"The Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef"
Situated in Far North Queensland, Cairns is synonymous with Australia's tropical climates and oceanic bliss intertwined. Popularly known as the gateway to the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, this city is the home base for those who wish to explore the abundant tropical riches of the region. While soothingly laid back in some parts, Cairns is rife with chic cafes, bustling markets and beaches spotted with bars and clubs.
With 3000 coral reefs, 600 islands and 300 coral cays, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral system in the world and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is only natural that the coastal city of Cairns sees scores of tourists coming to admire and experience this reef in every way possible, be it snorkelling, scuba diving, island getaways, or even helicopter rides that presents the beauty of the reefs from above. Its proximity to the ocean means that it offers a range of restaurants, cafes and pubs offering delicious food with amazing views of the coast found along the Cairns Esplanade, with the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon offering visitors a relaxing swimming experience as they admire the beautiful foreshore of the city.
Visitors looking to explore the greenery of Cairns and North Queensland can hop on the Kuranda Scenic Railway from the Cairns Railway Station and be delighted by the most scenic train route of tropical Queensland. Those not wanting to stray too far from Cairns have the option of visiting the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. More of the natural beauty of Cairns can be found at the Flecker Botanic Gardens, home to verdant rainforest species found in the area. Visitors can also learn about Aboriginal plant use in these gardens.
While it is a haven for natural beauty, Cairns is so much more than that. It also has a thriving art scene, being the city where you can find three huge and real former World War 2 tanks converted into art galleries at the Tanks Arts Centre. The Canopy Arts Centre and Cairns Regional Gallery are also interesting places where one can see the beauty and talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. To learn more about the rich aboriginal history of the area, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park not only explores the history of the indigenous community, but also has regular cultural performances to showcase the Tjapukai culture.
Places To Visit In Cairns
1. Cairns Botanic Gardens
The Cairns botanical gardens officially known as Flecker botanical garden is a botanic reserve in Collins Avenue. It is named after Dr. Hugo Flecker who is known for his immense botanical contribution to this place. Commenced on the 2 of February 2007, it has since become a world heritage listed site. It is also known as Fitzalan's Botanical gardens and Edge hill nursery and it is one of the best places to visit in Cairns.
2. Palm Cove
Palm Cove is the shy, quiet chilled-out unique village which is referred to as the Spa capital of Australia. Some who visit it call it 'the ultimate tropical serenity'. It offers the best of tropical adventure with its reef, rainforest, and indigenous culture and it is one of the best places to visit in Cairns. Relax by the ancient paper bark Melaleuca trees lining the casually styled esplanade. There are various world class beach resorts and hotels here to pamper you and further cater to your every whim and fantasy.
3. Green Island
Most people come to Cairns to visit the Great Barrier Reef. There are many rainforests, white beaches, corals and abundant and diverse marine life. You can do several activities here at Green Island where the clear water invites you to dive, swim, and snorkel to your heart's content. Also very famous here is the semi-submarine ride and the glass bottom boat ride and it is one of the best tourist places in Cairns Australia.
4. St Monica's Cathedral
The St Monica's Cathedral is a Catholic Church in Cairns. This nondescript Building which most people miss is a delight in itself. A witness to the battle of Coral Sea, this unknown building is a hidden gem and a wonder of architecture and interior design. There are a number of stained glass windows of which 24 depict the creation. It is a modern Cathedral which does not require any sort of religious affiliation and it is one of the best places to visit in Cairns.
5. Yorkeys Knob
Yourkeys Knob is your ideal Beach front Destination for your holiday in Cairns. The wide expanse of sand covered by a palm-fringed hammock will surely seduce you. With a large stinger net, you can swim all you want in pure unrestricted pleasure. Windsurfing and sailing are big attractions at Yorkeys. With Rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef nearby, your nature dose is never too far away. There is just so much to do that it will be really hard to explore all of it in just one day and it is one of the amazing tourist places in Cairns Australia.
6. The Reef Hotel Casino
Bask in luxury at this five star hotel that will spoil you with its luxurious facilities among the best places to see in Cairns. It is equipped with 127 lavish rooms where you are treated with your own spa bath and a garden which overlooks the city.
7. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Hailed as the world’s oldest surviving tropical rainforest, this place is often quoted among Australia's wet tropics world heritage areas. The natural landscape will transport you into an ethereal realm where you can have the most amazing experience of your life. The rainforest ride takes you in gondola cabins for a 1.5 hour experience offering you the most magnificent views of the beautiful rainforest in Australia. Riding at 11 miles per hour, this cableway ride has a seating capacity of 700 passengers that covers some of the most beautiful places like Kuranda, Barron, Jumrum Creek Conservation Park etc.
8. Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
This rainforest aviary is the enchanting getaway you want to experience to see the most exotic ones like Cairns Birdwing Butterfly and iconic Monarch. At this amazing aviary, you can opt for a guided tour which will tell you many interesting facts about these butterflies along with the breeding laboratory which has more than 4000 caterpillars.
9. Fitzroy Island
A tropical paradise awaits you at Fitzroy Island that welcomes you with a resort, two restaurants, a National Park and myriad activities to keep you occupied. Just 45 minutes away from Cairns, Fitzroy Island can be reached by a high speed ferry. Sprawling over an area of 339 hectares, Fitzroy Island mesmerises you with its natural beauty. You can choose to stay in one of the sea view rooms which are well equipped with all the amenities and will spoil you with luxury. You can hire a sea kayak or a boat to travel around the island. For those who are looking for some recreational experiences, there are activities like snorkelling, glass bottom boat tour etc. The pristine island offers some superb walking trails and presents a nice getaway for families and honeymooners.
10. Kuranda Koala Gardens
Situated in the noteworthy Kuranda rainforest village, Kuranda Koala Gardens is a superb attraction for all the wildlife lovers among the places to visit in Cairns. It is well known to house many animals like wallabies, wombats, quokkas, gliders and freshwater crocodiles.
Offering the majestic views of the Trinity Inlet, Esplanade is where you can enjoy a memorable picnic near the swimming pool with your loved ones. They also have BBQ facilities which makes the social gathering activities enjoyable for everyone. It is a spectacular place to take along your friends and families as it has many fun places to gather like Muddy’s Playground, Skatepark, Beach Volleyball, Healing Garden playground and Funship Playground. The place is ideal for visiting for the whole year and gives you a superb memory of the salubrious climate of Cairns.
12. Kuranda Scenic Railway
The railway journey from Cairns to Kuranda offers the most majestic views of waterfalls through the rugged mountains and ravines. The 1.5 hour journey is accompanied by an English commentary that tells you the history of this railway line. The railway is more than 100 year old and passes through the gorgeous patches of rainforests, dark tunnels and curvy bridges. The scenic railway ride is a brilliant feat of human engineering and will give you the most breathtaking time of your life.
13. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
A visit to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park offers a distinct glimpse into the world’s oldest living culture that dates back to more than 40000 years. The cultural experience makes it one of the best places to visit in Cairns where you can see dance, food and arts.
Enchanting you with mountain backdrops and the canopy of lush green rainforests, this cultural park is where you can celebrate the most important events of your life. It is praised as one of the most authentic Aboriginal tourists in Australia as it offers a unique experience by combining entertainment and education.
14. Tinaroo Falls Dam
Surrounded by rainforests, this lake offers an amazing opportunity to trek and get a closer sneak peek into the pristine landscape of nature. You can also enjoy a picnic here or engage in fishing for the best Barramundi fish when you are exploring the offbeat places to see in Cairns.
15. Daintree Rainforest
Calling out all the adventure lovers, Daintree Rainforest is one of the best places to visit in Cairns. Surrounded by a lush green landscape, Daintree Rainforest is a place where you get to have a closer look at the most rare plants and animals that thrive here.
16. Barron Gorge National Park
Stretching from Lake Placid to Atherton Tableland in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Barron Gorge National Park is a superb experience for all nature lovers among tourist places in Cairns. Believed to be formed 400 years ago, the national park was a part of the supercontinent Gondwana. In the midst of verdant green mountains, cascading waterfalls and exotic wildlife, Barron Gorge National Park enchants everyone with its pristine natural beauty.
The tropical rainforest is dominated by the Barron River that creates the beautiful Barron Falls. The park is renowned as one of the traditional lands where the local Aboriginal people known as the Djabagandi Bama used to live. Many of the walking trails that you see now are a part of the Bama trails which were developed back then.
17. Barron Falls
Located in the Barron Gorge National Park, this beautiful waterfall is tucked away amidst the lush green rainforests. Offering pristine views of nature, this scenic waterfall is a picture of sprawling mist over lush greenery. It is a steep tiered cascade which can be reached via the Kennedy Highway in the Atherton Tablelands.
18. Crystal Cascades
Tucked amidst the beautiful rainforests of Cairns, Crystal Cascades is one of the hidden secrets among tourist places in Cairns that draws in tourists for its enchanting waterfalls. The secret freshwater lake is an ideal getaway for swimming which is encompassed by large granite boulders.
19. Cairns Aquarium
Showcasing wildlife from the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest, Cairns Aquarium is one of the most spectacular aquariums in Cairns. The aquarium has on display 71 exhibits that present the most rare species which are found in the marine ecosystem of North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.
20. Stony Creek Falls
Situated in the Barron Gorge National Park, Stoney Creek is where you can escape from all the hustle and bustle of nature. Surrounded by rainforests, this is one of the best places to visit in Cairns for all the nature lovers. A great place to beat the summer heat, this is the place where you can go for a cool dip and enjoy a nice day away from the bustling crowds.
21. Rainforestation Nature Park
Located in the kuranda rainforest, Rainforestation Nature Park is one of the astounding places to visit in Cairns. Located amidst World Heritage Rainforest, this place sprawls over an area of 100 acres that attracts all the nature lovers for an exciting day getaway with loved ones. The park is well-known to enthrall you with activities like Army Duck Rainforest tour on land and water, the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience and watching Australian animals in the Koala and Wildlife park.
22. Trinity Beach
This beach is the favorite beach of a true Cairns local. Trinity Beach is an amazing beach known for its clear waters. The beach offers a beautiful ambiance that never fails to impress anyone. Even more so than the other beaches, the locals and tourists mingle here to give it a much friendlier vibe. This beach is not far from the Cairns International Airport so it is a preferred destination and usually the first beach tourists end up going to and it is one of the best tourist places in Cairns Australia.
Which are the best romantic places to visit in Cairns?
1. Cairns Botanic Gardens: With a wonderful display of tropical plants, Cairns Botanic Gardens enchants all the love birds as you get to feel rejuvenated in the stunning surroundings and learn about the tropical flora. Walking under the green canopy and getting to see the beauty of nature offers a wonderful romantic experience to everyone.
2. Kuranda Scenic Railway: Pass through the pristine rainforest, deep gorges and scintillating ravines on this amazing journey to see one of the most beautiful places to see in Cairns. The 2 hour journey offers a spectacular view of the Barron Falls and the best landscapes of Barron Gorge National Park.
3. Cairns Aquarium: This beautiful aquarium in Cairns is a splendid getaway to have a closer look at the marine animals and enjoy a visit to one of the finest aquariums. It is here where you can see tons of amazing fish, marine creatures and underwater life that is sure to enthral you.
4. Cairns Esplanade Lagoon: A superb experience to escape the hustle and bustle of life, this place in Cairns will make you fall in love again. The relaxing getaway is for everyone who enjoys nature with some luxuries.
Must Know Before You Visit Cairns
1. It is recommended to get the Go Card to avail of the public transport systems. It is cost-effective and can save up to 30% on daily travel.
2. Bicycles and scooters can be used to travel within Cairns. It is another cost-effective way to travel within the city. Many hostels and hotels also offer bicycles and scooters for rent at affordable rates.
3. As Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Forest region, the city plays host to a large number of tourists every year. During peak season, it is recommended to book accommodations well in advance.
4. Book tours and excursions well in advance as they are highly sought after in Cairns. Your package operators or hotel can arrange for the same when requested months before your travel.
Nightlife in Cairns
Being a haven for tourists and backpackers, Cairns’ nightlife is bustling and lively. Popular bars and clubs include the Pier Bar, Jack and the Woolshed.
Which are the best places to visit in Cairns at night?
1. Cairns Night Markets: For some memorable souvenirs and amazing food, Cairns Night Market is one of the best places to be. Whether you want to indulge in great seafood or an affordable massage session, these bustling markets will not disappoint you at all.
2. Cairns Sunset Cruise: If you love sunsets, this cruise is one of the most recommended activities in Cairns. With a dinner near the Marina and serene glimpses of the Trinity Inlet National Marine Park, this one and a half hour cruise is a great way to spend time with your better half.
3. Tjapukai: Hailed as the aboriginal cultural park, this place is a nice way to learn about the aboriginal culture and see many cultural activities. Here you can enjoy a heartsome meal, watch a dazzling fire show and spend a wonderful evening with your significant other.
4. Night dive at Great Barrier Reef: Enjoy a wonderful night dive at the Great Barrier Reef by booking a liveaboard package. This thrilling activity is a superb way to see the beauty of Cairns and have a good time with your loved ones.
Shopping in Cairns
Rusty’s markets is the best place to go shopping in Cairns, with the bustling stalls offering everything from fresh produce to flowers to clothing. It offers a multicultural experience, with vendors of different nationalities showcasing their interesting products to locals and tourists alike. It is also a great place to learn more about indigenous food, with stalls set up by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Cairns Night Market and the Cairns Central Shopping Centre are great options for visitors seeking a more conventional shopping experience.
Interesting Facts about Cairns
Some time in November or December is the annual coral spawning, where the coral reef reproduction takes place with millions of eggs and sperm released into the water together. Observers of this phenomenon have likened it to a ‘psychedelic snowstorm’ with rainbow colours forming on the sea surface.
Due to the tropical climate, items such as medicines, cosmetics, perfumes need to be kept in the fridge, as room temperature is often above 30 degrees Celsius.
The largest moth in Australia, the Hercules moth, can be found in Cairns
The Cassowary, considered the world’s most dangerous bird, can be found in Cairns
Cairns is the only Australian city close to 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
How to reach Cairns?
There are the following ways to reach Cairns:
1. By air: You can take an international/national flight from any of the major airports across the world to reach Cairns International Airport.
2. By rail: You can opt for a scenic train ride to Cairns by the famous Queensland Sunlander or their Tilt train fleet which connects you to the major places in North Queensland
3. By boat: You can opt for a wonderful cruise to the Cairns seaport which provides a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
4. By road: The major cities which allow you to take a ride via road to Cairns are Brisbane, Sydney, Darwin and Melbourne from where you can hire a car or ride yourself to Cairns
Best Time To Visit Cairns
The best time to visit Cairns is between June and August, which is the winter season. Due to the extreme heat and humidity faced by tropical Queensland outside these months, the winter period is when Cairns has the most pleasant climate for tourism. The temperatures generally vary from 16°C to 26°C and it mostly remains dry with clear skies throughout the day. Another reason to visit Cairns during the winter season is that during this time tourists can spot the migrating humpback whales.