Tick off all of Cairns’ best bits with these great car hire deals.
Thanks to its coastal roads and its backyard of nature reserves, Cairns is prime road trip territory. With four wheels you can beeline to bleach-white beaches, rainforests and white water rivers, and get back to the city within the space of a day. But before you get the motor running, there are a few things you should know about hiring a car in this part of Australia.
Top car hire Cairns deals
Road rules: What to know about driving in Cairns
Cairns drives on the left side of the road. On the whole, roads are pretty uncongested and driving is simple in this part of the country. Before you start the ignition, though, have a read of the following tips.
- Keep left. On multi-lane roads where the speed limit is 90km/h or more, you are not allowed to drive in the right-hand lane unless you are overtaking or about to turn right.
- 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.
- 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.
Popular Cairns driving routes
- Cairns to Port Douglas. Travelling from Cairns to Port Douglas takes just over one hour. The road traces its way along the north-east coast of Australia and most of it looks out over the tie-dye-blue waters of the Coral Sea. You can easily stretch this trip out over a couple of days to include stopovers in the blonde sand resorts of Ellis Beach or Palm Cove.
- Cairns to Mission Beach. Drive south of Cairns 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-coloured sands and four mellow coastal villages, made up of laid-back cafes and eateries.
- The Atherton Tablelands. 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.
Frequently asked questions about car hire
- Who offers cheap car hire from Cairns airport? Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot and Thrift have car hire counters in the arrivals halls of both terminals at Cairns Airport.
- I'm on my provisional licence. Can I drive in Cairns? A few car hire companies will rent a vehicle to a driver with a provisional license. Redspot is probably the best-known brand in this group.
- How does car insurance work? All rental cars come with a certain degree of insurance. As in the rest of Australia, excess premiums are extremely high, but you can pay extra to reduce the excess on your policy.