A big part of travelling is finding the perfect spot to have a cold drink at the end of a day adventuring. Here’s where to quench your thirst in Cairns, whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur, beer buff, gin junkie or simply love a glass of wine with a view.
Ask anyone who’s been to Cairns and they’ll tell you discovering its reef and rainforest is thirsty work. Add the fact the city has a climate that rarely (if ever) dips into single figures and there’s a good chance you’ll be parched come sundown. But good news, Cairns has been quenching thirsts since its first bar opened in 1877 and the city has only been perfecting its forms of hydration ever since.
Oak & Vine
If you like the idea of downing a brew with a view, take the elevator to the rooftop of Oaks Cairns to find Oak & Vine. Making the most of its Coral Sea frontage, Oak & Vine draws a crowd with some of the best views in Cairns served up alongside Peruvian share plates, signature cocktails and a selection of artisan gins.
Wolf Lane Distillery & Three Wolves
You’ll be howling for your friends to come down to Abbott St once you’ve discovered Wolf Lane Distillery and small bar, Three Wolves, which both serve up speciality whisky and house-made gin. Slip into Three Wolves for tapas and craft cocktails in an intimate setting or visit Wolf Lane Distillery to meet the makers and taste test the tropics with spirits infused with mango, grapefruit, finger lime and Davidson plum.
Say Aloha to Flamingos, the CBD’s own tiki bar hiding beneath street level on the Cairns Esplanade. Skip the indecision of their extensive cocktail menu and go straight for their signature drops – the classic Zombie or a Flamingos original – both served in glassware as Instagrammable as the bar itself.
Sauce Brewing Co
With roots in Sydney’s inner-west, Sauce pours liquid gold (read: craft beers) from their Cairns Brewpub and Bottleshop. Stocking all their favourite indie brews – Hopsauce pale ale, Caribbean Fog hazy pale ale and Simples premium lager (to name a few) – pull up a stool and taste the small-batch difference. Not into beer? No worries – the drinks list has more than one nectar of the gods.
Not all heroes wear capes – some drink 7th Heaven Tropical Ale and save the reef while they’re at it. Down a schooner and do your part to help reef research at Hemingway’s Brewery who will donate 50% of the profits from their Tropical Ale to the Great Barrier Reef Legacy. Set inside a heritage-listed building overlooking Trinity Inlet, pull up a bar stool and soak up the atmosphere at this local favourite. Since all of their house-made brews give a nod to their tropical location, you can give your taste buds a tour of North Queensland and save yourself the kilometres. Bump Track, anyone?
You’ll find Cairns’ highest bar, Rocco, at Crystalbrook Riley – the jewel in this five-star hotel’s crown. Soak up panoramic views of the Coral Sea and Cairns Esplanade from its 12th floor location while you tuck into Mediterranean-inspired share plates. While you might be happy sharing the sumac cured Tasmanian salmon with harissa yoghurt, take it from us, Rocco’s cocktails are best savoured solo.
What has indoor hanging plants, green wicker chairs and more natural light than you can possibly fit into a photo? Boardwalk Social at Crystalbrook Collection’s Flynn hotel. Less standalone bar and more market-inspired precinct, forget what you know of hotel bars because this one bucks the trend. On the drinks list you’ll find 36 beers on tap and 40 gins catering to a broad palette, much like their food menu which runs from poke bowls to pizza.
If you choose your drinking holes based real estate, it doesn’t get better than the waterfront Salt House on the Cairns Marlin Marina. Every table clocks a view of Trinity Inlet, the Coral Sea and Cairns’ surrounding mountains from its modern, boat-shed design. If you’re not doing dinner and drinks in the main restaurant, head straight to the bar section with its day beds, ponds and fire features. With tapas, woodfired pizza, share boards and an olive menu to accompany the cocktail list, you might physically be in Cairns, but this bar feels very Mediterranean at the same time.
If ever there was a destination made for a swim-up bar, Cairns is it and Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort has taken the plunge by creating the city’s only swim-up bar, MOKU. If cocktails in your cozzie isn’t your thing, snag a spot under the palms at Moku Beach Club and Moku Bar and Grill for poolside bevvies and bites.
The Conservatory Bar
Looking for a place to wine-down? Say hello to The Conservatory Bar. With 350 different drops on the menu, the collection speaks to owner Ross Steven’s experience in the industry. Resembling a traditional Queenslander on the outside, inside you’ll be met with chandeliers and chesterfields, creating a cosy speakeasy vibe.
There’s a new iconic duo in Cairns to rival the reef and rainforest – fried chicken and frozen cocktails – which you’ll find at Howlin’ Jays. You can easily see how they arrived at their tagline “the house of good times” when $4 will buy you “shit beer” and “crap tequila”. Grab your friends, don’t wear white and get ready for a whole lot of chicken served with six different spice levels. Like it hot? Their XXX Scoville-worthy sauce is available on demand.
Sitting at the base of the Shangri-La Hotel, The Backyard is as popular for its seafood as it is for its view over the marina. This is not your typical hotel bar and restaurant, attracting more than its in-house guests with its relaxed alfresco vibe, ocean breezes and modern Australian cuisine.
Cairns Brewery Tours
Why settle for visiting one brewery when you can make a day out of it with Cairns Brewery Tours? Discover why beer tastes better when you know how it was made with their half-day brewery tour, covering a handful of breweries, distilleries and local haunts in the Cairns CBD and surrounds.
The Pier Bar
When a city fronts the Coral Sea, why on earth would you want to drink indoors? Head to the pier precinct and pull up a bar stool at The Pier Bar. Best known for its relaxed Sunday sessions you’ll find an extensive wine, beer and cocktail list and a pub grub-style menu made for soaking it up. Head down on Thursday nights with your dancing shoes on for Latin Night from 8pm.
The Cotton Club
Restaurant by day, nightclub by night, The Cotton Club is the sort of venue that’s perfected the atmosphere required to transport you from ‘just one drink’ to ‘just one more’. Overlooking the fig trees in City Place, The Cotton Club is as popular with suits from the city as it is with first-timers to Cairns.
You know you’re in for a good time when you visit a bar linked to an award-winning backpackers. Enter Cairns institution Gilligan’s, which is best described as an entertainment venue in its own right, with three bars including a beer garden, indoor beer hall and nightclub within its footprint. With space for up to 2000 people, Gilligans subscribes to the fact it’s after 5pm somewhere in the world and has an events calendar that guarantees no two nights are the same.
Rattle N' Hum
Serving Cairns locals since 1997, Rattle N’ Hum has perfected the delivery of good times, cold beers and hot food across four locations – Cairns Esplanade, Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Cairns Airport. This is the spot to head for big-screen sports but you’ll find something on here seven days a week.
House of Commons
Take a trip back in time to the roaring 20s at House of Commons, a secret speakeasy style bar tucked away above the Bavarian Beerhouse on the Cairns Esplanade. Sip on locally made spirits and brews in this classic cocktail bar, which is the love child of local Coral Sea Brewing Co and Mt Uncle Distillery.
Bavarian Beer House
If you’re a fan of beer, the Bavarian beer house is seriously calling your name. Pull up a pew and order their signature “stein” and sip on half a litre of beer. The venue itself pays homage to Bavaria, with waitresses wearing lederhosen and traditional accordion playing.
Harbourside Bar & Kitchen
If you like your boozy bevs on the healthy side make way to Harbourside Bar & Kitchen, Cairns’ first and only natural wine bar. Located on the northern end of the Cairns Esplanade, this newly opened bar and restaurant has already won several awards, including the Best Award of Excellence 2020 from leading wine magazine Wine Spectator.
Miss Chief Bar & Eatery
Settle down in one of Miss Chief’s intimate booths or relax on an outdoor swinging sofa and sip on Miss Chief original cocktails such as Berry White and Finning Delishious. Pair your tipple of choice with something from the hunted & gathered Asian inspired menu, such as Korean fried cauliflower bites and 14hr slow-cooked pork belly.