If you think of a city in Australia, you always have Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane in mind. But the continent has so many other places that need to be discovered. Cairns is one of it. The city might be small with approximately 160.000 inhabitants, but it is a tropical paradise and known as the diving capital of Australia.
From Cairns you get easily to the old rainforests, to beautiful waterfalls and beaches and to the wonderful Great Barrier Reef. You can hang out in cozy bars and cafés, walk through interesting markets and meet new people in a twinkling of an eye.
“They say Cairns is the bustling heart of Tropical North Queensland.”
I really fell in love with the city when I visited it for the first time in February. It was rainy season (December-March) and rained occasionally, but it was still hot since it is summer in Australia. So if you don’t mind rain and want to escape the cold winter, I can recommend going now. A tropical adventure is definitely waiting for you! Read here what Cairns makes so special and what you can do in the city of diving.
Snorkeling & scuba diving
Due to the close distance, Cairns is the perfect city to discover and explore the Great Barrier Reef from the water. You find many diving shops in the city center, so it won’t be a problem to book day and even overnight tours. By boat it takes just 45 minutes to get to the reefs. It is an incredible experience you definitely shouldn’t miss. Read more about the Great Barrier Reef here!
25 km (15 mi) northwest of Cairns you are in the little village Kuranda. It’s surrounded by the World Heritage Rainforest and offers two great markets: the Original Markets and the Heritage Markets, both with Aboriginal artefacts, handmade leather goods, wood and jewelry. If you want to see birds, snakes, kangaroos and koalas, you should go in the Kuranda Koala Gardens. Definitely a highlight is also the 14 km (8.7 mi) long Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, that takes you over the rainforest in 1.5 hours.
If you’re looking for a combination of restaurant, bar and nightclub, the Esplanade on the waterfront is the best spot. There you can also treat yourself to some fine food or chill out with a beer while watching the sunset.
Markets & Shopping
Cairns has lots of swimming and surfing shops, but also comes with a big mall. The Cairns Central Shopping Center has around 180 stores where you find anything you want. If you like handcrafted or regional products, the Cairns Esplanade Market (every Saturday, 8 AM – 4 PM) is a great place to find souvenirs. Get fresh regional fruits and vegetables for example at the traditional Rusty’s Market (Fri-Sat, 5 AM – 6 PM / Sun, 5 AM – 3 PM). The vibrant Night Market (5 PM – 11 PM) at the Esplanade offers food, clothes, massages, jewelry and much more.
Nature is a big thing in Cairns. You don’t just see it with the Great Barrier Reef, but also with the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Explore the exotic plants and insects in a beautiful green surrounding and learn more about Cairns nature.
If you have time for a day tour to a beautiful island, you should go to Fitzroy Island, one of the most unspoiled islands in Australia. It is 29 km (18 mi) away from Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef and great for spending a romantic dinner there. It is also perfect to walk along the beaches. Boats take you there within 45 minutes and bring you back in the evening.
Unfortunately, Cairns doesn’t have good beaches, because of high and low tide. So you will see every day that low tide reveals an extensive mudflat where birds have their time of their lives. Therefore Cairns convinces with a big and free turquoise saltwater lagoon from where you have a perfect view to the water or mudflat. And about 25 km (15 mi) north of Cairns you find the Palm Cove beach. It is one of the most beautiful beaches around Cairns and offers an almost empty beach with fine sand, palm trees and cute little restaurants.
Festivals & Events
Experience a variety of activities at the Cairns Adventure Festival (May-June) with events such as swimming, biking and running. The Sustainable Living Expo (July) turns on environment, sustainability and renewable energy. But the biggest and most popular event is the Cairns Festival (August-September). You will not just see a street parade, but also walk through lots of markets, attend workshops and stage performances and see a variety of art exhibitions.
Action & Activities
The Barron River and the Tully River offer ideal conditions for whitewater rafting. If you’re not afraid of heights, a parachute jump promises thrills and a spectacular view over the Great Barrier Reef. But you can also do bungee jumping, hot-air balloon rides, quad bike tours, horse riding, hang-gliding and kitesurfing at Cairns’ Northern Beaches.
Along the Esplanade you have the chance to burn off some extra calories. You find there free outdoor exercise classes held six mornings a week. The activities range from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to Zumba, yoga, Pilates, boxing and more.
Also a great time to visit Cairns is November, because in this month you see the annual coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef, which is perfect for snorkeling or diving.
Having any questions about Cairns or Australia? Get in touch with me and I’m happy to help!