Cairns is many things all at once :
Party capital of Tropical North Queensland, Reef Diving Capital, Nature's'Theme Park' and the jumping Board to the Artherton Tablelands, Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and Daintree National Park.
It also the only place in the world where two World Heritage-listed sites exist side by side – Daintree National Park and The Great Barrier Reef.
With the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest at it's doorstep, Cairns is geared for everything, Whether it’s an indulgent break or a thrilling adventure.
The city, by itself, has a lot to offer as well:
Flecker Botanic Gardens and the Tanks Art Centre, Tjapukai Cultural Park, Cairns Esplanade with it's infinity pool, the Scenic Railway to Kuranda and then taking Skyrail down, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and the lively Rusty's Markets.
Having arrived by Greyhound from Airlie beach, we stayed at an AirBnB house in Mooroobool. In hindsight we feel it was best to have stayed in a budget hotel in Cairns CBD for the convenience of having everything within walking distance.
In the six days we spend in this region we ended with the following itinerary:
- Day 1 : Cairns City - Rusty's Markets, Esplanade and Infinity pool
- Day 2 : Cairns City - Flecker Botanic Gardens and Palm Cove Beach
- Day 3 : Drive to Atherton Tablelands - Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Milla Milla and the four falls route and Curtain Fig Tree.
- Day 4 : Drive to Port Douglas. Below destinations all with Port Douglas as our base.
- Day 5 : Cape Tribulation and Daintree.
- Day 6 : Mossman Gorge
- Day 7 : Return drive to Cairns and departure from Cairns to Townsville.
- Renting a car is really recommended if you are visiting Cairns. The local buses are not sufficiently geraed for tourism as such and if you intend doing the off-lying destinations a car will maximise your experience to this region.
- Staying in the city centre is the best option and with so many resorts to suit all budgets it is not difficult to get something that suits your needs.
- Beware of Stingers (Jellyfish) from October to June and swim only where stinger nets are installed or use stinger suits.
- Crocodiles are a genuine threat in Tropical North Queensland, and it pays to keep this in the back of your mind. DON'T swim in saltwater creeks or tidal rivers, DON'T camp near riverbeds or leave food or rubbish around your campsite. Observe local signs.
- Translink Go cards are not accepted on the buses in Cairns. Keep loose change ready for bus journeys.
- If you intend to visit Mossman Gorge, Daintree, Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge, I would recommend that you stay in Port Douglas and make it your base instead of doing these destinations as day trips from Cairns.
NOTE – THIS POST IS IN A SERIES OF POSTS COVERING OUR AUSTRALIAN BACKPACKING JOURNEY. LAST STOP WAS AIRLIE BEACH. NEXT STOP IS TOWNSVILLE
Resources:Daintree TourismPort DouglasMossman Gorge Cape TribulationAtherton TablelandsCairns TourismTop 10 Things to do
Getting there –
All major airlines arrive and depart Cairns Airport, located approximately 6km from the CBD, with direct services to all capital cities except Canberra and Hobart, and to regional centres including Townsville, Weipa and Horn Island. Direct international connections include Bali, Shanghai, Guam, Tokyo and Port Moresby.
Greyhound Australia has four daily services down the coast to Brisbane (from abt. $300, 29 hours) via Townsville (abt. $60, six hours), Airlie Beach (abt. $93, 11 hours) and Rockhampton (abt. $195, 18 hours). Buses arrive and depart at the Reef Fleet Terminal at the southern end of The Esplanade.
The Queensland Rail provides a relaxed journey in the sate of the art train called the Spirit of Queensland The journey takes about 24 hours and is more expensive than the air or bus option.
Getting around -
The Cairns International and Domestic Airports are located 7km north of the Cairns city centre, a 10-15 minute drive.
To get to your accommodation you can either catch a taxi with the local Black & White taxi company or get a shared coach transfer that offers door-to-door drop off service from the Airport to your hotel.
Sun Palm Transport offers shared coach accommodation to Cairns city, Northern beaches, Palm Cove, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. Pickup points for Sun Palm Transport are located at arrivals in both terminals. If you pre-book your airport transfer, your flight will be met by an airport representative.
Rates for transfers are very reasonably priced at $10 per person for city transfers, $18 for Northern beaches and $35 for Port Douglas transfers
The best way to explore the city and surrounds is by renting a car. I highly recommend APEX Car Rentals which I had used and was very happy with their services and charges.
Drive Time & Distances
Cairns to Palm Cove > 20 minutes/ 25 kilometres/ 16 miles
Cairns to Kuranda > 30 minutes/ 38 kilometres/ 15 miles
Cairns to Cairns Highlands > 1 hour/ 60 kilometres/ 40 miles
Cairns to Port Douglas > 1 hour/ 60 kilometres/ 40 miles
Cairns to Daintree > 1.5 hours/ 80 kilometres/ 68 miles
Cairns to Cooktown > 5 hours/ 200 kilometres/ 146 miles
Cairns to Mission Beach > 1.5 hours/ 110 kilometres/ 87 miles
Cairns to Cardwell/ Hinchinbook > 2.5 hours/ 145 kilometres/ 110 miles