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Cairns, Australia


Cairns is the gateway city to Tropical North Queensland. The city was named after Queensland's second Irish born Governor, Sir William Wellington Cairns, and was established in 1876 to serve the mining industry. Nestled between the mountains and the Coral Sea, it is the home of the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Rainforests. With a population of 130,000, the economy is focused on tourism and agricultural activities such as sugar cane and tropical fruits. Cairns is 1,780 km north of Queensland's state capital city, Brisbane.

The climate is tropical with a hot and wet season (December to March) and a warm, dry season (April to November). The best time of year to visit is April to November as tropical cyclones (severe storms) can occur in the December to March period. Summer temperatures range between 19 and 36 degrees Celsius while in winter the range is 11 to 29. June to September is the peak tourist season.

Travel to Cairns

Cairns International Airport (CNS) is the international gateway to far North Queensland and is 7 kilometres from the CBD. There are direct domestic flights to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock (Uluru). Direct international flights service Auckland, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Due to the vast distance between Cairns and the southern capital cities in Australia, most international and domestic visitors fly into Cairns.

Train (Queensland Railways) services originating in Brisbane arrive at Cairns Railway Station which is located in the city centre within walking distance of the waterfront and close to most hotels. The Tilt train and The Sunlander services connecting Cairns to Brisbane (via the coastal towns) take 32 hours for the full journey. A flight from Brisbane to Cairns takes 2.5 hours.

Coach services operate along the Queensland coast between all cities and towns.

Car - The 1700-km Bruce Highway runs south along the coast connecting Cairns to the state capital Brisbane. Car rental is very popular in the Queensland region. A trip between Townsville and Cairns takes 4 hours by car.

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Cairns Transport

Walking in Cairns is easy as the city center is small enough to walk around without the need for public transport.

Bus services (Sunbus) depart from the city market square to the suburbs and Northern Beaches. You can purchase bus tickets from the driver.

Car rental is popular to visit the surrounding attractions if you are not taking a tour. Cairns and the surrounding area is very easy to drive around with minimal traffic. Parking is easy in Cairns. Australia drives on the left side of the road.

Cairns Attractions

Green Island is a beautiful island, surrounded by coral reef, 30 minutes from Cairns by ferry. The island is a small enough for visitors to walk around in 60 minutes. The island has a 5 star resort hotel, a small shopping village and welcomes day visitors for swimming, snorkeling, diving etc. There is also a marineland and aquarium complex housing some large crocodiles.

Cairns Green Island

Fitzroy Island is a resort island that welcomes day visitors for swimming, snorkeling, diving etc. The ferry service takes about 45 minutes from Cairns. The resort is suitable for the family and backpacker market.

Great Barrier Reef Cairns Great Barrier Reef is easily accessible from Cairns as it is closest to the coast in the Cairns region. Everyday there are many boat trips available to the outer reef. Some tour operators have a large floating pontoon anchored at the reef where visitors can snorkel, scuba dive, ride in a submarine and enjoy a buffet lunch. Some reef visits are combined with an island visit (eg Green Island). There are many aircraft and helicopter flights available to discover the magnificent Great Barrier Reef.

Mossman Gorge is 60 minutes north of Cairns and is a good place to experience the beauty of a tropical rainforest. There are many walking tracks and a suspension bridge over the stream. Take care swimming in the stream and pools as the currents can be swift especially after rain.

Hot Air Ballooning is available throughout the year as the Cairns region has excellent weather for ballooning. Experience the fun & unique sensation of being in a hot air balloon flying gently high above the Atherton Tablelands. Visitors are picked up early from their accommodation and taken inland to Mareeba where the balloon flight takes off at dawn. After the flight visitors are returned to their hotel or connected with a Great Barrier Reef tour. Hot Air Includes a delicious hot breakfast, champagne & transfers [AU$185]

Crocodile Farms are always a popular tourist attraction and there are several close to Cairns. Hartley's Creek Crocodile Farm is located about half way along the James Cook Highway (the scenic coastal road stretching between Cairns and Port Douglas) and is a working crocodile farm that produces skins and meat for export. It is also one of Australia's longest running and most successful crocodile shows with feeding displays of big saltwater crocodiles. It's an educational experience for visitors to learn about these ancient reptiles. In addition to crocodiles the farm displays Koalas, Kangaroos, Cassowaries, Dingoes, Snakes and other reptiles native to Australia. It takes 35 minutes to reach the farm from Cairns and 20 minutes from Port Douglas.

Duyfken is a full scale replica of the 16th century sailing ship Duyfken that was the first recorded European ship to visit Australia. In 1606, the small Dutch ship Duyfken sailed from Indonesia to discover northern Australia. The replica is berthed at Marlin Wharf, Cairns. Duyfken is open to the public as a floating museum. See what life was like on a 16th century sailing ship and learn about Australia's earliest maritime history. [Open daily 9am to 5pm, Adults AU$5, Child AU$3, Family AU$1, Sail Aboard Duyfken Adults $75 Child $40]

Kuranda is a market town is the mountain range behind Cairns and makes a great day trip. During the Second World War the entire region was a war zone and Kuranda was one of the busiest stations handling freight for the many American troops that were stationed on the Atherton Tablelands. Kuranda can be accessed by road or take the famous Kuranda Scenic Railway and/or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway from Cairns.

Kuranda Scenic Railway is a world famous railway experience, operated by Queensland Rail, from Cairns railway station through the majestic Barron Gorge to Kuranda. Construction of the Railway, during the 1880s, was an engineering feat of tremendous magnitude. [One-way adult AU$40, child AU$20]

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a 7.5km, 90 minute cableway gondola ride taking you on an amazing experience over Australias World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest canopy and deep into the forest. Relax and enjoy the stunning rainforest scenery, panoramic views of the Cairns tropical region and the glittering waters of the Coral Sea. Alight at Skyrails two rainforest mid-stations, Red Peak and Barron Falls, where youll explore this amazing environment from the forest floor on boardwalks, scenic look-outs and in the state-of-the-art Rainforest Interpretation Centre. [open daily except for Christmas Day, One-way adult AU$40, child AU$20]

Hiking - Cairns is surrounded by rainforest clad mountains, and there are nearly 200 walking tracks in this World Heritage Area.

Fishing Cairns Travel in Cairns is extremely popular with visitors. The region is famous for deep sea fishing especially black marlin. Many tour operators are available to take visitors to the reef for fishing.

Diving and snorkeling There are many dive operators in Cairns running day and live aboard scuba diving trips to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Beaches There is no beach in central Cairns. An artificial lagoon-style pool is located on the promenade near the marina and is very popular throughout the year with tourists and locals. Beautiful beaches with warm, clear water are located in the northern beach suburbs of Palm Cove, Trinity Beach and Yorkey's Knob about 10km north of the city and on nearby Green Island and Fitzroy Island. Local beaches should be avoided during "stinger season" (stinging jellyfish) between October and May. There are no jellyfish out on the Barrier Reef. Sun protection is important as the UV exposure risk can be extreme especially in summer.

Daintree River & Rainforest is located 90mins north of Cairns and is a World Heritage area. Visit the Daintree village and take a boat tour on the Daintree River to view crocodiles in their natural habitat.

Atherton Tablelands is inland from Cairns, on the edge of the outback, centered around the township of Atherton. The area is an agricultural and horticultural area. The Tablelands host many sightseeing attractions for visitors such as the crater lakes (Lake Barrine & Lake Eacham), the Curtain Fig Tree, wineries, bushwalks, Lake Tinaroo where you can legally fish for Barramundi all year around, viewing platypus (a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal with a broad flat tail, webbed feet, and a snout resembling a duckbill), waterfalls such as Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Elinjaa falls that plunge over vertical lava walls into inviting pools. Several tour operators run half and full day tours of the area.

Adventure Sports such as White Water Rafting, Bungy Jumping, Sky Diving, Mountain Biking, Sea Kayaking, Go Karts, Parasailing and more are available in Cairns.

Cairns Hotels

Cairns Travel

The Esplanade is lined with hotels and apartments most within walking distance from the city and marina. The streets behind the Esplanade have many types of accommodation to suit all budgets and are less expensive than accommodation on the Esplanade. Even though there is a lot of accommodation in Cairns, the high season (June - September) can be booked out.

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Cairns Dining

Fresh regional produce of an unsurpassed standard of quality, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Atherton Tablelands, combine to make your tropical dining experience unforgettable.

There are many restaurants, cafes and bars along the Cairns Esplanade and in the streets of the city. Seafood and Japanese food are in plentiful supply and the warm climate allows many places to offer alfresco dining. Charlies Seafood buffet on the Esplanade is good value and a popular venue.

The Reef Hotel Casino has 4 restaurants and cafes for an outstanding cuisine experience.

Cairns Nightlife and Entertainment

Most of Cairns nightlife is centered bars and clubs around the Esplanade and the streets behind.

The Reef Hotel & Casino is one of Australia's finest boutique casinos located near the waterfront, featuring a multitude of dining experiences and bars, extensive conference and banqueting facilities, elite entertainment in Vertigo Bar or the Casino Sportz Arena and the luxurious five star Pullman Hotel with 128 beautifully appointed rooms. Vertigo Bar offers stylish surroundings, comfortable lounges and a dance floor featuring live entertainment from Wednesday to Saturday.

Cairns Shopping

Pearls are cultured in the Torres Strait and sold in Cairns stores.

Cairns Central Shopping Mall is located next to the central railway station and Cairns Night Markets located on the Cairns Esplanade operate every night of the week till late. The market is a collection of stalls catering mainly to tourists.

Duty Free shops are located in Cairns city and the airport.

Beyond Cairns

Cairns is the entry point into Australia for many overseas visitors and a great place to begin a tour of Australia.

Port Douglas is a small town and popular boutique destination located 70 km or one hour north of Cairns. Travel along the scenic Cook Highway that offers spectacular vistas of the coast. Former US President Bill Clinton and many other famous persons have vacationed in Port Douglas. It is ideal from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef, and it is the gateway to the Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation and Daintree National Park. There are regular shuttle services from Cairns and Cairns airport, and a daily catamaran service between Cairns and Port Douglas.