Cairns

Population 122732

This modern, colourful city is the capital of the Tropical North and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but was once a service town for the sugar plantations to the south. Tourism boomed with the airport's upgrade in 1984 and the influx of visitors and commercial enterprises resulted in the unusual mix of modern architecture and original Queenslander homes that can be seen today. The Esplanade traces the bay foreshore and blends the city life with the natural attractions of the Coral Sea. With Cairns' superb location – the Great Barrier Reef to the east, mountain rainforests of the Wet Tropics and plains of the Atherton Tableland to the west, and palm-fringed beaches to the north and south – it is a good base for many activities. For fishing enthusiasts, Cairns is famous for its black marlin.

Visitor Information

Cairns & Tropical North Visitor Information Centre, 51 The Esplanade; (07) 4051 3588

www.cairnsgreatbarrierreef.org.au

Nearby national parks

  • Barron Gorge National Park

    One of the state’s most popular places, Barron Gorge National Park offers lush tropical rainforest in a rugged mountain setting of...more

  • Wooroonooran National Park

    Part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Wooroonooran National Park boasts the two highest mountains in Queensland, along with wild...more

  • Crater Lakes National Park

    Part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, this national park surrounds two lakes, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. These are volcanic...more

Nearby towns

  • Kuranda

    This small village is set in tropical rainforest on the banks of the Barron River north-west of Cairns. Its beautiful setting attracted a...more

  • Gordonvale

    Gordonvale is a sugar-milling town just south of Cairns with well-preserved streetscapes, historic buildings and the 922-metre-high Walsh's...more

  • Palm Cove

    Serene Palm Cove, north-west of Cairns, has white, sandy beaches and streets lined with palm trees. It is essentially a resort village, with...more

In Town

Flecker Botanic Gardens Established in 1886 as a recreational reserve, they are now the only wet tropical botanic gardens in Australia. The gardens display tropical plants from around the world, including a number of endangered species and over 200 species of palm. Follow the boardwalks through remnant lowland swamp to adjacent Centenary Lakes to see turtles and mangrove birds. Access gardens via Collins Ave; Edge Hill.

Mount Whitfield Conservation Park: 2 major walking tracks through forested mountain range to summit for views of Cairns and Coral Sea; behind botanic gardens; access via Collins Ave, Edge Hill.

McLeod Street Pioneer Cemetery: honours local pioneers.

Tanks Art Centre: multipurpose centre in revamped WW II oil-storage tanks, including gallery with local art; call for event listings; 46 Collins Ave, Edge Hill; (07) 4032 6600.

Regional Gallery: local artists exhibit in this National Trust–classified building; 10am–5pm Mon–Sat, 1–5pm Sun ; Cnr Shields and Abbott Sts; (07) 4046 4800.

Museum: displays of Aboriginal, gold-rush, timber and sugarcane history; open 10am–4pm Mon–Sat; Cnr Lake and Shields sts. 

Bulk Sugar Terminal: guided tours by arrangement during crushing season (June–Dec); Cook St; (07) 4051 3533.

Foreshore Promenade: landscaped area with safe swimming lagoon; foreshore; pool closed Wed mornings.

Kuranda Scenic Railway: daily trips through Barron Gorge to rainforest village of Kuranda; leaves Cairns Railway Station in Bunda St; (07) 4036 9333; see also Kuranda.

Game fishing: contact visitor centre for details.

Dive schools: contact visitor centre for details.

Nearby

Great Barrier Reef Take a tour, charter a boat or fly to see some of the spectacular sights just offshore. Michaelmas and Upolo cays to the north-east are important sites for ground-nesting seabirds. The surrounding waters are excellent for reef swimming. You can also take a trip to the outer Barrier Reef, which is known for its spectacular underwater scenes and huge variety of marine life. For tours contact visitor centre. Read More.

Fitzroy Island A low-key destination with a national park, white coral beaches and magnificent flora and fauna for bushwalking, diving and snorkelling. To the east are impressive snorkelling sites at Welcome and Sharkfin bays. Cabins and hostel-style accommodation (maximum 160 people) and camping (maximum 20 people) are available; 23 km E.

Green Island To the north-east is a true coral cay covered with thick, tropical vegetation. The surrounding reef is home to magnificent tropical fish; they can be seen from a glass-bottom boat, in the underwater observatory or by snorkelling or helmet diving. This popular daytrip destination has a small resort (maximum 90 people); 27 km NE.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park The group began as an Aboriginal dance company in 1987, but the demand for more cultural information prompted the move to this large park. Four theatres, both live and film, illustrate the history and culture of the rainforest people of Tropical North Queensland. Learn skills such as bush medicine and spear throwing on a day tour or experience the theatre of an Aboriginal ceremony in the ‘Tjapukai By Night’ experience; open 9am–5pm Mon–Sun, evening shows 7–10pm; Cairns Western Arterial Rd, Caravonica; (07) 4042 9999; 11 km NW.

Beaches: incredible 26 km of beaches extending from Machans Beach on north bank of Barron River, 9 km N, north to Ellis Beach.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: spectacular gondola ride through rainforest to Kuranda; open Mon–Sun; Cnr Cook Hwy and Cairns Western Arterial Rd, Smithfield, (07) 4038 1555; 11 km N.

Bungee jumping: choose from a variety of jumps and other thrills in the rainforest; 10am–5pm Mon–Sun; 5 McGregor Rd, Smithfield, or free transport from Cairns; (07) 4057 7188;13 km N.

Crystal Cascades: walks by cascades and a secluded freshwater swimming hole; end of Redlynch Valley; 18 km SW.

Lake Morris and Copperlode Dam: walking tracks; 19 km SW.

Barron and Freshwater valleys: bushwalking, hiking, whitewater rafting and camping to the west and north-west of Cairns; contact visitor centre for details.

Safaris: 4WD to Cape York and the Gulf Country; contact visitor centre for details.

Fishing spots near town

Cairns 2 km

Many international game anglers regard Cairns as the game fish capital of the world, with plenty of big black marlin – the Holy Grail of gamefishing. Granders or Julies, call them what you will, these huge female... Find out more


Trinity Inlet 5 km

The Cairns region offers more than gamefishing. South of the city are rivers like the Russell and Mulgrave; to the north are the Daintree and Mowbray Rivers. Anglers heading inland will find opportunities like the famous... Find out more


Lake Tinaroo 35 km

Lake Tinaroo is built across the Barron River Gorge in the Atherton Tablelands; about two hours’ drive from Cairns via Gordonvale and Yungaburra. The lake was the first of Queensland’s impoundments stocked... Find out more


Russell Heads 40 km

Russell Heads is the junction and estuary system of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers, south of Cairns. I was fishing with Kieran Livingstone who had a Cairns Custom Craft aluminium, a solid boat ideal for river and... Find out more


Julatten 59 km

Fishing is where you find it, and sometimes you find it in unlikely places. Between Mount Molloy and Mossman in the Rex Ranges at a place called Julatten, I came across a couple of people fishing in a pond. I pulled over... Find out more


Eco-friendly activities around town

Wildlife experience - Cairns 18 km

Combine several of the Cairns area’s main wildlife attractions into one seamless day out: the Kuranda Scenic Railway, Skyrail, Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. Book through... Find out more


Reef tours 58 km

As with elsewhere on the reef, there is the luxury of choice for diving or snorkelling trips, particularly from Port Douglas. However, remember the reef is not just offshore and involves a boat trip. Among the... Find out more


Golf courses around town

Paradise Palms Country Club 18 km

‘Paradise’ is appropriately named. Situated 25 minutes north of Cairns, and just off the Captain Cook Highway, this is a beautiful golf course. The rainforest-covered Great Dividing Range dominates the... Find out more


Sea Temple Golf & Country Club 54 km

Technological advancements in agronomy and construction equipment have opened up new frontiers and landscapes for golf course designers during the past 40 years. One course designer who has never shirked a tough... Find out more


Cafes & restaurants around town

Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant

After spending two years at Sheraton Nusa Dua, owner Klaus Ullrich has been on a personal mission to introduce more Australians to exotic Balinese food. Here he combines the cuisine’s wonderful use of spices with... Find out more


Blue Sky Brewery

Hearty meals for hungry folks here include seafood, pasta, steak, burgers and salads. Plus, naturally, you’ll find foods cooked in beer, from mussels sautéed in Woody ale to True Blue Stout beer sorbets. The... Find out more


Bushfire Flame Grill

It’s certainly an international menu here at the Pacific International Hotel’s restaurant. Entrées and desserts are delicious, many of them using regional ingredients from the Cairns highlands, such as... Find out more


Food Trail Tours

Take a food tour to discover the tastes of Queensland. The Highlander Trail tour visits both the wet and dry tropics and the towns of Mareeba, Tolga and Yungaburra. The Mareeba Food Trail concentrates more on the... Find out more


Breweries around town

Blue Sky Brewery 1 km

After a significant period between drinks, Cairns once again has a working brewery with the opening of Blue Sky Brewery in 2008. Located in the heart of the city, the microbrewery, bar and restaurant complex has six... Find out more


Campsites around town

Speewah Campground 15 km

This campground is in the conservation park adjacent to Barron Gorge National Park’s western boundary. It is reached from the Kennedy Hwy, 10 km west of Kuranda, then a further 6 km east to the site. You can also... Find out more


Dinden camping area (bush camping) 21 km

A 4WD is advisable for accessing these 6 bush campsites, 5 km along Davies Creek Rd from Davies Creek National Park. It is preferable to visit in the dry season (Apr–Oct). Bring your own water, rubbish bags, and a... Find out more


Davies Creek camping area 23 km

Camp beside the creek at this clearing 6 km from the Kennedy Hwy, accessible by conventional vehicles. There are 8 sites with space for 10 campers per site. Bring firewood for the allocated fireplaces, and all... Find out more


School Point camping area 30 km

School Point can be reached by 2WD or boat. It has has 8 numbered campsites with a gravel surface. To get here, turn off Danbulla Forest Dr 16 km from the western entrance, or 12 km from the eastern entrance, and follow... Find out more


Kauri Creek camping area 30 km

A great spot for swimming and canoeing, Kauri Creek is 9 km from the western entrance and 19 km from the eastern entrance of Danbulla Forest Dr. Open fires are allowed in fire rings; generators are not permitted.... Find out more


Downfall Creek camping area 31 km

This campground is 7 km from the western entrance and 21 km from the eastern entrance of the Danbulla Forest Dr. Campers can take the 2.4 km walk through the forest to Kauri Creek. Bring all self-sufficient supplies,... Find out more


Fong-On Bay camping area 32 km

A favourite with waterskiers, this campground is divided into 2 sections with good water access: Bulmba and Gungul. To get here, turn off Danbulla Forest Dr 16.5 km from the western entrance, or 11.5 km from the eastern... Find out more


Platypus camping area 34 km

Platypus campground, 4 km from the western entrance, has 18 numbered sites for small tents, large tents and vans. Open fires are allowed here in the provided fire rings and BBQs (except when fire bans apply); bring your... Find out more


Discovery Holiday Parks – Lake Tinaroo 36 km

Just 150 m from Lake Tinaroo, this caravan park has an excellent range of facilities for a comfortable stay after a day of boating or waterskiing on the lake. Other activities include fishing for barramundi or sooty... Find out more


High Island camping area (boat-based camping) 37 km

This campground on the north-west side of High Island has space for 14 self-sufficient campers. Open fires and generators are not permitted, so bring a gas/fuel stove.... Find out more


Caravan parks around town

Cairnsvilla and Leisure Park 3 km

The park is 4 km from the centre of Cairns, set in a quiet area with beautiful tropical surrounds. It has very good facilities including a mini-mart and a TV room. It is an ideal park for a holiday.... Find out more


Cairns Sunland Leisure Park 3 km

Located in suburban Cairns, this park is easily accessible and is a good base to spend a few days. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more


Big4 Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort 6 km

Enjoy the excellent facilities of this quality park, on the southern approach to the city 7 km from the centre of Cairns. There is a cafe, free minigolf, tennis and aqua aerobics, and the list continues. Bookings are... Find out more


Cool Waters Holiday Park 6 km

Located in the foothills a few kilometers out of Cairns, this is a quality park with very good facilities. Pets are allowed, but small dogs only. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more


BIG4 Cairns Crystal Cascades Holiday Park 7 km

This good quality park is easily accessible and only about 5 km from the centre of Cairns. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more


Lake Placid Tourist Park 11 km

This park is about 10 km north-west of Cairns, on the bank of the Barron River. Enjoy the covered barbecue area, and the Skyrail terminal, a major attraction, is nearby. Bookings are required in peak periods and a... Find out more


Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows 25 km

This small, absolute beachfront park is 30 km north of Cairns. Ellis Beach was voted the cleanest beach in Queensland and has a patrolled swimming area. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more


Lake Tinaroo Holiday Park 36 km

This park is located on Tinaroo Dam, 17 km from Atherton. It is popular with anglers who come year round to catch barramundi from the stocked reservoir. The park has good basic facilities. Bookings are required in peak... Find out more


Walkamin Central Van Park 43 km

This is a relatively new owner-operated park adjacent to the Kennedy Highway. There are excellent amenities and a large central building with a camp kitchen and large open fireplace. There is not a lot of shade, but we... Find out more


BIG4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park 51 km

On the outskirts of Atherton, about 2 km from the town centre, this tidy park has large shady trees and makes a good base for a few days while exploring the area. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more


Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Hides Hotel

There are only a few of these older-style hotels left in bustling and eternally developing Cairns, as high-rises take over the cityscape. Just sit back and relax on the wide verandahs in this heritage pub, where you can... Find out more


Pacific International Hotel

The first international-level luxury hotel in Cairns, the Pacific is small by today’s standards and that is part of its charm. Rooms are spacious and have marvellous views, and the staff are friendly and helpful.... Find out more


Pullman Reef Hotel Casino

With 128 rooms, you can expect quality at this hotel, casino and entertainment complex in one. Apart from the usual luxury fittings, rooftop swimming pool and fine restaurants you might expect at such a place, this hotel... Find out more


Shangri-La Hotel

It always had a great location, right on the marina, and a $35 million redevelopment has raised it to the standards expected of a brand with a worldwide reputation for quality and value. Every one of the 255 rooms and... Find out more


The Beachfront Hideaway

Location and size are the stars of this small but charming accommodation spot right on Holloways Beach. It has just four beachfront, Balinese-themed apartments, ranging from one bedroom to two bedrooms, or you can book... Find out more


Eco-friendly places to stay around town

Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat 43 km

By renting out nine elegant eco-accredited treehouses (near Malanda), the owners have funded a massive weed-clearing and revegetation program – including planting 20 000 trees – on their 92-hectare property,... Find out more


The Canopy, near Malanda 56 km

Located at Tarzali, this place comprises six beautiful glass and timber treehouses set in 40 hectares of rainforest that has never been logged, with Lumholtz tree-kangaroos creeping around, green ringtail possums,... Find out more


Kingfisher Park Birdwatcher’s Lodge 58 km

Guaranteed to get keen birdwatchers excited, this eco-accredited establishment at Julatten is renowned as one of the best birdwatching spots north of Cairns, with rare endemic species seen around the pool. For six months... Find out more


Rest areas around town

Gordonvale park area 20 km

33km N of Babinda (R) or 27km S of Cairns (L)

Just off the highway at the Mulgrave River.


The Boulders camping area 47 km

T/O at Babinda

Small campground located 6km west of the highway via the main street. Near a picnic area in the rainforest. Limited sites.


Babinda rest area 50 km

T/O at Babinda

Secluded area on a riverbank located 500m south-east of the highway via the old Bruce Hwy.


Bramston Beach camping area 55 km

At Bramston Beach

Idyllic foreshore campground situated 17km east of the highway.


What's on around town

Rusty's Market: Grafton and Sheridan sts; 5am–6pm Fri, 6am–3pm Sat and 6am–2pm Sun.

Esplanade Market: Sat 8am–5pm.

Cairns Show: July. 

Cairns Cup: Aug.

Festival Cairns: Aug–Sept.

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