Tropical paradise is on offer in any season with a visit to cosmopolitan Cairns. This far north Queensland idyll is blessed with year-round sunshine, its own international airport, World Heritage-listed natural landmarks, sightseeing and dining and entertainment options galore.
The gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with its scuba diving and snorkelling tours in the world’s largest coral reef system, features 900 islands and spans more than 2300 kilometers over an expanse of 344,400 square kilometers. Underwater explorers are spoilt for the abundance of marine life, including fish, sea turtles, giant clams, seahorses, nudibranchs (vibrantly colored, soft-bodied mollusks), stingrays, sharks and many more.
Cairns visitors should not miss the opportunity to explore the Wet Tropics, the world’s oldest rainforest region. This includes the must-see Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, Lake Eacham, Crater Lakes and Tully Gorge national parkland, floating over the Barron Falls on a cableway or taking a scenic train that weaves through the rainforest to and from Kuranda.
World-class beaches and resorts are also at your doorstep, given Cairns’ proximity to Palm Cove and Port Douglas. These international beachside destinations offer surfing, leisure and dining activities amid picture-perfect tropical settings.
Cairns is also the only place on earth where two World Heritage sites collide. Visitors can explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at Tjapukai Cultural Centre and nearby Rainforestation Nature Park for an introduction to traditional weapons, tools, bush tucker and indigenous song-and-dance displays.
The Cairns Art Gallery provides a taste of indigenous and local culture at its most diverse and talented. Breakfast at Perrotta’s at the Gallery is another visual feast and taste sensation. Also on the menu in central Cairns are the catch of the day, bursting with freshness, at Prawn Star (complete with inspiring harbor views. Waterfront restaurant Ochre showcases native Australian fauna (salt and pepper crocodile, prawns or wallaby fillet) and flora (lemon myrtle and wattle seed) transformed into cutting-edge culinary creations. Spicy Bite also offers an unassuming façade with unforgettable fusion food. Crocodile masala and kangaroo tikka merge a taste of India with premium local produce.
Stretching your legs, dipping your toes and whetting your appetite along the Cairns Esplanade, Boardwalk and Lagoon is also mandatory. The sandy-edged 4800 square-meter saltwater pool, with its Woven Fish sculptures, is lifeguard patrolled and illuminated at night. The adjacent three-kilometer foreshore boardwalk offers picnic spots, bird-watching opportunities and free fitness equipment. Muddy’s is the meeting place for child-friendly water parks, skate ramp, beach volleyball courts and the Fun Ship playground. There’s also a selection of the freshest tropical food, markets, concerts, festivals and free fitness instruction on the Esplanade.
A lesser-known tourist treasure that is not only priceless, but also absolutely free is the discovery of Crystal Cascades and Josephine Falls. Only a 25-minute drive from the Cairns CBD, Crystal Cascades provides an idyllic spot for freshwater swimming in the rainforest. The three kilometers of walking trails are also easy to traverse and offer breathtaking rainforest canopy scenery. Following your meander amid the marvels of nature, you can pay a visit to the local bakery at Josephine Falls. Babinda Bakery is a perennial favorite for its gourmet pies and cream buns.
Taking a drive to Millaa Millaa Falls in the Atherton Tablelands is another must for its freshwater swimming holes and rocking-jumping or clambering opportunities.
Did you know you could also scale the world’s tallest pyramid, not in Cairo, but Cairns? Walsh’s Pyramid is just a short drive from the city center. The gentle hike to the top will take between four to six hours, but the view is worth the climb: offering a 360-degree vista of Cairns and the surrounding rainforest.
Visitors can choose from a host of three to five-star properties in prime locations, all offering excellent facilities, ultra-comfortable and family-friendly accommodation. Whether you select the three-star Cairns City Sheridan, four-star Rydges Plaza Cairns or five-star Pullman International Cairns or Hilton Cairns (situated on the Esplanade), you and your family are assured of an unforgettable stay at this bucket list-worthy tropical Queensland paradise.
This article was written in collaboration with Hotels.com.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.