Walking in a park in Port Douglas

Ultimate Guide To Cairns Australia

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Ultimate Travel Guide For Cairns, Queensland, Australia

This year, I was finally able to travel around more of my own backyard! Australia, my home, has so much to offer to travellers, I'm absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to destination choice. 
Cairns, Queensland is a gateway to the backbone of Australian culture. Amazing Wildlife, Unique Flora, Waterfalls, National Parks, Great artisan markets, fresh Australian produce... the list goes on and on of the goodies this region offers to visitors!
Hire a car, grab an adventure buddy and plan your next road trip to far North Queensland.

Cairns Australia Travel Guide

Cairns City

Cairns itself, is a hustling, bustling tourist city.
The boardwalk is beautiful (on high tide), with restaurants and souvenir shops galore. There's an incredible amount of play areas and parks for families. 
Doing Cairns on a budget is easy!
We bought groceries from Woolworths and made our own dinner - saving a tonne of money eating out.
We also bought packets of coffee and cereal for breakfast, again saving heaps of money by not paying a 'good-beach-view' tax on breakfast.
Check out the Cairns Markets for great local produce and souvenirs! 
The Esplanade Markets run every Saturday, between 8am and 4pm
Cairns Night Markets run every night, with most stalls opening after 5pm.

Things To Do In Cairns

Travel Tip For Cairns: Hire A Car

Most attractions / places to visit, are too far to visit via a Taxi ride or by walking. You will need to hire a car or book all activities through tour companies. We personally hired a car straight from the airport. It was the most convenient choice. We had complete freedom the entire week we were there and never had to worry about timing - we did what we wanted, when we wanted.
Jetstar have partnerships with Budget and Avis car rentals. So if you're flying with Jetstar, be sure to check out their exclusive deals and flight + car hire bundles.


Paronella Park

Opening Hours: 9am - 7:30pm every day

Admission Price: $45 per adult OR get the combined ticket for Mamu Rainforest Skywalk and do both for $62 per adult

What You Go For: The incredible story of how one man single-handedly built an entire attraction, with castles, theatres, bars, cafes, tennis courts, tunnels, stair cases, bridges, all framing surrounding waterfalls.... in the 1930's! 

What You Leave With: Free map, park flora & fauna guide, bookmarks & an actual piece of the park! The cherry on top is all the AMAZING photos you will have of this rainforest fairytale wonderland!

More Info >>  Ultimate Guide To Paronella Park

Paronella Park in Cairns is a must-do attraction
Beautiful Rainforest along the Mamu Skywalk in Cairns

Mamu Tropical Skywalk

Opening Hours: 9.30am to 5.30pm, with last entry at 4.30pm every day

Admission Price: $24 per adult OR get the combined ticket for Paronella Park and do both for $62 per adult

What You Go For: The Sky Tower - the greatest view you'll see in Cairns!

What You Leave With: Free map, park flora & fauna guide & bookmarks. Can you spot a Cassowary? Cassowary's are regularly passing through this rainforest, can you snap a pic and have the greatest souvenir from Cairns?

Josephine Falls

Opening Hours: The national park doesn't close, but it is not recommended to go after dark

Admission Price: Free

What You Go For: The Pools and Slides! The cascading falls have formed gentle slides down the rock faces. At high levels, these slides are a ball of fun! Be aware of the restricted areas as it can become quite dangerous.

What You Leave With: A sense of refreshment. The water comes down from the high mountain peaks - even on the hottest days it's still quite chilly!

Josephine Falls is a must-see in Cairns
Babinda Boulders is an incredible attraction in Cairns

Babinda Boulders

Opening Hours: The National Park never closes though it is not recommended to go after dark

Admission Price: Free

What You Go For: Another refreshing swim, but in calmer pools, with incredible cascading boulders to admire. Do not swim beyond the designated areas. The way the boulders are shaped, much of the water sucks down between the rocks. Many people drown here as it's incredibly dangerous.

What You Leave With: Again, feeling quite refreshed from the beautiful clear water and lush rainforest.

Kuranda 

The town among the mountains

What You Go For: The Skyrail, Scenic Railway, Markets & Local Produce. There's so much to see and do in Kuranda! Be sure to spare an entire day for this little gem. You'll find an incredible adventure by jumping on the skyrail, taking you high above the tops of the rainforest. Or hop on the scenic railway to go through the rainforest. The markets are open everyday and you'll find a plethora of artisan delights, hand made Australian goods and any souvenir you could want.

What You Leave With: A sense of adventure and enough Australian souvenirs to fill a new suitcase.

Kuranda Skyrail in Cairns, Australia
Atherton Tablelands is a great day trip from Cairns, Australia

Atherton Tablelands

This drive was incredible! From endless fields of sugar cane, to banana plantations, lush rainforest, burnt bushland and dairy farms. It was wonderful to see the backbone of Australia. To see exactly where all of our produce that ends up in my shopping basket at Woolworths, really comes from.

What You Come For: A culinary delight! Check out all the incredible foods grown and produced in the area. You will not leave hungry. Be sure to check out Coffee Works, Gallo Dairyland and The Curtain Fig Tree.

What You Leave With: Again, all the souvenirs you could want - but this time, all edible. 

Daintree Rainforest

To get into the Daintree National Park, you'll need to cross the Daintree River, via the Ferry.

Ferry Opening Hours: 6am-Midnight 

Ferry Admission Price Per car: One Way - $14 Return - $26

What You Go For: The incredible natural wonders. Can you spot a wild Crocodile or Cassowary? Where's the tallest tree you can find? Be sure to check out Solar Whisper River Cruises for an incredible, wholesome, eco-friendly experience on the water, looking for wildlife.

Daintree Rainforest day trip from Cairns, Queensland

What You Leave With: Amazing respect for what nature can accomplish on its own. We don't need to interfere. The natural beauty all around is breathtaking and refreshing. For me, I left questioning a lot of things about our society, that we consider 'ok' and 'normal'. Things such as Crocodile Farms, Land Development and Zoos. Seeing so much wildlife in such a dense patch of land was thought-provoking.

Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef Australia

Great Barrier Reef

Tick off that major bucket list item and hop on one of the many, many tours out to the Great Barrier Reef!
We decided to do a day tour with the Ocean Spirit. We were over-the-moon with every aspect of the trip. The location was not crowded - we were the only tour at Michaelmas Cay. The reef was in emaculate condition - no bleaching and an immense range of sea life. The value for money was the cherry on top! We were served buffet style morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and sparkling wine with cheese and crackers as we pulled back into the wharf.

Tour Hours: 8am - 5pm 

Price Per Person: $200 + $6.50 Reef Tax

Read Comprehensive Guide To Scuba Diving On The Great Barrier Reef

What You Go For: Coral, Fish, Turtles, Stingray, Sharks, Jellyfish, Octopus... A complete rainbow of marine life! The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site due to its significant influence on the entirety of marine life around the globe. 

What You Leave With: Incredible photos of sea creatures that you may never find anywhere else. You'll have unique beach photos, all kitted out in your Stinger suits, snorkelling gear, and if you want, your scuba gear! Appreciation for this magnificent world we live in is a natural feeling after your day in the water. It's amazing the colours of life that nature creates all on its own.

Crocodile resting on the riverbank during a Daintree Rainforest River Cruise
A White-Lipped Green Tree Frog resting on a branch in the Daintree Rainforest

TIP: I would suggest to anyone travelling to the area - think about your destination and travel choices from an earth-friendly point of view. Many activities allow you to get up close to Australian wildlife and farming, but at what cost? Crocodile farms should not be for human entertainment. They are not a solution, as there is no problem. I would never suggest anybody go to these farms. Make wise decisions. Do your research. Take your time and if need be, pay a little extra for a better, wholesome experience.

Sitting by the pool in a resort in Port Douglas

Where To Stay In Cairns

All the activities listed above are quite a fair distance apart. But there's a great solution to that! Palm Cove is smack bang in the middle of Cairns and Port Douglas. With places to see either end of the coastline, staying in the middle, helps cut down on driving time to each destination. We found this the easiest way to plan days. Everything that was south we grouped into 2 days of travel, and everything that was north we grouped into 2 days of travel. Then, anything we missed or wanted to do again, we weren't ridiculously far away from.

We stayed at Paradise On The Beach Palm Cove. It was great value for money, always neat and clean, easy access to everything in the area, close to restaurants, spas and grocery stores and had free parking!

For the best deals on Hotels & Resorts in the area, I always search through HotelsCombined.com. They always have the best prices for any destination! They have great tools to compare areas, styles, budget limits and room sizes. Check them out first when booking your next trip to save a massive amount of time and money!

 
Find the best deal with HotelsCombined.com

Sitting on the Beach in Palm Cove, Cairns

Where To Eat In Cairns

The 2 main reasons for this trip was to attend a friends wedding at The Pullman Port Douglas and to celebrate my 23rd Birthday! This called for exploring plenty of great eats in the area!

For fantastic Indian Cuisine, we ate at Indian Brothers Restaurant Cairns. The flavour was incredible! I was really impressed with their huge range of naan bread, cooked in traditional ways with a variety of flavours.

After a day of snorkelling and Scuba diving on The Great Barrier Reef for my Birthday, it was time to taste the flavours of the sea! We had the Seafood Platter for 2 at Neptunes Palm Cove. It was the best seafood platter I've eaten so far! There was a great range on the plate, all cooked to perfection! It wasn't over-filled with salad and fruit, instead the emphasis being on the individual flavours of each meat.

For when you're not quite sure what to have for a meal, head to Apres Beach Bar and Grill Palm Cove. The food here was fantastic! There's a huge range to choose from, including Pizza, Pasta, Grilled Meats, Curries and Seafood options. All the meals were massive, with the price tag being reasonable. Sip on one of the dozens of cocktails on offer as you surf the menu till something grabs you! Right on the boardwalk, beach views, directly under a few of the main resorts - this restaurant has it all!

Walking along the Beach in Palm Cove, Cairns

What's The Weather Like In Cairns?

The weather in Cairns, along with the whole region of Northern Queensland, can be quite hot and sticky. Tropical storms can be daily and can wash Stingers on shore. But this also means perfect growing conditions for Australia's best produce! We went during shoulder season and I would highly recommend it. It makes everything cheaper, easier and quieter. We had no issues with uncomfortable or adventure-hindering weather. The humidity in Cairns was never extreme - Nothing compared to South-East Asia. The only storms we had were overnight, meaning we had all of the daylight to explore and then get lulled to sleep by the pitter patter of life-giving rain.
If you can travel during shoulder season anywhere in the world, do it. It is never as bad as anybody makes it out to be. I've always travelled during the quiet times of a destination and it's always been fantastic!

For more information on Cairns, checkout my full list of comprehensive guides to the area.

Have you been to Cairns? Is there anywhere I should check out next time I visit?
Enjoy your time in this beautiful country!

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