City Guide: Cairns
Cairns is a charming city in the North of Queensland in Australia. In this extensive city guide, we’ll explain what you need to see in Cairns and around!
There are many fascinating cities in Australia and Cairns sure isn’t the same kind of city as Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Even Adelaide feels much more like a metropolis than Cairns does. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the city in the very North isn’t worth visiting. Yet, you should know that going to Cairns is less about the city itself, but more about what’s around it!
Promenade & Cairns Esplanade
That doesn’t mean that Cairns itself doesn’t have anything to offer though. For example, the Promande by the harbour is really beautiful.
Not only are there lots of nice walkways right by the water, but you can also sit down here and there for a coffee or a beer – really enjoyable!
It’s also an amazing spot to go for a run as you can go on for quite a while in both directions.
The Cairns Esplande is the more commonly known part of the promenade area and it’s also quite nice and stretches alongside the whole city.
Here, you can find a funny Lagoon with somewhat of a public pool, which I even saw somebody swim in (I was a bit confused at first as it looked more like something artsy than a proper pool).
Further down the Esplanade, you can also find the RAAF Memorial, which is a common spot in every Australian city.
Another cool spot on the Cairns Esplanade is the muddy part – sounds odd? Well, it’s a nice animal sanctuary and you can spot quite some cool animals, here.
All in all, I really enjoyed walking along the promenade and Cairns Esplanade as it’s just beautiful to enjoy views from here, while being right by the water.
Flecker Botanical Gardens in Cairns
While there are not many highlights in the city of Cairns, one definitely are the Flecker Botanical Gardens located in the Northern part of Cairns, close to the airport.
The gardens are quite large and feel very rural and much more like a park than an actual botanical garden from time to time.
This is something quintessentially Australian though as the Botanical Gardens in other cities are also quite a nice mix of some infrastructure and special plant areas and other very much natural areas.
While I wouldn’t spend a full day here, the Botanical Gardens of Cairns are definitely worth visiting!
Visiting Kuranda from Cairns
While we’ll have a special online about Kuranda sometime soon, I wanted to give you a quick overview on why you should visit from Cairns. The main reason is actually the way there as there are three options: a car, a train or the skyway. I’d recommend mixing the skyway and the train.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the skyway, which takes about 45 minutes and goes all over the rain forest.
This experience is much cooler than I thought and you really see lots of nature, plus you can get off at two points during the ride and enjoy great view points.
The highlight sure are the views of the amazing Baron Falls.
While I didn’t really like Kuranda itself (it feels very much like a tourist trap), the ride back on the historic train was fun as well.
You stop once and can take some more pictures, but the ride as such is also picturesquare.
Nevertheless, I’d say that the skyway is the even cooler experience even though both are enjoyable!
Palm Cove, Draintree National Park & Cape Tribulation
Cairns is about excursions and one of those should definitely lead you North. I’m speaking of the fascinating Daintree National Park, which is about two hours North of Cairns.
We did a day trip with Billy Tea Safaris and even though the weather was really bad, very much enjoyed it. First, we did a little river cruise on Daintree River and spotted some crocodiles.
Then we went on to the actual park, which isn’t exactly easy to get to as you have to take a ferry and then the roads get really challenging (I wouldn’t recommend to self-drive here).
There are lots of really nice spots in the park and you should definitely not only drive through, but also get out the car from time to time, for example at Cape Tribulation.
There are lovely little creeks and great viewpoints, which really make visiting very much enjoyable.
Sure, you can also spot some lovely animals, including wallabees.
On the way back to Cairns, I’d recommend stopping in Palm Cove (you can also just spend a full day here), which I thought is an incredibly charming place.
In any way, do a day trip North as this is really where the beauty of this part of Australia can be found.
Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island and other excursions
There are lots of other options for day trips and excursions from Cairns. Many people go for a Great Barrier Reef cruise, but we skipped that for this trip. Instead we went to Fitzroy Island.
This is yet another experience I can very much recommend (not so much the not-so-sucessful whale spotting) as the island is really beautiful.
The Nudey Beach is the absolute highlight here and you can get there by walking in about 30 minutes – and it’s just oh-so-beautiful.
So if you happen to visit Cairns, definitely do a day- or only half-day-trip to Fitzroy Island. It’s very much worth it!
Overall impressions of Cairns
Cairns itself isn’t a must-visit, in my opinion. While I thought that the little city is charming, the real beauty definitely can be found outside of the city. Whether you take the Skyway to Kuranda, go to Palm Cove, visit the Daintree National Park or do any kind of boat excursion, I’m sure you’ll very much enjoy your time in and around Cairns!
Do you have any questions about Cairns? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!