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Cairns Travel Guide

About Cairns

Queensland is where sun-drenched Australian adventures begin, and the rainforest-clad city of Cairns is the adventure capital of the Sunshine State. Legions of dive-boats whoosh out to the Great Barrier Reef from this tropical coastal city, and a veritable army of backpacker minibuses transports enthusiastic young travellers towards their first skydive, bungee jump, balloon ride or white-water rafting safari.

Surprisingly, this tourist hotspot was founded as a supply depot for gold miners, but locals soon cottoned on to the fantastic tourist potential of the surrounding landscape. Modern Cairns trades heavily on its proximity to the remarkable biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, both on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

There are few other places where you can sip an espresso in a waterfront café at breakfast and be combing the rainforest for crocodiles, cassowaries and platypuses by lunchtime, or dive with reef sharks at noon and be gambling on a casino roulette wheel by teatime.

Tour companies provide excellent transport connections to the surrounding rainforest and mountains. You can ride a train through the rainforest canopy to Kuranda, or track down some of Australia’s most remarkable wildlife in the Atherton Tablelands or the dense Wet Tropics Rainforest of the Daintree. Indeed, many visitors use Cairns just as a staging post for more rugged adventures to Cape Tribulation or the wilds of Cape York.

Great Barrier Reef trips feature on almost every itinerary, from low-key snorkel tours to backpacker party boats and high-speed catamarans that promise to zip you out to the coral with minimum fuss and effort. Understandably, this is one of the most popular places in the world to learn to scuba dive.

Cairns has earned a reputation as a party town, but behind the backpacker bars and hostel barbecues, it is a small country town at heart, with a busy farmers market, old-fashioned Aussie pubs and a manmade lagoon that fills the role of public beach. If you feel the need to escape the tourist hubbub on the seafront Esplanade, the rainforest spills into public parks and nature reserves around the city limits.

Key facts

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Featured Hotels


Cairns Queenslander Hotel and Apartments

Just one block from the Cairns Esplanade Memorial Walk and beach, the Cairns Queenslander offers a range of accommodation including spacious private balcony rooms, standard rooms, and self-catering 2 bedroom apartments. For those travelling on business, the hotel is located close to Cairns Central Business District.

Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort

Located just minutes from Cairns city centre, this 5-star family-friendly resort is set on 28 acres of grounds that include swimming pools and a playground for the children, award winning tropical gardens and rainforest areas. The resort offers a range of accommodation, from luxury condos that sleep up to eight people, to spa villas, and tropical ensuite cabins. Tour companies collect at the front of the resort.

The Reef House

The Reef House is influenced by colonial style beach houses, with plantation shutters, latticework and lush greenery. It offers a relaxed tropical vibe and sits in the heart of Palm Cove’s beachfront boulevard.

Floriana Guesthouse

Occupying an enviable location on the Cairns Esplanade, Floriana Guest House is a heritage-listed former private mansion from the 1930s. Styled with period furnishings, it offers traditional hospitality along with an insight into Cairns history.

Tropic Days Backpackers Hostel

This is simply the best backpackers hostel in town, offering a choice of singles, doubles and small dorms in a beautifully restored Queenslander. There is also a swimming pool surrounded by hammocks for lazy days. One of the best cheap hotels in Cairns for those on a budget.

Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort and Spa

Despite its mouthful of a name, Sea Temple is an elegant apartment-style hotel with direct access to Palm Cove’s palm tree-lined beach. For the ultimate indulgence, book a room with private plunge pool or rooftop spa.