Insider tips: Explore Cairns like a local
I’m Jackson, an Australian adventure traveler who has been on the road for eight years now. After graduating with a journalism degree, I set off to explore the world while creating adventure travel guides featuring hikes, waterfalls, beaches, and adrenaline activities. I hope my travels motivate you to set off on an epic adventure of your own. It’s been a wild ride.
What should I do on my first trip to Cairns?
Cairns is a vibrant city in Far North Queensland known for its stunning natural beauty. Two of the best outdoor activities in Cairns are exploring the Great Barrier Reef and hiking in the Daintree Rainforest. The Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of species of marine life and coral formations. Go snorkeling or diving to see it up close, or take a scenic boat tour for breathtaking views. The Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and home to countless animal and plant species. A guided tour of its trails is a great way to learn about its history and ecological significance.
What are some hidden gems to see in Cairns?
Cairns is full of unique activities; some are not on too many visitors’ radars. One of my favorites is spending a night on the Great Barrier Reef on a pontoon. You can watch the sunset over the stunning reef before stargazing and spending the night in a cozy cabin by the water. Another is visiting the Mossman Gorge, a tranquil area of the Daintree Rainforest. A guided walk through the forest is the best way to learn about the indigenous culture and history of the area. Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear Mossman River — it’s said to have healing properties.
How much time should I spend in Cairns?
To truly experience all that Cairns has to offer, spending at least a week in the city is recommended. This allows enough time to explore the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest and even take day trips to nearby locations like Port Douglas and Kuranda, which offer unique experiences and attractions too. You’ll also have time to discover Cairns’ vibrant nightlife and great restaurants. Overall, a week-long stay in Cairns gives you time to find a perfect balance of adventure, relaxation, and exploration, and even discover the city’s great nightlife and restaurant scene, It’s an ideal destination for travelers who love nature and culture equally.
What food is Cairns known for?
Cairns is known for its diverse food scene. Being a coastal city, seafood is prominent on most menus and always popular. Cairns also has a strong Asian influence, with many Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. Healthy eats, brunch spots, and traditional Australian dishes like meat pies, fish and chips, and grilled kangaroo are easy to find too.
What is the best way to get around Cairns?
Cairns has several transportation options for visitors, including taxis, public buses, and hop-on, hop-off tours, but you’ll have the most freedom by renting a car. A car will allow you to explore at your own pace and easily visit attractions that may not be easily accessible by public transportation. Popular destinations like Port Douglas and the Atherton Tablelands are within driving distance of Cairns and easily reached by car.
What are the best months to visit Cairns?
The best time of year to visit Cairns is between June and October when it's dry and comfortable, with clear blue skies and warm temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees. However, this is when most visitors come to Cairns, so accommodation and activity prices can be higher and it is best to book them well in advance. June to October is also the best time to experience the Great Barrier Reef, with excellent visibility and calm waters for snorkeling and diving.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Cairns?
Cairns has a vibrant local vibe, and the city is known for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Visitors can expect to find a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and cultures. The outdoor lifestyle is a big part of the local culture, with many residents enjoying activities like hiking, swimming, and snorkeling in the natural beauty surrounding Cairns.
What are the best neighborhoods for food?
Cairns has excellent restaurants throughout the city. Some of the best areas to eat in Cairns include the Esplanade, a mix of cafes and restaurants with stunning waterfront views, and the Cairns Night Markets, which offer a variety of street food and international cuisine. Cairns Marina is home to several high-end seafood restaurants that serve local catches. For those looking for a more relaxed dining experience, the suburbs of Edge Hill and Whitfield have several excellent cafes and bistros for delicious breakfasts, brunches, and lunches.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
One of the best places to shop in Cairns is the Cairns Central Shopping Centre, the largest shopping mall in the city with over 180 stores. The Cairns Night Markets are also a popular shopping destination, offering a variety of souvenirs, handicrafts, and local products. The Esplanade Markets are held every Saturday and feature handmade crafts, clothing, and jewelry. Rusty’s Market is a must-visit for foodies. It has a wide range of fresh produce, tropical fruits, and gourmet treats.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Cairns?
The Cairns CBD (Central Business District) is a great place for visitors to stay in Cairns. It’s close to the main attractions, such as the Cairns Esplanade, the Reef Fleet Terminal, and the Cairns Night Markets. You’ll find a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury hotels, making it easy to find a place to stay that fits your budget and preferences. The Cairns CBD has good transportation connections, with plenty of bus and train services to take you across the city and surrounding areas.
What is the best thing to do in Cairns for solo travelers?
One of the best activities for solo travelers in Cairns is taking a day trip to explore the Daintree Rainforest. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and offers a wide range of activities, from hiking and bird watching to swimming in freshwater streams and observing wildlife. Solo travelers can also visit the Mossman Gorge, known for its stunning waterfalls and swimming holes, and take a guided tour to learn about the area’s indigenous culture.
What is the best thing to do in Cairns for couples?
One of the best activities for couples in Cairns is taking a scenic helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef. This unique and romantic experience offers unparalleled views of the world’s most extensive coral reef system from above. Couples can take in the stunning blue waters, vibrant coral formations, and diverse marine life in a private and intimate setting. Several tour operators offer different tours and durations, so you can choose the one that best suits your interests and budget.