Car hire in Cairns: Your guide to prices, deals, road rules and driving routes

Tick off all of Cairns’ best bits by car for under $33 a day.

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With four wheels to help you explore Cairns, you can visit some bleach-white beaches, hike through the rainforest, go whitewater rafting and indulge in some regional paddock-to-table delights all in the space of a day.

Before you hit the road read up on how much you should expect to pay for rentals, popular pick-up and drop off spots and some of our favourite itineraries to make the most of your holiday.

Who offers car hire at Cairns airport?

How much is car hire in Cairns?

We’ve done the numbers to give you an idea of how much your type of vehicle will cost to hire in Cairns.

Our figures are based on a quote from our engine for a rental car from Cairns Airport for 5 days, booked a month in advance for a driver aged 25+.

Small economy car

  • Car: Fiat Punto
  • Seats: 5
  • Luggage: 1 large bag and 1 small bag
  • Rental company: Jucy
  • Cost: $163.56 for 5 days or $32.71 per day

Medium car

  • Car: Toyota Corolla
  • Seats: 5
  • Luggage: 1 large bag and 1 small bag
  • Rental company: Jucy
  • Cost: $173.78 for 5 days or $34.76 per day

Large car

  • Car: Toyota Corolla
  • Seats: 5
  • Luggage: 1 large bag and 1 small bag
  • Rental company: Jucy
  • Cost: $178.88 for 5 days or $28.20 per day

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SUV/Estate car

  • Car: Subaru Forester
  • Seats: 5
  • Luggage: 3 large
  • Rental company: Alamo
  • Cost: $222.13 for 5 days or $44.43 per day

Prices mentioned above were retrieved on 6 August 2019 and change constantly. Get the latest prices for your car hire today.

Latest car hire deals in Cairns


Campervan hire from $5 per day

Available on select routes, dates and locations in Australia, including Darwin, Alice Springs, Cairns and Brisbane and New Zealand.

Up to 25% off campervan hires

Verified Today Expires 30 Jan 2022
Available on rentals until 31 March 2022. Destinations include Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. T&Cs apply.

Up to 15% off Australia car hires

Expires 31 Mar 2022
Available on rentals until 31 March 2022 when you book for 5+ days. Destinations include Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and more. T&Cs apply.

Up to 15% off Australia car and campervan hires

Expires 14 Feb 2022
Available on select rental dates until 14 April 2022. Destinations include Brisbane, Cairns, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. T&Cs apply.

Cairns driving tips and car hire FAQ

  • Watch out for animals. It's not uncommon for animals such as kangaroos, bandicoots and pigs to stray onto the roads in Cairns, especially at night. Yellow signposts alert drivers to areas where wildlife regularly strays onto the roads. It's a good idea to reduce your speed in these regions.
  • Cane trains. Keep an eye out for "Give Way" signs at train crossings throughout North Queensland. The cane trains travel on their own lines hauling sugar cane to various mills. When they cross main roads there are usually signals but on the back roads, there are only signs.
  • Prepare for the glare. If you're driving west from Cairns, try to avoid being on the road while the sun is setting as glare can make it difficult to see the road ahead properly.
  • If you're under 25 years old, you may have to pay a youth car hire fee. A few car hire companies will rent a vehicle to a driver with a provisional licence. Redspot is probably the best-known brand in this group. If you're under 24 you may also need to pay a surcharge and be restricted on the types of vehicles you can hire.
  • Excess reduction. Basic insurance is standard with hire cars but the excess on these policies is often high. Drivers can opt to take out additional cover that will reduce this in the event of an accident. You can compare your options here.

3 popular driving routes for Cairns day trips

Cairns to Port Douglas

  • How long is the drive? 135km, round-trip
  • How long do I need? 1 day
  • Must-sees along the way: Great Barrier Reef Drive, Rex Lookout, Four Mile Beach, Macrossan Street, Low Isles

Travelling from Cairns to Port Douglas takes just over an hour taking in views out over the tie-dye-blue waters of the Coral Sea. A trip here is all about the picture-perfect beaches and relaxing on the water.

Cairns to Mission Beach

  • How long is the drive? 344 km, round-trip
  • How long do I need? 1-2 days
  • Must-sees along the way: North Mission beach, Bicton Hill, Kennedy Walking Track, Dunk Island, Canecutter Way and Paronella Park.

Point your car south of Cairns now and you’ll reach Mission Beach in two hours. The route skims the edges of rainforest national parks and banana farms. Once there, Mission Beach serves up 14 kilometres of Victoria sponge cake coloured sands and four mellow coastal villages, made up of laid-back cafes and eateries

The Atherton Tablelands

  • How long is the drive? 284 km, round-trip
  • How long do I need? 1-2 days
  • Must-sees along the way: Lake Barrine Crater Lake, Crystal Caves, Heales Lookout, Yungaburra, Curtain Fig Tree, Malanda Falls Park, Millaa Millaa Falls and Crawford’s Lookout

You can follow National Route One all the way from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands. This plateau and its two main villages Atherton and Mareeba are famous for their paddock-to-plate offerings – you can sample local produce everywhere from a dairy to a woodwork shop.

Looking for itineraries for longer Queensland road trips? Read about our favourite driving routes in the state.

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