• Helicopter hovering over the iconic aqua blue and green scene of the Great Barrier Reef

Things to do in Cairns

Where to Eat, Drink and Play

Easy-going vibes with a dash of urban chic, Cairns is on the up and up, thanks in part to its ever-growing roster of foodie and bar hangouts. But Cairns has always been a crowd pleaser. Namely for the Great Barrier Reef, meandering waterways and lush parklands that are a veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts. 

And as more and more people make a move to this seaside city, Cairns is keeping pace with on-trend kombucha bars, health cafes and eateries with fresh from the trawler seafood. This handy guide will have you covered, whether you’re planning a holiday or making a sea change.

Fish shaped sculptures sitting within the lagoon at Cairns EsplanadeCairns Esplanade. Photo credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

EAT

With a prime coastal position and the Atherton tablelands within easy reach, the eateries here have the pick of the land and sea. From delicate fine dining to bountiful green bowls, Cairns promises to deliver quality, utilising only the freshest produce available. Whatever your appetite, jaffles and pies to nourishing poke bowls, this compact city will undoubtedly satisfy.  

Ozmosis Café
Ozmosis café is your go-to for breakfast, lunch and every snack in between. All the classic gems are accounted for including smashed avo as well as more exotics offerings like Bali bowls and Vietnamese coffee. The presentation here is second to none, as is the service, so there is no doubt, these guys will fast become your friendly local. 

1/116 Collins Avenue, Edge Hill

Prawn Star
There are only a few places in the world where you can find seafood fresher than this. Dining straight on the trawler, Prawn Star is a no-frills foodie experience that is bound to impress. Think oysters and sashimi delivered ocean to table. It’s all about friendly vibes and good food at this cosy joint. 

Marlin Marina, E31 Berth, Cairns City 

Outdoor dining area of Dundee's Restaurant, Cairns Dundee's Restaurant, Cairns 

Greenfields

A few too many holiday cocktails? Head over to Greenfields for a healthy feed. Embodying wellbeing itself, Greenfields serves up the best raw, local produce there is. Sip a cold-pressed juice poolside while indulging in a salmon and avo poke bowl. If you aren’t quite ready for the holiday vibes to fade, grab a pitcher of Pimms and a cheeky panini melt. 

131-141 Esplanade, Cairns City

Jafflehead
Thrusting the old school jaffle back into the spotlight, Jafflehead is a neat little hangout. The menu ranges from the classics to vegetarian to jaffles ‘From the Smoker’. Poultry in motion is our pick – smoked buffalo chicken and blue cheese mayo. Plus, they have a seriously good selection of milkshakes to go with it. 

39 Lake Street, Cairns City

Dundee’s at the Cairns Aquarium
No need to travel to Dubai for this insanely Insta-worthy experience. Stop by from breakfast through to dinner if you fancy dining with the fishes. Known for superb grilled steaks and fresh seafood, Dundee’s incorporates as many local flavours and ingredients as possible. It’s a true Aussie dining experience, and we hear only good things about the peppered kangaroo loin. 

5 Florence Street, Cairns City 

Close up of two beautifully presented cocktails at Rocco lounge in Cairns Rocco, Cairns

DRINK

There are just as many watering holes as swimming holes in tropical Cairns. From decadent rooftop cocktails to waterside craft breweries, the options are bountiful for such a small city. Opt for a botanical infused local gin or a cool glass of bubbly. If you can’t decide, grab both, you are on holidays after all. 

Rocco
Speaking our language, Rocco has a seriously decadent Champagne menu. We are talking an entire page dedicated to the bubbly stuff. Boasting panoramic views of the tropical city and greenery galore, pair your aesthetic cocktails with their delish share-style Mediterranean menu. Fancy tea for two? Try the Punch pot which combines TWG Moroccan mint green tea reduction and Tanqueray Gin. 

Level 12, The Tower, 131-141 Esplanade, Cairns City

Salt House
The only thing that can beat a day beach hopping is an evening sipping on cocktail (day bed included). Open till 2am, Salt House is your one-stop shop for a lush night out. Roll with the tropical vibes and opt for a Rainforest Sour that boasts the best of local ingredients. Think Davidson Plum Jam and fresh-pressed citrus doused in some botanical infused local gin. A casual tapas menu will ensure no one goes hungry. 

6/2 Pierpoint Road, Cairns City

Two girls enjoying a drink in the sun, at the outdoor bar overlooking the ocean at Salt House, CairnsSalt House, Cairns

Conservatory Bar

This candlelit bar offers up more than a refreshing bev at the end of a long hard day snorkelling the reef. Conservatory Bar guarantees live music every Friday and Saturday along with a decent wine list and a whole spate of seasonal cocktails. The best part? These guys offer DIY grazing boards complete with truffle cheddar…SOLD. 

12/14 Lake Street, Cairns City

Hemmingway’s Brewery
If a fine brew gets your heart beating, then head on over to Hemmingway’s. With over 20 beers on tap, the heritage-listed venue also serves a selection of bottled craft beers from all over the world. Beer not your thing? Then opt for the craft gin tasting paddle. It all pairs beautifully with the waterside views and a menu full with curated beer snacks, artisanal pizzas and some dang fine burgers. 

4 Wharf Street, Cairns City

Three Wolves 
Classy speakeasy vibes abound at this specialty drinking house. These guys really know their spirits offering an entire tequila menu as well as some divine barrel-aged cocktails. There is a perfect assortment of light dishes to compliment the carefully curated beverage list, so get snacking. 

32 Abbott Street, Cairns City

interior shot of the warehouse style, high ceilings and bar area at Hemmingway's Brewery, CairnsHemmingway's Brewery, Cairns

EXPLORE

The Great Barrier Reef alone, is every reason to come to this tropical haven, but there is so much more to Cairns. A short drive can take you from sprawling beaches to lush rainforests and rolling countryside. Keep that bucket list handy because you might just be crossing off a few items.

Babinda Boulders
There truly is no better feeling on earth than the cool, calm immersion of a freshwater swimming hole. Team that with some tropical heat and a whole heap of exceptionally smooth natural sun-baking rocks, and you'll find yourslef in actual heaven. Surrounded by rainforest, it’s easy to see why the sacred location holds great significance for the custodians of the land. Take a picnic and spend an entire day in this incredible oasis. 

Babinda, QLD

Trinity Beach
Beaches in Cairns are the kind of places you dream about while answering emails on a Monday morning. Here, rainforest meets soft sand, and we promise there is no place you would rather be. Safe year-round, Trinity beach is one of the best for swimming with designated swimming areas and lifeguards on duty. There is also a paved esplanade travelling the length of the beach so don your joggers and work off some of those holiday treats. 

Shot of the river and the Babinda Boulders on a sunny dayBabinda Boulders

Makin’ Whoopie
If you are a lover of handmade goodness, then you must pop into Makin’ Whoopie. Full of quirky Frankie-esque goodies, you can nab yourself a handy dandy souvenir. Locally made ceramics, jewellery and mighty cute knick-knacks to adorn your abode throng the store’s shelves. If you’re super organised, book into a workshop where you can make all sorts of fun things from earrings to macramé hangers. 

58 Shields Street, Cairns City

Helicopter the Reef 
If you want to see as much of the gorgeous reef as you can, then we recommend taking to the skies for an experience of a lifetime. If you are going to splurge on a helicopter ride, this is the place to do it. And if you really fancy splashing some cash opt for a half-day trip that allows you to land and snorkel the reef. Keep your camera handy!

Helicopter parked on a small sand bar in the middle of the ocean where two people are enjoying a picnicHelicopter the Reef

For more destination guides and local travel inspiration, head to Sitchu.