Cairns Destination Guide
Cairns is, indeed, at the heart of a 'paradise found'. To the north, magnificent beaches are signal points on the way to the vacation centres of Palm Cove, Port Douglas and the rainforest of the Daintree – World Heritage-listed and boasting the oldest rainforest on Earth.
To the west, as a backdrop to the vibrant, cosmopolitan, visitor-orientated city, the Barron Gorge National Park gives way to the agriculture-rich Atherton Tablelands. To the east, enjoy a plethora of experiences on the Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.
Dozens of tours depart the Cairns marina each day offering everything from diving and snorkelling to island and cay day trips, overnight cruises and game fishing. Closer to home, take in the Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon, a much-loved development that has transformed the city in recent years.
- Country: Australia
- Currency: Australian Dollar (AUD)
- Offical Language: English
- Visas: International visitors need a visa to enter Australia and different types apply depending on country of origin, your travel agent can advise
- Tipping: Voluntary, tips of around 10 per cent are optional for good service
- Electricity: Australian outlets run on an average 230 volts and use Type I plugs
Temperature (max C)
J 32, F 31, M 31, A 29, M 28, J 26, J 26, A 27, S 28, O 30, N 31, D 31
Rainfall (max mm)
J 339, F 403, M 386, A 165, M 87, J 34, J 24, A 17, S 19, O 29, N 68, D 125
When it comes to things to do in Cairns, the city's natural assets are where you'll find most of the action. At the top of your -to–do list should be the Great Barrier Reef, just a quick cruise ride away. The Daintree Rainforest is another of Cairns' tourist attractions; a real life Jurassic Park and the oldest tropical rainforest on earth, dating back some 135 million years.
South of the Daintree and only a short drive from Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands is another region worth exploring for its Outback-meets-rainforest landscapes and rich agricultural plains, boasting everything from tropical fruit wines to coffee, not to mention an incredible waterfall circuit.
See the area from above with a hot air balloon ride, or scale even greater heights with a sky diving adventure. If you're looking for the perfect school holidays escape, Cairns is one of the most family-friendly destinations in all of Oz!
Much like it's population, dining in Cairns is a multicultural affair. From Asian to Australian, Greek, Indian, Thai and Mexican, you can practically taste you're way around the world in Cairns. For a true taste of quintessential Cairns cuisine though, don't miss the fresh–out–of–the–ocean seafood, best enjoyed overlooking the water along the Esplanade.
For alfresco dining Cairns–style, order fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and enjoy a casual meal at one of the Esplanade's picnic tables. If you're seeking something chicer, Salthouse is the place to be. A pilgrimage to Rusty's Markets is also a must. This fresh produce market has been kicking for more than 40 years and is the perfect spot to grab a freshly squeezed tropical juice to beat the humidity.
Whatever your budget you will find something to suit with a huge choice of places to stay both in the city itself and at the beaches north of the city like Clifton, Kewarra and Palm Cove, and in the Atherton Tablelands.
Cairns is home to a swag of 5-star hotels, most of which embrace the city's coastal position. From the Pullman to the Shangri-La, Mantra, Hilton and Rydges, there are several big-name chains with strong reputations and competitive prices. For something easier on the hip pocket and higher up on the party scale, check out Gilligans Backpackers.
When the sun has gotten the better of you and you can't bear to eat any more prawns, take a break with some retail therapy. Like most tourist cities, Cairns has an ample shopping on offer, from designer boutiques at The Pier near the marina to bargain outlet, DFO. For a uniquely Cairns shopping experience however, don't miss the popular Cairns Night Markets.
Taking place nightly from 5pm with its entrance facing the Esplanade, the Night Markets are a great place to mingle with locals and pick up a souvenir or two, like local pearl jewellery or traditional Indigenous crafts. Cairns Central is your go-to for a day of shopping and perhaps even catching a flick, while there are boutiques scattered around on Shields, Spence and Lake Streets.
Cairns Like a Local
Hidden in the rainforest, Crystal Cascades is a top spot among locals for as long as anyone can remember, boasting freshwater swimming holes with a series of small waterfalls flowing into large pools. Lake Morris Road, Lamb Range – about 35 minutes from the CBD.
Artists at heart should check out the Tanks Art Centre. Three huge oil tanks constructed to service the navy when Cairns was a military port in World War II have been cleverly converted into a multi-use space to host local and touring exhibitions as well as concerts and performances. In the Botanic Gardens precinct. Monthly programs available online.
Did you know...? Many first-time visitors to Cairns are shocked to find there is no natural beach in town. Never fear! There is a free and fabulous swimming lagoon right in the centre of the Esplanade with a man-made beach, lifeguards and a cafe.