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Why Scenic? > Touring Destination Guides > Cairns

Cairns City Guide

Cairns serves as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, providing visitors speedy access to this incredible marine wonder. And yet, there’s more to this tropical city than its proximity to the Reef — as you’ll discover in our Cairns visitor guide below.

Marrying postcard good looks with captivating indigenous heritage, Cairns is unlike any other destination in Australia. Situated on Queensland’s tropical north coast, the city enjoys fine, sultry weather all year, making it perfect for outdoor adventurers and tan-loving sun seekers alike.

Naturally, the majority who visit Cairns do so to take advantage of its access to the Great Barrier Reef, one of our planet’s true natural wonders. Just off shore sits some of the largest and most impressive coral systems in the whole Reef, including Tongue Reef, Batt Reef and Arlington Reef — giving visitors ample opportunity to spot some of the Coral Sea’s most colourful marine characters.

Once you’ve ticked a trip to the Great Barrier Reef off your lifetime travel list, Cairns proves a wonderful haven in which to continue your escorted tour. The city’s waterside esplanade is lined with bars, cafes and restaurants, and beyond sits mile after mile of golden, sandy beachfront. Meanwhile, head further inland, and you’ll find lush, tropical forestlands and the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park — a heritage centre telling stories of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who first settled the region thousands of years ago.

If this unique Queensland city has piqued your interest, read on for our complete Cairns touring guide, which includes some of the city’s best-loved cultural highlights and retail destinations.

Cultural Highlights

The Great Barrier Reef

cairns reef barrier

On your first day in Cairns, you’ll no doubt have one thing on the agenda, the Great Barrier Reef. Sprawling for 1,400 miles along Australia’s eastern seaboard, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth, comprising of thousands of reefs and over 600 species of coral. Cairns is the ideal place to enjoy a boat or scuba tour of the Reef, and a number of tours and trips can be enjoyed directly from Cairns’ harbour front. For a truly unforgettable experience, book a snorkelling tour and explore the Reef as it should be discovered — beneath the waves.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

If you’re interested in unearthing the history of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal people, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park offers wonderful insight into this ancient culture. Located on the outskirts of Cairns, Tjapukai is a unique, interactive heritage centre offering visitors a deeper understanding of Australia’s diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, who are said to have lived in the region for over 40,000 years. Whether you choose to visit by day or by night, you’ll enjoy a rich cultural experience, complemented by food, dance and performing arts.

Hartleys Crocodile Adventures

Located between Cairns and its neighbouring city of Port Douglas, Hartleys Crocodile Adventures is one of the best-loved visitor attractions in the region. More than just a simple wildlife park, Hartleys is a nature reserve containing hundreds of endangered species, as well as a large collection of native crocodiles. Explore the raised walkways and woodland trails at your leisure, or join a unique guided tour of Hartleys’ lagoon to get up close to these majestic predators.

Kuranda Skyrail

skytrail cairns australia

Take an aerial tour of Cairns’ neighbouring rainforest on the Kuranda Skyrail, and enjoy breath-taking vistas across the city, the forest and the entire Cape York Peninsula. Rising high above the ancient, tropical treeline, the Kuranda Skyrail gifts majestic views of the surroundings, so you can savour every moment spent in this World Heritage-listed nature reserve. Back down on the forest floor expert guides are on hand to provide walking tours through the rainforest, giving you the opportunity to spot Australia’s elusive Cassowary bird.

Food Trail Tours

Departing throughout the week, the unique Cairns Food Trail Tours transport visitors on a culinary journey to find some of the region’s finest dishes, flavours and local produce. From the comfort of an air-conditioned minibus, you’ll delve deep into Cairns’ lush countryside, travelling on to small family farms in search of authentic regional delicacies. From wine to cheese to coffee and everything in between, these unique food tours offer a true taste of northern Queensland.  

Retail Opportunities

Enjoy a moment’s downtime during a visit to Cairns, and you’ll find the city has numerous places to spend your holiday savings. Here are some of the must-visit retail destinations in Cairns.

Rusty’s Market

If your tour of Cairns falls on a weekend, you must take time out of your schedule to browse the stalls of Rusty’s Market. One of the largest food and produce markets of Queensland; Rusty’s attracts dozens of local farmers and producers from the surrounding countryside, so you can get a taste for native cuisine without leaving the limits of the city. With everything from tropical fruit to fiery curries on offer, Rusty’s is perfect for those with an interest in discovering local foods and delicacies during their travels.

Absells Chart Map Centre

Take home a unique memento of your travels with a visit to Absells Chart Map Centre. Located in central Cairns, this historic shop deals in regional topographic maps and nautical charts, some of which date back hundreds of years. Whether you’re seeking a souvenir for yourself or a loved one back home, an antique map of Cairns, Queensland or the Great Barrier Reef is a great way to remember your once in a lifetime trip.

Cairns Central Shopping Centre

If you’re in need of a new swimming costume to sport on Cairns beach in style, the city’s central shopping centre should be your first port of call. Located above Cairns Central Railway Station, this well-appointed mall has everything you could ever need to ensure a comfortable stay in the city, and is the perfect place to stock up on supplies for the remainder of your tour.

If the opportunity to visit the Great Barrier Reef from the beautiful city of Cairns is too great an opportunity to pass up, our luxury escorted tours in Australia provide the perfect excuse to fulfil this lifetime travel ambition. To browse our complete range of Australian touring holidays, click here to visit our escorted tours page or call our team today on 0808 301 5396.