Cairns is a small city by international standards. Located by the
sea it boasts a good balance of laid back tropical lifestyle and
the excitement of a major tourist destination with lots to see and
do. There is an excellent range of shopping and dining and it is
an easy city to spend a casual day or two exploring. There are literally
hundreds of day touring options and tourists are very well catered
for. For those who enjoy some night life there are numerous bars
and nightclubs to keep you entertained. Many people use Cairns as
their base to branch out and explore the rest of North Queensland.
The international airport is only about 6km from the heart of town.
Cairns Hilton and The Reef Hotel Casino
from closest major city
Cairns is located approximately 1729 km north of Brisbane.
Captain James Cook was the first known European to visit the site
where Cairns is located, arriving on Trinity Sunday 1770 and naming
the area Trinity Bay. Cairns took quite a while to be developed,
being passed over by Smithfield and Cooktown as the real frontier
towns servicing the gold rush late in the 19th Century. Cairns looked
like passing into obscurity until it was chosen as the starting
point for a railway line that serviced the Atherton Tablelands taking
up workers and supplies and bringing back tin and timber. Sugar
Cane farms were developed close to Cairns as there was now access
to transport the cane to Southern Mills. Cairns began to gain a
reputation as a tourist destination throughout the 1970s. In 1984
an international airport opened and a major tourism boom began which
converted Cairns from a sleepy regional town to a thriving city.
» Learn more about the history of Cairns
Without a doubt tourism is the number one industry in Cairns. Industries
that service tourism have grown proportionally over the years with
the most notable being the building industry. Cairns is home to
a large commercial fishing fleet that catch prawns in the rich waters
of the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait.
of the town
Cairns is a very green city built on the banks of the Trinity Inlet.
There are parks and gardens throughout the town, large shopping
centres and a few high rise buildings in the CBD. Cairns is surrounded
by high forested ranges that provide a very lush backdrop to the
city. The Esplanade is the area of most activity. This is a waterfront
parkland where tourists and locals alike tend to congregate to relax
and enjoy the views. The Pier Marketplace is a feature on the Esplanade.
It is a great place to visit for excellent shopping, restaurants
and entertainment. Cairns is easy to find your way around, people
are friendly and helpful and happy to offer a suggestion on what
to see and do.
Following is an outline of the major sights to see during a visit
to Cairns: Botanical Gardens - whilst they are only small the Flecker
Botanical Gardens are beautiful, very well maintained and interesting.
There is a good cafe in the middle of the Gardens and both the Cafe
and the Gardens are open every day.
is a large speciality retail and entertainment centre on the Cairns
waterfront. It boasts a diverse range of shopping, including major
international labels, restaurants an international foodcourt, tour
booking lounge and much more. It is also the home of the famous
weekend Mud Markets. The Pier Marketplace is open every day from
9am to 9pm.
is the largest shopping centre in Cairns. Located a few minutes
walk from the heart of the CBD it is a popular destination for people
looking for a shopping experience. It also has a cinema complex
in the centre with plenty of restaurants and larger grocery stores.
is located on the ground floor at the Pier Marketplace. This aquarium
features very well presented tanks show casing tropical fish life.
The main tank features divers hand feeding sharks and other large
- Located in the Cairns CBD, the Regional Gallery features predominantly
local artists work which reflects the variety of cultures found
in North Queensland. There are a number of other high quality photographic
and art galleries in and around Cairns.
- located adjacent to the Botanical Gardens the Centenary Lakes
are a tranquil parkland area featuring Billabong style lakes covered
in water lilies. This is a good location for bird watchers.
is a charming train station found nestled amongst cane fields in
Freshwater. The Kuranda train stops at Freshwater Connection. This
is a nice place to stop for afternoon tea.
are located at the end of the Redlynch Valley. The Cascades are
popular with locals as a good place to cool off in the warmer summer
months. There is a good walking track alongside the Cascades (in
recent times there have been problems with cars being broken into
at Crystal Cascades making it important to take all valuables with
- Cairns main parkland and recreation area is a haven for joggers,
bike riders, bird watchers, kite flyers and picnics. The Esplanade
has recently undergone a major redevelopment that has seen the
inclusion of a large swimming lagoon, kids’ playground, family picnic areas and an
Reef Casino by Night - Photo By Peter Lik (click
Reef Hotel Casino
hosts a good range of restaurants and entertainment. The Casino
is popular with both visitors and tourists alike.
Flying Doctor Service
- located close to the Botanical Gardens, this attraction highlights
the world famous Royal Flying Doctor, a service that provides medical
attention to isolated outback communities.
- open every Friday and Saturday in Grafton St, Rustys Markets are
an establishment to the people of Cairns. It is a popular place
to buy the weekly fruit and vegetables as well as a variety of other
produce. There are normally quite a few interesting characters trying
to sell anything and everything at the markets.
Aboriginal Cultural Park - Photo By Peter Lik (click
Aboriginal Cultural Park
- also located at Smithfield this unique attraction highlights the
culture and lifestyle of a local Aboriginal Tribe, the Tjapukai.
There is a museum, live theatre (which has some stunning special
effects) and an Aboriginal Camp set up to show visitors bush food
and medicine, how to light fires, throw boomerangs and spears and
play didgeridoos. Once again there is nothing like this park anywhere
Morris and Copperlode Dam
- finding the turn off to Copperlode Dam can be tricky but it is
worth making the effort - follow your map to Kamerunga Rd. The actual
turn off is well sign posted and leads to a very windy 16km scenic
drive (this road is not suitable for buses or caravans). At the
top of the Range is Lake Morris and Copperlode Dam. There is a beautiful
picnic and BBQ area overlooking the lake and a small kiosk serving
a good range of light refreshments. There are also a number of walking tracks in the area. This recreation area closes at 6.00pm. Very
few people know about this fabulous spot, making it one of the few
places that you can visit without the crowds.
Liners at Trinity Wharf
The Great Barrier Reef is easily the number one attraction in Cairns.
There are a number of excellent operators that specialise in providing
both day tours and overnight trips to The Great Barrier Reef, where
you can swim, snorkel, dive or simply sit back and relax. There
are literally hundreds of day touring options available in Cairns.
At times the sheer abundance of promotional material can prove confusing.
The range of activities available is really quite amazing and it
would not be an understatement to suggest that whatever your interest
Cairns can accommodate you. It is a good idea to gather information
on your first day, talk to other travellers and then plan your day
tours and activities from there. Most hotels have excellent tour
desk and booking facilities and there are a number of specialist
tour booking companies in Cairns.
» Visit Tours To Go’s extensive range of Cairns tours and Great Barrier Reef tours
booking tours make sure that you have all inclusions detailed and
write down the pick up times and the company that you have booked
the tour with. Between 7.30am and 9.00am the foyers of most hotels
are packed with tour operators doing their daily pick-ups and it
can be quite confusing. Being on time helps to keep the system flowing
and the buses moving.
is an excellent place to hire a car and drive yourself. It is a
matter of deciding whether you want to sit back and let a local
guide show you the sights on tour or if you prefer, to go exploring
by yourself. Both options will be very enjoyable and the best compromise
is to do a few day tours and perhaps hire a car for a few days as
is the home of SCUBA Diving in Australia. There are a number of
companies offering dive trips and dive courses. Dive Courses in
Cairns are excellent value and the best operators can be found on
the Cairns Connect site.
» Browse our SCUBA Diving tour operators
Cairns has all of the services a traveller requires.