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 glide 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.

Guide to Cairns beaches

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.

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Getting here

  • Runway at Cairns airport

    By air

    Air travel is a popular choice of transport for many tourists traveling to Tropical North Queensland, with direct flights from all major cities and also from a number of Australia’s regional centres.

  • By boat

    Cairns Ports North hosts numerous large cruise ships and private boats regularly throughout the calendar year. Board from one of many Queensland coastal towns.

  • Car driving past Cairns reef terminal

    By car

    Why not turn your holiday to Tropical North Queensland into an “epic road trip”? If along the way you feel peckish, stop at some of the farmers markets or roadside fruit stalls and savour gorgeous local tropical fruits.

  • Greyhound bus in Cairns

    By coach

    Coaches depart multiple times daily from Brisbane and travel up the east coast to Tropical North Queensland. The direct journey can take approximately 30 hours, so you can relax and experience the ever-changing scenery as you travel through almost 2000km of Queensland countryside.

Stay

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

#exploreTNQ #explorecairnsGBR

Your tropical tablelands oasis is waiting ✨🌺 Escape the hustle of the city for a refreshing dip in mother nature's spectacular #WindinFalls 🌅 You’ll find this hidden gem along the Old Cairns Track through the #WooroonooranNationalPark 🌿☀️
​
​📸 @mytravelation #exploreTNQ #explorecairnsGBR #summergreat #thisisqueensland #seeaustralia
Get from A to B in style with #KurandaScenicRailway 🛤 This famous track was constructed between 1882 & 1891, winding its way from Cairns to @kurandavillage  amongst spectacular views of rainforest, ravines & picturesque waterfalls 💦💙 ​
​Photo by @jonathanomullane #exploretnq #thisisqueensland #seeaustralia #holidayherethisyear
Rugged & luxury meet the in back-country 150kms north-west of Cairns at @mountmulliganlodge 🌾 The 18km escarpment dominates the landscape with the lodge perfectly positioned to enjoy views over their weir towards the sandstone range. The lodge's fine attention to detail, breathtaking location & exceptional service has also helped to earn it a badge as a @luxurylodgesofaustralia 🥂 Video by ​@lukebakhuizen #exploreTNQ
The #CairnsEsplanadeLagoon is a thriving hotspot on the waterfront featuring a 4,800m² saltwater swimming pool free for the public to use 🏊🏾‍♂️ Spend your day lazing by the pool, nabbing a free barbecue to cook your lunch on & taking a ride on Cairns' newest attraction @TheReefEye 🎡​ Photo by @lonetravellingbug #exploreTNQ
How many Nemo's can you spot?! 👀🐠Taken at Two Towers, a wonderful collection of bommies on the Ribbon Reefs, north of Cairns. Rising from 25 metres, the two main pinnacles stand 20 metres tall & are covered in lovely corals & a great variety of invertebrate species & reef fish. Photo by @seajewlz onboard @mikeballdive #exploreTNQ
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ferris of them all? ​Something wheely exciting has taken over the #CairnsEsplanade 🎡 Experience some of the best views on @TheReefEye, open every day from 10am to 10pm until December 1st. Situated right by the Cairns Lagoon, enjoy a pre-or-post ride swim or relaxed meal at one of the many restaurants & cafes nearby #exploreTNQ
A little bit of shake a leg on the #GreatBarrierReef 👣🦘​We're not sure if you've heard but @dreamtimecairns  is one of the newest tours on the reef out of Cairns. Visiting two spectacular Outer Barrier Reef sites, Moore Reef & Milln or Flynn Reef, you'll step back into Dreamtime with Indigenous sea rangers 🐠 #exploreTNQ
#NandroyaFalls is a two-tiered epic waterfall located in the #WooroonooranNP - a @qldparks with some major highlights 🙌🏽💦 Along the Palmerston Highway you'll also find the famous Nucifora Tea Fields, @mamutropicalskywalk, ​Crawfords Lookout, Tchupala Falls, Wallicher Falls & @mungallicreek dairy​ 🍃🐄Worth a road trip from Cairns! Photo by @simonbeedlephotography #exploreTNQ
Just 2.5 hours west of Cairns, along the #WheelbarrowWay, you’ll find remnants of an ancient reef that forms an intricate system of underground caves & no one knows them better than the experienced @qldparks guides who showcase them everyday 🗺🔦 The #RoyalArchesCave is one of the largest cave systems in the area & the tour takes you through 11 chambers 🦇 Photo by @jemma_rk #exploreTNQ
Perks of booking the "Fly Dive Coral Sea" package with @mikeballdive are the epic views from the luxurious @lizardisland back to Cairns following your 4-night expedition of the Ribbon Reefs & Coral Sea 🛩🦈 80% of the low-level scenic flight home is flown at about 180 metres above the dive sites below so keep your eyes peeled for more marine life! 🐢🐋 ​Photo by @nicole_lol #exploreTNQ
At just 2.5 hours south of Cairns, a road trip to Cardwell is something you should definitely consider adding to the itinerary! Cardwell Forest Drive wraps around the #GirringunNationalPark & is peppered with magical spots like the famous #CardwellSpaPool, Attie Creek Falls, Deadhorse Creek & an incredible lookout with views over the Hinchinbrook Channel 🚙🌲 Photo by @darylcawthorne #exploreTNQ
They say good things come in threes 💭🐢🐋 Scuba diving on the Coral Sea is a bucket-list experience & no one does it better than the team at @mikeballdive out of Cairns. This time of the year is even more special as Minke Whales migrate from the cold waters of the south to the warm waters of North Queensland! 🎥 by @islandjems #exploreTNQ
263 corners, 19kms & 800m elevation with World Heritage views, say hello to the Gillies Range Road! 🍃🚙 @doingdownunder got high above the twists & turns of one of Cairns' most famous roads, which really puts things in perspective. If you've ever wound your way up the Gillies, to the @athertontablelands, then you'd know that atop the range you'll find volcanic crater lakes & the start of the #TinarooDam 🌋 #exploreTNQ
The drive into the sanctuary that is @thalabeach sure does set the scene 🌴 Located on a private headland between Cairns & @portdouglasdaintree, check into your deluxe eco cabin & enjoy the lodge's nature & wildlife walks or star gazing nights at their unique outdoor observatory before nabbing a table in the treetops at the popular Ospreys Restaurant 🌌🔭 Photo by @florols #exploreTNQ
Temperatures are looking to soar in the tropics this weekend... To a horrible Winter's day of approximately 28 degrees 😜 If you're looking for somewhere to cool off, make tracks about 40 mins south of Cairns to #BabindaBoulders 🍃🦎 If you're going tomorrow, stop by the Babinda Bakery for the World's best cream buns or the yummiest pies & sausage rolls you'll ever taste 🥧🤤 Photo by @juanmapuente #exploreTNQ
Rain in the rainforest, imagine that?! ☔️🍃@thedewaddict snapped this beautiful photo of the @wettropicsqld at @skyrailcairns Red Peak Station where 500-year-old Kauri Pines soar towards the rainforest canopy 🌳 So if you're in Cairns & it's raining (like it is today) don't fret. Instead, beeline straight for the rainforest & soak it all in 🌧 #exploreTNQ
Mornings above the clouds on the @athertontablelands ☁️🎈 If you're staying in Cairns, Palm Cove or Port Douglas, book a pick up with @hotairballooncairns & snooze on the drive to Mareeba before the roar of hot flames lifts your balloon above the patchwork of farmland below 🔥 Beautiful photo by @elizasum #exploreTNQ
scUber arrived in @tropicalnorthqueensland today & we're pretty pumped 🙌🏼 If you're in Cairns, Palm Cove or Port Douglas you can book this once-in-a-lifetime experience via the @uber_australia app from this Sunday📱The rideshare submarine will exploring the edge of the continenal shelf at Agincourt Reef off @portdouglasdaintree until 18 June. Hit the link in our bio for more info! #exploreTNQ #thisisqueensland
Cairns has long been known as the ‘Adventure Capital of @australia’ & white water rafting down the #TullyGorge is one of the reasons why! This full day tour from #Cairns or #MissionBeach will have your hurdling down grade 3-4 rapids while surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest - is there a better combo?! 🛶 Get up close like @paradiseadventuretravel #exploreTNQ

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