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"The Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef"

Cairns Tourism

Situated in Far North Queensland, Cairns is synonymous with Australia's tropical climates and oceanic bliss intertwined. Popularly known as the gateway to the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, this city is the home base for those who wish to explore the abundant tropical riches of the region. While soothingly laid back in some parts, Cairns is rife with chic cafes, bustling markets and beaches spotted with bars and clubs.

With 3000 coral reefs, 600 islands and 300 coral cays, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral system in the world and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is only natural that the coastal city of Cairns sees scores of tourists coming to admire and experience this reef in every way possible, be it snorkelling, scuba diving, island getaways, or even helicopter rides that presents the beauty of the reefs from above. Its proximity to the ocean means that it offers a range of restaurants, cafes and pubs offering delicious food with amazing views of the coast found along the Cairns Esplanade, with the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon offering visitors a relaxing swimming experience as they admire the beautiful foreshore of the city.

Visitors looking to explore the greenery of Cairns and North Queensland can hop on the Kuranda Scenic Railway from the Cairns Railway Station and be delighted by the most scenic train route of tropical Queensland. Those not wanting to stray too far from Cairns have the option of visiting the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. More of the natural beauty of Cairns can be found at the Flecker Botanic Gardens, home to verdant rainforest species found in the area. Visitors can also learn about Aboriginal plant use in these gardens. 

While it is a haven for natural beauty, Cairns is so much more than that. It also has a thriving art scene, being the city where you can find three huge and real former World War 2 tanks converted into art galleries at the Tanks Arts Centre. The Canopy Arts Centre and Cairns Regional Gallery are also interesting places where one can see the beauty and talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. To learn more about the rich aboriginal history of the area, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park not only explores the history of the indigenous community, but also has regular cultural performances to showcase the Tjapukai culture.

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Must Know Before You Visit Cairns

1. It is recommended to get the Go Card to avail of the public transport systems. It is cost-effective and can save up to 30% on daily travel.

2. Bicycles and scooters can be used to travel within Cairns. It is another cost-effective way to travel within the city. Many hostels and hotels also offer bicycles and scooters for rent at affordable rates.

3. As Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Forest region, the city plays host to a large number of tourists every year. During peak season, it is recommended to book accommodations well in advance.

4. Book tours and excursions well in advance as they are highly sought after in Cairns. Your package operators or hotel can arrange for the same when requested months before your travel.

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3 Day Itinerary for Cairns

Day 1

Spend the first day exploring the cafes and shops of the wharf district. Later in the day stroll along the harborfront esplanade and watch the sunset. 

Day 2

Head to Kuranda Rainforest Region and enjoy a guided tour of the forest and through the village. Later, enjoy a ride on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over the forest canopy and take in some breathtaking panoramic views.

Day 3

For the third day, head on a tour to Green Island, which is a part of the Great Barrier Reef. Cruise across the reefs and later also indulge in activities such as kayaking and snorkelling around the island. You can head back to the mainland at the end of the day or choose to spend a night on the island.

Popular Neighbourhoods in Cairns

1. Palm Cove

Palm Cove is the best neighbourhood in Cairns for first-time visitors. With plenty of open spaces and easy access to beaches, it is an ideal area of the city to live in for those who love to spend the days outside under the sun. Most tours to the Great Barrier Reef also begin here, so it is a better choice for those who are looking to head to the reef area. 

2. Central Business District

The Central Business District, or the CBD, is the central neighbourhood of Cairns and is where the only appreciable nightlife scene exists. One can expect some great bars and clubs to choose from. There are also some fantastic museums and art galleries in this neighbourhood for cultural aficionados.

3. Kuranda

A separate town outside Cairns, it is connected to the larger city by the scenic railway line. Kuranda is the gateway to the northern Australian rainforest region, and for those who wish to explore the dense treelines, this is where to stay. Tourists can partake in guided tours on land and even on amphibious vehicles and also learn about the culture of the native Aboriginals.

4. Trinity Beach

A beachside neighbourhood in northern Cairns, this area is a great place for families to stay as it is calmer than the rest of the city. Swimming is generally safe, and there are many tour operators here which specialise in family activities and experiences.

Nightlife in Cairns

Being a haven for tourists and backpackers, Cairns’ nightlife is bustling and lively. Popular bars and clubs include the Pier Bar, Jack and the Woolshed.

Shopping in Cairns

Rusty’s markets is the best place to go shopping in Cairns, with the bustling stalls offering everything from fresh produce to flowers to clothing. It offers a multicultural experience, with vendors of different nationalities showcasing their interesting products to locals and tourists alike. It is also a great place to learn more about indigenous food, with stalls set up by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Cairns Night Market and the Cairns Central Shopping Centre are great options for visitors seeking a more conventional shopping experience

Interesting Facts about Cairns

  • Some time in November or December is the annual coral spawning, where the coral reef reproduction takes place with millions of eggs and sperm released into the water together. Observers of this phenomenon have likened it to a ‘psychedelic snowstorm’ with rainbow colours forming on the sea surface.
  • Due to the tropical climate, items such as medicines, cosmetics, perfumes need to be kept in the fridge, as room temperature is often above 30 degrees Celsius.
  • The largest moth in Australia, the Hercules moth, can be found in Cairns
  • The Cassowary, considered the world’s most dangerous bird, can be found in Cairns
  • Cairns is the only Australian city close to 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest

Restaurants and Local Food in Cairns

The Cairns Night Markets are the best place to try the multicultural food available in the city, particularly Asian cuisine. Ganbaranba is one of the more popular restaurants in Cairns, offering delicious food at affordable prices. For some authentic Queensland produce and cuisine, Ochre is the restaurant to visit, offering an unbeatable views as you enjoy dishes such as crocodile and kangaroo. Other must-try waterfront restaurants in Cairns are Salt House, Prawn Star, Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse and Dundees.

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Coral Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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