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About Cairns - Accommodation - Tours and what to do - Transport and car hire - Photos - Map

Cairnscairns tourist information

Cairns is the scuba diving capital of Australia and located at the northern end of the Bruce Highway and the last city on the long trek up the east coast, further north you'll find only a handful of small towns in the 1000 or so km. to the top of Cape York.
It is the main arrival and departure point for north Queensland and a base for exploring the region as Cairns is surrounded by attractions; the world famous Daintree/Cape Tribulation rainforest (oldest in the world) to the north, the Great Barrier Reef to the east, Misson Beach to the south and the Atherton Tablelands / Cairns Higlands and outback to the west.

cairns shopping mall
Hide's Hotel in Cairns Cityplace, the centre of the Lake St. shopping mall.

Cairns was started in 1876 and is built on quite a low lying area previously covered by mangroves and at some of the high tides there can be over half a metre of sea water on some of the streets in the city centre.
Its rising popularity with travelers has seen the city landscape change from old wooden high set houses (Queenslanders) to concrete hotels and motels. To reduce the disappointment voiced by many people of the lack of beaches in the city the city council has built a saltwater lagoon on the Esplanade that has proven very popular with tourists, though some of the local church goers complained about the topless sunbathing going on here.

Cairns also has a reputation as a wild backpacker party centre, and some of the young travellers end up getting stuck here for a while working their days in tourism jobs and partying the nights away.
Though there might not be any beaches right in the city, once you get out to the northern suburbs you will find plenty of beautiful beaches, starting with Holloways Beach and continuing right up to Ellis Beach, technically still in Cairns but about 30km. from the city centre.
Palm Cove is a very popular beachside resort village about 20 minutes from the Cairns city centre with many resorts right on or near the beach. Stinger nets are provided during the summer months to reduce the chance of box jellyfish stings and life guards are on duty at some beaches.

The Esplanade mudflats are also popular with birdwatchers as many migratory birds tend to visit the mudflats, this was one reason why so much discussion preceded the construction of the lagoon as initial plans would have covered much more of the mudflats.

The city centre is quite compact and laid out in an easy to follow grid. The summers can be pretty humid and warm but you can always escape the heat in one of the many air-con shopping centres.
If you want to buy a didgeridoo as a souvenir Cairns is the place, there are dozens of shops selling all types of didgeridoos.

Cairns is also the arrival point and gateway for those wanting to explore some of far north Queensland's tropical wonders;

- The Great Barrier Reef is only a boat ride away from Cairns, and it is one of the main reasons for many tourists visiting this destination. Countless booking offices occupy the city centre where you can book your reef tour, but beware of unscrupulous agents. In early 2012 the government announced a long overdue inquiry in to booking agents charging too high commissions, not paying tour operators, and selling the wrong tours to people just because they pay more commission.
To avoid getting caught in this situation we recommend you book your reef tours online through our Cairns Tours page so you can take your time to see exactly what you get for your money, and avoid supporting unscrupulous booking agents.

- The Atherton Tablelands, also known as Cairns Highlands, are only a short drive away. Rent a car and cruise up, the altitude means it is cooler up there than down the coast. You will find many waterfalls, pockets of rainforest, wineries, historic villages and some nice accommodaton places, especially around the southern part and Yungaburra.

- The Daintree lies about a two hour drive north of Cairns and a rental car is the best way to independently explore this amazing World Heritage listed area. Forget about day tours, you will spend most of the day packed in a bus as it takes 5 hours just in driving time to get to Cape Tribulation and back, so instead book some Accommodation in the Daintree and spend one or two nights up there to make the most of it.
You are best off to stay in accommodation in Cape Tribulation, other areas in the Daintree can be a bit far from tours and facilities, Cape Tribulation is a compact little town with some restaurants and shops.
And instead of staying in a big standard resort, consider staying in a Bed & Breakfast in Cape Tribulation, meet the locals, and get an insight into rainforest living.


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