The minute you land you know you have arrived in Cairns as you are greeted with the tropical warm air and lush green mountains that surround it.
Cairns is the major jumping-off point for the extraordinary Great Barrier Reef, the lush Daintree Rainforest and slow road trips through the beautiful countryside of the Atherton Tablelands. The food is great too, with some of the country's finest chefs setting up five star restaurants in the luxe outpost of Port Douglas.
Most visitors use Cairns as a base from which to plan their itinerary. There is a variety of great things to see and do.
- Snorkel or dive the beautiful Great Barrier ReefOpens external site in a new window with an array of outer reef tour operators that offer options to cater for all types of activities.
- Thrill seekers can head out on safari and spot local saltwater crocodiles in their natural habitat - the Daintree RiverOpens external site in a new window is a popular spot for this, or visit Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.Opens external site in a new window
- Visit the ever popular Tjapukai Cultural ParkOpens external site in a new window. Nearby SkyrailOpens external site in a new window provides day and night time tours and activities.
- Mossman Gorge Visitor CentreOpens external site in a new window offers guided walks through the rainforest from local Kuku Yalanji tour guides.
You'll fly into Cairns Airport ten minutes from the CBD. Make this you're hub for exploring the tropics and reef. Alternatively by car 25 minutes north of Cairns is Palm Cove, an hour is Port Douglas and two and a half hours is the Daintree.
The CBD is bounded by Cairns Central ShoppingOpens external site and the Cairns railway stationOpens external site to the west, the airportOpens external site to the north and the council buildings to the south. Most services and places of interest are concentrated around the Reef Fleet TerminalOpens external site with wharves, a marina, restaurants/bars and shopping centre at The PierOpens external site.
Edge Hill to the north of the city centre is a good walk (when the weather is not too hot) for the Botanical GardensOpens external site, Tank Arts CentreOpens external site and Mt Whitfield National ParkOpens external site. There is also an easy walking track from there to Centenary LakesOpens external site.
North of Cairns and Palm Cove
Northwest of the city Stratford and Freshwater are residential suburbs with some trendy cafes while to north from there is a string of beach suburbs that run in order: Machans BeachOpens external site in a new window, Holloways BeachOpens external site in a new window and Yorkeys KnobOpens external site in a new window – these residential areas also have cafes and holiday accommodation and there's good wind-surfing at Yorkeys Knob. Next up is the shopping hub of SmithfieldOpens external site in a new window centre and from here the beaches run Trinity BeachOpens external site in a new window, Kewarra BeachOpens external site in a new window and Clifton BeachOpens external site in a new window to end with swanky, spa capital Palm CoveOpens external site in a new window. After Palm Cove there is the wide sandy beach of Buchan's Point and Ellis BeachOpens external site in a new window.
Port Douglas CBD
Part of the Daintree Rainforest and located 20km north of Port Douglas, Mossman GorgeOpens external site is one of the region's star attractions. The new Mossman Gorge Centre, an indigenous eco-tourism experience where local Aboriginal guides give visitors a genuine, authentic and unique insight into the local area. Relax afterwards in one of Mossman's historic pubs.
You'll need a 4WD to get around some parts of Cape TribulationOpens external site in a new window, a world heritage listed national park, accessible by ferry but it's worth the trip. Enjoy empty Robinson-Crusoe style beaches, pristine bushwalking tracks through the rainforest and one of Australia's richest diversity of flora and fauna.
Australian Dollar (AU$)
220-240V / 50 Hz
There are two distinct weather seasons Cairns experiences each year like the rest of Queensland. Winter falls between April and September, with slightly cooler but warm temperatures and minimal rain. Summer is October to March with hot, sticky temperatures and heavy rainfall periods.
From the Airport
From the airport, there are plenty of transport options to get to Cairns or your hotel. Airport ConnectOpens external site in a new window is a public transport link that gets you to the city centre or the northern Beaches. Taxis and Rental Cars can be booked from the Airport upon arrival. Transfers and LimousinesOpens external site in a new window and the Sun Palm BusOpens external site in a new window can be pre booked to pick you up and take you to your hotel.
Getting around Cairns CBD is best done on foot. To get to surrounding areas it is best in your (hire) car as it gives you freedom to get out and explore the surrounding area and enjoy the best of the region. Alternatively the local public transport SunbusOpens external site in a new window is great to get to most surrounding areas in Cairns and the beaches.
Cairns car hire
Take off from Cairns in your own car and visit Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation and the luxe beach destination of Port Douglas. Qantas Points^ per A$1 spent on the Base Rate within Australia.
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