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Travel Guide Oceania Australia Queensland Cairns

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Introduction

Cairns is a major city on the east coast of Far North Queensland in Australia. The city is the 5th most populous in Queensland and 14th overall in Australia. Cairns was founded in 1876 and named after William Wellington Cairns, Governor of Queensland from 1875-1877. It was formed to serve miners heading for the Hodgkinson River goldfield, but experienced a decline when an easier route was discovered from Port Douglas. It later developed into a railhead and major port for exporting sugar cane, gold and other metals, minerals and agricultural products from surrounding coastal areas and the Atherton Tableland region. The estimated residential population of the Cairns urban area in 2016 was 157,847. The region has experienced an average annual growth rate of 2.8% over the last 10 years. Cairns is a popular travel destination for tourists because of its tropical climate and access to the Great Barrier Reef.

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Sights and Activities

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system covering an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. This is a great place to experience some world class diving because of its great variety of sea life and shallow warm waters. Visit some of the stunning islands near Cairns, like Fitzroy Island or Green Island. Snorkelling and Scuba Diving are some of the most popular activites on the Great Barrier Reef.

Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park

Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park is a park with great biodiversity located north of Cairns. The Daintree rainforest meets the water's edge at Cape Tribulation. The park is part of the larger Wet Tropics of Queensland, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988.

Other

  • Cairns Botanical Gardens
  • Skyrail - catch a cable car up over the mountain to the small village of Kuranda (such a cute place) shop around for the day and come back on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. You can do that the other way around, whichever tickles your fancy.
  • Curtain Fig Tree - now that's one big tree.
  • Babinda Boulders
  • Josephine Falls
  • Tinaroo Dam
  • Walsh's Pyramid
  • Goldsborough Valley
  • Red Arrow Walk
  • Crystal Cascades
  • Mossman Gorge
  • The giant Captain Cook statue and the Marlin
  • Hot air ballooning is a nice experience too. Jump on one. Prices start from around $165 for an adult and work their way sky high.
  • Horse riding - Either Blazing Saddles in Kuranda, Black Moutain Hideaway or ride the beach in Wonga Beach. There are others, camps etc, but they are further out.
  • Tjapukai - Aboriginal Cultural Park.

There are plenty of other options in and around Cairns for those looking for some activity. Mountain Biking, Parasailing, Scuba Diving, White Water Rafting, Bungy Jumping, Skydiving, 4WD Touring, Sea Kayaking, Sailing, Flying Leap Kite Surfing, Rapids Kayaking, Helifishing, Rainforest Habitat, Hartley's CreekCrocodile Adventures, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary Kuranda, Birdworld Kuranda, Australian Tropical Zoo.

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Events and Festivals

  • Festival Cairns - August 25th - 15th September:

With a primary objective of creating an appealing program of activities that effectively showcase the region’s attributes from its idyllic climate to the sunny disposition of people that live here, EventsCairns coordinated a line-up of some 40 events – from interesting and intimate to big and bold.

  • Palm Cove Fiesta - Sat 13 Oct - Mon 15 Oct:

The Palm Cove Fiesta is an outdoor food and wine festival set on Palm Cove's beautiful Esplanade. Combing sand, sea, sun and the magnificent Palm Cove Esplanade precinct with great food and wine, it is a celebration of all the reasons we live in the tropics.

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Weather

Cairns has a tropical climate with hot and humid weather yearround. Temperatures usually are around 30 °C during the day, a bit higher during summer (December-February) and a bit lower during winter (June to August). Nights are warm with 20 °C on average. The wet season lasts from November to March and obviously is not the best time to visit. Dry and sunny weather is what you get from May to September.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max31.6 °C31.3 °C30.6 °C29.4 °C27.9 °C26.3 °C25.9 °C26.7 °C28.4 °C29.8 °C30.8 °C31.6 °C
Avg Min23.9 °C24 °C23.1 °C21.9 °C20.2 °C18.2 °C17.1 °C17.5 °C18.8 °C20.9 °C22.5 °C23.7 °C
Rainfall378.7 mm448 mm388.7 mm215.3 mm89 mm40.8 mm30.9 mm28.9 mm34.8 mm48.2 mm108.4 mm181.3 mm
Rain Days18.118.418.418.8149.18.88.27.18.111.614.1

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Getting There

By Plane

Cairns Airport (code: CNS), located about 7 kilometres north of the city, is the sixth busiest airport in Australia and has direct international flights. International airlines flying to Cairns are Air New Zealand (Auckland), Air Niugini (Port Moresby), Airlines PNG (Port Moresby), Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Continental Airlines (Guam), Jetstar Airways (Osaka, Singapore, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Darwin, Tokyo, Brisbane and Adelaide) and Qantas (Tokyo-Narita)

A number of local carriers (including low-cost airlines) fly to many destinations within Australia. Check airlines like Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia for more information about routes, schedules and prices.

Regional Pacific (Mount Isa) and Skytrans Airlines have services to numerous destinations throughout Australia as well, including smaller airfields.

To/from the airport

  • An airport shuttle bus, called "The Airporter" will take you to your accommodation in town for about $7. There are also shuttles going further north towards Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.
  • There is also a local bus, the Sunbus, that stops on the western side of the airport (route 2/2A). An adult single fare would cost $2-$3 to get into the city.
  • A taxi into the city will cost about $15 and takes about 10 minutes.
  • There are many companies offering rental cars, starting at about 25 AUD a day.

By Train

There are also a number of ways to get to and from Cairns by rail. Cairns is connected with Brisbane by the Sunlander, which runs to and from Brisbane 3 times a week.
There is also a Tilt train service which runs between Cairns and Brisbane, stopping at Townsville, Proserpine (Whitsundays), Mackay and other major cities and towns.

It is also possible to travel by train along the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which runs daily from Cairns to Kuranda and back.

The only rail connection to the Outback is with the Savannahlander, which generally runs once a week to and from the outback town of Forsayth.

By Car

If you are travelling by car, you can drive between Brisbane and Cairns using the Bruce Highway, which is a fantastic drive. The distance is approximately 1,700 kilometres.
Coming from the north, the Captain Cook Highway is beautiful as well.

By Bus

Greyhound is the main bus operator, providing services south to New South Wales and further on and also west towards the Northern Territory.
Oz Experience is the party bus.

By Boat

A growing number of cruise ships stop in Cairns and if you are fortunate enough, you can also arrive by yacht.

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Getting around

Cairns itself is small and mostly flat, so you can get by without a car pretty easily. If you'd rather not walk, you can catch the bus or use bicycles to get around without much trouble. Even a taxi (they're pretty expensive though).

By Car

Dozens of international and local car rental agencies have officies at the airport and downtown. There are plenty of companies you could choose to hire a car from, including Redspot, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty. Car hire is often not available to drivers under 25, or if it is, it's more expensive for younger drivers.

By Public Transport

Blue buses can not be missed. Press the button when you want to get off, or ask where you want to be dropped off. If you're starting in the city they start from the CBD, otherwise ask around.

By Foot

Most of Cairns can be visited by walking.

By Bike

Whatever bikes are ridden all around town. There is a problem with the road awareness of some tourists. If you're driving be careful if you're riding be aware. Bikes can be borrowed cheaply from areas around the city.

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Eat

As with much of Cairns, you can divide the city into the Esplanade and the places within a block of it, and the rest of the city. The Esplanade is littered with bar and grill places supplying red meat and beer all in the one place, and with seafood restaurants. It's relatively difficult to find anything open before 11:00am, since they expect the clientele to be sleeping in. The rest of the city has small cafes and milkbars catering to locals. The number of Japanese tourists here makes Japanese food a fairly reliable option, although prices can be steep.

A number of the more expensive restaurants on the Esplanade, particularly towards the north end, offer discounts of 20-30% for early birds: usually you will need to order by 6:30pm and pay and leave no later than 7:30pm to get a discounted meal.

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Drink

Cairns has pubs and bars to cater to travellers, students, and locals.

the Wool Shed - Its name precedes itself.

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Sleep

There are many backpackers hostels around. Asylm, Gilligans,
Caravella Cairns City Backpackers
, Esplanade Beach Hostel 89, Cairns Girls Hostel, Shenannigans Cairns, Calypso Backpackers Resort.. you get the idea.

Budget

Markets, Rustys markets for mainly fruit and veg, though there are other bits and pieces around. Located one street down from the CBD, it operates on Fri, Sat and Sundays. Fresh Fresh Fresh. The markets have numerous pickpockets, so if you are wearing swim shorts, beware where you keep your wallet.

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Cairns or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are very common in the larger Australian cities and popular tourist destinations. However, once you leave the major population centres, you might have trouble finding somewhere to log on. Free wifi is getting more and more common (either with or without a code) in places like restaurants, some bars and coffee places and hotels. Sometimes a fee is required.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Australia is on a GSM 900/1800 network, so if you have an unlocked phone that works on those frequencies, you will be able to buy a prepaid SIM-card and stick into your phone when you're in Australia. You will receive a new Australian phone number with the SIM-card.

To dial out of Australia use the prefix 0011, followed by the calling code of the country you are trying to reach, followed by the area code of the city/town (without the 0!) and finally the phone number.

Within Australia, it is necessary to add an area code to the phone numbers if you are calling from outside the area. Below are Australia's area codes:

  • 02 - New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory (Sydney, Canberra)
  • 03 - Victoria & Tasmania (Melbourne, Hobart)
  • 07 - Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 08 - Western Australia, South Australia & Northern Territory (Perth, Adelaide, Darwin)

000 is the emergency telephone number in Australia, but the international GSM mobile emergency telephone number 112 also works on mobile phones.

Post

Australia Post is the government's postal service. Most suburbs will have at least one post office. Opening times are mostly from around 8:00 or 9:00am to 5:00pm though larger ones keep longer hours sometimes. A standard letter or postcard sent within Australia will cost $0.60. Internationally, it costs $1.70 to send postcards anywhere in the world. Letters cost $1.85 to send within the Asia Pacific region and $2.60 to anywhere else in the world.[1]. It is also possible to send things as parcels or by express mail. You can also use use private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL as they are competitive and reliable.

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References

  1. 1 Australia Post. Sourced 10 May 2013

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -16.92646
  • Longitude: 145.77597

Accommodation in Cairns

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Cairns searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Cairns and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as boulderman (3%), BradAldcroft (1%), dr.pepper (1%), VATeam (1%), KoalaGirl (1%)

Cairns Travel Helpers

  • Rhmyers

    Dived of the Great Barrier Reef... can help with which type of tour to take and why.

    Went North to Thomas and Daintree National Rainforest crocks. food.

    Went West to the REAL Outback... kangoroo road kill. 10 foot termite mounds, unattended museums, rail roads, storms, floods. Variety of Fruits and Veg ... good food, music and dance.

    Ask Rhmyers a question about Cairns

This is version 67. Last edited at 2:24 on Aug 2, 17 by sleepBot. 47 articles link to this page.

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