns Taxis depart from Cairns Airport and the trip will range between $25 and $35 to Cairns City (possibly a small wait). If you don't book a shuttle transfer before arriving in Cairns, there is only one company you can travel with. Google the different shuttle bus companies to get the cheaper price you have to book prior to arriving in Cairns. The shuttle buses offering transfers from Cairns Airport are:
*Caution: Buses in Cairns do not take credit card. You should bring own your cash.
2 Cairns Station is right in the city centre, easily within walking distance of the waterfront and most hotels.
Queensland Rail's Spirit of Queensland services connect Cairns to Brisbane (via Townsville and Rockhampton), taking 25 hours for the full journey. A trip between Townsville and Cairns takes nearly 7 hours by train (compared to only 4 hours by car). The train is primarily designed for tourists to take in the scenery at a leisurely pace, with a "railbed" class that features seats that can recline into a bed for the night. If you are pressed for time, driving yourself will often be quicker.
The train departs from Brisbane M Tu W F and Sa at 3:45PM, and returns from Cairns M W Th F and Su at 9AM.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway, also operated by Queensland Rail, runs from Cairns to Kuranda, stopping over the majestic Barron Gorge to allow passengers to leave the train and enjoy the beautiful view over the water. Trains depart Cairns at 8:30AM and 9:30AM daily arriving at Kuranda at 10:15AM and 11:15AM.
The Savannahlander travels from Cairns to Kuranda but then continues on to the outback town of Forsayth. It leaves Cairns at 6:30AM every Wednesday with a compulsory overnight stop at Almaden (with transfers available to Chillagoe), before arriving at Forsayth Station at 5:45PM on Thursday. The Savannahlander does not run between December and March.
The 1,700 km Bruce Highway running south along the coast connects Cairns to the state capital of Brisbane. It takes 22 hr to drive without stopping, and you should allow at least 2–3 days of solid driving or longer for a more relaxed pace of drive up the coast. There are regular towns along the coast which make good stopping-off and sightseeing points.
The centre of Cairns is small enough to be covered on foot, but a car is needed to see the surrounding attractions if you are not taking a tour. Expect morning and evening congestion in the city centre, as day trippers flock in and out of the town. Numerous car rental agencies are available from the airport or in the city centre. During peak season, make sure to book the car in advance.
Sunbus operates the public bus network and offer twenty routes through the city. The terminal of all routes is at the corner of Lake and Shield Street in the centre. You can buy a bus ticket starting from $2.30 for a single adult in one zone.
There are also a number of car rental companies available from Cairns Airport.
Cairns serves as the gateway to the region and is rather short of cultural sights. Besides some historic buildings from the colonial era, the Esplanade and the bars/pubs are the main attraction of Cairns.
- 1 Cairns Regional Gallery, 40 Abbott St (Cnr Abbott & Shields Streets), ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 10AM-2PM. Located in a heritage building in the city centre, the Cairns Regional Gallery is the region's premier destination for exhibitions featuring historical and contemporary art by leading regional, national and international artists. $5.
- 2 Cairns Museum, Cairns School of Arts Building, corner Lake and Shields Streets, ☏ , [email protected]. M-Sa 10AM-4PM. The Cairns Museum showcases the Cairns Historical Society’s collection of objects, photographs and archival records. This collection holds the memories of the people, places, events and changing environment of Cairns and Far North Queensland. Adult $10, child (under 14) $5, family (2 parents or grandparents + 2 kids) $25, pensioner/senior/concession $8.
- 3 Cairns Botanic Gardens, 78-96 Collins Ave, Edge Hill, ☏ . Daily 7:30AM-5:30PM. The Cairns Botanic Gardens are about 4 km from the city centre, and a number of bus routes pass by the various entrances. The Gardens are divided into 5 distinct zones, including Formal Gardens, Rainforest Boardwalk and Mangroves Boardwalk. Free.
- 4 Cairns Aquarium, 5 Florence St, ☏ . Daily 10AM-4PM. This is Australia's most spectacular aquarium, displaying 71 exhibits with more than 16,000 colourful marine habitats and 10 ecosystems. The facility holds the country's largest freshwater tank and is home to the world's first tidal motion tank.
- Catch an amateur rugby game in town if you can, the locals play a mean game, and it's a great way to meet local folks.
- International cricket is sometimes played in Cairns at 5 Cazaly's Stadium. Time your visit right and you could catch a great game for just a couple of dollars.
- Cairns is home to one of Australia's best basketball teams, the Cairns Taipans, as well as Australian basketball's most famous mascot, Joe Blake the Snake.
- Cairns' attractions are an excellent entry point to see, dive, and snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and to visit the Daintree Rainforest which is at least a day trip. Copperlode Dam and Atherton Tablelands are other options.
- Cairns is the hotspot for wildlife diversity in Australia and is an ideal place to see a huge variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Places such as Mount Lewis, Lamb Range, or Mount Hypipamee are ideal locations to see anything from a Cassowary to Tree Kangaroos.
- 6 Cairns Wildlife Dome, 35-41 Wharf Street, ☏ , [email protected]. A spectacular all-weather wildlife exhibit enclosed by a 20-m-high glass dome on top of the iconic Reef Hotel Casino, visitors walk through a replicated rainforest environment whilst birds such as parrots, cockatoos and lorikeets fly freely around you. See other animals such as koalas, frogmouths, kookaburras, rainforest wallabies, crocodiles, turtles and pythons. Complimentary guided tours and animal presentations take place throughout the day.
Cairns is an adventure sports enthusiast's paradise: every second shop is a tourist information centre with signs blaring "dive dive" or "tandem skydiving". Its location close to the ocean, the mountains and the rainforest gives travellers lots of choices of activities.
Standby rates are ubiquitous: many of the more expensive activities, including scuba diving and skydiving, are up to $150 cheaper if you are prepared to go on standby for a cancellation.
- Swim in the artificial "lagoon" (a public swimming pool with some sand on one side) on the promenade near the pier. The lagoon is unfenced and free to use. A shallow depth (max depth 1.5 m) makes it ideal for families with children. The lagoon is a good place to cool off, especially during "stinger season" between October and May (cf. Dangerous creatures in Australia) when swimming at local beaches should be avoided except inside the stinger net enclosures, which are no bigger than the lagoon itself. Note that there are also no beaches in central Cairns itself - one can catch a bus to the northern beaches, and there are swimming net enclosures at Holloways, Yorkey's Knob, Trinity, Kewarra, Palm Cove and Ellis Beaches but the sand there is rather rough.
- Sun-bake or people watch on the grassy part of the promenade near the lagoon. On a sunny day, even in the middle of Cairns's tropical "winter", there will sometimes be more sun-bakers than there is visible grass.
- Have a barbecue on the promenade. Cairns has free barbecues scattered generously among the picnic tables on the grass.
- Go walking - Cairns is surrounded by rainforest-clad mountains, and there are nearly 200 walking tracks in this World Heritage Area. Keen walkers should keep an eye out for Tropical Walking Tracks, found at local bookshops and adventure shops. It lists all of the tracks around Cairns as well as those between Townsville and Cooktown and has maps of them and 'how-to-get-there' directions as well.
Diving and snorkelling
A number of Cairns operators run day and liveaboard scuba diving trips from both Cairns and Port Douglas, and almost all include complimentary day transfers for their passengers between the two. For seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the smaller dive boats provide the most intimate experience, both for diving and for snorkelling and are excellent for the confident or experienced. The larger operations have more amenities - better food, larger and faster boats, more activities, and often easier access to the water and are great for beginners, but sometimes provide a poorer underwater experience, as the underwater areas that the larger boats visit are heavily used.
- 1 Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, 3 Abbott Street, ☏ , [email protected]. Dive sites suited to serious divers. Allows solo diving and rebreather diving if you provide appropriate equipment. Cabins with private bathrooms are available. 3-night trip from $1,480, 4-night trip from $1,678 and 7-night trip from $2,938, rental equipment and courses extra.
- New Horizon Sail and Dive, PO Box 5957, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. New Horizon Sail and Dive operates two classic sailing boats, Santa Maria and Coral Sea Dreaming, to the outer Great Barrier Reef. They allow you to experience the reef in a smaller more intimate affair with a maximum of 10 passengers on each trip. The trip is from $380 per person for a two-day liveaboard and from $540 for a three-day liveaboard, all equipment included..
- 2 Passions of Paradise, ☏ , [email protected]. A 25-m modern, fast-sailing catamaran travelling daily to Michaelmas Cay, where the company holds a permit allowing passengers access to the beach. This is one of the most important bird nesting sanctuaries on the Great Barrier Reef with over 20,000 sea birds. The cay has white sand, warm shallow water and an abundance of marine life making it perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving, glass bottom boat tours or just relaxing on the beach. The second destination is the Outer Barrier Reef and a mooring at Breaking Patches. There you will find the hard coral gardens that the Outer Reef is famous for. The day includes a hot and cold buffet lunch, all snorkelling equipment and sailing on one of the fastest catamarans travelling to the Great Barrier Reef.
- 3 Pro Dive Cairns, 116 Spence Street, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Specialises in 11-dive/3-day 2-night liveaboard trips to the Outer Reef, departing every day except Tuesdays. Their dive sites are suitable for inexperienced divers: most trips will include one or more groups of students doing their checkout dives. The liveaboard trip is $580 for a twin share or double cabin (including all equipment). Pro Dive Cairns also offer several PADI courses which include the liveaboard trip: the basic Open Water course (2 days of classroom and pool work plus the trip), Open Water referral checkout dives, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver. The trip is $580 per person, twin share or double and equipment is included. An additional fee applies of $35 per person, including a $15 Government Environmental Management Charge as well as a Port Departure tax and administration costs. The trip is $560 per person, twin share or double, reef tax and equipment included. Open Water course $725, Open Water referral $630.
- 4 Tusa Dive Australia, cnr Shield Street and the Esplanade, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Good small operator. Two-day dive trips to the Outer Reef for $160 ($190 with equipment hire).
- 5 Spirit of Freedom, ☏ . A 37-m liveaboard boat, covering iconic and remote dive sites. A 3-day trip departs Mondays for Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs, a 4-day trip departs Thursdays for the Coral Sea and Osprey Reef, or you can stay on for the full 7 days. A stunning low-level flight to Lizzard Island gets you from Cairns to meet on the Thursday trip, and back from the Monday one. Excellent diving sites for the more advanced diver - you must have your open water before joining the boat.
For some serious airtime
If you are sick of the sea, head up in the air for skydiving, hang gliding or hot air ballooning. The Cairns region has some of the best weather for ballooning in the world and so trips go year-round and are rarely cancelled. It's also one of the cheapest places to go flying, anywhere. The trips go inland to the Atherton Tablelands and take off at first light at Mareeba, finishing around 10AM and can connect directly to a Great Barrier Reef tour or drop you in Kuranda. Hang gliders fly off Rex Point Lookout, halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway. On weekends, it's common to see multiple gliders soaring through the sky above the scenic lookout, and the winter season provides consistent flight conditions.
- 6 Airplay Hang Gliding, ☏ , [email protected]. Airplay offers tandem hang gliding flights of durations up to 1 hr and a free outbound shuttle service. Lessons and full instruction are also available to those wishing to learn to fly.
- 7 Ballooning with Hot Air, ☏ . Includes a hot breakfast, champagne & transfers. $200.
- Champagne Balloon Flights, ☏ . Offers a slightly cheaper trip that doesn't include breakfast.
- 8 Skydive Cairns, ☏ , toll-free: 1300 800 840, [email protected]. Tandem, single jumps, and AFF courses. One of the most beautiful planes flies up to 13,000 ft (4,000 m) overlooking the reef.
- 9 Tandem Cairns, 96 Lake St, Cairns (Entrance on Aplin Street), ☏ , [email protected]. Offers tandem skydives. $244 for a 10,000 ft (3,000 m) dive, $295 for a 14,000 ft (4,300 m) dive.
White water rafting
Rafting in North Queensland has the advantage of departures all year round, tropical water temperatures and ease of access to complement breathtaking scenery and rapids. The region's white water rafting adventures are suitable for all levels of fitness and enthusiasm. Ride through the planet's oldest continuously growing tropical rainforests on rivers that still run totally wild.
- 10 RnR White Water Rafting, PO Box 2945, ☏ , [email protected]. Operating since 1984. The Tully River is Australia's best and most famous 1-day white water rafting experience, with up to 5 hr of rafting over more than 45 grade 4 rapids through World Heritage Rainforest. The Barron River option is a great half-day tour, with up to 2 hr of rafting on grade 3 rapids. For something longer, the North Johnstone 4-day expedition is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Helicopter in, 4 days of grade 5 rapids and camping 3 nights under the stars in riverside rainforest clearings.
Many coach tours depart Cairns daily, with a couple of hundred to choose from. There are rainforest tours to Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River, Cape Tribulation, and the Cairns Highlands (Atherton Tablelands), specialised 4WD tours, city sights tours, tours to wildlife parks, outback tours.
- 11 Tropic Wings Coach Tours, PO 1230 Cairns, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. One of the largest and longest established coach touring companies in Cairns, operating since 1981. Operate full- and half-day tours to Kuranda including Kuranda Scenic Railway, Skyrail, Rainforestation Nature Park and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree, Port Douglas, Atherton Tablelands and the 'Outback'. Extended tours are available to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.
- 12 Jungle Tours, PO Box 2945, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Day and extended tours to the World Heritage areas of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree - where the oldest rainforest in the world meets the Great Barrier Reef. Small groups travel with their informative guides on air-conditioned buses. Tours can include Port Douglas, The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, cruising on the Daintree River searching for crocodiles and wildlife, swimming in the Mossman Gorge and exploring Cape Tribulation Beach. On extended tours, various levels of accommodation are offered, from backpacker dorms to deluxe resorts, with plenty of options to party and play. Activities vary from reef trips with Rum Runner to horseriding, jungle surfing, and sea kayaking.
- 13 Northern Experience Eco Tour, Stratford, ☏ . Visits the waterfalls, Lake Barrine Cater lake, the Curtain Fig tree, Famous Milla Milla falls, 2-course hot lunch and cheese/yogurt tasting at the Mungalli organic bio-dynamic dairy, the rainforest of the Southern Cairns Highlands, plus the historic Spanish castle ruins and gardens of Paronella Park and Mena Creek falls, near Innisfail, and the Babinda boulders for a swim in clear mountain spring waters. Back to Cairns via Bruce Highway, sugar cane fields and Walsh's Pyramid. Many photo opportunities. Small groups, max 20 passengers.
Shops selling pearls are fairly widespread in Cairns, with a huge price range. You can find real A-grade pearls from the Torres Strait - not cheap, but in the end more than fair in comparison to the European or US prices for the same quality level.
- 1 Cairns Esplanade Markets, The Esplanade @ The Lagoon (Go to the Lagoon on the Esplanade), ☏ . Saturday 8-4PM. Esplanade Markets have homemade products, rare stones, clothes, all types of art, massage, local music, local rainforest timbers/carvings/wooden chopping boards and you will be buying from the maker/artist of the products. Heaps of budget-priced stuff, but some very refined high art/design/ideas that could easily become a feature piece of a house/garden. Great place to find a special gift. And best of all it has a 'locals feel' about it. Make sure to take a hat and sunscreen as it's an outdoor market. Have fun and meet some locals. from $0.50.
- 2 Night Markets (Cairns Night Markets), 71-75 The Esplanade, ☏ . Every night of the week till late. The markets are a collection of stalls catering mainly to tourists: you can buy lots of clothes, games, souvenirs, and Australiana.
As with much of Cairns, you can divide the city into the Esplanade and the places within a block of it, and the rest of the city. The Esplanade is littered with bar and grill places supplying red meat and beer all in the one place, and with seafood restaurants. It's relatively difficult to find anything open before 11AM since they expect the clientele to be sleeping in. The rest of the city has small cafes and milkbars catering to locals. The number of Japanese tourists here makes Japanese food a fairly reliable option, although prices can be steep.
A number of the more expensive restaurants on the Esplanade, particularly towards the north end, offer discounts of 20-30% for early birds: usually, you will need to order by 6:30PM and pay and leave no later than 7:30PM to get a discounted meal.
- 1 La Pizza Trattoria, 93 The Esplanade, ☏ . M–Th 6AM–10:30PM, F–Su 6AM–11PM. La Pizza Trattoria has good pizza. It lures most patrons in by letting them wander past the pizza chef kneading the dough as they smell the baking pizzas. Medium-sized pizzas: $18–21.
- 2 Villa Romana Trattoria, Aplin Street (cnr The Esplanade), ☏ , fax: . Italian meals with some good seafood options and overworked wait staff. 25% discount if you order before 6:30PM. Meals are $25-40.
- 3 Orient Express Sushi Train (Sushi Express), Shop 28 Orchid Plaza, 79 Abbott Street, ☏ , fax: . A sushi train made up to look like the Kuranda Railway, this place is popular but not wildly busy. The tempura seems to get more attention than the sushi or sashimi. Plates from $2.50–4.50.
- 4 Perrotta's At The Gallery, 38 Abbott Street, ☏ , [email protected]. If you want to escape from several evenings touring the bar and grill places, Perotta's is just off the Esplanade and does more sophisticated Western food. Try the French toast with roast pear for breakfast. Breakfast, lunch and dinner approximately $25.
Cairns has pubs and bars to cater to travellers, students, and locals.
- 1 Rattle 'N Hum, 65-67 The Esplanade, ☏ . The Rattle 'n Hum is a bar and grill in the midst of one of the busiest parts of The Esplanade. It's quite large and getting a seat is seldom a problem: sit out back once they light torches in the evenings. Competition for the pool table is not formidable so you should be able to get several games in. They do a number of main meals, including wood-fired pizza for around $20. The staff are highly variable in quality, ordering a cocktail can be risky, but they're certainly able to pull a beer.
- 2 The Woolshed (The Woolshed Chargrill & Saloon Bar), 24 Shields Street, ☏ , fax: . If you are looking for a place to find all the travellers, go to the Woolshed in downtown Cairns.
Cairns has seemingly endless places to stay, but during high season (June - September) most hotels are well booked.
There are over 20 hostels, with bunks in the $16–30 range. Many of the hostels are not particularly clean or well-maintained.
- 1 Asylum Cairns, 149 Grafton St, ☏ , toll-free: 1800 065-464, fax: , [email protected]. Check-in: 9AM, check-out: 10AM. Bed in a small dorm (no bunk beds). Prices on the website may be out of date. Free transfers to and from the airport, bus or train station if staying 2 nights or more. Free internet. Not particularly clean or well-maintained. Very friendly and helpful staff. Not in the city centre, but within easy walking distance.
- 2 Bohemia Resort, 231 McLeod St, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Close to the centre of Cairns and with 4 dorm rooms, singles, twins and doubles, as well as ensuite and family rooms. Clean and well maintained. 25 m saltwater pool, kitchen, bar and shuttle bus service. From $23 per person, per night.
- 3 Cairns Central YHA Backpackers Hostel, 20-26 McLeod St, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Bunk beds in shared rooms $23-25 per night, double and twin rooms from $54 per night.
- 4 Cairns City Backpackers, 274 Draper St, ☏ , [email protected]. Small, quiet and friendly and located in a quiet backstreet and a 5 min walk to Cairns Central Shopping Centre. Full laundry and kitchen facilities and internet at $3 per hr.
- 5 Castaways Backpackers, 207 Sheridan St (near city centre), ☏ , toll-free: 1800 351115, [email protected]. Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 9:30AM. Small family-run hostel with a focus on cleanliness and friendly service. Free Wi-Fi and evening meal at the Woolshed, free tea and coffee. Shared dorm accommodation from $19, single, double, twin and en suite rooms available.
- 6 Dreamtime Hostel (Dreamtime Travellers Rest), Cnr Bunda & Terminus Street Parramatta Park, ☏ , toll-free: 1800 058 440, [email protected]. Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 9:30AM. Small hostel across Cairns Central with its mall and lagoon-like backyard. Air condition available. Shared dorm accommodation from $22, single and twin rooms available.
- 7 Floriana Guesthouse, 183 The Esplanade, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Front rooms look out to the Coral Sea, Floriana is an older style Art Deco 1930s guesthouse. It is a 15-min walk to town and offers rooms with shared facilities and self-contained flats.
- 8 Gilligans Backpacker Hotel and Resort, 57-89 Grafton St, toll-free: 1800 556 995, [email protected]. Private hotel rooms also available. Free meal every night, clean, safe, fun hostel with loads of activities and massive swimming pool. Shared dorm rooms starting from $18 a night.
- 9 Mad Monkey Backpackers Village, 141 Sheridan St, ☏ . Free shuttle bus ride into the heart of Cairns. Has female-only dorms.
- 10 Motel Nomad (Serpent Hostel), 341 Lake St, ☏ , toll-free: 1800 666 237, [email protected]. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Free shuttle bus. Very clean hostel with a huge swimming pool and a volleyball court. Shared dorm accommodation from $14 a night.
- 11 Bounce Cairns, 117 Grafton Street, ☏ , toll-free: 1800 000 541, [email protected]. All guests receive free daily breakfast, free unlimited internet 24/7, free hidden swimming hole trip, sailing trip and more activities. Located in the centre of town.
- 12 Mumma’s Hostel Cairns, 140 Grafton St, ☏ , [email protected]. Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 10AM. Free Wi-Fi internet. clean safe and friendly. In the city centre with a pool and great outdoor area. $15.
- 13 ibis Styles Cairns, 15 Florence Street (Corner of Florence and Lake St), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM.
Mid-range Cairns hotels, resorts, and inns are listed here alphabetically.
- 14 181 The Esplanade, 181 The Esplanade (next to Cairns Base Hospital and a 15 min walk from town), ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM.
- 15 Amaroo At Trinity, 92-94 Moore St, Trinity Beach (Between Cairns and Palm Cove, 15-min drive from Cairns CBD), ☏ . Modern studio or suite in Cairns northern beach area. Close to restaurants, hotels, shops. Elevated beachfront position, views of the Coral Sea and the mountains in the rear. Queen and twin bed options, lift access to all floors, and laundry facilities on each level. $130-216.
- 16 Doubletree by Hilton Cairns, 21-123 The Esplanade & Florence St, ☏ , fax: . Located a few minutes walk from the centre, the hotel has both a normal swimming pool and a lake by the atrium with huge Barramundi! Most of the rooms have views of the sea. Double rooms approximately $150 per night.
- 17 The Lakes Cairns Resort and Spa, 2 Greenslopes St, ☏ . 4.5-star resort apartments in 11 acres (4.5 hectares) of lush landscaped gardens, lakes and beach lagoon pools.
- 18 Marlin Cove Holiday Resort, 2 Keem St. Trinity Beach (15 min from Cairns City), ☏ . 4-star self-contained accommodation in Trinity Beach. Suitable for families.
- 19 Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort, 122 Lake St (One block from the centre of Cairns), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Resort-style king rooms and twin rooms (with two doubles) approximately $150/night.
- 20 Quality Hotel Sheridan Plaza, 295 Sheridan St (5 min from the Cairns airport and city centre), ☏ , fax: . 4-star boutique-style hotel.
- 21 Queens Court Accommodation Cairns, 167-171 Sheridan St (In the centre of Cairns), ☏ , [email protected]. 81 standard rooms and suites including some self-contained suites. Showering amenities for guests on late departures, guest laundry, swimming pool, BBQ area, evening dining, free overnight luggage storage, and secure onsite parking. ADSL broadband in all rooms, wifi and internet kiosk. A tour desk, and a transit lounge. Breakfast and free airport transfer pick-up are available. All rooms have room safes. Budget rooms from $69/night, motel-style twin rooms from $103/night, sc suite from $140, family suite $229.
- 22 Reef Retreat Resort, 10-14 Harpa St, Palm Cove (22 km from Cairns), fax: . Between a coconut palm-fringed beach and lush, tropical rainforest.
- 23 Rydges Esplanade Resort Cairns, 209 - 217 Abbott St, ☏ , [email protected].
- 24 Villa Marine Holiday Resort, 8 Rutherford Street, Yorkeys Knob Beach, Cairns, ☏ , [email protected]. Villa Marine Holiday Resort has a luxury Rainforest Apartment that has amazing views over the adjoining rainforest. Or stay in their romantic Honeymoon apartment. Family and Budget apartments are available as well. Small, quiet and peaceful, they have all types of lodging to suit your needs. $99–150/night.
- 25 Cairns Harbour Lights, 1 Marlin Pde, Cairns, ☏ . Serviced 1- to 2-bedroom apartments with Cairns water and Trinity Park views.
- 26 Clarendon on Spence, 79 Spence St, ☏ , fax: . 2-3 bedroom apartments with balconies, fully-equipped kitchens, en suite with corner spa. Near Esplanade, Reef Fleet Terminal, and restaurant strip.
- 27 Hilton Cairns, 34 The Esplanade, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- 28 Cairns City Apartments, 79 Spence St, ☏ . 2-3 bedroom apartments with balconies located near restaurant district, shopping mall, and Reef Fleet Terminal. Guest access to spa and outdoor swimming pool. Sister-property of Clarendon on Spence.
- 29 The Sebel Cairns (Formerly Cairns International Hotel), 1 Marlin Parade, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Spacious rooms and suites all with balconies, overlooking the harbour and the city. From $200/room.
- 30 Shangri-La Hotel, Pierpoint Rd, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- 31 Pullman Reef Hotel, 35-41 Wharf St, ☏ , fax: . Among the best hotels in the city, located in the same building as the Reef Casino and with views over Trinity Bay. From $220.
Cairns is in general a safe city with all the annoyances (e.g. pickpockets and touts) that a city full of tourists experiences. The most notable threats are nature and the weather. Cairns is hit by tropical cyclones during the wet season (December until March) that cause damage to the infrastructure and stops public activities. Cairns has also been rated as the second most dangerous city after Darwin with a rating of 54.72.
- 2 Cairns Base Hospital, 165 The Esplanade, ☏ . Emergency services and all standard medical departments.
This small town nestled in the rainforest-covered mountains just north of Cairns draws thousands of tourists each week and is perhaps the most popular day trip from the city. Kuranda (elevation 330 m) is 25 km from Cairns via the Kennedy Highway, which snakes its way over the Macalister Range. However, most visitors reach the town by taking the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or Kuranda Railroad, both of which offer transfers to Cairns and package deals with Kuranda attractions. Skyrail travels above the rainforest with stations along the route to explore the rainforest environment and view the Barron River Falls. The Kuranda Railway makes a scenic trip through Barron Gorge National Park. The town itself offers plenty of shopping and is home to several wildlife parks.
- Mareeba, the edge of the outback, where the sun shines 300 days a year, and they produce the majority of Australia's coffee crop. Tours from Cairns are available.
- Mossman Gorge, 70 minutes north of Cairns is a good place to cool off. Avoid arriving at the same time as the tour coaches, and take great care swimming as the currents are very strong.
- The Daintree Rainforest which is officially the world's oldest rainforest is located an hour and a half north. Here you can see Australia's largest variety of flora and fauna as well as ride one of the top tourist attractions - Jungle Surfing.
- Green Island and Fitzroy Island, both resort islands that welcome day trips, are within 45 minutes of Cairns by ferry.
- The Savannahlander is a four-day train journey that departs from Cairns to the outback town of Forsayth. It's a unique way to see the Chillagoe caves and Undara lava tubes.
- Cooktown is around 3 hours north along the coast from Cairns, and has history, national parks and beaches to explore.
- Mission Beach a lovely tropical beach is about an hour and a half drive south. It is the gateway to Dunk and Bedarra Islands. Mission Beach is one of the few places you might see the very rare and endangered Cassowary bird.
- Port Douglas a seaside resort town and another gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest is an hour north along one of the nicest drives in Australia.
- Lake Tinaroo is on the Atherton Tablelands about an hour southwest of Cairns. Lake Tinaroo is great for swimming, water sports, bush walking, fishing and camping.
- Mt Isa is just perched on the NT border
- Townsville is the regional capital of North Queensland, and has plenty to offer
|Routes through Cairns|
|Normanton ← Kuranda ←||W S||→ becomes|
|becomes ←||E S||→ Innisfail → Townsville|