Cairns is the gateway to Australia north of Queensland. Whether you’re backpacking in Cairns, come diving, just visit the woods or head inland, Cairns is a stop on everyone’s list.
From here you can visit the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree rainforest, the Atherton plateaus, cape tribulation and much more.
Cairns is a fairly typical tropical city, and life here focuses on taking the time to stop and smell the roses. So much to see, this city claims to stay longer than most people
I would stay for 3 to 4 days, which will give you enough time to explore the area, in addition to spending some time resting by the incredible city pool.
You don’t need much time to visit Cairns, but it’s a good base of operations for day trips or overnight trips to the interior or further north (spend at least a few nights traveling there. There are few crowds. It’s really an underrated part of the country ).
This travel guide to Cairns can help you plan your trip so you can make the most of your visit by helping you plan what to see, get an idea of the costs and learn how to save.
Top-Rated Tourist Attraction in Cairns:
Great Barrier Reef Cruises & Scenic Flights:
A cruise to one of Australia’s greatest treasures, the Great Barrier Reef, declared a World Heritage Site, is one of the most popular activities since Cairns. With an extension of more than 2,300 kilometers, the reef is one of the richest ecosystems on the planet, with a dazzling diversity of hard and soft corals and countless species of fish, mollusks and other marine animals, including dolphins, turtles and sharks.
Whether you want to dive or dive, the best way to see this remote natural wonder is on an organized tour. The dive and snorkel cruise on the Great Barrier Reef 8.5 hours from Cairns takes you to the reef in a luxurious 100 passenger boat in just over an hour, with a marine biologist onboard. For those who also want to see the reef from the air, the panoramic helicopter tour and the helicopter cruise on the Great Barrier Reef is a fantastic option that allows you to customize your tour. You can fly back to the reef and return by cruise, or enjoy a round trip flight with time for lunch, snorkeling and swimming.
Cairns Esplanade is a fabulous place to enjoy a walk at sunrise or sunset and enjoy the atmosphere of this friendly city. A massive facelift transformed this strip in front of the sea into a vibrant social center and recreation center that serves both locals and tourists. Extending along the city’s waterfront, the esplanade now encompasses lush tropical parks, playgrounds, a swimming lagoon and a boardwalk. Birdlife is abundant in mangroves and tidal plains, and interpretive signs share fascinating little things about the ecology of the region.
Among the treasure of free attractions are a boulder park, beach volleyball courts, bike paths, a skating park, exercise equipment, playgrounds with water themes and more. Restaurants and cafés offer a variety of dining options, and hikers will find barbecues scattered across the lawn.
Cairns Botanic Gardens:
Originally presented in 1886, Cairns Botanic Gardens has one of the best collections of tropical plants in Australia. Green thumbs can take a self-guided tour through several kaleidoscopic gardens that show more than 4,000 different species of plants. The formal flake garden highlights tropical habitats around the world with rain forests and rain forest trees in Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and Queensland. From here, you can stroll along the Rainforest Boardwalk to Centenary Lakes, a bird paradise with fresh and saltwater habitats. From the main gardens, the trails lead to an area of rainforest on the slopes of Mount Whitfield, with magnificent views of the city and the coast. Other highlights include the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden, a bamboo collection, a fern house and a Gondwanan Heritage Garden, which tracks the evolution of wet tropical plants in Australia. This is one of the best things to do with a budget in Cairns; Admission is free.
Day Trip to Kuranda:
One of the most popular day trips from Cairns, Kuranda is located in the lush rainforest in the hills of the Atherton Plateau. Getting to Kuranda is half the fun. From the outskirts of Cairns, you can glide through the World Heritage tropical forests on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and contemplate the beautiful Barron River and the gorge. Another option is to take the panoramic Kuranda railway through the rainforest through ravines and cold waterfalls. Travelers without drivers will also enjoy the views.
Once there, you have to see the markets of Kuranda. Both the original markets and the heritage markets are open every day, their stalls are full of handmade crafts, aboriginal artifacts, souvenirs, jewelry and tropical culinary treats. Other popular attractions include the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary; Birdworld, the largest set of flying birds in Australia; Kuranda Koala Gardens; and the natural park of the rainforest. Many visitors combine a trip to the Qur’an with the Jajukukai indigenous cultural park.
Taking an organized tour helps you to spend most of your time in Kuranda. The Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Day from Cairns day trip includes two exciting travel modes, which will take you to Kuranda on the scenic railway and return by the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway cable car, with enough time to explore the attractions in the middle. Best of all, you can customize the itinerary according to your interests.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park:
Located in the lush rainforest, about 15 minutes drive from Cairns, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park offers an enriching view of one of the oldest cultures in the world. For more than 20 years, the center has been a popular stop on the tourist circuit and has frequently visited Kuranda for its adjacent Skyrail station. Dance performances, music, storytelling and exhibitions give life to the fascinating culture of the Tjapukai people. You can learn to play didgeridoo, throw a boomerang, throw a spear and discover the medicinal bonuses of the bush tucker. Day visits with interactive activities and night visits with a buffet dinner, fire start ceremony and live performances are on the agenda. After all the functions, you can enjoy a meal at the Boomerang Restaurant.
Barron Gorge National Park:
Part of the World Heritage Area of the Humid Tropics, Barron Gorge National Park is another crown jewel of the stunning wilderness areas of the north end of Queensland. The dense rainforest covers these misty peaks and magnificent waterfalls fall to the Barron River and its tributaries. The best way to see this unspoiled natural beauty is by taking a trip on the panoramic Kuranda railway or the Skyrail Rainforest cable car. A particularly striking feature, especially during the rainy season, is the 260-meter Barron Falls. Tourists who want to spend a couple of days exploring this spectacular park can access the main features by car.
Day Trip to Green Island:
Wrapped in the rainforest and surrounded by coral reefs, Green Island is a tropical island paradise a short boat trip from Cairns. Snorkeling, diving and swimming are the main activities, and those who prefer to stay dry can see marine life from a glass-bottom boat or an underwater observatory. Exploring the island itself is equally rewarding. Well maintained boardwalks run through the lush vegetation, and you can cool off in the island’s pool. The neighboring coral island, Michaelmas Cay, is the nesting site of thousands of seabirds, one of the largest bird colonies of the Great Barrier Reef.
Traveling from Cairns to Green Island Day, traveling on the island in an air-conditioned catamaran is part of the adventure. Once you arrive, you can dive from the beach, dive in the reef, see the coral from a glass-bottomed boat or a semi-submarine, or try a sea experience on foot.
Day Trip to Fitzroy Island:
About 45 minutes by ferry from Cairns, Fitzroy Island offers ample dose of sun, sand and sea. The beaches bordered by the rainforest are the main attraction, where you can dive, swim and go kayaking. To the north of the island, the paths lead to a lighthouse at the point and a panoramic viewpoint at the peak of the island. You can also explore colorful soft corals on the nearby Little Fitzroy Island on a half-day kayak tour. Round trip from Cairns to Fitzroy Island includes round-trip ferry tickets and you can update your itinerary by any travel pass, including picnic lunches; Sporting Goods such as snorkeling equipment and stand-up paddles; a sting suit; and a glass-bottom boat tour.
About 25 minutes drive north of Cairns, Palm Cove is prized for its beautiful palm-lined beach and pampering spa resorts. Peace and tranquility reign along this picturesque stretch and many restaurants and cafes attract the beach. Swimming is prohibited most of the year, except in a small enclosure, due to jellyfish and possible encounters with crocodiles. Instead, you may want to lie on the dusty sands and admire the wonderful sea views. Animal lovers will enjoy Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, a popular crocodile show and wildlife park, as well as the Cairns Tropical Zoo, where reptiles, birds, koalas, possums, sufmelons, dingos and wombats await.
Cairns Travel Costs:
Hostel prices: the shared rooms are quite cheap in Cairns, and range between $ 17-30 AUD ($ 12-21 USD) per night. You can find beds in bedrooms with 6-8 beds starting at $ 17 AUD ($ 12 USD). The smaller bedrooms (4 beds) will cost around AUD 30 ($ 30 USD) per night. Private rooms that sleep 2 with shared bathroom costs around $ 55-90 AUD ($ 40-64 USD) on average.
Cheap hotel prices: you can find rooms in 3-star hotels that can accommodate 2 people starting around $ 185 AUD ($ 132 USD). Most offer air conditioning and free Wi-Fi, and some include breakfast. On Airbnb, a shared room in home costs about $ 50 AUD ($ 36 USD) and usually offers a bed large enough for two people. You can find apartments and complete houses for around $ 85 AUD ($ 60 USD), and some even have access to a pool. (Booking with Airbnb offers the unique opportunity to stay in a local house in Cairns, something you would not normally see if you were in a hotel or hostel).
The average cost of food: you can find cheap meals such as sandwiches, takeaway stores and Indian food for less than $ 14 AUD ($ 10 USD). Most restaurant meals will cost between $ 27-40 AUD ($ 19-29 USD). If you cook your own food, plan to spend between $ 60-80 AUD ($ 43-57 USD) per week for basic foods such as pasta, vegetables, chicken and other staple foods. Here are much good seafood and Asian food.
Backpacking Cairns Suggested Budgets:
How much does it cost to visit Cairns? With a backpacker’s budget, you can do it for $ 70-80 AUD ($ 50-55 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget, assuming you stay in a hostel’s bedroom or a camp, you cook almost all your meals and you use the bus to get around. With this budget, you could stick to mostly free activities or maybe a tour or two.
With a mid-range budget of approximately $ 240-255 AUD ($ 170-180 USD) per day, you can stay in a private hostel room or a budget hotel, eat at the cheapest restaurants and be able to pay a few nights out, and doing some tours or driving while in the city.
With a “luxury” budget of $ 540 AUD ($ 385 + USD) you can get a good four-star hotel, eat anywhere you want, rent a car and do as many activities as you want, such as bungee jumping or a diving trip in the Great Barrier Reef or an adventure tour or all of the above.
Cairns Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips:
The best way to save money in Carins is to avoid taking many expensive tours and trips. If you do that, you will save a lot. However, there are also other ways to reduce your costs in this city. Here are some ways to save on Cairns:
- Buy a package: There is so much to see and do in a place that can pull your budget around. Booking tours together with a company can give you a small discount.
- Eat cheap: eating out can be very expensive, however, there are many sandwich shops that can keep your costs down. Avoid restaurants to sit and, instead, have a sandwich or some delicious Asian or Indian food (which tends to be cheaper).
- Couchsurf – Accommodation in Australia can be quite expensive. If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts across the country. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you will also have a local host who can tell you the best places to visit and things to see.
- Drink goon (box wine): Goon is infamous on the trail of the Australian backpacker’s hostel. This cheap wine box is the best way to drink, have fun and save a lot of money at the same time. Four liters of goon generally cost $ 13 AUD / $ 43 USD (compared to a pack of six beers for the same price). Drink this before leaving and save money at the bar (where it costs around 10 AUD per drink). Also, exploding the bag when you’re done and have a small pillow to rest!
- Cook – Again, eating out is not cheap The best way to reduce your spending is to cook possible food. ALDI is the cheapest supermarket in the country, followed by Coles and then Woolworths (although sometimes you can’t choose where you can buy it! Some small cities only have one!).
- Work for your home: Many hostels give travelers the opportunity to make their stay. You get a free bed in exchange for a few hours a day for cleaning. Therefore most hostels ask you to stay at least a week.
- Get free WiFi: Internet in Australia is painfully slow and expensive (just ask any Australian how you feel about it), but libraries and McDonald’s have free WiFi that you can use.
- Save money on shared trips: Uber is much cheaper than taxis and is the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where you can share a trip for even better savings (although you can also get your own car). You can save $ 20 on your first Uber trip with this code: jlx6v.
Where To Stay in Cairns:
I have been a backpacker in Australia for years and have accumulated a long list of places to stay. These are some of my favorite places to stay in Cairns:
How to Get Around Cairns:
Bus: Cairns has a good public bus system managed by Translink (formerly Sunbus) that will take you almost anywhere you need to go. The fare for an individual ticket for one zone is $ 4.80 AUD ($ 3.45 USD), and the prices increase for the number of zones traveling ($ 5.80 AUD / $ 4.17 USD for two zones).
Try using the Go Card, which is a prepaid electronic ticket that automatically calculates the cheapest fare for your trip. You will end up saving up to $ 1 AUD ($ 0.72 USD) per trip with this card. For example, your rate for an area with a Go Card is $ 3.31 AUD ($ 2.38 USD) and $ 2.65 AUD ($ 1.90 USD) during the busiest hours.
You must put a minimum of $ 20 AUD ($ 14 USD) on the card, as well as pay a deposit of $ 10 AUD ($ 7 USD), but you can hand over your card before leaving the city and you will be refunded any credit not used, as well as your deposit.
Bicycle – Cairns has an excellent network of bike trails and circuits, and some of the most popular routes are the Esplanade, Centennial Lakes and Botanical Gardens. Some of the hostels rent bicycles, or you can rent them at Cairns Scooter & Bicycle Hire. Rentals start at $ 15 AUD ($ 11 USD) per day.
Taxis: A taxi around the city costs around $ 20-27 AUD ($ 14-19 USD), but taxis can be expensive and you would avoid them. Many of the hostels outside the city center offer free shuttle service in the city at regular intervals.
When to Go to Cairns:
The location of Cairns in northern Queensland makes summers warm and humid and winters dry and mild. The average maximum temperature is 84.2 ° F (29 ° C), which makes Queensland a great place to visit throughout the year.
Summer (December to February) is the wettest time of the year, and average temperatures range between 75-89 ° F (25-31 ° C). It is still pleasant and warm in the autumn months (March to May), and the rain decreases in April.
Winter (June to August) is the high season in Cairns. Temperatures are slightly cooler (with an average of 63.5 – 78.8 ° F / 17.5 – 26 ° C every day), and there is little rain. If you are trying to escape the cold northern hemisphere, this is the time to come. But if your main goal is to visit the Great Barrier Reef, spring (September to November) is the best time to visit. The reef really comes alive in November during the annual coral spawning.
How to Stay Safe in Cairns:
Cairns is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel, even if you are traveling alone, and even as a solo traveler. Violent attacks are rare. People are friendly and helpful and you are unlikely to get into trouble. If you are in a big city, take normal precautions as you would anywhere else.
Always trust your instinct. If a taxi driver feels embarrassed, stop the taxi and get out. If your hotel is more secure than you might think, getaway. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and identification. Send your itinerary to your loved ones so they know where you are.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Cairns. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
Most of the incidents in Cairns tend to occur because visitors are not accustomed to the unique climate and nature of the region. Make sure you have enough sunscreen and stay as hydrated as possible. Bring mosquito spray, as there is a risk of dengue fever. If you are swimming in the ocean between November and May, just swim where there is a stinger net on the beach; otherwise, you run the risk of being stung by jellyfish.