Everything you need to know about Cairns and TNQ before your trip.
Cairns is a vibrant city situated in the tropical paradise that is North Queensland. It is the perfect base for adventures and experiences that will change your life forever.
Whether you’re drawn to the region by all there is to explore, or simply seduced by decadent, lush hideaways, we’ve got all the information you need to start planning your itinerary.
What to know before you go
Where is Cairns located?
Cairns is in the far north of Queensland at the bottom of Cape York Peninsula. It provides vital transportation links to South Queensland and other destinations in Australia, and is the gateway to attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
Is Cairns a city?
With a population of around 140,000, Cairns is indeed a city. It has an international airport as well as rail and bus links to other destinations in Australia.
Where is Cairns airport?
Cairns airport is situated approximately 6km north of the city centre, on Airport Avenue.
Is the airport open 24 hours?
No. Cairns airport opens at 4am, or two hours before the first flight, whichever is earlier, and closes after the last flight of the day. If you’re planning an overnight stay, you’ll need to check out hotels nearby.
Where is the railway station?
Cairns railway station is integrated with the central shopping centre. The station itself is located on Bunda Street in Cairns city centre. It has lines that run south to Brisbane.
Does Cairns have daylight saving?
Queensland abandoned daylight saving in 1972. A referendum on daylight saving was held on 22 February 1992. This followed a three-year trial between 1989 and 1992. The voting trend suggested public opinion on daylight saving in Queensland is geographically divided, with the ‘no’ vote strongest in the north and west regional districts, while the ‘yes’ vote was strongest in the state’s metropolitan south-east. With a 54.5% 'no' vote, Cairns withdrew from practising daylight saving.
When is Cairns’ wet season?
The wet season in Cairns begins in November and continues right through to March. This tropical paradise suffers the cyclones and monsoons that are part and parcel of being in the tropics.
How do you pronounce it?
Many struggle with the pronunciation of “Cairns”. The truth is, some pronounce it “cans” and some “care-ns”, and either version is fine and accepted.
Questions about safety and health
Is Cairns safe?
Cairns has a relatively low crime rate. However, there are a number of natural dangers you need to be aware of:
- Swampy areas are teeming with crocodiles, so if you’re exploring these areas, make sure you avoid getting too close to the edges.
- Mosquitos are one of the hazards that come with the climate in Cairns. Bring mosquito repellent, lots of it, and avoid wearing perfume as it tends to attract them.
- Be cautious of sand flies.
- Tread carefully to prevent disturbing ant nests or you may find yourself under attack.
- If you’re out hiking keep a look out for spiky plants and stinging trees.
- The beautiful waters around Cairns may portray innocence and bliss, but there are sharks around, and dangerous jellyfish are abundant during certain seasons.
Is Cairns safe at night?
There is a strong police presence in the city, so in general you will be quite safe, even at night. However, you do need to maintain a level of awareness regarding your safety and your belongings, as you would in any city.
Does Cairns ever have cyclones?
Yes. Tropical cyclones occur mostly during the wet season from November to March, and form from lows within the monsoon trough.
Getting around and things to do
Does Cairns have Uber?
Yes. However, Uber is new to Cairns, and the only option currently available is UberX. The base fare is $2 and then $1 per kilometre after that, with a minimum fare of $8.
How far is it from Cairns to Cooktown?
The journey north from Cairns to Cooktown covers 323km, which equates to approximately 4 hours 10 minutes by road. There are two main routes to choose from: the coastal road which has stunning views, or the sealed inland road which is safer.
Cooktown is a small, pristine town situated on the Great Barrier Reef. It remains untouched by commercialisation and offers a breathtaking experience off the beaten track.
Where can you take a rental car?
It’s important to note that many car hire companies restrict how far north you can take a vehicle in Queensland beyond the Daintree’s main attractions. If you’re hiring a car, make sure you check with the rental company where you can and can’t go.
Most will allow you to take the car onto the Daintree river ferry so you can see some of the rainforest's top things to see, but will restrict you from going much further than Cape Tribulation.
Does Cairns have a beach?
Cairns city does not have a natural beach. However, there is a saltwater lagoon measuring 400 square metres, and a beautiful man-made beach.
There are some gorgeous beaches to the north and south. However, you need to be aware and on the lookout for sharks and jellyfish during the wet season. There are stinger nets in place at patrolled beaches.
Beaches like Palm Cove and Trinity Beach are easily accessible by city bus or with a short drive from the city. There are accommodation and dining options at both.
How far is the distance between Cairns and Brisbane?
The drive from Cairns to Brisbane takes approximately 19 hours 20 minutes and covers 1,685km.
If you prefer to fly, Tigerair, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas all offer direct flights, which take approximately 2 hours 30 minutes.
What’s the distance between Cairns and Townsville?
The journey south from Cairns to Townsville covers 347 kilometres and takes approximately 4 hours 20 minutes by road.