Cairns City Guide Introduction

Cairns is the big daddy of Tropical North Queensland. In this city of 150,000 regulars and millions more who visit every year - including some of the world’s biggest celebs - tourism is the bread and butter, or should we say, the beer and prawns of life.

Bustling city aside, the region extends all the way up to the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. With so many opportunities for sight-seeing, adventure sports and cultural experiences - on top of mandatory duties such as swimming, eating, drinking and general sand slothing - your ‘to do’ list can quickly get way out of hand in this part of the world.

Best time to visit

A never ending balmy tropical climate means Cairns is gorgeous, sunny and warm in the dry season between May and November with temperatures ranging from 16°C to 26°C. Come the wet season (Dec – Apr), you’ll need to be prepared for high humidity, possible tropical cyclones, stingers and a couple of hours of torrential rain each day.

So if you want to splash around in the water under sunny skies without interruption from the elements or critters, the best time to pack your bags is for a winter getaway in June or July.

Major events in Cairns

  • Even in the wet season, Cairns and surrounding areas have plenty of events to experience as you soak up the laid-back atmosphere.

  • In Mmmarch the Feast of the Senses festival includes events all over the Cassowary Coast region (about 1 hour drive from Cairns), including a market day, cooking demonstrations and gala gourmet dinner.

  • In May, take your baby down to the crossroads, or the Cairns Esplanade anyway, for the Cairns Blues Festival for two days and 20 acts of soul tingling music. Then wipe off that serious face at Port Douglas Carnivale with over 10 days of parades, concerts, wine, food tasting and more.

  • In June, sporty spices limber up for the Cairns Esplanade Festival of Sport day activities such as swimming, running and cycling events.

  • In July, winter escapees from southern states can get into the Queensland spirit at the Cairns Show. Three days of wood-chopping, fun park madness and more than 475 locals showcasing their creations and services.

  • In August and September you can join in on the three-week Festival Cairns, with free and ticketed events involving sport, food, and arts.

  • Come September, it’s time to laze around at the Mission Beach Film Festival to watch flicks and listen to guest speakers and filmmakers share their thoughts on topics relating to sustainable solutions for living.

    Getting around Cairns

    If the million dollar yacht is in the garage for barnacle cleaning, you can join the masses and arrive via the international airport. Queensland rail network has routes from Brisbane and Townsville (but we’re talking major miles and hours here).

    As Cairns isn’t so much a 9–5 hustle-bustle kind of place, there’s no light rail, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be stranded. You can travel between towns by private mini bus, coach or rent-a-car, and for getting around Cairns, jump aboard a bicycle, bus, hire car or taxi.

    Hotel.com.au Staff Favourites

    The Hotel.com.au team have road-tested some of our Cairns and Tropical North Queensland beaches area hotels and here are a few personal recommendations of their favourite places to stay.

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    4 star
    12-14 Deauville Close Yorkeys Knob 4878 Australia

    Offering a lagoon-style swimming pool and a tennis/basketball court, Golden Sands Beachfront Resort is just a 1-minute walk from Yorkeys Knob Beach. All apartments offer a private balcony with outdoor...more

    3 self rated
    87 Lake Street Cairns 4870 Australia

    Located in the heart of Cairns, and just 10 minutes' drive from the Cairns International Airport, Hides Hotel offers affordable accommodation, a 5 minutes' walk from The Esplanade. The Heritage listed...more

    4 star
    53-57 The Esplanade Cairns 4870 Australia

    Located opposite the Cairns Esplanade, Mantra Esplanade boasts waterfront accommodation with a balcony offering ocean or city views. Guests enjoy a swimming pool, hot tub, a 24/7 front desk and an exe...more

    4 self rated
    66 Macrossan Street Port Douglas 04781 Australia

    With a stay at Martinique on Macrossan in Port Douglas, you'll be near the beach and minutes from Marina Mirage and St Mary's by the Sea Chapel. This 4-star hotel is within close proximity of Anzac P...more

    4 self rated
    122 Lake Street Cairns 4870 Australia

    The Novotel Oasis is a 4.5 star resort featuring a gorgeous lagoon pool, complete with a sandy beach, children's pool and a swim-up bar. The hotel is a short walk from the Esplanade, Cairns city centr...more

    4 star
    7 - 11 Chester Court Cairns 4870 Australia

    Palm Royale Cairns is set amongst 2.5 acres of beautiful tropical gardens and offers rooms with a private balcony and pool or garden views. It features 2 swimming pools and a spa pool. Guests enjoy fr...more

    4 star
    2 Greenslopes Street Cairns 4870 Australia

    This luxury resort offers spacious luxury apartments set amongst lush tropical gardens. Facilities include 4 luxurious swimming pools, a sauna and a tennis court.Each air-conditioned apartment at The...more

    4 star
    Coral Coast Drive Palm Cove 4879 Australia

    Ideally located in the lovely village of Palm Cove, gateway to the Far North Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove is set over 3 hectares of lush tr...more

    3 star
    121 Port Douglas Road Port Douglas 4877 Australia

    Set amongst 15 acres of tropical gardens, Reef Resort Port Douglas offers self-contained villas with a balcony or a patio. Facilities include a fitness centre, BBQ area, children's playground and 2 sw...more

    4 self rated
    24 Warren Street Palm Cove 4879 Australia

    The Villas Palm Cove is a self-contained rated 4-star resort set amongst tropical gardens, only 8 minutes’ walk from Palm Cove Beach. All air-conditioned villas offer free WiFi, a full kitchen and lau...more

    5 self rated
    Mitre Street Port Douglas 4877 Australia

    This 5-star resort is situated on the secluded beachfront of Four Mile Beach, close to Alexandra Reefs. It offers a large lagoon pool with a bar, an 18-hole golf course, fitness centre and a hot tub.S...more

    4 self rated
    1 Marlin Parade Cairns 4870 Australia

    Centrally located on the Cairns waterfront, The Sebel Cairns Harbour Lights offers fully self-contained apartments or hotel rooms with balconies and views over Cairns city or the harbour. Guests have...more

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