Cairns at night from the air

Where to go

Cairns & Northern Beaches

Cairns is the Bustling Heart of Tropical North Queensland

Hop on a boat for the Great Barrier Reef, venture inland in search of lush rainforest or just kick back and embrace the laid-back tropical lifestyle.

One of the things that defines this part of the world for me is the cloud that rests gently on the tips of the mountains as dawn comes up over Cairns

Andy Ridley – CEO, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef

Salt house people eating

ALFRESCO ALLURE

Cairns has grown from ramshackle port town to stylish modern city – the erstwhile capital of Tropical North Queensland, with a year-round outdoor lifestyle. You’ll feel like you’re on holiday from the minute you arrive. The sun is shining, the air is steamy and palm trees line the streets. Throw out the schedule, throw on your swimsuit and settle in for a seriously good time.

Cairns birdwing butterfly

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

The Tanks Art Centre hosts live music, comedy, contemporary art exhibitions, workshops and children’s theatre in an intimate venue. Walk through the leafy Botanic Gardens, along the shore of Lake Morris or tackle the winding steps of the Red Arrow track through the Mount Whitfield Conservation Park.

The prawn star boat

 

A TASTE OF THE TROPICS

But don’t let that small-town vibe fool you. With its distinctive multicultural mix, Cairns buzzes with innovative eateries, on-trend bars, stylish boutiques and galleries. Visit laneway bar Three Wolves to taste one of the 50 types of whiskey on the menu, or check out Prawn Star, a prawn trawler turned floating restaurant that serves up some of the freshest local prawns and seafood in the city – with a cold brew, of course!

Cairns reef fleet terminal from the air

AT THE DOORSTEP OF THE REEF

The city is tucked between two of Tropical North Queensland’s greatest natural treasures – the marine playground of the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics Rainforest, which means adventure is never far away. Almost 30 boats leave Cairns every day for the reef and in less than an hour you can be snorkelling or diving in Australia’s most spectacular underwater environment. Inland, hike through sun-dappled forest on the Douglas Track to Glacier Rock, swim in the cascading pools of nearby Crystal Cascades or glides just metres over the canopy of tropical rainforest on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Swimming in Cairns lagoon

 

INTO THE BLUE

There’s no beach in Cairns, so locals and visitors alike cool off in the sparkling Esplanade Lagoon. This 4800 sq m saltwater pool is lined with parks, shady banyan trees, boardwalks and barbecues.

Running on the beach

ON THE BEACHES

If you need a beach fix, head for Cairns’ Northern Beaches, a string of sleepy seaside villages about 15 minutes from the city. They are a favourite with locals and each has its own unique character, like the family-friendly Trinity, the kite-surfing hub of Yorkeys Knob or the relaxed Holloways.

Tips

  • Burn off some of the holiday calories with one of the free outdoor exercise classes held six mornings a week along the Esplanade. Choose from aqua aerobics in the lagoon, Zumba, yoga, pilates, boxing, beach volleyball and more.

  • Rusty’s Market has been supplying Cairns with its fresh fruit and vegetables for more than 40 years. Juicy mangoes, native bush fruits, excellent coffee and pop-up food trucks are just some of the temptations. Open Friday and Saturday, 5am-6pm; Sunday, 5am-3pm.

  • Cairns is a very welcoming city and you’ll feel at home right away. It’s also easy to get around and everything in the CBD is within walking distance.

  • Each November sees the annual coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef. This is a great time to visit for snorkelling or diving.

Discover More

There’s so much to do in Cairns. Check out the bustling markets and vibrant nightlife, or use the city as a jumping-off point to explore the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics Rainforest or the Atherton Tablelands.

What’s On

In Cairns, you can see a world-famous artist perform at the Tanks Art Centre, visit one of the monthly markets or cheer with the crowd at a local sporting match.

Boat on the reef

Getting here

  • Runway at Cairns airport

    By air

    The Cairns Airport is the main port of arrival for many travelers to Tropical North Queensland, operating both domestic and international terminals.

  • By boat

    Cairns welcomes large cruise ships and private vessels on a regular basis and provides a great stop on many cruising itineraries.

  • Car driving past Cairns reef terminal

    By car

    Self-drive or hire a car. The Pacific Way is a 1680km journey from the Gold Coast to Cairns, taking in the best of coastal Queensland. For a different route, try the Great Inland Way, Matilda Way or Savannah Way.

  • Greyhound bus in Cairns

    By coach

    Greyhound Australia and Premier Motor Service operate daily departures from Brisbane to Cairns. Additional fare options are available into Brisbane from major and regional centres around the country with forward travel to Cairns a popular option.

Stay

From five-star to budget-friendly, you will find an abundance of accommodation in Cairns.

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