Cairns is the largest city in Far North Queensland and it is fast becoming a very popular holiday destination for both Australian and International visitors. Its hot and almost always sunny weather all year round is an attractive enough reason to visit Cairns alone, but being and a major gateway to many of Queensland’s best kept secrets that can include the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest region is another prime reason.
I am fortunate enough to have my sister living up in Cairns so I take regular trips up north to see her and at the same time explore many of Cairns’ delights! Here is a quick little guide that might help for anyone visiting Cairns in the near future 🙂
When to go:
Cairns is a great tropical destination to visit all year round, with plenty of sunshine and warm weather. There isn’t really an distinct change in seasons, though summer is a very hot and sticky time of year.
Summer in Cairns (generally between October to March) is very hot and humid with temperatures in the 30’s (degrees). It is also the wettest time of the year with more rain and higher chances of tropical cyclones to hit the region.
The cooler months are from June to September when the days are pleasant and nights are cool and mild. Despite it being winter, you wont need any heavy jumpers.
In my opinion, the best time of year to visit is from April to October.
Where to eat:
Cairns has very diverse and multicultural food to suit everyone and there are many cheap and affordable eateries, as well as there being more expensive fine dining restaurants to enjoy for those who wish too. Cairns has really got it all!
Some suggestions of great cafe’s and restaurants to check out:
-Salt House ($$$)
– Caffiend ($$)
– Rusty’s Market ($)
– Snoogies ($)
– Bang and Grind ($$)
– Flying Monkey Café ($$)
– Dundee’s ($$$)
– Paleo Café ($$)
– Cock and Bull ($$)
Where to stay?
There’s lots of accommodation to pick from in Cairns, from hostels to hotels, camping and caravan parks. Staying nearby or along Cairns Esplanade is a great spot as you are central to restaurants, bars, shops and close to the water. It can work out a bit more exspensive though so alternatively, you can stay a few streets back from the city centre and the esplanade and still be within walking distance to it all.
Due to the high volume of backpackers to Cairns, there is certainly an abundance of great hostels on offer for as little as $20 a night. The most popular is probably Gilligan’s.
And for some great affordable hotels in the area: Rydges Esplanade Resort, Tropical Heritage, Holiday Inn Harbourside, Mantra Trilogy & Park Regis City Quays are a few to name for great value for money stays.
How long do you need here?
Cairns is only small, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there isn’t much to do! There is lots to see and do during a trip here and to really see Cairns you could easily spend a week exploring. But if you haven’t got a lot of time, spending a weekend here you will still get a taste and feel for Cairns!
If you are staying longer than a few days, I recommend hiring a car or scooter to explore surrounding beachside towns, gorges and rainforests not far out of Cairns. Even if you don’t hire a car, you could look into booking day tips and excursions, or alternatively, there are local buses that can get to and from places that are really easy to navigate. It’s really worth it as there are some beautiful landmarks either side of Cairns.
You can check out more useful posts on Cairns and things to see and do here.
What to pack?
You definitely won’t be needing any heavy jackets and jumpers during a visit to Cairns no matter what season it is. Winter is still pleasantly warm during the day and the nights are mild but still a nice temperature. Packing a cardigan would be the most appropriate light jumper to pack and also doesn’t take up much room in your bag (bonus!).
Other essential items you may want to consider are:
– An Umbrella. Just in case of any spontaneous rain showers or rainy days that may occur, particularly if you are visiting during the wet season (December to Feb).
– Beach attire such as: sunscreen, swimmers, hat, sun glasses
– Insect Repellent
– Comfortable walking shoes
– Cool & light clothing
How to get there?
If you are travelling Internationally, depending on the airline you won’t always be able to fly directly into Cairns airport so you will have to fly to a bigger Australian city such as Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth or the Gold Coast first before flying a smaller carrier airline up to Northern Queensland. Gold Coast will be a slightly cheaper city than the rest due to its (only slightly) closer proximity to Cairns.
If you are flying domestically, you can easily reach cairns by plane and I would go for the cheapest Aussie airlines Jetstar, Tiger and sometimes if nab a special, Virgin are great. I personally fly Jetstar for all of my domestic travel within Australia as they often have great airfare specials and are affordable. Virgin on the other hand, are more expensive but you can expect a higher standard of in flight inclusions with them.
If you don’t fancy flying, you can always road trip it to Cairns . You can make the drive up to Northern Queensland over a few days depending on where you are driving from and there are many great stops along the way to break the trip up.
– I do recommend hiring a car if you want to explore as there is loads to do.
– The months from June to early October are best for swimming as there are no jellyfish.
– Tipping is not obligatory in Australia, so you do not need to tip at restaurants or public transport etc. Anything extra you d give is an added bonus, but it not expected.
– MasterCard and Visa cards are widely accepted in Cairns as well as some places take American Express. It is best to double check first though with American Express. Atm’s are also scattered around the place making it very easy to get cash out and I do recommend carrying a little bit of cash with you as market places such as Rusty’s and various smaller businesses don’t take card.