Cairns travel guide

Cairns lures travellers from all over the world and with so many natural wonders in close proximity, it’s easy to see why. In this lush northern region of Queensland, ancient rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns is the hub around which unforgettable holiday memories are made. Cairns itself welcomes visitors with open arms and is the perfect base for your own tropical adventure. If you’re planning your trip, explore our Cairns travel guide and find out how to make the most of your time in Queensland’s beautiful north. We’ve collected the best tips from our travel experts, and have all sorts of suggestions for things to do, the best time to travel, where to stay, getting around (private charter, anyone?) and more. We even have a guide to Cairns Airport, which has flights to domestic and international destinations.

Where to stay

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Far North Queensland, finding where to stay in Cairns largely depends on your plans. If you plan to hit the shops, wine and dine, and then explore the city centre, Cairns city is the best spot to base yourself. If you’re dreaming of a relaxing beach holiday, Palm Cove or Holloways Beach may be more your style. There are many precincts with spectacular Cairns accommodation, so you can be sure you’ll find something to suit your budget and taste. 

Things to do

Deciding what to do in Cairns? This region has so many magical experiences and amazing attractions – you might want to plan some activities before you go! Tropical rainforests with cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches with gentle rolling waves, and a gorgeous saltwater lagoon are just some of the beautiful places to visit in Cairns. Plan a trip aboard Kuranda Scenic Railway, the railway through the rainforest, or take advantage of the location and enjoy some water activities such as diving, snorkelling, or fishing. Cairns truly has something for every traveller.

Getting Around

From the moment you arrive, you’ll be impressed with how easy it is to get around using Cairns transport. The city is very walkable, while public transport makes it easy to head further afield.  Even though you may be surrounded by hills, Cairns itself is relatively flat, which means it’s a fantastic opportunity to hire a bike and pedal around. You can also jump in a taxi or on board one of the buses servicing the city and surrounding areas. If you want to venture off the beaten track, car hire or a day tour are also available.

Where to eat

With so many options to choose from, you’ll never be left wondering where to eat in Cairns. Restaurant precincts in the city and on the waterfront offer a delicious assortment of cuisines, each brimming with local produce. Whether you’re looking for something relaxed like takeaway fish and chips to enjoy by the beach, or you want to taste some amazing local delicacies and specialty dishes while fine-dining, Cairns can accommodate you. Hit up the markets for some fresh produce or take a walk along the Esplanade to find a nearby cafe serving up creamy coffees.


The beauty of Cairns shopping is the assortment of options. You can bargain-shop in the outlet mall in Westcourt, browse high-end labels on the marina, or admire the variety of goods available in the markets.  Scour the street stalls to pick yourself up a souvenir, or browse Cairns fashion stores in the city. Head to the movies, grab something tasty to eat, or simply take five in the air-conditioned comfort of the many shopping centres in Cairns. More shopping precincts can also be found in the suburbs and in nearby Port Douglas.

Best time to travel

Finding the best time to travel to Cairns will depend on what you plan to do during your holiday.  Cairns seasons are characterised by two distinct periods: the wet season and the dry season. During the wet season, rainfall is highest, but diving conditions are also at their best. The dry season offers much better conditions for some adventure-seekers, particularly if you wish to go up in a hot-air balloon or do some hiking.  Whatever time you choose, you can rest assured Cairns will be stunning.


The beauty of palm tree-lined sands is enough to draw anybody to Cairns beaches for a swim, some sun, and a bit of relaxation. Along the coastline are some of the most stunning stretches of beach, where you can enjoy the warm water and tropical climate that Far North Queensland is renowned for. Whether you seek the privacy of Ellis Beach, the convenience of Trinity Beach, or the versatility of Yorkeys Knob, these beaches will have you captivated. Just remember to observe the signage, particularly during stinger season, so you can enjoy your beach visit safely.