Visit Cairns Australia, considered the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, located in the tropical Far North Queensland. Its Learn stories of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with music and dance at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Visit the Cairns Esplanade, lined with bars and restaurants, and a swimming lagoon. Or head northwest of the city to Daintree National Park where you will find a mountainous rain forest, gorges and beaches. Don’t miss the great things to do in and around town. You’ll find wonderful cafés, bustling markets and plenty of beaches nearby. Relax by a resort pool or spend your days exploring this tropical oasis.
Weather (When to Go)
Cairns experiences hot and humid summers and mild, dry winters. The average annual maximum temperature is 84.2°F, with 62% humidity. During summer (December – February) average temperatures range from 74.5 to 88.5°F. The wet season begins building up around December, and most of the region’s annual rainfall occurs in the summer months. In March thru May, temperatures averaging between 70.7 to 84.2°F. During the winter (June – August) brings slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity, making it the peak tourist season. Average temperatures range from 63.5 to 78.8°F and there is low rainfall. During spring (September – November) average temperatures range from 68.9 to 84.2°F. This is the end of the dry season when humidity starts to build with the onset of the wet season from December. In November the reef comes alive with the annual coral spawning.
Stinger season or jellyfish season is generally between November and May in Cairns and Port Douglas. From November it is sensible to wear stinger suits in the water, as box jellyfish and Irukandji (the smallest of the box jellyfish family) can be deadly. Beaches are also lined with stinger nets. Out on the Great Barrier Reef the risk of marine stingers is low, however stinger suits are recommended and available for hire on tour boats.
Getting Around Cairns
The bus service in Cairns is provided by Sunbus and services the suburbs, beaches and city with nearly all routes starting at the Cairns City Mall. Most stop at James Cook University and are a reliable and cheap way to get around. Running daily, the timetables for each of the 8 bus routes can be found at most hotels and bus stops, or can be downloaded from Sunbus.
There are plenty of taxis available in Cairns, from all the usual places. You can generally hail one from the street but if it’s really busy you’d be better off finding a taxi rank, which will be well sign posted.
Cairns is at the base of a big hill, but the city center is reasonably flat. Walking is a scenic option, but in the wet season (summer) you’ll end up very hot and very wet, especially if you’re caught in an afternoon thunderstorm. It’s a tropical city, so make sure you take a water bottle with you if you’re going any great distance, as well as some cash (if you need to get a ride back) your mobile phone, and some sunscreen.
Cairns is positioned on the door step of the Great Barrier Reef, and there are many options available to allow visitors to explore this marine wonderland. The Reef Fleet Terminal adjacent to Cairns Marlin Marina provides the ultimate departure point to the Reef and caters for over 2000 passengers per day.
Getting around Cairns with your own car does make things a little easier. The driving in Cairns is fairly laid back just like the town itself so take your time and enjoy the slower pace. There’s plenty of parking in town and the road signs directing you to popular tourist destinations are clearly marked. There are many wonderful scenic routes to take that combine rain forest and ocean views, so if you want to get out of the city at your leisure, renting a car is an excellent idea. The coastal roads connecting Cairns to other beach side towns are thought to be some of the best in the world.
Area Attractions in Cairns
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s greatest natural treasure, and stretches for 1,426 miles from Bundaberg to Australia’s northernmost tip. The Great Barrier Reef encompasses almost 3,000 individual reefs. It is made up of 400 types of living and dead coral polyps, home to around 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 breeds of clams, 500 types of seaweed, 200 species of birds, 1,500 different sponges and half a dozen varieties of turtles.
The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is one of the most scenic ways to travel from Cairns, climbing up above the rain forest canopy to the charming mountain town of Kuranda. Swinging out across the tree tops, the cable way runs for 4.7 miles over the World Heritage-listed rain forest. Enjoy stunning panoramic views, mountain and river landscapes, and look out for electric-blue Ulysses butterflies. You can stretch your legs at two mid-stations, where nature boardwalks and scenic lookouts reinforce the magic of the rain forest environment.
Kuranda’s Scenic Railway lies some 21 miles of picturesque landscape away from Cairns. This popular attraction passes by the breathtaking Barron Falls and equally impressive Stoney Creek Falls. While some travelers lament the dark tunnels and rocky crags, most agree that the incredible gorges, lush forests and roaring waterfalls make this experience worth the journey.
Kuranda offers a feast of artistic, wildlife, shopping and dining pursuits. Order local seafood at a palm-shaded outdoor cafe, then visit the Original Kuranda Rainforest Market for incense and hippie chic. The Kuranda Arts Co-op specializes in locally crafted artworks and pottery, the Heritage Markets has jewelry and opals, and the New Kuranda Markets sells didgeridoos, boomerangs and other souvenirs of indigenous Australia.
Gorges, tumbling rivers, pristine rain forest, and rugged mountains – the Daintree Rainforest is a pristine environment with a World Heritage listing. The ancient rain forest is home to endemic species of birds, animals and plants. This is the place to come horseback riding, take a crocodile spotting cruise on the river, and enjoy cultural encounters with the Aboriginal residents. Go on a 4WD safari, walk above the tree tops at the Daintree Discovery Centre, or discover the many eco-lodges offering relaxation therapy in this back-to-nature part of the world.
Experience the vibrant music, dance, legends and food of Australia’s indigenous people at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. There’s a choice of full-day and half-day tours, or you can visit at night to enjoy a full buffet dinner and Dreamtime show. Aboriginal folklore and myths come alive in the Creation Theater, or you can try your hand at spear and boomerang-throwing, taste bush tucker, and shop for authentic Indigenous crafts sourced from across Australia. Witness the dance and song of a corroboree in a natural forest amphitheater by day, or visit at night for the magical lakeside ceremony and a camp fire chat with the talented performers.
Green Island is one of the most popular island day-trip destinations from Cairns. A true coral cay, the island is covered in rain forest and surrounded by coral reefs for snorkeling adventures. The island’s luxury resort has a swimming pool for day visitors’ use, along with a restaurant, snack kiosk and several bars. While you’re on Green Island you can visit the tropical aquarium, follow the self-guided island walking track, take a short stroll along nature boardwalks leading through the rain forest, and spot turtles swimming in the sea off the island’s patrolled beach.
Things To Do in Cairns
Diving Cairns specializes in scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef so whether you want to learn to dive, do an introductory dive, enrol for Advanced Diver Training, go diving or snorkeling on a day diving trip from Cairns or Port Douglas, or do a live-a-board dive adventure to the Ribbon Reefs, they can help you find the right dive trip or diving course to suit your needs. For more information call +61 7 4041 7536, or visit them on the web at Diving Cairns.
Cairns based, Mike Ball Dive Expedition’s Spoilsport is Australia’s most awarded live-a-board dive vessel. Dives are exclusively conducted at the sites of best biodiversity north of Cooktown. Swim with diver size fish, witness sharks up close, dive plummeting walls in gin clear water. Fly Dive itineraries include a 250km scenic reef flight that provides stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef. For more information call +61 7 4053 0500, or visit them on the web at Mike Ball Dive Expeditions.
Join them for a canyoning adventure and immerse yourself in the fresh waters of beautiful Behana Gorge as they: * Abseil * Cliff Jump * Rock slide * Snorkel At Behana Canyoning, you are the adventurer! For more information call +61 427 820 993, or visit them on the web at Behana Canyoning.
Australia’s only river boarding tour, experience up to grade 3 rapids at face level. The tour starts with a safety swimming lesson and then its into an adrenaline pumping, action packed day of river boarding. Tours operate daily with plenty of guides and a maximum of 12 participants. You must be able to swim, have a medium level of fitness and a comprehensive understanding of English. Daily Departures From Cairns. For more information call +61 427 364 311, or visit them on the web at Rapid Boarders.
Don’t let anything hold you back, not even gravity! Flyboard Cairns is the Premier Flyboard destination in Australia to learn to fly under our instruction & supervision. They are located at Marlin Marina in the heart of Cairns & at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The year round tropical warmth & sun make this the best choice & ultimate location for your Flyboard experience. Fly boarding IS for everyone! They’ve flown all ages from 12 to 75 with varying levels of health & fitness. For more information call +61 487 921 714, or visit them on the web at Flyboard Cairns.
Best Cairns Restaurants
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$ – $$$ Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse
For the best steak in town, head to Waterbar & Grill. Located on Cairns Marlin Marina, guests will love both the waterfront views and menu. The grain-fed and aged organic beef is sourced locally from Morganbury Meat Company on the Atherton Tablelands. Many of the Waterbar & Grill’s dishes boast African and Portuguese flavours. This includes the Portuguese chicken and Boerewors, which is made with traditional South African sausages. But the standout dish might be the Espatada: rump on a hanging skewer that’s dripping with red wine and chilli sauce. For more information call 07 4031 1199, or visit them on the web at Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse.
$$ – $$$ Salt House
With dreamy mountain and ocean views, Salt House is a must-visit restaurant, bar, and pizzeria in Cairns. The restaurant is fitted with an Argentine-style wood-fired grill, which produces perfectly cooked steaks sourced from across Australia’s east coast. The menu also includes many seafood dishes and daily lunch specials. Next is the pizzeria, which serves breakfast in the morning and pizzas all afternoon and evening. Finally, the bar at Salt House is known for its cocktails, relaxing day beds, tapas bar menu, and occasional DJ and live music sets. For more information call 07 4041 7733, or visit them on the web at Salt House.
$$$$ C’est Bon
C’est Bon is the only truly French restaurant in Cairns. They’re a “marriage of French sophistication and down-to-earth local charm,” which fits in perfectly with Cairns’ laid-back tropical setting. C’est Bon has an a la carte menu, as well as seasonal lunch and dinner menus. The seasonal menus include special two- and three-course menu options. Dishes on offer at C’est Bon include snails, baked barramundi, black angus beef eye fillet, and confit duck leg. For more information call 07 4051 4488, or visit them on the web at C’est Bon.
$ Apex Milk Bar
“The greatest burgers, fish and chips, hotdogs, and milkshakes ever.” This is what Apex Milk Bar claims to serve daily to Cairns locals and visitors. Opened since 1960, the casual eatery is proud to use predominantly local produce in their indulgent menu. There are 12 burgers on the menu, which include beef, chicken, pork, fish, and vegetarian options. Don’t miss trying the best burgers in Cairns (and the world) at Apex Milk Bar. For more information call 07 4051 1749, or visit them on the web at Apex Milk Bar.
$ Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum
Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in Cairns, and it’s definitely the best place for ramen. Guests can sit at the bar and watch the chefs cooking up a storm in the kitchen, while they sip on a cup of cold, sweet tea from their bottomless jug. However, the best part of Ganbaranba may be the ramen refills for the bargain price of $1.50. For more information call 07 4031 2522, or visit them on the web at Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum.
Best Cairns Bars & Pubs
The Woolshed has been a hot spot for adventurous travelers for nearly 20 years, being voted best backpacker “Night Out” several times. Have a drink and a laugh on any of the many themed nights, compete or judge in wet t-shirt competitions, bikini competitions and dance the night away on the tables. For more information call 07 4031 6304, or visit them on the web at The Woolshed.
Situated in the heart of the City Mall, P.J.O’Brien’s is where you’ll find tourists and locals alike getting up to all sorts of shenanigans over a pint or two. There are plenty of live party bands on the weekends, Coyote Ugly girls on Wednesdays and happy hours every night. Stop in for a drink and find yourself staying the whole night. For more information call 07 4031 5333, or visit them on the web at P J O’Briens.
The Cock & Bull is an iconic Cairns pub where you can get a big, hearty meal and a cold beer in the charm and style of a traditional English tavern. Popular with families there’s a traditional pub fare menu and a new Carnivore Grill, for those whole want some of the famous Queensland beef. The pub boasts two bars, a tropical beer garden, pokies, pool tables, big screen TVs, a piano and great value. For more information call 07 4031 1160, or visit them on the web at Cock and Bull.
Situated at Marina Point next to the Yacht Club, the Salt House is a unique dining bar that thrives at night with live bands and cocktails galore with wonderful views of the Marina aglow with light. Catch up with your friends or meet new ones out on the deck surrounded by stone ponds, fire features and large Poinciana trees in an oasis of style, glamour and comfort. For more information call 07 4041 7733, or visit them on the web at Salt House.
You can’t miss the Casino in Cairns; it’s a large, glass domed building with coloured lights that gradually change throughout the night. There are 4 different bars inside among the excitement of the pokies and gaming tables. Each bar has an impressive selection of international and local beers, wines and spirits, as well as hand crafted cocktails. For more information call 07 4030 8888, or visit them on the web at The Reef Hotel Casino.
Best Cairns Hotels
This unique 5 Star Hotel in Cairns boasts a spa bath in each of their Luxury Hotel Rooms and a private garden balcony overlooking Cairns city or the iconic Trinity Inlet water views. The 5 Star Hotel facilities are some of the best in Cairns and include a rooftop swimming pool, sauna and a gymnasium. This complex is home to one of Australia’s finest boutique casinos, a multitude of dining experiences and bars, cairns conference venues, banqueting facilities, free live entertainment in BAR36 Live Lounge, the Casino Sports Arena and the luxurious five star Pullman Reef Hotel Casino. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.
Escape to your stylishly furnished, self-contained apartment that fulfills all of your Cairns holiday accommodation needs. Nothing beats the waterfront view from your self-contained Cairns Aquarius holiday apartment’s spacious, private balcony. Dine alfresco overlooking the Cairns Esplanade or simply relax in your Cairns holiday accommodation and watch the boats bob calmly in the sea. Enjoy the open-plan design of your fully equipped, self-contained Cairns holiday apartment. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Cairns Aquarius.
5 star luxury & flexibility when staying in your very own apartment at Waters Edge Cairns Luxury Apartments. Whether your idea of a perfect holiday is to laze around in a resort soaking up the sunshine, partaking in some leisurely shopping and experiencing the multicultural cuisine available from the many restaurants, or your preference is a more action-packed holiday, including snorkeling, scuba diving, white water rafting or bungee jumping, our flexible Cairns accommodation can cater to any needs! For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Waters Edge Cairns Apartments.
Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, Cairns, offers 255 spacious and inviting guestrooms and suites. All rooms have private balconies along with memorable views of the city, the hotel’s tropical gardens, Trinity Bay or Marlin Marina. The rooms are decorated with local artworks that express the natural beauty of the tropical north. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Shangri-La Hotel The Marina Cairns.
This 5-star property is set a short distance from attractions such as The Center of Contemporary Arts, The Cairns Civic Theater, and Cairns Base Hospital. Riley features over 300 stylish rooms and suites, most with spacious balconies. Family rooms have 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, while suites and rooms have a mix of urban, resort and sea views. Each room features its own Apple iPad control center, a 55-inch Smart TV, Staycast by Google for video streaming, access to hundreds of complimentary movies and box sets, blackout blinds, a rain forest shower head and Nespresso machine (naturally with recyclable pods). Enjoy the lagoon swimming pool with a private man-made beach, Eléme Day Spa fitness center, English/Irish breakfast, or dining at Paper Crane restaurant and bar. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Riley, A Crystalbrook Collection Resort.