Cairns, considered the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is a city in tropical Far North Queensland. Its Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tells the stories of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with music and dance. Cairns Esplanade, lined in bars and restaurants, has a swimming lagoon. Northwest of the city, Daintree National Park spans mountainous rainforest, gorges and beaches.
GETTING TO AND AROUND CAIRNS
Flights to Cairns
It’s easy to fly right into the heart of Tropical North Queensland. Fourteen domestic and international airlines service Cairns Airport – Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Tigerair, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Air Niugini, SilkAir and Regional Express, as well as small local airlines Skytrans, Alliance Airlines and Air North.
Direct flights arrive from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin, plus a number of major regional centres. It won’t take you long to get here – most domestic flights are only three to four hours.
Cairns Airport is just outside of the city and is easily accessible from Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove.
Sun Palm Transport Group operates the only accredited airport shuttle, directly servicing all accommodation providers in the city centre, Northern Beaches and Port Douglas. They also operate the Airport Connect service which links both Terminals to the Translink public transport network. Airport to City rates are $15.00 per adult.
If you’d like to drive yourself, rental cars are available.
Each terminal has its own sheltered taxi rank at the front of each terminal building, simply follow the signage in the terminal. The company operates a fleet of 137 government licensed taxi vehicles comprising sedans and station wagons for up to four passengers, maxi taxis for up to 10 passengers as well as wheel chair capable vehicles.
Average taxi fare costs from the Airport to the city start from $25.00
EAT & DRINK IN CAIRNS
Diversity and abundance make Tropical North Queensland unique as a food-producing region. Some of it is familiar but flag flyers for the tropics include mangoes, bananas and sweet, sun-ripened pineapples, reef fish and wild-caught prawns. Less well-known are the rainforest nuts, fruits and native spices that Aboriginal people gathered from this land for millennia, and today appear in local markets and on restaurant menus.
Other restaurants proudly showcase their local roots, with native Australian produce like kangaroo, emu and crocodile on the menu and some of the best seafood in the country, caught locally. With a profusion of experiences and produce, whatever your interests and appetite, you’re unlikely to ever go hungry up here.
For recommendations and to view restaurant options, please click here.
THINGS TO DO IN CAIRNS
Great Barrier Reef
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
The 2300 kilometre (1430 mile) Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. You can swim, snorkel, dive and sail this living masterpiece.
Home to diverse marine life of the most vivid colours, the Great Barrier Reef offers the opportunity for great adventure, whether you do it in luxury or on a budget. Explore the stunning Whitsunday Islands, trek the ancient Daintree Rainforest or relax on luxurious tropical islands such as Hayman and Lizard.
The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is so beautiful that its ancient ferns, emerald green vines and lush canopy provided inspiration for the movie Avatar. Here you can trek through jungle and discover plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. Fly through the trees on a zip-line for a bird’s-eye view. Cruise along the winding waterways of the Daintree River, looking for saltwater crocodiles. And head to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. When Sir David Attenborough calls something “the most extraordinary place on earth”, you know it must be good.
Daintree National Park is a two hour drive north of Cairns.
This famous railway winds its way on a journey from Cairns to Kuranda, the village in the rainforest, with Freshwater situated along the line with views of the surrounding mountains. Rising from sea level to 328m, the journey to Kuranda passes spectacular waterfalls and into the stunning Barron Gorge. The journey includes an English commentary and all passengers receive a commentary companion which includes information on the history of the railways construction, a trip map and a map of Kuranda. Upon reaching the village of Kuranda a rich assortment of interesting attractions and unique shopping experiences awaits you.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, Cairns Australia, is a world first in environmental tourism taking you on an amazing experience over Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest canopy and deep into the forest.
The Skyrail experience, is a must do Cairns tour and attraction spanning 7.5kms over pristine rainforest, allows you to explore the wonders of an ancient tropical rainforest and learn about one of the most botanically fascinating and diverse areas on earth.
Gliding just metres above the rainforest canopy in comfortable six-person gondola cabins, the Skyrail journey immerses you in an intimate rainforest experience where you’ll see, hear, smell and become part of the tropical rainforest environment.
If you want total seclusion on a tropical beach that resembles images of paradise so closely you won’t believe it’s possible, then Turtle Bay meets your expectations. There are no references to Turtle Bay in any beach magazine, directory, or any tour guide. That’s because no one goes there. No tour boats visit the beach, and there are no roads to this idyllic beach.
Sunseekers and fun-lovers flock to Cairns Esplanade’s spectacular swimming lagoon on the city’s reclaimed foreshore. The artificial, sandy-edged, 4800-sq-metre saltwater pool is lifeguard patrolled and illuminated nightly. The adjacent 3km foreshore boardwalk has picnic areas, birdwatching vantage points, free barbecues and fitness equipment. Follow the signposts for the excellent Muddy’s, which has playgrounds and water fun for little kids, and the skate ramp, beach volleyball courts, bouldering park and Fun Ship playground.
In 1987 AJ Hackett jumped illegally from the Eiffel Tower and in doing so launched bungy jumping to the world. More than 25 years and 3.5 million jumps later AJ Hackett now operate the worlds most innovative gravity related products anywhere on the planet.
Home to Australia’s ONE & ONLY Bungy Tower & Giant Minjin Jungle Swing. Located in the Rainforest 20 mins from Cairns CBD.
These markets had their humble beginnings in 1978 organized by a group of local hippy artists and crafts people. The original marketeers had to pay for the operation of their own train service for two seasons, to prove commercial viability of the service to the Queensland Railway Department. These markets put Kuranda on the map, cementing its reputation as an exotic rainforest destination for local and international visitors.
Today the Original Markets has retained its atmosphere, with many local artists and personalities making the market part of their lifestyle. Many of the current marketeers have been involved in the markets during the course of the last 25 – 30 years. Their local knowledge and expertise is second to none.