A Complete Guide to Cairns

posted by Chris Valentine

If you are spending a couple of days or a couple of weeks in Cairns, this sunny tropical town in North Queensland has lots to do, see and eat!


Cairns is packed with things to do, places to see and exciting adventures to go on.

The Great Barrier Reef

It is the gateway to one of the seven natural wonders of the world – The Great Barrier Reef. There are many tours in Cairns that offer full and half day tours to explore the beautiful reef. You can snorkel, scuba dive and swim along the reef, as well as whale watch and swim with dolphins.


The majestic Daintree Rainforest is also only a two-hour drive north of Cairns. Explore the rainforest by taking a day trip or stay a few nights in one of the wilderness eco lodges.


If you are a daredevil, you are in luck. There are lots of activities to do in Cairns that will get your heart racing and your blood pumping. Skydive over one of the most beautiful places in Australia, gliding over the Great Barrier Reef and landing on the sandy shores. Cairns happens to be the only place in Australia where you can bungee jump! Jump into the canopy of the Cairns rainforest and take in the spectacular view. Or if staying on solid ground is more your thing, ride on an ATV and go on a quad bike tour. There are various companies that offer rides through the tropical bushland and cane fields.

If you want to combine an activity with water, there are a few companies that offer white water rafting. Sail down rapids while taking in the beautiful surroundings. Get out onto the ocean and soak up the sun, salty air and spectacular views by parasailing or hopping on a jet ski and cruising around.

Up in the sky

To see Cairns from the air (not in a plane!), hot air ballooning is by the far the most serene and beautiful way to see it. North Queensland also happens to be one of the cheapest spots in Australia to go hot air ballooning.


There are so many fantastic places to stay in Cairns from hostels to five-star luxury. If you prefer the hustle and bustle of being in town, the city centre is the best place for you to stay. Want to wake up and smell the ocean? Cairns is famous for its beach side accommodation! Or perhaps the calls of the animals late at night in the rainforest is more appealing to you. Whatever the case, there is something to suit everyone.

5-star opulence

If you are looking for luxury that won’t empty the bank, the Cairns Harbour Lights hotel is perfect. It is situated on the Cairns waterfront and looks out over the Cairns marina. The rooms are self-contained apartments, perfect for those planning on staying a little longer. The hotel is close to many of the tour boats heading out to the Great Barrier Reef, making it handy for those who have planned a day out on the sea!

Located behind the beach at Palm Cove sits the Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple Resort & Spa. To truly relax and get away from it all, this resort is it. The rooms are spacious and elegant and you can treat yourself to one of their organic treatments at their spa.

While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to stay in a casino hotel, the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is by far one of the most luxurious hotel experiences in Cairns. The rooms are grand and the facilities at the hotel are even grander. Try Tamarind, their Asian-fusion restaurant or if you want the best seafood around, dine at Café China. After dinner, head to their bar, Vertigo for some killer cocktails.

Cheap and cheery

For travellers on a budget, there are some excellent options still in the heart of Cairns. The ibis Style Cairns is in a convenient location among everything going on, but it is also quiet. You can choose from a number of rooms and if you are with the family, the family room can fit up to 5 people.


Cairns and the whole of North Queensland have a huge pub culture. There are pubs scattered all throughout Cairns and they are usually all packed with the locals enjoying a tasty meal and an ice cold beer.

The location of Cairns is perfect for all food lovers and restaurant owners as it lay between the Coral Sea and the tropical fruit orchids of the Cairns Hinterlands, which provide a large banquet of fresh food. The depth of the restaurant scene will please all guests including cuisines from modern Asian, Mexican, Italian and Greek.

For a little slice of Bali in the Queensland tropics, head to Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant for dinner. They have won many awards and their food is mouth-watering. All the ingredients they use are fresh and some locals swear it is the best food in all of Cairns! You can sit both indoors and outdoors and expect top notch service, the restaurant is known for its attentive staff.

For something that will make you say ‘oo la la’, try C’est Bon, the best French restaurant in Cairns. This is definitely a culinary dining experience worth every penny. The three-course special menus have become iconic and look like a work of art. Make sure you book ahead as this place is popular.

If you are a tourist from outside Australia visiting Cairns, your trip is not complete without a visit to Ochre – a quintessential Aussie dining experience. Ochre serves delicious Australian food, cooked by local Aussie chefs. They bring the bush to your plate – in a good way!


The nightlife in Cairns is colourful with lots of hip bars and clubs to party the night away in.

If you are looking for a spot to enjoy a couple of quiet drinks in the afternoon sun, head to the Pier Bar. After sunset, the scene picks up and it gets busier with live music and a chatty crowd. If you are a salsa dancing fan or simply want to try it, Pier Bar offers free salsa dancing lessons and performances from Sabor Dance Company every Thursday evening.

For the best cocktails in town, visit Salt House, a bar overlooking the marina in Cairns. They host live music four days a week with both local and visiting bands performing.

When the night gets a little later, hit the dance floor at Lyquid Nightlife. This club is sophisticated with hi-tech sound, the hottest djs and premium bottle service.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing, beach side holiday, an adventurous, thrill seeking weekend or a night full of food, cocktails and parties, Cairns is perfect for both young and the old crowd.

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