The best way to explore the surrounding regions and dramatic coastline of Cairns is by renting a car. There are a number of car hire companies at the airport and in most resort locations, offering a day's hire from as little as $23. Complimentary pick-up services are also offered from most accommodation venues to make your journey even easier.
Sunbus runs a regular service over a range of networks from Palm Cove down to Gordonvale, covering 12 zones. Daily fees range from $4.40 to $15.40, and if you plan on travelling over the course of a week you can purchase a weekly ticket to save money. Some buses can also be flagged down from the side of the road.
Whatever your fitness level, the mostly flat terrain in Cairns makes cycling enjoyable for the whole family. Whether you prefer to explore the sights at a leisurely pace or tackle mountain roads and rainforest, Cairns has it all. Visit the botanical gardens and Mt Whitfield National Park, or Crystal Cascades, Barron Gorge and Lake Morris. Bicycle hire starts at $11 per four hours.
The local cab company Black and White Taxis run on a meter and operate 24 hours a day. Taxi ranks are located throughout the city, although they can be flagged down at any time. As the only taxi service operating in Cairns, prices are not exorbitant. However, for longer distances it may be worthwhile hiring a car.
As the tropical capital of North Queensland, a Cairns tan can be achieved in autumn, spring, and even late winter. Many travellers choose to visit in the colder months to escape the southern chill and rainfall. Autumn and Spring boast glorious temperatures of 20°C to 30°C, perfect for exploring the Great Barrier Reef and rainforests without the scorching heat and humidity of summer.
If you can't resist finding yourself a bargain or indulging in retail therapy, Cairns has markets open every day. Best of all, they are open during both the day and night until 11pm, when the CBD really comes to life. Every Saturday between 8am and 5pm the Cairns Esplanade sells local and contemporary goods, as does the City Place Market on weekdays.
Cairns is home to a few hazardous – though easily avoidable – species of wildlife. Box jellyfish, or ‘stingers', swarm the coast from November through April, so only swim in netted-off areas during those months. Saltwater crocodiles have been known to roam the beaches and also like fresh water. Human attacks are rare but it is still important to take note of any warning signs.
Dubai has a desert climate with high humidity. In the summer months (May, June, July), it's not uncommon for Dubai to hit 50 degrees and 80 per cent humidity. Make no mistake, you won't be lazing on the beach or dining al fresco in this weather. The best time to visit is anywhere outside of summer, when the heat returns to moderately warm levels.
Emirates run two flights every day from Sydney to Dubai. The journey is non-stop and takes 14 hours, 30 minutes.
Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar also offer direct, daily flights to Cairns from Melbourne. Get there in 3 hours, 30 minutes
Perth offers two flights to the United Arab Emirates every day. The non-stop journey takes just under 11 hours to reach Dubai.
Cairns Airport (CNS) is the main gateway to Tropical North Queensland. It serves both domestic and international direct flights through a number of airlines. The airport is situated 7km north of Cairns CBD. For transfer options to and from your city accommodation there are regular shuttle buses, taxis and private car services available throughout the day and night.
Getting to your hotel or resort couldn't be easier with shuttle buses running 24 hours a day to meet all flights. Sun Palm Transport has three manned service desks at Cairns Airport, so you will always have a ride – even if you forgot to book in advance. Usual rates to Cairns CBD are $10 per adult and $5 per child one-way. The cheapest way to transfer.
Catching a taxi from the airport to your accommodation is simple, with taxi ranks outside the arrivals terminal. A one-way fare into Cairns CBD will cost around $15 to $25 on the meter. It will cost $65 to reach Palm Cove and there is a set price of $185 to Port Douglas. All cab services are provided by Black and White Taxis.
For a more refined transfer to your accommodation in Cairns, consider hiring a private car service. There are a few options you can take advantage of when booking in advance or you can simply hire one after arriving in Cairns. A more expensive option, but you won't be delayed by regular stops.
If you suffer from sea sickness or find yourself short on time, booking a scenic flight is a great way to discover the Great Barrier Reef without the need to step on a boat. There are a number of companies that will take you up in a helicopter, seaplane, light aircraft or even hot air balloon. Journeys can last anywhere from 45 minutes to a full day.
For a family day out, immerse yourself in traditional Tjapukai culture with music, dance and storytelling. Learn to play the didgeridoo, discover bush tucker, throw a spear and witness Australia's longest running fire making show. Packages are offered at $113 per adult and $56.50 per child when combined with a visit to Cairns Tropical Zoo.
From Mossman Gorge, follow an Indigenous guide through private rainforest tracks to culturally significant sites. Stop for a specialty Barramundi lunch surrounded by a lush oasis before taking a cruise down the Daintree River. With an abundance of birds, tree snakes and crocodiles, this is a great chance to get snap-happy with your camera.
If you're looking for adventure in stunning, untouched rainforest, Cairns boasts some of Australia's best rafting rivers. The Tully River boasts over 45 rapids that range from grade 1-4, suiting all levels. A full day costs around $225 per rider for coach transfers and up to five hours of rafting. Half-day trips are also offered on the Russell and Barron River nearby.
A favourite amongst locals, Bayleaf offers authentic Balinese cuisine. It's great value for money with friendly hosts and a lively atmosphere. If exotic spices and delicious seafood appeal to your taste buds then the Bayleaf will not disappoint. Try the coconut pancakes, Balinese chicken curry or marinated grilled fish of the day wrapped in banana leaf for a bounty of taste and texture.
Situated at the Hilton Cairns Hotel, Mondo offers a beautiful waterfront alfresco dining experience with Trinity Bay views and fusion-inspired dishes. Boasting one of the best settings in North Queensland, Mondo provides a cosy ambience and moreish grill menu to match. Reasonably priced, this is a great place to relax with friends for dinner or lunch.
For a no-nonsense bite overlooking the beautiful Coral sea, you can't go wrong with a Cocky's milkshake or slap-up breakfast. With cheap food and friendly service, this cafe serves honest grub without any pretense, making it a local favourite for years. You won't find a ritzy dining experience here, but for a laid-back brew before you hit the beach Cocky's is the place to be.
Take the boardwalk through the rainforest to discover this hidden gem. For a culinary experience with a difference, Julaymba offers tropical Australian cuisine infused with ‘bush tucker'. Enjoy a private dining experience away from tourists on the balcony terrace, which overlooks the serene freshwater lagoon. The Barramundi and Gulf Tiger Prawns are worth the drive from Cairns alone.
If you're after cheap drinks, great food and a good laugh, the Woolshed is the number one party venue for backpackers. With prize giveaways and a great mix of music, the atmosphere – especially on themed nights – is thrilling. Dance on the tables until the early hours. Every night here is a party.
Massive with the locals, Gilligan's offers the ultimate backpacker accommodation and all-night entertainment. Find some of Cairns' most popular live bands and DJs Thursday to Sunday on the back deck. Not a venue for the timid – this may be the only jelly wrestling bar with an indoor flying fox!
For a different night out, the Reef Casino offers all the excitement of an international gaming house. Along with all the favourites to keep you busy, the casino also boasts a variety of dining experiences and live shows. Open until 5am Fridays and Saturdays, and 3am Sunday through Thursday.
Away from the backpacker scene, and for something quieter and more sophisticated, Ba8 is a stylish lounge bar popular with locals for after-work drinks. With superb views of the marina, sit back and enjoy the tapas-style food with a glass of wine for the perfect end to a thrilling day.
To explore the best of North Queensland in a day, hire a car from Cairns and drive to the majestic Cape Tribulation. Stop off at Cow Bay for a secluded slice of paradise before snaking up through the Daintree Rainforest. Wandering the serene expanse of sand at Cape Tribulation can easily while away the hours. Heading back, stop off at Mossman Gorge as the sun sets and go for dinner in Port Douglas.
Snorkel or scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef to discover some of the world's most spectacular marine life. Enjoy stunning coral formations, amazing visibility and inviting water temperatures. Whether you're a beginner or expert, diving in the Great Barrier Reef is a must-do activity. There are a number of diving schools in Cairns that offer training, but if it's simplicity you desire then take advantage of the inexpensive snorkeling option.
Descend through the rainforest canopy deep into the heart of the forest on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. With a 90-minute one-way trip or two-and-a-half hour return, this is the perfect way to spend a morning before exploring the famous Kuranda village. Return to Cairns aboard the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. With a family package costing $283, including return hotel transfers, this is a daytrip not to be missed.
A 30-minute drive west of Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands offer an escape from the high humidity that lingers in coastal areas. The World Heritage-listed crater lakes, Barrine and Eacham, provide great walks with the opportunity to experience unspoiled rainforest. There is also an abundance of wildlife, including the musky rat-kangaroo and over a 100 bird species. Enjoy a picnic before moving on to the Malanda Falls, where you can take a dip in one of the swimming holes.
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