February 18, 2019

Discovering the Heart of Cairns

Romantically remote, yet still buzzing with the excitement of a modern city, Cairns strikes the perfect balance between laidback and luxury. While some may see it purely as a launch pad to Australia’s most sought-after natural wonders, this vibrant tropical town can certainly hold its own in the spotlight.

From reefs to rainforests, from mountain peaks to palm trees, a place where relaxation reigns and adventure beckons; this is Cairns.


Set your watch to island time, because whether it’s the heady humidity or the constant sense of holiday-mode, the pace of life in Cairns slows right down to a mellow meander.

Basking in glorious sunshine and tropical temperatures year-round, it’s not just the weather that will give you a warm welcome. The Cairns community seems to operate on sunny dispositions and good vibes only, home to friendly locals who are always willing to share their insider tips or point you in the right direction.

As the traditional land of the Yirrganydji and Yidinji people, Cairns has a rich time-honoured cultural heritage. The history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture here, dating back over 40,000 years, can be discovered at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, just 20 minutes from Cairns.

Although it may seem that if Cairns was any more relaxed it would be motionless, the city is by no means lazy, harbouring a thriving outdoor lifestyle. Some days, this may only extend as far as kicking back with an ice-cold drink on the waterfront, but hey, that’s livin’.

It’s not hard to see why many travellers have fallen in love with this easygoing slice of paradise. We won’t blame you if you never want to leave.

Photo credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland


Where do we even begin in describing the natural beauty of Cairns?

Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, no Cairns vacation is complete without visiting this breathtaking national treasure. Stretching over 2,300km and comprising of 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, and 300 coral cays, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on earth and a true natural wonder. A number of reef charters operate daily from Cairns, so you can snorkel and dive amongst the colourful coral gardens, exotic tropical fish, and abundant sea life.

Discover the reef’s many untouched and secluded islands, including the postcard perfect, Fitzroy Island, located just a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns. Laze on the white sand of Nudey Beach, snorkel the shallow reef that hugs the shoreline, adventure the coastline via sea kayak or SUP, or hike the rainforest trails.

Take your Great Barrier Reef exploration to new heights, and see the beauty from above on guided helicopter and seaplane tours, or – if you’re feeling game – tandem skydiving above Cairns.

Two hours north of Cairns, the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is a must on your Cairns holiday. Take a daytrip from the city and immerse yourself into the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. Spot unique plants and elusive wildlife, including saltwater crocodiles and cassowaries. Discover where the rainforest meets the sea at the beautifully unspoilt Cape Tribulation.

Closer to Cairns, the stunning Behana Gorge is just 30 minutes south of the city. Here you’ll find an emerald green, refreshingly cool swimming hole lined with giant boulders and fed by cascading waterfalls.

Explore the lush rainforest walking trails of the enchanting Mossman Gorge, located 90-minutes north of Cairns, and cool off in the clear waters of one of its many sheltered swimming holes.

Photo credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland


With bountiful access to fresh-off-the boat seafood and neighbouring the Atherton Tablelands, dubbed North Queensland’s food bowl, it’s no wonder that Cairns is somewhat of a foodie heaven.

Rusty’s Markets, open Friday to Sunday, are arguably the beating heart of Cairns’ foodie flair. Featuring over 180 stalls of fresh local produce, weird and wonderful exotic tropical fruits, and the friendly farmers who grew them, Rusty’s Markets is a Cairns institution.

Cairns is also home to a trendy, yet humble, café culture. You won’t find any holier-than-thou baristas here, just crafty coffee slingers who know their way around a soul-sparking Flat White. Bounce around Grafton, Spence and Lake streets to get your caffeine fix.

Escape the afternoon heat with a beer and a yarn under the shaded veranda of The Grand Hotel, a traditional Aussie pub famous for its crocodile-themed décor and hand-crafted wooden Crocodile Bar.

Balmy evenings are best spent feasting alfresco on The Esplanade at one of the city’s many mouth-watering restaurants. Cap off your day on the deck of a waterfront bar, tropical breeze in the air, and a cocktail in hand. Bliss.

Photo credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland


Adorned with palm trees and manicured green space, the Cairns Esplanade runs between the beachfront and the city centre. The Esplanade boasts an array of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as a skate park, beach volleyball courts, fitness equipment, and a huge children’s playground.

Since there is no swimming beach in Cairns, the 4800-square-metre salt water Lagoon offers the next best thing. The Lagoon, which is filled with filtered salt water from the Trinity Inlet, is safe, free from stingers and crocodiles, and open year-round.

Board the Kuranda Scenic Railway to the picturesque mountain village of Kuranda, set high in the rainforest, 1,000 feet above Cairns. Enjoy unmatched views of spectacular waterfalls and the breathtaking Barron Gorge. Winding through dense rainforest, mountains, tunnels, and over bridges, the historic train route itself is an engineering marvel, forged by pioneers in the late 1800s. On your return journey, take the 7.5-kilometre Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and soar above the forest canopy. 

For the thrill seekers among us, Cairns is also home to one of the popular

AJ Hackett Bungy spots. Freefall 50m through the rainforest, or channel your inner Tarzan on the giant 45-metre-high jungle swing.

Photo credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Ready to drift away on island time in dreamy Tropical North Queensland? Set yourself to relaxation mode and enjoy a vacation to sunny Cairns with our Escape The Ordinary Summer Saver Deal.



Brittany Herron is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer and content creator. When she's not between her two homes 
of Newcastle and Adelaide, Brittany is an adventure-seeker, wandering the globe in search of sun, snow, and sand.