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Cairns Neighborhood Guide

Cairns Neighborhood Guide

As the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north, most visitors use Cairns as a springboard for exploring the region’s two UNESCO-listed sites—the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. However, there’s plenty to see and do in the city; Cairns’ neighborhoods offer miles of sandy beaches, forested hinterlands, and tranquil suburbs. Here’s what not to miss. 

Downtown Cairns

Brimming with shops, restaurants, bars, and nightlife, downtown Cairns—known locally as the CBD or Central Business District—is where most travelers choose to stay. There’s no beach in the city center but the place to be is Cairns Esplanade, where you can swim in the lagoon, sample seafood at an ocean view restaurant, and browse night markets. Crowds gather along the Esplanade on summer evenings to enjoy free live music and entertainment. 

Northern Beaches

Stretching north of the city along the coast of Trinity Bay, Cairns’ Northern Beaches offer a quiet alternative to the city center. Each beach resort has its own unique character—Yorkeys Knob is a favorite for sailors and kitesurfers; Trinity Beach is popular with families; and Holloways Beach is favoured for its easy access to central Cairns, which is only 10 minutes away by bus. 

Palm Cove

As the northernmost of the Northern Beaches, Palm Cove is one of Cairns’ most affluent suburban towns. Well-heeled travelers can find a host of 5-star resorts and chic restaurants to choose from. This is also the starting point for boat cruises and kayaking excursions to Double Island, an exclusive resort located on the southern fringe of the Great Barrier Reef. 

Kuranda

Surrounded by lush rainforest, the mountain village of Kuranda is best known as the starting point of the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a popular day trip option from Cairns. There are plenty of good reasons to stick around after riding the railway—the lively town has daily handicrafts markets, a thriving arts scene, and plenty of cafés and restaurants. Additional attractions include the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld, and the Butterfly Sanctuary. 

Babinda

South of Cairns, the tiny town of Babinda is the ideal place for nature lovers to relax and unwind; accommodation is limited so advance booking is essential during high season. While in town, visit the natural pools of the Babinda Boulders, take a paddleboarding excursion along Babinda Creek, or hike through the rainforest to Josephine Falls.

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7 Tours and Activities

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Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

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246
Journey to the rain forest village of Kuranda via two unique transit options on this memorable full-day tour from Cairns or Port Douglas. Skip the line and enjoy Gold Class service aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway, winding through lush mountain passes and waterfall gorges along the way. In the opposite direction, glide above the treetops in a gondola and soak up spectacular views of the mountains and coastline on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. In Kuranda, enjoy leisure time to explore the heritage markets, learn about aboriginal culture or interact with native wildlife.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$165.41
From
$165.41

Cairns Luxury Catamaran Harbor and Dinner Cruise

Cairns Luxury Catamaran Harbor and Dinner Cruise

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189
Hop aboard for a luxurious evening catamaran cruise of Cairns and experience Australia’s northernmost city from the water. Sip a complimentary drink as you glide along the Cairns waterfront precinct and along the idyllic Trinity Inlet, then tuck into a delicious 3-course dinner on-board as you watch the mesmerizing sunset over the city.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$71.81
From
$71.81

Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour

Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour

star-4.5
72
First time in Cairns? Discover the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north on this 5.5-hour sightseeing tour. Visit city attractions like the Flecker Botanical Gardens and St Monica's Cathedral, and stroll along the scenic Cairns waterfront. Indulge in a delicious Devonshire afternoon tea (included) taking in the stunning views from the jetty at Palm Cove before taking a short hike through the Barron Gorge National Park. For the full experience, upgrade to include a 2-hour morning cruise to Green Island in the UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef marine park. This small-group tour is limited to 20 people.
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  • 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$63.96
From
$63.96

Kayak Turtle Tour from Palm Cove
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Kayak Turtle Tour from Palm Cove

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181
Hop in a kayak and paddle from Palm Cove to Double Island, where mangroves and coral reefs await. Along the way, you’ll meet turtles, fish, and small rays, and, if you’re lucky, even dolphins and whales. No previous kayaking experience is needed, and the tour is suitable for all; kids as young as seven can take part. Even better: Shuttle bus transfers are included from Cairns hotels for a convenient trip.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$65.28
From
$65.28

Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Small-Group Afternoon Cairns City Tour with Harbour Dinner Cruise

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7
Explore Cairns with a local guide and enjoy a dinner cruise on this all-day combination tour. After a convenient pickup from your Cairns City or Northern Beaches hotel, visit popular destinations like the Flecker Botanical Gardens and Lower Barron Gorge. Enjoy a scenic lookout with gorgeous views and afternoon tea—included in the tour price—before feasting on a 3-course dinner aboard the 85-foot (26-meter) Spirit of Cairns catamaran.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$137.09
From
$137.09

Babinda Half Day or Full Day Stand-up Paddle Board Self-Guided Tour

Babinda Half Day or Full Day Stand-up Paddle Board Self-Guided Tour

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2
Stand Up Paddle boarding in Babinda provides a unique experience floating down Babinda creek at the foot hill of Queensland's two highest mountains. The journey can be split into half day, up to 4 hours or full day, up to 8 hours, relaxing, swimming and enjoying a picnic on a sandy beach. The wild life swim, fly or hop by as you enjoy the beautiful relaxing experience taking in World Heritage Rain forest and farming lands. This is an activity for all ages, a few smaller rapids for the adventurous ones, and peace and relaxation all in one as you float down the crystal clear waters of this creek. The price is kept to a minimum to attract every person to encounter this experience.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$36.27
From
$36.27

Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour

Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour

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1
Cairns is a tropical paradise. Make sure to make time to see the koalas at the Wildlife Dome and see the stunningly beautiful Esplanade Lagoon. Perfectly suited for discovery on foot, our self-guided audio tour allows you to set the pace and explore at your leisure as you uncover the stories of this exciting city. To discover this fascinating city in your own time and at your own pace just download this self-guided audio tour, pop in your headphones, open the map that comes with your download and start walking. On this tour you will learn about the history of the city from the Aboriginal people who first inhabited these lands to the gold rushes that saw European colonisation, the industries that emerged thereafter, and the impact of World War Two. The tour will take approximately two hours, but you can pause the audio guide when needed. Grab a bite to eat or do some shopping along the way. Please note that this tour is only available in English.
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  • 2 to 3 hours
From
$16.11
From
$16.11