Cairns Accommodation

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Exploring Cairns

Cairns’ locale in northern Queensland makes it the main launch point for visits to the Great Barrier Reef. The city itself is a happening place for backpackers and higher-end visitors, with the main area to hangout being the waterfront Esplanade, which is loaded with shops, bars, eateries, and hotels. The excellent Hilton Cairns and the Mantra Esplanade are both here, within easy reach of the pier and the city centre.

This part of northern Australia is a popular draw for adventure enthusiasts, with skydiving and hot air ballooning big business. The weather is usually warm and sunny, and although Cairns’ main beach—actually mudflats—is nothing to shout about, there are many sublime beaches nearby, such as the stunning Palm Cove.

Sights nearby

Cairns is geared to getting visitors out to the Great Barrier Reef though there are noteworthy parks that make a stay here worthwhile. In addition, the hinterland and the nearby Atherton Tablelands are on most people’s radar.

- Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is close to Cairns. Although you can’t swim to it, boat trips to the Inner Reef are frequent and well-priced, with various options depending on clientele and whether you want to dive. Most trips include a snorkel and lunch, and can be booked from all Cairns hotels. Popular tours include a look at Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef, plus there are daytrips to the Outer Reef.

- The Esplanade

A major landmark is this long street with a parallel pedestrianised section linking hotels of the area with the many shops and eateries. It takes in several hundred metres of the waterfront and includes the pier, which has good shopping and a marina. There’s also a lagoon with an artificial beach.

- Flecker Botanic Gardens and Centenary Lakes Botanic Gardens

The prettiest part of Cairns, Flecker Botanic Gardens, is home to an abundance of tropical vegetation and an especially pretty collection of orchids. You can learn all about the bush foods the aborigines eat and take in the Gondwana Evolution trail. Nearby is the Centenary Lakes and Boardwalk. Visitors get to walk right through the rainforest here, taking in creeks and lakes along the way, but these waterways are not for swimming since saltwater crocodiles may be present.

- Atherton Tablelands

Farther afield is this stunning plateau which is on the UNESCO World Heritage wet tropics list. Tours from Cairns that take in the lakes, waterfalls, and fine walking trails are popular. The Atherton Tablelands extend over a wide region and are widely accessible, with Atherton the main town. You can do a half-day tour or spend several days here.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

The central part of Cairns is one of the coolest places in all of Australia to shop, eat, make merry, or just people watch. It goes from the Esplanade to Sheridan Street and is full with cafés, bars, hotels, and some excellent art galleries and handicrafts stalls. Day and night, this area buzzes, plus there’s a tourist market and a weekend market at the pier. The Coral Tree Inn is well placed for taking in this side of Cairns.

Public transport

You can walk the central part—from the beach to the train station—but if you want to see a nearby beach, use the Sunbus. It runs from the Trinity Wharf Centre, near the casino, and takes in main city streets. The Sunbus also serves big pubs and entertainment venues at night, and tickets are purchased onboard. Taxis and shuttles are the best bet from the airport to Cairns’ main hotels.

Cairns travel guides

Cairns travel guides