Where should I live in Cairns

Cairns: Popular tropical paradise & diving capital

Cairns is with its almost 160,000 inhabitants in the upper northeast of Australia and is therefore in the Tropical North region of Queensland, directly on the beautiful Coral Sea. Tropical warm sea, colorful underwater worlds, endless sandy beaches, mountains with stunning views, ancient rainforests, numerous waterfalls, raging rivers and an extremely exotic animal world. Thanks to this diversity of the entire area, a tremendously wide range of different activities is possible. In addition, Cairns is often referred to as Australia's diving capital, as the distance to the Great Barrier Reef is quite short. In just three quarters of an hour you can get to the outer reef about 50km away. But the city is also the ideal starting point for the rainforests of the Wet Tropics of Queensland (almost 9,000 km² of which are world heritage sites), the fertile Atherton Tablelands and the adventurous Cape York Peninsula.

After Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, international visitors head for Cairns the most. It is therefore by far one of the most popular travel destinations on the entire continent, which backpackers and the queer scene particularly appreciate. Nevertheless, it is also possible without any problems to escape the hustle and bustle on a 4WD tour or a multi-day sailing trip. In the cozy villages of the Northern Beaches and in Port Douglas you are in good hands if you prefer a bit quieter without having to forego the wide range of options. Before planning your trip to the tropical north, however, you should definitely find out about the weather. In Cairns there is a tropical warm monsoon climate with a short dry season (winter - June to October - dry & mild) and a long rainy season (summer - November to May - humid & hot). The ideal travel time is therefore winter and the heaviest rainfall occurs from January to March. Furthermore, the average air temperatures are 21 ° C to 29 ° C and the water is 23 ° C to 28 ° C.


Activities & sights



Before the arrival of the Europeans, the indigenous Gimuy Yidinji and Yirrganydji tribes settled the area. Captain named and listed on June 10, 1770 James Cook Trinity Bay, the future location of Cairns. After various land research, it was discovered in 1872 on the Palmer River (approx. 200 km northwest of Trinity Bay) gold, whereupon the first European settlers arrived permanently. As early as March 1876, an even more significant gold discovery was made on the Hodgkinson River (approx. 120km west of Trinity Bay). The actual hour of birth of today's city, however, is the arrival of the first government personnel and the introduction of a new settlement on November 1, 1876, which was named after the then Governor of Queensland, William Wellington Cairns. Since 1877 Port Douglas (approx. 70km to the north) has developed as a rival city with better connections to the gold fields. At the same time, the first major land sales began, a sawmill was built and more and more exhausted workers turned to agriculture. Due to the high demand export of gold, minerals, sugar cane, tropical fruits and various dairy products established the port, whereupon the train network between Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands (Herberton) was expanded. With 3,500 inhabitants, the settlement was officially named a city in 1903 and entered the government's city register in 1923. 1935 saw the fateful introduction of the cane toad, one of the worst plagues in Australian history. During the Second world war (1939-1945) US and Australian allies used the city as an important base for operations in the Pacific. This resulted in the expansion of the infrastructure and the foundation stones of the airport were created. Short after the end of the war tourism began to boom. Commercials have been made, air-conditioned trains loaded with tourists have been arriving from Brisbane every week since 1953, and with the opening of the international airport in 1984, Cairns has established itself as an extremely valuable tourist destination for people from all over the world.


Museums, culture & art

When it comes to culture, it becomes clear that the region's scenic advantages are clearly in the foreground. For those interested in history that would be Cairns Museum (Corner of Lake Street & Shields Street), which provides information about the development of the city and the entire region. Not far away are the two listed buildings of Bolands Center (Lake Street & Spence Street) and St Monicas College (Abbott Street). In a historic building from 1936, the Cairns Regional Gallery (Abbott Street) contemporary, classical and indigenous art. Just 2 blocks north you get to the Center of Contemporary Arts (96 Abott Street), which is home to the JUTE Theater Company (modern theater), KickArts Contemporary Arts (contemporary visual arts) and End Credits Film Club. In the building there are two regularly used theaters and two galleries with changing exhibitions. Plays are also regularly performed at the Rondo Theater (Greenslopes Street). The Cairns Botanic Gardens (see Nature & Parks) are home to three former fuel tanks from World War II, which have been converted into the creative Tanks Arts Center (46 Collins Avenue in Edge Hill) with galleries, studios, workshops and the Sunday Market (see Shopping & Markets). Changing exhibitions by local artists are also organized by the Cairns Art Society.


Shopping & Markets

With large shopping centers and a pretty pedestrian zone, Cairns is the commercial center in the upper north of Queensland. Some visitors specifically go in search of pearls from the Torres Strait, as one can get very good quality here at reasonable prices. With around 180 stores, that represents Cairns Central Shopping Center in the CBD (McLeod Street) is the largest shopping center in the city. On 2 floors you will find pharmacies, clothing stores, jewelry, cheap supermarkets and employment opportunities for children. The partially car-free pedestrian zone Lake Street Mall also has a few shops, the lovely Orchid Plaza and an inexpensive grocery store. Shields Street, Grafton Street and Abbott Street are also close by with a variety of shops. It can be classy and exquisite in the Pier Shopping Center (Pier Point Road) at the Marlin Marina for designer fashion, beauty salons, art galleries and specialty shops. Outside the city center are mainly called the oldest shopping center in the city Westcourt Shopping Center (3km to the southwest) with DFO, the small Raintree Shopping Center in Manunda (5km to the west), the Stockland Shopping Center in Earlville (5km to the southwest), that Mount Sheridan Plaza (about 10km in the south) and the big one Smithfield Shopping Center (15km in the north) to be recommended.

A highlight when shopping is the traditional one Rusty's Market on Grafton Street, where towers of tropical fruit and fresh local vegetables are piled up early in the morning that you simply cannot pass without accessing them. Every weekend from Friday to Sunday you can go hunting for cheap groceries, drink an aromatic coffee, order a warm lunch and buy flowers, jewelry or clothes. During the week, however, you can visit the lively one Cairns City Market on City Place (Mon - Fri from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). Furthermore, the Cairns Esplanade Market (Sa from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) by the lagoon, ideal for buying clothes, jewelry, massages, handicrafts or souvenirs at low prices. On the pretty touristy but pretty Night market (daily from 4:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.) clothing from Asia, Thai massages, jewelry and even more souvenirs are available on the esplanade. The Tanks Arts Center (46 Collins Avenue at Edge Hill) hosts an art market with live music and entertainment every last Sunday of the month from April to November.


Culinary, restaurants, pubs & cafes

Freshly caught seafood, the finest fish, grilled meat and Asian dishes are typical of Cairns' multicultural cuisine. In addition, the combination of restaurant, bar and night club is extremely popular, as you can have a few drinks and music right there after a hearty meal. In the CBD you will find numerous restaurants, bars and cafes everywhere. However, the Esplanade on the beautiful waterfront, the lively Shields Street and the beautiful Marlin Marina with a view of the hustle and bustle in the harbor. The markets (see Shopping & Markets) are also a good starting point for feasting and trying things out. As an alternative to the restaurants on land, a meal on the water on a dinner cruise would be recommended. You should also not miss the local produce, which includes exotic fruits, tropical fruit wines, freshly squeezed sugar cane juice and regional coffee.



For backpackers, Cairns is the ideal party city where you can really let off steam. In addition, one of the largest queer scenes in Australia has established itself on the shores of Trinity Bay with a great and varied range of activities. Information about current events and the best events for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals can be found in the online magazine Out !. Alpine Street, The Esplande, Spence Street and Sheridan Street in the CBD form a square in which there is a lot Night clubs and pubs that are open every evening of the week, sometimes even until 5:00 a.m. Many restaurants act simultaneously as a restaurant with inexpensive menus in the evening and as a discotheque at night. You can dance on the tables with young people from all over the world at The Woolshed (Shields Street) and take part in the wet t-shirt competition or similar competitions. For live music and other evening events, such as choosing the Australian bikini beauty, the best pole dancer or the most talented karaoke singer, the Gilligans (Grafton Street), The Jack (corner of Spence Street and Sheridan Street) and the PJ O'Briens ( Lake Street). Other popular locations are the Rhino Bar (Spence Street), the Velvet Underground (Wharf Street) and The Reef Hotel Casino Complex (Wharf Street). As an alternative to partying, there are a few cinemas and theaters (see Museums, Culture & Art).


Nature & parks

The Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropic of Queensland, consisting of over 700 nature reserves and land areas, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are right outside the city gates. All areas can be easily explored on your own or on a tour. Cairns therefore does not need many city parks, as the great surroundings are hard to beat! For short trips close to the city, however, would be the Cairns Botanic Gardens Recommended in Edge Hill (approx. 4km north of the CBD), free guided tours start from its information center. Thanks to the informative displays, you can also find out about the many native and exotic plants on your own. The Gondwana Evolutionary Trail, on the other hand, provides information about Aboriginal and historical topics. In the botanical gardens there are also the two Centenary Lakes, one fresh and one salt water lake with BBQs, picnic areas and a playground. There are other parks close by, such as the small ones Fletcher Botanic Gardens and the big one Mt Whitfield Conservation Park, in which two circular hiking trails (red arrows: 1.5km in 1h / blue arrows: 6.6km in 4–5h) lead through the wooded hills and to beautiful viewpoints. Directly to the east of the park is the airport, with the two circular hiking trails in front of its main entrance Mangrove boardwalk are ideal for passing the time. In the CBD, there is the esplanade with meadow areas and a lagoon (see beaches).



The CBD is limited by a mud flats, which is why it is difficult or impossible to swim here. However, in 2003 a really great area for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing was created on the banks of the city center. Since then, green meadows with BBQs, picnic areas and benches have stretched along the almost 3km long wooden path of the Esplanade. In addition, informative boards were set up to present the city's history. At the south end you come to a turquoise one Salt water lagoon (Lagoon), which can be used free of charge from morning to evening under the supervision of the lifeguard. Nearby are the Marlin Marina and the Fleet Reef Terminal, from where hundreds of boats set sail every day. In the west of the Esplanade you can also reach the Muddy's Park, a colorful water park for children of all ages with slides, swings and climbing nets.

In the entire tropical part of the 5th continent the so-called Stinger Season in October or November and lasts until May. Poisonous box jellyfish come very close to the shore during these months and represent a considerable danger, since contact with the stinging cells of the tentacles can have fatal consequences in addition to severe pain. During this period, you shouldn't even venture your little toe into the water without a proper stinger suit. Even if many beaches are shielded with nets, incidents occur again and again. In addition, dangerous saltwater crocodiles live inland and in the mangrove swamps, which is why you should always pay attention to the signs at bathing areas! However, the Esplanade lagoon, public swimming pools, and the Crystal Cascades are good alternatives to the sea.

The first are only 10 kilometers away from the CBD Beaches in the north. Some of the most popular include Holloways Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove & Ellis Beach. Furthermore, a beautiful, approximately 22km long route leads up to the southwest to the Copperlode Falls Dam and the city's freshwater reservoir, Lake Morris. It is only 1.5 km from here on the hiking trail to the Crystal Cascades (3km including the way back), in whose pools you can also take a refreshing swim. The cascades can of course also be reached by car.


Festivals & Events

Cairns is not exactly known for its festivals and events, but there are a few regular events every year. During the Cairns Adventure Festival (May to June) various competitions are organized in the disciplines of swimming, cycling and running. The Sustainable Linving Expo in July is all about the environment, sustainability, renewable energies and similar topics. The three day agricultural exhibition Cairns Show is another highlight in the July. The largest and most popular event, however, is the three-week Cairns Festival of August to September, where you can take part in the many different events. These include, for example, the big street parade, markets, workshops, theater performances and various art exhibitions. Gays, lesbians, transgender people and friends of the queer scene celebrate the colorful Cairns Tropical Pride Festival in August with great parties, shows and informative conferences. For Father's Day in September, you can enjoy the Carnival on Collins with markets, music, street performers, children's activities and a varied entertainment program. The best local singers, on the other hand, become every year in October honored with prize money at the Caroloke. The event concludes with the Carols by Candlelight event in Fogarty Park, where everyone December Families sing Christmas carols for a good cause.


More activities & sights

Without exaggeration, hundreds of start in Cairns every day Tours into the attractive surrounding area. These mostly go to the Great Barrier Reef, the alternative Kuranda, the fertile Atherton Tablelands, the posh Port Douglas, the ancient Daintree National Park, the remote Cooktown, the Cape Tribulation on the York Peninsula, the Outback, gourmet places or simply through the city. In addition, the numerous Activities and extreme sports a great way to explore Queensland's Tropical North. However, water sports occupy the first places on the list of popular activities.

Clearly take the first rank Diving and snorkeling a. Cairns is not the diving capital of the country for nothing. The Reef Fleet Terminal at the northeast end of Spence Street in the CBD is often chosen as the meeting point to start from the marina. Departure times for day trips are usually early in the morning and sometimes a little later for overnight tours. The wide range of diving courses and the proximity to one of the most famous diving locations, the Cod Hole at Lizard Island, are really tempting. However, very few have their own boat available, which is why an organized tour is usually taken. The choice of providers is extremely high in Cairns. Before you finalize your booking, you should think carefully about the type of tour you want to take, as the differences are huge.Important factors to be clarified are the group size, the location of the diving or snorkeling sites, the type of boat and the extras (meals, equipment, activities, etc.).

As a rule, however, transport, food and equipment (e.g. snorkel, diving goggles, fins etc.) are included in the price. The group sizes are between 6 and 300 people. The duration of the trip should include at least half a day and ideally one or more nights. The longer the excursion, the further you can drive into the less used outer reef and the more you can see of the fascinating underwater world. The type of boat is also important. A catamaran is often faster and offers fewer opportunities to lend a hand sailing than a classic sailboat. In addition, the reef was divided into 7 zones, in which certain activities are allowed or prohibited. All commercial providers must acquire licenses to use the Great Barrier Reef. Cheap tours usually have cheaper licenses for the more heavily used areas of the inner reef. If you have already embarked on the 15,000 km journey to the other end of the world and it is only a few kilometers to the Great Barrier Reef, then you should keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for.

Rafting ranks on position 2 of the most popular activities. Thanks to the electric utility lock gates, which are open regularly, you can go whitewater cruising in the Barron River and Tully River all year round. Otherwise, the Russell River and the North Johnstone River have good rafting conditions. Kite surfing on the Northern Beaches and sailing are other great water sports. However, it is also a pleasure to look at the tropical coral sea from the air. Skydiving, morning balloon rides with a champagne breakfast, hang gliding, bungee jumping or landscape flights are extremely popular. If you don't feel like altitude, you can go to the over 200 Biking and hiking trails (Cycling & Walking Network) get to know the fascinating natural highlights of the region up close. The city's golf courses and sports facilities are all sporty. A match of Football, rugby and basketball teams from Cairns can be seen at Cazaly's Stadium (Australian Rules Football, Cricket & Rugby) or at the Cairns Convention Center (basketball). In order to be active oneself, the multifunctional ones would be Sports fields of Paramatta, Barlow and Little Barlow Park in the west of the CBD.


Highlights & recommendations from the editors

  • Take a refreshing swim in the blue salt water lagoon
  • Diving & snorkeling in the beautiful Great Barrier Reef
  • Breakfast at the Asian-themed Rusty's Market
  • A shady stroll in the Cairns Botanic Gardens
  • Take part in the wild nightlife in the pubs & clubs in the CBD
  • Kuranda visiting Milla Milla Falls & Northern Beaches
  • Stroll along the beautiful esplanade and have a picnic
  • Dine in a grill restaurant with a sea view on the esplanade

Popular tours & activities

Cairns is one of Australia's most popular holiday destinations for a reason. In addition to the beautiful landscape of the area and the lively city life, countless exciting tours and activities are offered here that you should definitely not miss out on. The starting point for trips to the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical Daintree National Park is sailing, diving, snorkeling, island visits, 4-wheel driving, hiking, Aboriginal cultural excursions, rainforest visits, sky diving, rafting, bungee jumping and other top activities in the focus of the action. With the help of our comprehensive tours and activities, you will get the best possible insight into the varied possibilities Cairns has to offer you!

Here you will find all typical local activities for every taste and budget. Browse through our extensive range and plan your dream trip today. Have fun!

Helpful information


Arrival & onward journey

Cairns is very far from all major cities and is the most important hub of the tropical north of Queensland, which is used by millions of travelers every year. The two ends of the almost 1,700km long Bruce Highway are in Brisbane and Cairns. If you put this beautiful stretch of coast with the automobile back, you should expect a total travel time of 22 hours or a realistic travel time of at least 2 days without breaks and obstacles. You can get to Sydney on the shortest route through the interior of the country (approx. 2,400km) and alternatively on the more varied coastal route (approx. 2,700km). Other important roads are the 76 km long Captain Cook Highway to Mossman in the north, the Kennedy Highway from Smithfield via Kuranda and Mareeba to Atherton and the scenic Gillies Highway to Atherton. Since some of the suburbs were built in low floodplains, flooding of the roads during the rainy season makes it difficult to move around. However, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (QLD Traffic) provides information on current road conditions.

The Reef Fleet Terminal at the northeast end of Spence Street is the stop for all nationwide Long distance buses. Both tours and regular services from various providers connect Cairns with the surrounding area and the rest of Australia. Greyhound provides direct connections to Brisbane, with a journey time of around 29 hours and 45 minutes.

Directly behind the large Cairns Central Shopping Center on Bunda Street is the extremely central Central Railway Station (Cairns Railway Station). The monopoly of the most important Train connections has Queensland Rail with the Spirit of Queensland and the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The Spirit of Queensland (25h with overnight stay) travels the 1,681km route via Townsville, Proserpine, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone and Hervey Bay to Brisbane. The historic Kuranda Scenic Railway commutes back and forth between Cairns and Kuranda every day over numerous bridges and through some tunnels. The total distance of 37 km is covered in just under 2 hours, as you pass several attractions (including Barron Gorge) and waterfalls.

The Cairns Airport is about 7km north of the CBD and is the seventh most important airport in the country. The two terminals are used by several international and national airlines. Direct connections are made to major international destinations (e.g. Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea & Singapore) as well as to many national destinations. The city center can be reached in 10 to 15 minutes by taxi or shuttle bus.

The Cairns Port at the entrance to Trinity Inlet in the CBD is the starting point for daily tours into the Great Barrier Reef and an important anchorage for large cruise ships.

The center is very easy to explore on foot, as the distances are quite short. As a provider of the public transport TransLink in cooperation with Sunbus establish regular bus connections to the most important suburbs and to the beaches in the area. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can still get around with the night buses even after hours. The main bus station is the Cairns City Place Transit Mall on Lake Street. There are around 10 zones and single, day and week tickets. The Cairns Taxis (+61 7 4048 8333) can be ordered around the clock. They are regularly available at the taxi ranks on the corner of Lake Street and Shields Street and in front of the Cairns Central Shopping Center on McLeod Street.


Tourist Information

Even after a short walk through the city center, it becomes clear that various information centers with special offers, large televisions and eye-catching posters are trying very hard to attract the attention of travelers. You can get free information, maps and brochures everywhere. However, the two official tourist offices are located on Aplin Street and Shields Street, near the Esplanade. They are responsible for Cairns and the entire Tropical North of Queensland.


Further information

The Shopping & Markets section provides an overview of all the major shopping centers that are well stocked with cheap supermarkets, clothing stores, pharmacies, ATMs and other facilities. Most of the specialty stores were also built in or near the city center.


Picture gallery: Great impressions of all highlights

You will find numerous motifs in our unique Cairns picture gallery. Gain authentic impressions and enjoy a piece of Australia from home. We wish you a lot of fun!

First impressions in the video