The ultimate travel guide to

Cairns

As the gateway to Far North Queensland, Cairns is the number one base for travellers exploring the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. More accessible, affordable and lively than its northern, small town counterparts, Cairns casts a wide appeal, enticing all kinds of travellers, from families to honeymooners and backpackers.

 

When up North, it’s best to leave your suit at home. Here, all you need are your boardies and sunblock to enjoy the best of the region. Consider yourself to be very much ‘a city person’? The constant stream of scuba dives, snorkelling excursions, reef cruises and outback adventures will convince even the most buttoned-up types to relish in the laid-back lifestyle of the tropics.

 

Make the most of your stay with our list of the best things to do in Cairns.

Top Things to Do in Cairns

Waterfalls, Rainforests and Gardens

Venture beyond the Esplanade and you’ll discover the heart of Far North Queensland. The Cairns Botanic Gardens is a great introduction to the beauty of the tropics. Just 20 kilometres west of town lies Crystal Cascades, a series of inviting freshwater swimming holes and waterfalls. Rather admire the Cairns rainforest from above the canopy? The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway will immerse you among gorgeous palms and giant ferns, then jump on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns to traverse through dense rainforest, rugged mountains, and the stunning Barron Gorge. Interested in going further afield? The World-Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest is home to a range of native flora and fauna, including the tree-dwelling kangaroo and the cassowary.

Water Activities

One of the best ways to see the Cairns and its surroundings is by water. Thrill seekers are for the ride of their lives as they race through the beautiful Trinity Inlet. Local’s best-kept secret, Fitzroy Island is a haven for water sports, including sea kayaking, ocean trampolining, snorkelling and diving. Feel the need for speed? Get your fix and white water raft down the rapids of the Tully River and through World-Heritage Rainforest.

Great Barrier Reef

No trip to Cairns is complete without a visit to the world’s largest coral system. Day tours will take you out to snorkel or dive the Reef, guiding you through the technicolour dream of coral and marine life. And non-swimmers needn’t miss out. The Seawalker will descend you into the Great Barrier Reef to walk the ocean floor and see what all the fuss is about.

Markets and Cultural Attractions

Cairns’ markets are a mandatory stop for travellers who want a taste of the local culture. The mountain village of Kuranda is best known for its galleries and markets, the latter which specialise in leather goods, wood and jewellery. Prefer to shop in town? Every Saturday, the Cairns Esplanade Market is where local artisans proudly share their work, stocking everything from one-of-a-kind ceramics to natural skincare products. For night owls, the Cairns Night Markets comes alive every evening at 5pm, with 131 regularly rotating stalls to ensure sifting for treasure never gets boring. Want an insight into indigenous culture? Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park brings the world’s living culture to life through powerful displays of art and dance.

Best Places to Stay in Cairns

Resorts

There are plenty of resorts in Cairns to suit tastes and budgets. Paradise away from prying eyes can be found at Kewarra Beach Resort & Spa where bungalows and suites are nestled across 33 acres of tropical gardens. A 25-minute drive away from town is the exclusive Alamanda at Palm Cove, fit for family holidays and romantic getaways. Boasting suites of up to four bedrooms and direct access to the beach, this Cairns accommodation pick is hard to look past.

Hotels

Cairns also offers a variety of hotel options, ranging from cost-effective stays to ultra-luxe high-rises. For luxury in the heart of the action, you can’t beat the Shangri-La Cairn’s outpost for its sprawling seascape. One of the newest and most gleaming places to stay is the five-star Riley by Crystalbrook where guests can laze among palm trees in cabanas while overlooking the lagoon pool.

Caravans and Camping

Caravans and campsites are perfect for Cairns holiday makers in seek of fun and adventure. One of the best Cairns caravan parks is Cool Waters Holiday Park where you can enjoy the on-site swimming pool, spa, and turtle sanctuary. If you prefer to awake with a morning dip in the watering hole next to one of the region’s most iconic attractions, stay at Babinda Boulders Camping Areas.

 

Top Places to Eat in Cairns

Travellers in need of fuel ahead of a long day of sightseeing should stop by at Caffiend. A favourite breakfast spot among locals, this Cairns cafe is famed for using seasonal ingredients to serve up modern twists on the classics. For a table with a view, book ahead at Ochre Restaurant. Situated along the Harbour Lights boardwalk, it’s the perfect spot to take in views of the inlet, mountains and the reef. Looking for a casual bite? Head to Piato for Mediterranean dining without the fuss.

How to Visit Cairns

Visiting Cairns is simple, you can fly, drive, and even catch a bus or train to Cairns. Brisbane to Cairns flights are 2.5 hours long while Sydney to Cairns flights have a journey time of over 3 hours. All flights arrive at Cairns Airport where car hire services are abundant. However, getting around Cairns is just as easy without your own set of wheels. Ride-sharing services, taxis, bikes and the Sunbus bus service will get you to wherever you want to explore.

Tours and Packages in Cairns

Experience the Tropics without the stress with your pick of Cairns holiday packages. On arrival in Cairns, perhaps one of the most scenic ways to see Cairns more of Far North Queensland is the winning combination of helicopter, train and Skyrail. With an endless array of Cairns Great Barrier Reef tours on offer, finding one that caters to your interests and schedule should be a breeze.