The Ultimate Cairns Travel Guide

Cairns Australia Ships Harbor Bay Port Water

Cairns has indeed come a long way since its modest beginnings as a rollicking goldfields port and boggy swamp.

The indigenous Walubarra Yidinji people historically inhabited the Cairns area. Outlined by James Cook and named Trinity Bay in 1770 CE, it was formally founded in 1876 CE as an export port for gold and renamed after the then-Governor of Queensland.

The city’s primary industry is tourism, focusing on the Japanese, European, Chinese and Indian markets. There is a plethora of coffee shops, clubs, all overflowing with foreign tourists. Cairns is also supported by agricultural businesses, including bananas, sugar cane, tea, coffee, and the world’s first tropical fruit wine country.

Top Attractions in Cairns:

Cairns Botanic Gardens

These sumptuous gardens are an explosion of rainforest and greenery plants. Top attractions include a section devoted to Aboriginal plant use, the Flecker Garden, the Gondwana Heritage Garden, and an excellent conservatory filled with exotic flowers and butterflies. You can explore the garden with a free guided walk that starts from 10 am onwards.

Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls is a bunch of waterfalls over eroded granite rocks as the creek runs – often sometimes flows – down from the foggy Bellenden Kerr Range. It’s a brilliant signposted 10km west of the Bruce Hwy to the car park, from where a concrete 700m walk heads uphill through the rainforest to three gorgeous platforms. The bottom pool is suitable for lounging and swimming, the middle pool is for watching/photography, and the upper falls are now off-limits to tourists.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Directed by the region’s original keepers, this cultural extravaganza tells the tale of creation using actors and giant holograms. There’s a gallery, a dance theatre, boomerang- and spear-throwing demonstrations, and more. The Nightfire dinner-and-show exhibition ends in a fireside corroboree.

Cairns Esplanade, Lagoon, and Boardwalk

Fun-lovers and sunseekers flock to Cairns Esplanade’s magnificent swimming lagoon on the town’s reclaimed foreshore. The sandy-edged, artificial, 5000-sq-meter saltwater lake with its Woven Fish carvings is illuminated nightly, and properly lifeguard patrolled. The adjoining 3km foreshore boardwalk has birdwatching vantage points, picnic areas, free barbecues, sculptures, and fitness equipment. Follow the signposts for the wonderful Muddy’s, which has water fun and playgrounds for little kids, and bouldering park, the skate ramp, and beach volleyball courts.

Top Things to do in Cairns:

Cairns is the world’s favorite paradise for adventure seekers: every second shop is a tourist information center with signs blaring “tandem skydiving” or “dive dive.” Its proximity to the ocean, the rainforests, and the mountains give travelers many choices of activities.

  1. Swim in the “lagoon” on the promenade near the dock. The lagoon is free to use. A shallow depth makes it ideal for families with kids.
  2. Sun-bake on the grassy part of the stroll near the lagoon. On a warm day, even during Cairns’s so-called “winter,” there will sometimes be more sun-bakers than there is grass.
  3. Diving and snorkeling is a favorite activity for everyone in Cairns. Numerous Cairns operators run liveaboard and day scuba diving trips from both Port Douglas and Cairns, and almost all include free day-transfers for their passengers. The smaller dive boats provide the most intimate experience for seeing the Great Barrier Reef, both for snorkeling and for diving, and are excellent for the experienced or confident. 
  4. White water rafting: Rafting in Cairns has the benefit of departures all year round, tropical temperatures, and ease of access to soothing breath-taking rapids and scenery. The area’s white water rafting adventures are fit for all levels of enthusiasm and fitness. Ride through the world’s oldest continuously growing tropic rainforests on streams that still run wild.

What to eat in Cairns?

Cairns is littered with grill and bar places supplying beer and red meat all in one place and seafood establishments. It isn’t easy to find anything open before 11 am, since they assume the tourists to be sleeping in. The rest of the town has small milkbars and cafes catering to locals. The number of Japanese tourists here makes Japanese food a reasonably reliable option, although prices can be abrupt. Sushi, Pizzas, Italian three-course meal, and Chinese food are omnipresent. 

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