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Cairns

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Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland, Australia. Cairns is a cosmopolitan city with a population of approx. 140,000 that is very focused on the tourist industry; particularly popular with international tourists. Japanese tourists are especially catered for, with many shops' signs being written in Japanese, as well as English. The city is surrounded by rainforest and can be used as a gateway to destinations such as Kuranda and the Daintree. Besides tourism, the city is supported by agricultural activities which include sugar cane, bananas, coffee, tea and the world's first tropical fruit wine region.

Understand

Cairns' Pier Shopping Centre and promenade

There is a lot of accommodation to suit all budgets with plenty of drinking establishments and restaurants catering to all types of tastes. The atmosphere is laid back and unpretentious, while prices are relatively inexpensive. There are a plethora of clubs and coffee shops in the city, all overflowing with international tourists which helps to give Cairns its cosmopolitan feel.

There is no swimming beach to speak of in central Cairns (you will only find a mud flat if you head to the ocean), although there are many choices just north and south of the city. A large outdoor, lagoon-style pool is in the centre of the Cairns City area, which is very popular throughout the year with tourists and locals alike. If you are aiming to have a beach side resort holiday, there are several resorts a short drive north of Cairns.

Get in

By plane

Cairns International Airport [1] (IATA: CNS, ICAO: YBCS) is the primary international gateway into the region and is also served by many domestic flights. Cairns airport has two terminals; a domestic terminal and an international terminal, both within walking distance from each other.

The international airlines serving Cairns are:

The domestic airlines serving Cairns are:

Shuttle bus transfers are available from the Cairns Airport, prices range between $8.00 to $12.00 (oneway) and $15.00 to $18.00 return. The Cairns Airport shuttle buses typically depart the airport hourly. Cairns taxi' depart from the Cairns Airport and the trip will range between $20.00 to $30.00. If you don't book a shuttle transfer before arriving in Cairns there is only one company you can travel with. Google the different shuttle bus companies as to get the cheaper price you have to book prior to arriving in Cairns. The shuttle buses offering transfers from Cairns Airport are:-

  • Airport Connections [11]
  • Coral Sea Coaches [12]
  • FNQ Airport Shuttle [13]
  • Sun Palm Transport [14]


By train

Cairns Station is right in the city centre, easily within walking distance of the waterfront and most hotels.

Queensland Railways [15] Tilt train and The Sunlander services connect Cairns to Brisbane (via Townsville and Rockhampton), taking 32 hr for the full journey. Even though the Tilt Train reaches speeds of 160km/h between Townsville and Brisbane, the diesel Tilt Train running between Brisbane and Cairns runs at a maximum of 80km/h between Townsville and Cairns due to the poor alignment of the line. Although a trip between Townsville and Cairns takes 4 hours by car, it can take over 7 hr by train. The Tilt Train departs Cairns for Brisbane at 9:15AM on Wednesdays and Sundays, arriving at Townsville at 3:15PM and Brisbane at 9:10AM the next day. The Sunlander departs Cairns for Brisbane at 9:15AM on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, arriving at Townsville at 4:10PM and Brisbane at 3:55PM the next day.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway [16], also operated by Queensland Rail [17], runs from Cairns to Kuranda, stopping over the majestic Barron Gorge to allow passengers to leave the train and enjoy the beautiful view over the water. Trains depart Cairns at 8:30AM and 9:30AM daily arriving at Kuranda at 10:15AM and 11:15AM.

The Savannahlander [18] also travels from Cairns to Kuranda but then continues on to the outback town of Forsayth. It leaves Cairns at 6:30AM every Wednesday with a compulsory overnight stop at Almaden (with transfers available to Chillagoe), before arriving at Forsayth Station at 5:45PM on Thursday. The Savannahlander does not run between December and March.

By car

The 1,700 km Bruce Highway running south along the coast connects Cairns to the state capital of Brisbane. It takes 22 hr to drive without stopping, and you should allow at least 2-3 days of solid driving, or longer for a more relaxed pace of drive up the coast. There are regular towns along the coast which make good stopping off and sightseeing points.

Get around

By foot

The center of Cairns is small enough to cover on foot.

By bus

Frequent Sunbus buses depart from the market square to the suburbs and Northern Beaches. You can buy a bus ticket that lasts for 24 hr. The bus driver stamps the time of purchase and it valid for the next 24 hr.

By car

Apart from the town centre, a car is useful to see the surrounding attractions if you are not taking a tour.

Numerous car rental agencies are available from the airport such as: Redspot Car Rentals Avis Car Rentals Europcar Rentals

See

Events

  • Catch an amateur rugby game in town if you can, the locals play a mean game, and it's a great way to meet local folks.
  • International cricket is sometimes played in Cairns at Cazaly's Stadium [19]. Time your visit right and you could catch a great game for just a couple of dollars.
  • Cairns is home to one of Australia's best basketball teams, as well as basketball's most famous mascot, Joe Blake the Snake.

Natural attractions

  • Centenary Lakes, Collins Ave/Edge Hill, opposite the Botanic Gardens. Rainforest boardwalk that goes directly through the forest and ends at several small lakes and creeks. There is also a little park with picnic areas. Caution: The lakes are crocodile habitat.
  • City Botanic Gardens, Collins Ave/Edge Hill, +61 7 4044 3398. M-Fr 07.30-18.30, Sa-Su 08.30-17.30. Tropical vegetation and plants used by Aboriginal people, Gondwana Evolution trail. Café.
  • Lake Placid, Barron Gorge National Park, between Cairns and Kuranda. Peaceful lake surrounded by rainforest, with picnic spots.
  • Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, Collins Ave, north of city centre. Rainforest area with several marked walking tracks, views of the city.
  • Northern Beaches There is no beach in Central Cairns, but there are several beaches in the north that can easily be reached by bus. Although swimming is not always recommended, they are all beautiful and tropical, and ideal places to relax and walk. These beaches include Trinity Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Palm Cove, Holloways Beach, Kewarra Beach and Clifton Beach.
  • Smithfield Conservation Park, McGregor Road, close to James Cook University, north of the city centre. A large area of rainforest with several walking tracks. Rather off the beaten path and mostly visited by locals.
  • Many natural Cairns attractions include the Great Barrier Reef, Copperlode Dam, Atherton Tablelands and Daintree Rainforest
  • Cairns is a hotspot for wildlife diversity in Australia and is an ideal place to see a huge variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Places such as Mount Lewis, Lamb Range, or Mount Hypipamee are ideal locations to see anything from a Cassowary to Tree Kangaroos.

Museums & Galleries

  • Cairns Regional Gallery, Cnr Shields & Aplin St ☎ +61 7 4046 4800. Changing exhibitions from Australian artists, located in a beautiful 1930s building. M-Sa 10:00-17:00 and Su 13:00-17:00.
  • Cairns Museum, Cnr Shields & Lake St ☎ +61 7 40 515 582 Small museum that depicts the history of Cairns and the area, special emphasis on mining, farming, Cape York air, timber industry, Asian communities. $5, M-Sa 10:00-16:00.

Do

Swimmers using the lagoon on a winter's day

Cairns is an adventure sports enthusiast's paradise: every second shop is a tourist information centre with signs blaring "dive dive" or "tandem skydiving". Its location close to the ocean, the mountains and the rainforest gives travellers lots of choices of activities.

Standby rates are ubiquitous: many of the more expensive activities, including scuba diving and skydiving, are up to $150 cheaper if you are prepared to go on standby for a cancellation.

  • Swim in the artificial "lagoon" (a public swimming pool with some sand on one side) on the promenade near the pier. The lagoon is unfenced and free to use. A shallow depth(max depth 1.5 m) makes it ideal for families with children. The lagoon is a good place to cool off especially during "stinger season" between October and May (cf. Dangerous creatures in Australia) when local beaches should be avoided. Note that there are also no beaches in Cairns itself - one can catch a bus to the northern beaches, but the sand there is rather rough, and during stinger season the area protected by netting at the northern beaches is no bigger than the lagoon.
  • Sun-bake or people watch on the grassy part of the promenade near the lagoon. On a sunny day, even in the middle of Cairns's tropical "winter", there will sometimes be more sun-bakers than there is visible grass.
  • Have a barbecue on the promenade. Cairns has free barbecues scattered generously among the picnic tables on the grass.
  • Go walking - Cairns is surrounded by rainforest clad mountains, and there are nearly 200 walking tracks in this World Heritage Area. Keen walkers should keep an eye out for Tropical Walking Tracks, found at local bookshops and adventure shops. It lists all of the tracks around Cairns as well as those between Townsville and Cooktown and has maps of them and 'how-to-get-there' directions as well.
Lagoon in Cairns, Australia
  • Cairns Wildlife Dome, 35-41 Wharf St, +61 7 4031 7250 (), [20]. An all-weather wildlife exhibit enclosed by a 20 m high glass dome on top of the iconic Reef Hotel Casino, visitors walk through a replicated rainforest environment whilst birds such as parrots, cockatoos and lorikeets fly freely around you. See other animals such as koalas, frogmouths, kookaburras, rainforest wallabies, crocodiles, turtles and pythons. Complimentary guided tours and animal presentations take place throughout the day.
  • Whale Watching with Reef Magic, [21]. Whale watching tours with small boats in Jul and Aug, watching humpback whales. Trips take about 3 hr.


Coach Tours

Many coach tours depart Cairns daily, with a couple of hundred to choose from. There are rainforest tours to Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River, Cape Tribulation, and the Cairns Highlands (Atherton Tablelands), specialised 4WD tours, city sights tours, tours to wildlife parks, outback tours.

  • Bama Way Tours, +61 7 4040 7500, [22]. Aboriginal tour operator offering day and multi-day tours, including hunting and gathering at Cooya Beach. Many options for coach tours and self-drive, authentic cultural experiences.
  • Tropic Wings Coach Tours, PO 1230 Cairns, +61 7 4041 9400 (, fax: +61 7 4041 9499), [23]. One of the largest and longest established coach touring companies in Cairns, operating since 1981. Operate full and half day tours to Kuranda including Kuranda Scenic Railway, Skyrail, Rainforestation Nature Park and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree, Port Douglas, Atherton Tablelands and the 'Outback'. Extended tours available to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.
  • Food Trail Tours, PO 112 Cairns, +61 7 4041 1522 (, fax: +61 7 4032 0422), [24]. This is the original, tastiest and most comprehensive food and wine tour to the Atherton Tablelands. Travel off the beaten track, savour exotic tastes, visit plantations, and hear about the food's journey from ground - to table. It's a relaxing day with plenty of time to savour local produce including locally grown and processed coffee, exotic fruit wine, cheese, chocolate, macadamias, local seafood and Tropical North Queensland hospitality. The day travels from Cairns across the Atherton Tableland's dry plains, rolling hills, and into it's World Heritage Wet Tropics Rainforest.
  • Billy Tea Bush Safaris, +61 7 4032 0077, [25]. Small group 4WD tours to Daintree & Cape Tribulation, Chillagoe Caves, Cook Town and Cape York. Emphasis on natural attractions and local knowledge. Day and multi-day tours.
  • Cairns Discovery Tour, [26]. Includes the Royal Flying Doctor Service visitor centre and botanical gardens.
  • Jungle Tours, PO Box 2945, +61 7 4041 9440 (, fax: +61 7 4041 9499), [27]. Day and extended tours to the World Heritage areas of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree - where the oldest rainforest in the world meets the Great Barrier Reef. Small groups travel with their informative guides on air-conditioned buses. Tours can include Port Douglas, The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, cruising on the Daintree River searching for crocodiles and wildlife, swimming in the Mossman Gorge and exploring Cape Tribulation Beach. On extended tours, various levels of accommodation are offered, from backpacker dorms to deluxe resorts, with plenty of options to party and play. Activities vary from reef trips with Rum Runner, to horseriding, jungle surfing, and sea kayaking.
  • NatureTour Australia, [28]. Specializes in trips to local wildlife hotspots.
  • Northern Experience Eco Tour, Stratford, +61 7 4058 0268, [29]. Visits the waterfalls, Lake Barrine Cater lake, The Curtain Fig tree, Famous Milla Milla falls, 2 course hot lunch and cheese/yogurt tasting at the Mungalli organic bio-dynamic dairy, rainforest of the Southern Cairns Highlands, plus the historic Spanish castle ruins and gardens of Paronella Park and Mena Creek falls, near Innisfail, and the Babinda boulders for a swim in clear mountain spring waters. Back to Cairns via Bruce Highway, sugar cane fields and Walsh's Pyramid. Many photo opportunities. Small groups, max 20 passengers.

Diving and snorkelling

A number of Cairns operators run day and liveaboard scuba diving trips from Cairns. For seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the smaller dive boats provide the best experience, both for diving and for snorkelling. The larger operations have more amenities - better food, larger and faster boats, more activities, but sometimes provide a poorer underwater experience, as the underwater areas that the larger boats visit are heavily overused, and somewhat barren of coral and fish. Your mileage may vary.

  • Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, 143 Lake Street, +61-7-4053-0500 (), [30]. Dive sites suited to serious divers. Allows solo diving and rebreather diving if you provide appropriate equipment. Cabins with private bathrooms are available. 3 night trip from $1,480, 4 night trip from $1,678 and 7 night trip from $2,938, rental equipment and courses extra.
  • Passions of Paradise, +61 7 4041-1600 (), [31]. A 25 m modern, fast sailing catamaran travelling daily to Michaelmas Cay, where the company holds a permit allowing passengers access to the beach. This is one of the most important bird nesting sanctuaries on the Great Barrier Reef with over 20,000 sea birds. The cay has white sand, warm shallow water and an abundance of marine life making it perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving, glass bottom boat tours or just relaxing on the beach. The second destination is the Outer Barrier Reef and a mooring at Breaking Patches. There you will find the hard coral gardens that the Outer Reef is famous for. The day includes a hot and cold buffet lunch, all snorkelling equipment and sailing on one of the fastest catamarans travelling to the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Tusa Dive Australia, cnr Shield Street and the Esplanade, +61 7 4031-1028 (, fax: +61 7 4031-3141), [32]. Tusa Dive Australia are a good small operator. Tusa Dive offer 2 dive day trips to the Outer Reef for $160 ($190 with equipment hire)..
  • Pro Dive Cairns, 116 Spence Street, +61 7 4031-5255 (, fax: +61 7 4051-9955), [33]. Specialises in 11 dive/3 day 2 night liveaboard trips to the Outer Reef, departing every day except Tuesdays. Their dive sites are suitable for inexperienced divers: most trips will include one or more groups of students doing their checkout dives. The liveaboard trip is $580 for a twin share or double cabin (including all equipment). Pro Dive Cairns also offer several PADI courses which include the liveaboard trip: the basic Open Water course (2 days of classroom and pool work plus the trip), Open Water referral checkout dives, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver. The trip is $580 per person, twin share or double and equipment included. Additional fee applies of $35 per person, includes a $15 Government Environmental Management Charge as well as a Port Departure tax and administration costs. The trip is $560 per person, twin share or double, reef tax and equipment included. Open Water course $725, Open Water referral $630.
  • New Horizon Sail and Dive, PO Box 5957, +61 7 4055-6130 (, fax: +61 7 4055-6315), [34]. New Horizon Sail and Dive operates two classic sailing boats, Santa Maria and Coral Sea Dreaming, to the outer Great Barrier Reef. They allow you to experience the reef in a smaller more intimate affair with a maximum of 10 passengers on each trip. The trip is from $380 per person for a two day liveaboard and from $540 for a three day liveaboard, all equipment included..
  • Cairns Dive Centre, 121 Abbott St, +61 7 4051-0294 (, fax: +61 7 4051-7531), [36]. Offers both live aboard and day trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Salsa dancing

  • Casa De Meze, the corner of the Esplanade and Aplin St (above Villa Romana) ☎ +61 7 4051-5550, have a free salsa dance lesson F-Sa 9:30PM-10:30PM followed by a DJ playing music til 2AM. From 5PM daily serving mediterranean cuisine including steak, seafood, pasta and pizza.

Skydiving

If you are sick of the sea, head up in the air.

  • Skydive Cairns, 00 330 044 (free call in Australia) or +61 7 4031-5466 (), [37]. Tandem, single jumps, and AFF courses. One of the most beautiful plane rides up to 13,000 feet overlooking the reef just long enough before you lose your lunch on the way down.
  • Tandem Cairns, Shop 10, 93 The Esplanade (Entrance on Aplin Street), 1800 805 432 (free call in Australia) (), [38]. Offers tandem skydives $270.

Hang Gliding

Hang gliders fly off Rex Point Lookout, halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas on the Captain Cook highway. On weekends, it's common to see multiple gliders soaring the sky above the scenic lookout, and the winter season provides consistent flight conditions.

  • Airplay Hang Gliding, +61 412 000797 (), [39]. Airplay offers tandem hang gliding flights of durations up to 1 hr and a free outbound shuttle service. Lessons and full instruction are also available to those wishing to learn to fly.

Ballooning

The Cairns region has some of the best weather for ballooning in the World and so trips go year round and are rarely cancelled. It's also one of the cheapest places to go flying, anywhere. The trips go inland to the Atherton Tablelands and take off at first light at Mareeba, finishing around 10AM and can connect directly to a Great Barrier Reef tour or drop you in Kuranda.

  • Ballooning with Hot Air, 1800 800 829, [40]. Includes a hot breakfast, champagne & transfers. $200.
  • Champagne Balloon Flights, +61 7 40392400, [41]. Offers a slightly cheaper trip that doesn't include breakfast.

White Water Rafting

Rafting in North Queensland has the advantage of departures all year round, tropical water temperatures and ease of access to compliment breath-taking scenery and rapids. The region's white water rafting adventures are suitable for all levels of fitness and enthusiasm. Ride through our planet's oldest continuously growing tropical rainforests on rivers that still run totally wild.

  • RnR White Water Rafting, PO Box 2945, +61 7 4041 9444 (, fax: +61 7 4041 9499), [42]. Operating since 1984. The Tully River is Australia's best and most famous 1-day white water rafting experience, with up to 5 hr of rafting over more than 45 grade 4 rapids through World Heritage Rainforest. The Barron River option is a great half-day tour, with up to 2 hr of rafting on grade 3 rapids. For something longer, the North Johnstone 4 day expedition is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Helicopter in, 4 days of grade 5 rapids and camping 3 nights under the stars in riverside rainforest clearings.

Sail and visit Duyfken

The 16th century replica ship Duyfken is now berthed at Marlin Wharf, Marlin Marina, Cairns. Duyfken was the first recorded European ship to visit Australia. Duyfken is open to the public daily 09:00-17:00 as a floating museum. See what life was like on a 16th century sailing ship and learn about Australia's earliest maritime history. Adults $5, children $3 (under 12) family $10 (2 adults and up to 4 kids). You can also Sail Aboard Duyfken: Adults $75 Children (under 12) $40

Buy

  • Night Markets, 71-75 The Esplanade. ☎ +61 7 4051-7666. The night markets operate every night of the week till late. They are a collection of stalls catering mainly to tourists: you can buy lots of clothes, games and Australiana.
  • Pearls. Of course, you can buy pearls everywhere and the price range is huge. In Cairns you can find shops where you can buy real A-grade pearls from the Torres Strait - not cheap, but at the end more than fair in comparison to the European or US prices for the same quality level.
  • Cairns Central, Cnr MacLeod & Spence St ☎ +61 7 4041 4111. Large shopping centre with more than 180 shops, restaurants and takeaways located in the city centre.
  • Smithfield Shopping Centre, Cnr Captain Cook & Kennedy Hwy ☎ +61 7 4038 1006. A shopping centre with two supermarkets, clothing and book shops as well as takeaways. Located on Captain Cook Highway and therefore a good place to stock up on the way north.
  • Exchange Bookshop 78 Grafton St. All kinds of second hand books in good condition, especially a good section of classic literature and also a selection of recent books by Australian writers and guide books.
  • Rusty's Market 57-89 Grafton St, ☎ +61 7 4040-2705. F 05:00-18:00, Ss 06:00-15:00, Su 06:00-14:00. Storefronts are lined with many kinds of fresh vegetables and fruits picked locally.

Eat

As with much of Cairns, you can divide the city into the Esplanade and the places within a block of it, and the rest of the city. The Esplanade is littered with bar and grill places supplying red meat and beer all in the one place, and with seafood restaurants. It's relatively difficult to find anything open before 11AM, since they expect the clientele to be sleeping in. The rest of the city has small cafes and milkbars catering to locals. The number of Japanese tourists here makes Japanese food a fairly reliable option, although prices can be steep.

A number of the more expensive restaurants on the Esplanade, particularly towards the north end, offer discounts of 20-30% for early birds: usually you will need to order by 6:30PM and pay and leave no later than 7:30PM to get a discounted meal.

  • La Pizza Trattoria, 93 The Esplanade. ☎ +61 7 4031-2646. La Pizza Trattoria has good pizza. It lures most patrons in by letting them wander past the pizza chef kneading the dough as they smell the baking pizzas. Medium sized pizzas $17. Open 7 Days 7AM until late.
  • Villa Romana Trattoria [43], Aplin Street (cnr The Esplanade). ☎ +61 7 4051-9000. (fax:+61 7 4031-5557). Italian meals with some good seafood options and overworked wait staff. 25% discount if you order before 6:30PM. Meals are $25-$40.
  • Hide's Coffee Cafe, Shop 7, 87 Lake Street. ☎ +61 7 4041-1899. Hides Coffee Cafe, a couple of streets back from the Esplanade, is a good place for an under $10 breakfast or lunch. Order at the counter and remember to keep an eye on the collapsing umbrellas at the outside tables. They have free wifi for guests.
  • Sushi Express, Shop 28 Orchid Plaza, 79 Abbott Street. ☎ +61 7 4041-4388. (fax:+61 7 4052-1277). A sushi train made up to look like the Kuranda Railway, this place is popular but not wildly busy. The tempura seems to get more attention than the sushi or sashimi. Plates from $2.50-$4.50.
  • Perrotta's At The Gallery, 38 Abbott Street. ☎ +61 7 4031-5899. If you want to escape from several evenings touring the bar and grill places, Perotta's is just off the Esplanade and does more sophisticated Western food. Try the French toast with roast pear for breakfast. Breakfast, lunch and dinner approximately $20.
  • Donnini's Ciao Italia, at the Pier Marketplace, features indoor and outdoor dining with an ocean backdrop. Located at The Esplanade, and is within walking distance of many of Cairns' hotels. Meals from around $20-$25.
  • Cairns Esplanade Markets (Cairns one day), The Esplanade @ The Lagoon (Go to the Lagoon on the Esplanade), +61 7 4044 3044, [44]. Saturday 8-4PM. Esplanade Markets have home made products, rare stones, clothes, all types of art, massage, local music, local rainforest timbers/carvings/wooden copping boards and you will be buying from the maker/artist of the products. Heaps of budget priced stuff, but some very refined high art/design/ideas that could easily become a feature piece of a house/garden. Great place to find a special gift. And best of all it has a 'locals feel' about it. Make sure go take a hat and sunscreen-It's an outdoor market, Have fun and meet some true locals—Run by the Cairns City Council from $0.50.
  • Mövenpick of Switzerland, 95-105 The Esplanade. ☎ +61 7 4041-3555. Interior is based on white and there is the ocean in front of this shop. It has about 18 kinds of ice creams, waffles and many kinds of drinks. Daily 11:00- 23:00.

Drink

Cairns has pubs and bars to cater to travelers, students, and locals. The nightlife is vibrant.

  • Rattle 'N Hum, 67 The Esplanade. ☎ +61 7 4031-3011. The Rattle 'n Hum is a bar and grill in the midst of one of the busiest parts of The Esplanade. It's quite large and getting a seat is seldom a problem: sit out back once they light torches in the evenings. Competition for the pool table is not formidable so you should be able to get several games in. They do a number of main meals, including wood-fired pizza for around $20. The staff are highly variable in quality, ordering a cocktail can be risky, but they're certainly able to pull a beer.
  • Blue Sky Brewery Bar & Restaurant [45] , 34-42 Lake Street. ☎ +61 7 4057-0500. Situated in the heart of Cairns CBD. Its bar, restaurant and function rooms attract both locals and visitors. It has a wide selection of boutique beers brewed onsite, a comprehensive wine cellar, a diverse modern cuisine, and dynamic, yet relaxed Tropical North Queensland atmosphere. All of Blue Sky's handcrafted beers are unpasteurised and brewed naturally, giving a distinct depth of flavour and fresh taste.
  • Rhino Bar Cairns [46] , corner of Lake & Spence Street. ☎ +61 7 4031-5305.
  • The Woolshed Chargrill & Saloon Bar [47] , 24 Shields Street. ☎ +61 7 4031-6304. (fax:+61 7 4041-2283). If you are looking for a place to find all the travelers, go to the Woolshed in downtown Cairns.

Sleep

Cairns has seemingly endless places to stay, but they do book out during high season (June - September).

Budget

Cairns is the backpacker capital of Northern Queensland and there are over 20 hostels, all offering basic bunks in the $14-18 range.

  • Asylum Cairns, 149 Grafton St, +61 7 4031-1474 (toll free: within Australia 1800 065-464, , fax: +61 7 4031-8499), [48]. Bed in small dorm (no bunk beds). Prices on website may be out of date. Free transfers to and from airport, bus or train station if staying 2 nights or more. Free internet. Not particularly clean or well maintained. Very friendly and helpful staff. Not in city centre, but within easy walking distance.
  • Beach House Backpackers Hostel, 239 Sheridan St, +61 7 4041-2007 (toll free: within Australia 1800 229-228, ), [49]. checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 10AM. Private and shared dorm accommodation. Free wifi. Free dinner and breakfast daily. Clean, safe and with friendly staff and a great onsite bar, pool and common areas. From $12.
  • The Bellview, 85-87 The Esplanade, +61 7 4031-4377 (, fax: +61 7 4031-2850), [50]. Dormitory rooms from $20 per bed per night, budget single rooms from $35 per night, budget double rooms from $47 per night.
  • Bohemia Resort, 231 McLeod St, +61 7 4041-7290 (, fax: +61 7 4041-7292), [51]. Close to the centre of Cairns and with 4 dorm rooms, singles, twins and doubles, as well as ensuite and family rooms. Clean and well maintained. 25 m saltwater pool, kitchen, bar and shuttle bus service. From $23 per person, per night.
  • Cairns Central YHA Backpackers Hostel, 20-26 McLeod St, +61 7 4051-0772 (, fax: +61 7 4031-3158), [52]. Bunk beds in shared rooms $23-$25 per night, double and twin rooms from $54 per night.
  • Cairns City Backpackers, 274 Draper St, +61 7 4051-6160 (), [53]. Small, quiet and friendly and located in a quiet backstreet and a 5 min walk to Cairns Central Shopping Centre. Full laundry and kitchen facilities and and internet at $3 per hr.
  • Calypso Inn, 5-9 Digger St, (toll free: within Australia 1800 815-628), [54].
  • Caravella Backpackers, 149 Esplanade (Near city centre), +61 7 40512431 (), [55]. Fairly large backpackers with a motel building next door. Choice location along the waterfront; 10 mintues' walk from downtown. Rooms are plain and small but double rooms have a fridge, which is nice in the tropics. The common area has a free pool table and can get noisy at night. Be aware that the free food voucher is only for an evening meal, and only entitles you to a soft drink and a poor flavourless serving of pasta or chili at the Woolshed if you choose not to upgrade.
  • Castaways Backpackers, 207 Sheridan St (Near city centre), +61 7 40511238 (toll free: 1800 351115, ), [56]. checkin: 10.00am; checkout: 9.30am. Small family run hostel with a focus on cleanliness and friendly service. Free WiFi and evening meal at the Woolshed, free tea and coffee. Shared dorm accommodation currently from $19, Single, Double, Twin and En-suite rooms available.
  • Esplanade Backpackers Hostel, 93 The Esplanade, +61 7 40410378 (), [57]. checkin: 2pm; checkout: 10am. Centrally located right opposite the Lagoon with a 24 hour reception.Free breakfast and dinner daily Shared dorm accommodation from $22.
  • Floriana Guesthouse, 183 The Esplanade, +61 7 4051-7886 (, fax: +61 7 4051-3056), [58]. Front rooms look out to the Coral Sea, Floriana is an older style Art Deco 1930s guesthouse. It is 15 min walk to town and offers rooms with share facilities and self contained flats.
  • Gilligans Backpacker Hotel and Resort, 57-89 Grafton St, (toll free: 1800 556-995, ), [59]. Private hotel rooms also available. Free meal every night, clean, safe, fun hostel with loads of activities and massive swimming pool. Shared Dorms rooms starting from $18 a night.
  • JJs Backpackers, 11-13 Charles Street, (Left from the end of the Esplanade), [60]. Small, cozy hostel, no huge bathrooms but small rooms shared by two rooms each, tour desk, free breakfast, dinner vouchers for The Woolshed. About 20min walk from the Lagoon.
  • Nomads Cairns backpackers hostel (Serpent Hostel), 341 Lake St., (toll free: 1800 666-237, ), [61]. Free shuttle bus. Very clean hostel with a huge swimming pool and a volleyball court. Shared dorm accommodation from $14 a night.
  • Njoy Travellers Resort, 141 Sheridan St, 61 7 4031-1088 (), [62]. Free shuttle bus to airport at set times, Free welcome drink at Zanzibar Bar and Grill. Very clean, safe, funky and friendly hostel with chilled out reception and pool area. Shared dorm accommodation from $15 a night.
  • Reef Backpackers (Great Backpackers in the heart of Cairns), 140 Grafton St, +61 7 4041-5255 (), [63]. checkin: 10am; checkout: 10am. Free WiFi internet. clean safe and friendly. In city centre with pool and great outdoor area. $15.
  • Tropic Days, 26-28 Bunting St, Cairns QLD 4870, Australia, +61 7 4041 1521, [64]. Hostel with free wifi internet. Camping spots are also available.

Mid-range

Mid-range Cairns hotels, resorts, and inns are listed here alphabetically.

  • 181 The Esplanade, (Located next to Cairns Base Hospital and a 15 min walk from town), [65].
  • Amaroo At Trinity, 92-94 Moore St, Trinity Beach (Between Cairns and Palm Cove, 15 min drive from Cairns CBD), +61 7 4055 6066, [66]. Modern studio or suite in Cairns northern beach area. Close to restaurants, hotel, shopping. Elevated beachfront position, views of the Coral Sea and to the mountains in the rear. Queen and twin bed options, lift access to all floors, laundry facilities on each level. $130-216.
  • Tropical Holiday Home (With views of rainforest and city), [67]. checkin: 2:00 pm; checkout: 10:00. This architect designed 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom rainforest home is located in a quiet leafy close, in beautiful Edge Hill. This house embodies the concept of the indoor-outdoor lifestyle that tropical locations are so suited to. You can watch scrub turkeys & guinea fowls parade through the yard and enjoy views of both the rainforest as well as city sights. It is just a 5 min walk away from Cairns Botanical Gardens. Ideal for groups. 233 USD.
  • Brinsmead Studio Apartments, 16 Sun St, Brinsmead, +61 7 40452143, [68]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. On over an acre of gardens, includes linen, laundry, limited kitchen (no oven) with fridge and microwave, A/C, off street parking, pool, use of BBQ, pets by arrangement. Min stay 4 nights. From.
  • Holiday Inn Cairns, 21-123 The Esplanade & Florence St, 61 7 4050-6070 (, fax: +61 7 4031-3770), [70]. Double rooms approximately $150 per night.
  • The Lakes Cairns Resort and Spa, 2 Greenslopes St, +61 7 4053-9400, [71]. 4.5 star resort apartments in 11 acres of lush landscaped gardens, lakes and 4 swimming pools, including a lap pool and lagoon.
  • Margaret House Holiday Apartment, 14 Margaret St , Redlynch (Centre of Redlynch Village), +61 7 40452143, [72]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. 3 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment taking up the entire ground floor of a Queenslander house. Close to shops, public transport and the local hotel restaurant. from$150/night.
  • Marlin Cove Holiday Resort, 2 Keem St. Trinity Beach (15 min from Cairns City), +61 7 4057-8299, [73]. 4 star self-contained accommodation in Trinity Beach. Suitable for families.
  • Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort, 122 Lake St (One block from the centre of Cairns), +61 7 4080-1888 (, fax: +61 7 4080-1889), [74]. Resort style king rooms and twin rooms (with two doubles) approximately $150/night.
  • Novotel Rockford Esplanade Apartments, Palm Cove (20 min drive from Cairns airport), +61 7 4055-3999 (toll free: 1800 788-155), [75]. Overlooking the Palm Cove beach. The apartments are amongst melaleucas trees on the beach front, and is just a short stroll from Palm Cove Village.
  • Quality Hotel Sheridan Plaza, 295 Sheridan St (5 min from the Cairns airport and city centre), +61 7 4031-6500 (fax: +61 7 4031-6226.), [76]. 4 star boutique style hotel.
  • Queens Court Accommodation Cairns, 167-171 Sheridan St (In the centre of Cairns), +61 7 4051-7722 (), [77]. 81, standard rooms and suites inc some self-contained suites. Showering amenities for guests late departures, guest laundry, swimming pool, BBQ area, evening dining, free overnight luggage storage, secure onsite parking. ADSL broadband in all rooms, wifi and internet kiosk. Tour desk, transit lounge. Breakfast, free airport transfer pick up available. All rooms have room safes. Budget rooms from $69/night, motel-style twin rooms from $103/night, sc suite from $140, family suite $229..
  • Reef Retreat Resort, 10-14 Harpa St, Palm Cove (22 km from Cairns), (fax: +61 7 4059-1745), [78]. Between a coconut palm fringed beach and lush, tropical rainforest.
  • Rydges Esplanade Resort Cairns, Corner The Esplanade & Kerwin St, (toll free: 1300-857-922), [79]. Walking distance to Cairns shopping and dining. 3 resort swimming pools, 1 children’s pool, 2 tennis courts, a complete health club, aerobic classes, spa, sauna, and massage.
  • Rydges Plaza Cairns, Cnr Spence & Grafton Sts, (toll free: 1300 857-922), [80]. Close to the Cairns Convention Centre, Reef Casino, Great Barrier Reef departure terminals and central shopping areas.
  • Rydges Tradewinds Cairns, 137 The Esplanade, (toll free: 1300 857-922), [81]. Overlooking the Coral Sea, just a few min walk along the Esplanade Boardwalk to the Cairns lagoon precinct, city centre, restaurants, shopping and departure points for the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Villa Vaucluse Apartments of Cairns, 141-143 Grafton St, [82]. Self-contained apartment units. Personalised tour arrangements at no extra cost. From $150.
  • Wilks Holiday House, 78 Wilks St, +61 7 40452143, [83]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. Has 4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, 2 sitting rooms, indoor and outdoor dining. AustarTV, wifi, free local calls, A/C, well equipped kitchen and off street parking. Fully fenced front and back garden. Pet friendly by request. Minimum stay 4 nights. $215/per night (min 4 nights).

Splurge

  • Grand Mercure Rockford Esplanade, +61 7 4055-3999 (), [84]. Bar and outdoor swimming pool. Ocean, pool and mountain views overlooking the Palm Cove beach. Within walking distance of the shopping centre of Palm Cove Village.
  • Cairns Harbour Lights, 1 Marlin Pde, Cairns, +61 7 4057 0800, [85]. Serviced 1-2 bedroom apartments with Cairns water and Trinity Park views.
  • Clarendon on Spence, 79 Spence St, +61 7 4041-2226 (fax: +61 7 4041-4132), [86]. 2-3 bedroom apartments with balconies, fully-equipped kitchens, en suite with corner spa. Near Esplanade, Reef Fleet Terminal, and restaurant strip.
  • Regency on Spence, 79 Spence St, (fax: +61 7 4041-4132), [88]. 2-3 bedroom apartments with balconies located near restaurant district, shopping mall, and Reef Fleet Terminal. Guest access to spa and outdoor swimming pool. Sister-property of Clarendon on Spence.
  • The Sebel Cairns (Formerly Cairns International Hotel), 17 Abbott St (In the centre of Cairns), +61 7 4031-1300 (, fax: +61 7 4031-1801), [89]. Spacious rooms and suites all with balconies, overlooking the harbour and the city. From $200/room.
  • Sofitel, 35-41 Wharf St, +61 7 4030-8888 (fax: 61 7 4030-8777), [91]. Among the best hotels in the city, located in the same building as the Reef Casino and with views over Trinity Bay. From $220.
  • South Side Inn, (3 km from the the City Centre and 6 km from the airport), [92]. 4 star.

Get out

  • The market town of Kuranda makes a great day trip. You can drive, catch the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns or Freshwater stations, or take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway [93].
  • Mareeba, the edge of the outback, where the sun shines 300 days a year, and they produce 80% of Australia's coffee crop. With a tour to the area you don't need a car.
  • Mossman Gorge 70 min north of Cairns is a good place to cool off. Avoid arriving at the same time as the tour coaches, and take great care swimming as the currents are very strong.
  • The Daintree rain forest which is officially the world's oldest rainforest is located an hour and a half north. Here you can see Australia's largest variety of flora and fauna as well as ride one of the top tourist attractions - Jungle Surfing.
  • The Savannahlander [94] is a four day train journey that departs from Cairns to the outback town of Forsayth. It's a unique way to see the Chillagoe caves and Undara lava tubes.
  • Cooktown is around 3 hours north along the coast from Cairns, and has history, national parks and beaches to explore.
  • Mission Beach a lovely tropical beach is about an hour and a half drive south. It is the gateway to Dunk and Bedarra Islands. Mission Beach is one of the few places you might see the very rare and endangered Cassowary bird.
  • Port Douglas a seaside resort town is an hour north along one of the nicest drives in Australia. Port Douglas is another gateway along with Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
  • Lake Tinaroo is on the Atherton Tablelands about an hour south west of Cairns. Lake Tinaroo is great for swimming, water sports, bush walking, fishing and camping.


Routes through Cairns
NormantonKuranda  E noframe S  InnisfailTownsville



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