CairnsTravel Guide

Cairns lures travellers from all over the world and with so many natural wonders in close proximity, it’s easy to see why. In this lush northern region of Queensland, ancient rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns is the hub around which unforgettable holiday memories are made. Cairns itself welcomes visitors with open arms and is the perfect base for your own tropical adventure. If you’re planning your trip, explore our Cairns travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in Queensland’s beautiful north. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have all sorts of suggestions for things to do, the best time to travel, where to stay, getting around (private charter, anyone?) and more. We even have a guide to Cairns Airport, which has flights to domestic and international destinations.

Cairns quick facts


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Bottle of Coke/Pepsi (330ml)

AUD $4.50

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Eating out

Restaurant meal (casual dining)

AUD $25.00


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Explore Cairns

Where to stay in Cairns?

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Far North Queensland, finding where to stay in Cairns largely depends on your plans. If you plan to hit the shops, wine and dine, and then explore the city centre, Cairns city is the best spot to base yourself. If you’re dreaming of a relaxing beach holiday, Palm Cove or Holloways Beach may be more your style. There are many precincts with spectacular Cairns accommodation, so you can be sure you’ll find something to suit your budget and taste.

While Cairns may seem small in comparison to other cities, it excels when it comes to modern, affordable accommodation. The city is built around the harbour, so you can find places to stay that offer spectacular views over the water and the city itself. Cairns city accommodation places you in the heart of the action.

Just 15 minutes from Cairns CBD, Trinity Beach is the best place to stay if you want to try out the best golf courses in Far North Queensland. Beachside apartments and resorts are located near the course as well as restaurants and shopping hotspots. Head out to explore during the day and come back to your Trinity Beach accommodation to relax and enjoy spectacular views.

Just over 10 minutes from Cairns, Holloways Beach accommodation is what you would call absolute beachfront. With a small dining precinct, the area is a beautiful spot if you want to have a quiet getaway. The location makes it easy to access nearby attractions such as Kuranda, the Botanic Gardens, and Cairns city.

Just like the stunning surroundings, accommodation in Palm Cove is truly amazing. With beautiful beach resorts, amazing restaurants and galleries nearby, your stay in Palm Cove is sure to be exciting. Located between Cairns and Port Douglas, Palm Cove is perfect if you're looking for a little more privacy during your visit to the region.

If you're searching for beachside accommodation in Cairns, Ellis Beach is a fantastic spot. Approximately 20 minutes north of Cairns, this area is beautifully quiet while being within a short distance to both Cairns and Port Douglas. This gives you the best of both worlds: privacy and easy access to local attractions for sightseeing.

Believe us when we say, this is just the start. Book your accommodation today!

  • Turtle swimming underwater with sun light peaking through behind
    • People swimming in crystal blue water with others walking along the sand
    • Distant shot of bush land and ocean in Daintree National Park
  • Turtle swimming underwater with sun light peaking through behind
    Turtle swimming underwater with sun light peaking through behind
    Turtle swimming underwater with sun light peaking through behind
  • People swimming in crystal blue water with others walking along the sand
    People swimming in crystal blue water with others walking along the sand
    People swimming in crystal blue water with others walking along the sand
  • Distant shot of bush land and ocean in Daintree National Park
    Distant shot of bush land and ocean in Daintree National Park
    Distant shot of bush land and ocean in Daintree National Park

Things to do in Cairns

Deciding what to do in Cairns? This region has so many magical experiences and amazing attractions – you might want to plan some activities before you go!Tropical rainforests with cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches with gentle rolling waves, and a gorgeous saltwater lagoon are just some of the beautiful places to visit in Cairns. Plan a trip aboard Kuranda Scenic Railway, the railway through the rainforest, or take advantage of the location and enjoy some water activities such as diving, snorkelling, or fishing. Cairns truly has something for every traveller.

One of Australia's most incredible must-see attractions, a trip to Cairns isn't complete without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you've never snorkelled before or you have a scuba-diving certification, getting into the water is a great way to get up close to the coral and marine life. Alternatively, hop aboard a glass-bottom boat tour.

One of the most popular Cairns tourist attractions is Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Climb on board this cable car to see the rainforest from the air. The cable stretches more than 7km over the rainforest, giving you fantastic views over the treetops and the waterfalls of this world-renowned tropical attraction. Skyrail Cairns is definitely a must-do on your visit.

If you plan to see iconic Cairns landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef, be sure to check out Reef Teach as well. With talks from a marine biologist and information on marine life, Reef Teach can help you to make the most of a visit to the reef. You'll learn about conservation and how to interact with some of the reef's most famous animals.

Just 45 minutes by boat from Cairns, Fitzroy Island is perfect for a day trip or for an island stay. While a large portion of the island is protected and off-limits, there's still an abundance of things to do. Take a walk up to the highest point for impressive views, snorkel the nearby fringe reef, or enjoy a swim in the clear waters.

Just two hours from Cairns is the largest tropical rainforest in Australia, The Daintree National Park. Thought to be more than 110 million years old, the Daintree is home to the largest range of animals in the world, not to mention the plant life! Keep your camera handy – there are so many beautiful sights to see here.

Winding from Cairns to Kuranda, the amazing Kuranda Scenic Railway passes right through a tropical paradise. If you like the idea of Cairns sightseeing with a difference, this is definitely an essential experience. Along the trip you'll see amazing views of the mountains and rainforest, pass waterfalls, and travel through Barron Gorge to arrive in the village of Kuranda, tucked away in the rainforest itself.

If you want to see more of the natural beauty on offer in Cairns, hiking is an amazing way to do it. Walking tracks are found in Barron Gorge National Park, which includes an elevated walk, or head out to the Atherton Tablelands to explore the Bartle-Frere Trails. The Rainforest Circuit Track through Mossman Gorge is also well worth seeing to get a glimpse of the local wildlife.

Booking one of the many Cairns day trips on offer gives you an opportunity to see places of absolute wonder. Head into the rainforest, see the Atherton Tablelands, take a cultural trip through Mossman Gorge with a local Aboriginal guide, or see the beauty that is Cape Tribulation. There are many different ways of seeing the sights, from helicopter tours to river cruises, bus tours and even private tours.

Looking for an immersive experience? Then a tour is the way to go.

Flights to Cairns

Cairns food and drink

With so many options to choose from, you’ll never be left wondering where to eat in Cairns. Restaurant precincts in the city and on the waterfront offer a delicious assortment of cuisines, each brimming with local produce.Whether you’re looking for something relaxed like takeaway fish and chips to enjoy by the beach, or you want to taste some amazing local delicacies and specialty dishes while fine-dining, Cairns can accommodate you. Hit up the markets for some fresh produce or take a walk along the Esplanade to find a nearby cafe serving up creamy coffees.

For affordable dining, Cairns Night Markets are a great place to start. Among the many food stalls here are Asian-influenced dishes, steak, pasta, kebabs, and fresh fruit stalls, so you can pick up something to eat in or grab and go! Check out the Esplanade markets for fresh local produce and a fresh coffee to start your day

When visiting Cairns, bars and nightlife are often mixed with a bit of history. The Grand Hotel on McLeod Street is arguably Cairns' most iconic, with a hand-carved crocodile-shaped bar where you can have a drink. There are a number of relaxed bars in Cairns and the Tablelands, perfect for a cold drink after a warm day.

The Esplanade has become one of the go-to restaurant precincts in Cairns, thanks to the wide array of dining options. If you're searching for fresh Cairns seafood or produce, you'll be sure to find it here. In the city, you can find popular restaurants on Shields Street. Trinity Beach's Vasey Esplanade has also established itself as a popular dining spot.

While it sometimes feels like life moves a little slower in Cairns, the cafe and coffee scene is on par with major cities. Locally produced coffee is available in many cafes, so you won't struggle to find a quality cup. Many Cairns cafes serve up dishes that showcase the local produce in spectacular fashion – the tropical fruit in particular.

Get a real taste for the local cuisine by booking a tour.

Cairns through your eyes

Where to shop in Cairns?

The beauty of Cairns shopping is the assortment of options. You can bargain-shop in the outlet mall in Westcourt, browse high-end labels on the marina, or admire the variety of goods available in the markets. Scour the street stalls to pick yourself up a souvenir, or browse Cairns fashion stores in the city. Head to the movies, grab something tasty to eat, or simply take five in the air-conditioned comfort of the many shopping centres in Cairns. More shopping precincts can also be found in the suburbs and in nearby Port Douglas.

In the heart of the city, Cairns Night Markets is well worth a look if you're searching for handmade gifts, souvenirs, fashion items, or good food. When you want to pick up fresh produce or local delicacies, head to the markets on the Esplanade (Saturday) or on Grafton Street (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). If you fancy a drive, Sunday markets also take place in Port Douglas and Mossman.

In addition to the main shopping centres in Cairns, shopping precincts can be found down on the marina and in Port Douglas. The marina has a number of small specialty stores, as well as cafes and restaurants. Further afield, Macrossan Street in Port Douglas is an interesting mix of galleries, boutique stores, fashion retailers, and cafes.

There are a couple of shopping centres in Cairns where you can shop all day if you're so inclined! In the city, Cairns Central Shopping Centre is the largest shopping centre in Far North Queensland with department stores and smaller retailers. There are also shopping centres in Smithfield, Earlville, and Westcourt that offer an array of shopping experiences.

Looking for a safe and simple way to bring your money when you travel? Our Travel Money Card has you covered!

When is the best time to travel to Cairns?

Finding the best time to travel to Cairns will depend on what you plan to do during your holiday. Cairns seasons are characterised by two distinct periods: the wet season and the dry season. During the wet season, rainfall is highest, but diving conditions are also at their best. The dry season offers much better conditions for some adventure-seekers, particularly if you wish to go up in a hot-air balloon or do some hiking. Whatever time you choose, you can rest assured Cairns will be stunning.

Summer in Cairns means hot, humid weather, thanks to the tropical climate. Day temperatures range between 23-31°C and Cairns rainfall is at its highest during this time, particularly in January and February. While the wet season is dominated by rain, it also offers beautiful water temperatures and fantastic diving conditions. Be sure to abide by any signs that indicate whether beaches are safe to swim at. Appropriate clothing: Shorts and a t-shirt. Don't forget: Umbrella, sunscreen.

Winter in Cairns is a welcome escape from the cold weather many other parts of Australia are experiencing. The temperature ranges from 17-26°C, with postcard-perfect clear skies making this a perfect Cairns season. Winter also marks the start of the migration of humpback whales, which makes it a fantastic time to enjoy whale-watching. Appropriate clothing: Shorts and a t-shirt with a jacket for cooler evenings. Don't forget: Binoculars for whale-watching!

While the start of autumn in Cairns has lingering rainfall from the outgoing wet season, April and May mark the start of the dry season. Temperatures are still quite high during the day, between 22-29°C, but the days are also much drier. Autumn is a great time to explore the natural surroundings, including Cape Tribulation. Appropriate clothing: Shorts and a t-shirt. Don't forget: Sunscreen.

Daytime temperatures during spring in Cairns average a low of 21°C up to a high of 30°C. Much like other parts of the world, spring kickstarts new blooms of plant growth. Coral spawns, gardens come to life with flowers, and the weather is stunning. Rainfall tends to be during the evening, giving you the whole day to enjoy being outdoors. Appropriate clothing: Shorts and a t-shirt. Don't forget: A rain jacket for the evenings.

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How to get around Cairns

From the moment you arrive, you’ll be impressed with how easy it is to get around using Cairns transport. The city is very walkable, while public transport makes it easy to head further afield. Even though you may be surrounded by hills, Cairns itself is relatively flat, which means it’s a fantastic opportunity to hire a bike and pedal around. You can also jump in a taxi or on board one of the buses servicing the city and surrounding areas. If you want to venture off the beaten track, car hire or a day tour are also available.

Passenger transport in the city is simple thanks to Cairns taxis. There are a number of taxi ranks throughout the CBD and tourist areas, which are clearly signposted for convenience. Taxis can also be ordered over the phone or online, or you can hail an available cab on the street. If you have more than four passengers, it's a good idea to pre-book to ensure there is a suitably sized taxi available.

Take advantage of the amazing climate and explore by pedal power with bike hire in Cairns. Whether you want to reduce your own carbon footprint or you simply want to have the freedom to explore at your leisure, bike hire is a fantastic option. The main area of Cairns is quite flat, which makes for comfortable riding.

Getting around Cairns by public transport is easy and affordable. Buses run daily throughout Cairns, servicing the city and the suburbs. Bus services are available to most beaches and shopping centres, making it easy for you to jump on and off. Single, daily and weekly tickets are available for purchase and can be used on any Cairns bus route.

Getting around Cairns on foot is an affordable way to see the city. There are many fantastic walkways spread around Cairns and the Northern Beaches, including a fantastic stretch along the Esplanade. Keep in mind that Cairns is a tropical area and can get quite warm during summer. Be sure to take a bottle of water if you're planning a longer walk.

Let us help you organise your own wheels for exploring. Hire a car today.

What are the best beaches in Cairns?

The beauty of palm tree-lined sands is enough to draw anybody to Cairns beaches for a swim, some sun, and a bit of relaxation. Along the coastline are some of the most stunning stretches of beach, where you can enjoy the warm water and tropical climate that Far North Queensland is renowned for.Whether you seek the privacy of Ellis Beach, the convenience of Trinity Beach, or the versatility of Yorkeys Knob, these beaches will have you captivated. Just remember to observe the signage, particularly during stinger season, so you can enjoy your beach visit safely.

Located in Palm Cove, approximately 20 minutes from Cairns, this beach accommodates any experience. Whether you want to relax with a good book, try windsurfing or go for a dip, Palm Cove beach is amazing. The main area of Palm Cove is just a short walk from the beach, making it easy to cool off before having a bite to eat.

Located close to Palm Cove, Ellis Beach is a small beach that feels intensely private. The waters are very calm, perfect for a gentle swim, with the beach somewhat protected by rocks at the southern end. With little development on the beachside, Ellis Beach is not as busy as others in Cairns or Port Douglas.

When you want to make like the locals, head to Clifton Beach. Just over 20 minutes from the CBD of Cairns, Clifton Beach is a beautiful spot that has managed to avoid major waterfront development. Many people choose to picnic on the beach here or simply relax and admire their surroundings as the small waves roll in.

Arguably the most popular of all the Cairns beaches, Trinity Beach is the place to be on a warm day (which is a pretty regular occurrence in Cairns!). Wedged between two headlands, Trinity Beach is fantastic for swimming or for simply relaxing on the sand. The area is dotted with cafes, restaurants and resorts, which draw many people to the beach.

If you're planning to surf, jet-ski or windsurf in Cairns, Yorkeys Knob is the best place to do it. Just 15 minutes from Cairns CBD, the beach is mainly surrounded by residential properties, making this a very quiet spot. The estuarine creek offers great fishing, and during low tide you can wander along the sand for what feels like miles.

Holloways Beach is a narrow stretch of sand and a quiet beach not far from the city. Bordered by residential areas and a recent waterfront dining addition, Holloways Beach is perfect for spending an afternoon relaxing. Take a fishing line or that book you've been meaning to read and enjoy this quiet beachside spot.


Cairns Frequently asked questions

Don't forget to pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, and bug spray for a tropical adventure in Cairns.

Cairns is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics rainforest, and the Atherton Tablelands, all of which offer incredible natural beauty and outdoor adventure.

Life happens - we get it! Contact your Flight Centre Travel Expert here to reorganise your travel plans.

Cairns is a great destination any time of year, but if you want to avoid the hot weather, you may want to plan your trip for the cooler months of May-September.

From snorkelling and diving to hiking and exploring national parks, there's no shortage of things to do in and around Cairns. Don't be afraid to get out and make the most of this amazing region!

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