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With the Great Barrier Reef on one side and The Daintree Rainforest on the other, Cairns is sandwiched between two of Australia’s most famed World Heritage sites. Plan a holiday with our Cairns travel guide to explore the buzzing tropical paradise where you can lounge by the lagoon, trek through the tropics and island hop, you won’t find a better spot to be so spoiled for choice.

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Places to stay

Whether you prefer the kind of ocean views only an island can offer or a retreat nestled amongst the rainforest, there’s a variety of places to stay in and around Cairns. For a lively gateway to the reef or the rainforest, base yourself amongst all the buzz of the Cairns Esplanade and fill your time between adventures with bars, playgrounds, restaurants, shopping or swims in the crystal clear lagoon.

For a slower pace and some of the best spas in Queensland, head north to Palm Cove where the laidback village vibes are ideal for those looking for a quieter spot to soak up the coast.

If you’d prefer to splash out and get a glimpse of island life, set off for Bedarra Island or Lizard Island where you can lap up the barefoot luxury of private beaches, fine dining and endless water activities.

Or if you want to give treetop living a go, there are Airbnbs and ecolodges aplenty nestled around the Daintree Rainforest with lots of secluded waterholes and wildlife watching on offer.

Things to do

Bring the family, your friends or your significant other to this Australian paradise and you’ll find the obvious attractions nestled alongside hidden treasures. Man made lagoons, rainforest waterfalls, ocean reefs and island beaches; Cairns and its surrounds are home to every kind of tropical watering hole you could imagine. If you like to lounge or watch the kids splash about, cool off in the crystal clear waters of the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon in the heart of the CBD. To chase waterfalls, hire a car and head south to the Wooroonooran National Park where you’ll find the deep rockpools of Josephine Falls.

The ways to see the Great Barrier Reef are endless so head down to the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal and take your pick of glass-bottomed boats, snorkel safaris, diving days out or even helicopter tours that’ll drop you off for a dip. Thrill-seekers can get an entirely different view of the reef with skydiving tours that pick you up in the CBD and drop you off over the reef for a glide.

For an introduction to the area’s rich history and indigenous traditions, Mandingalbay Yidinji guided culture tours and traditionally inspired feasts also depart from the Terminal to take you east across the Trinity Inlet and deep into their diverse and ancient lands.

To sample some exotic Australian tropical fruit, visit Rusty’s Produce Market in Cairns' lively centre. For native Australian flavours, the adventurous Ochre Restaurant serves up a contemporary take on regional produce. Seafood lovers can find a fun feast onboard the Prawn Star - a trawler turned restaurant.

Need some extra fresh air? Head for the hills and hop on the Kuranda Scenic Railway which takes you from Cairns to some of the oldest rainforests on earth - The Wet Tropics. Take a drive instead and follow the signs to one of the many lush walking tracks that surround Cape Tribulation, like the Dubuji Boardwalk or Mardja Botanical Walk. With everything from rainforest to the reef, there are so many ways to spend your days in the tropical surrounds of Cairns.


Where to go

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Explore more to do in Port DouglasOpens external site in a new window

Port Douglas

A tropical holiday destination, Port Douglas is the perfect base to explore the natural wonders and stunning coastlines including the gorgeous Four Mile Beach, a tour to the Great Barrier Reef or drive north to Mossman Gorge in the Daintree National Park.

Resorts overlooking the Coral Sea are ideal for family holidays or a romantic getaway, with lush pools and award-winning restaurants. 

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Plan what else to see in Palm CoveOpens external site in a new window Palm cove sunset

Palm Cove

North of Carins, Palm Cove is a tiny enclave of luxury hotels and fine-dining restaurants beside a beautiful palm-fringed beach. Dubbed as the spa capital of Australia, it’s the perfect place to relax in one of the many spas.

Stroll under the palm trees and dine at Nu Nu beachfront restaurant to enjoy fine Australian cuisine. It's a tropical holiday destination that has it all.

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Getting around

From the airport: Airport Connect is a public transport link that gets you to the Cairns city centre or the northern Beaches. Taxis, hire cars, transfers or the Sun Palm Bus are available to book from the terminal.

In and around the city: Cairns CBD is best done on foot. To get to surrounding areas it's best to hire a car. Alternatively the local public transport Sunbus is a reliable service.

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Important information

Disclaimer: ^ Qantas Frequent Flyer members will earn 3 Qantas Points per A$1 value unless otherwise specified, for hotel stays booked through, except Classic Hotel Rewards and Airbnb bookings. Points Club members will earn 25% more Qantas Points, and Points Club Plus members will earn 50% more Qantas Points. Qantas Points will be credited to your account at least 8 weeks after check-out. Qantas Points may be earned by the member in whose name the booking is made. Members will not be able to earn points on additional charges paid to the accommodation provider for extras (including cots, breakfasts and other incidentals) on check-in or check-out (as applicable).  

Disclaimer: ~ Qantas activities are provided by Viator. Conditions apply.

Disclaimer: ++ Status Credits are earned on eligible Qantas, Jetstar, oneworld® member and oneworld connect® airlines only - see the Airline Earning Tables and Qantas Frequent Flyer program Terms and Conditions for details. Status Credits may not be earned on some fare types and booking classes. 

Disclaimer:  Meals, beverages, entertainment offerings vary between flight times.

Disclaimer: + The number of destinations is correct as at 26 April 2023, but is subject to change. Before booking and departure, ensure you check the latest travel requirements.

Disclaimer: # You must be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program to earn and redeem Qantas Points. A joining fee may apply. Membership and Qantas Points are subject to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program terms and conditions.