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.
Things to do in Cairns: Eat
NOA is a Cairns institution in the trendy suburb of Edge Hill. Serving amazing food for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as delicious cocktails. NOA is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike to enjoy seriously good food and beverages in a relaxed, yet refined environment. NOA is also the winner of the 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award from Tripadvisor.
1 Pyne Street, Edge Hill, Cairns
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
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
Things to do in Cairns: Drink
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
If a fine brew gets your heart beating, then head on over to Hemingway’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
Classy speakeasy vibes abound at this specialty drinking house. Three Wolves really know their spirits offering an entire tequila menu as well as some of the most delectable cocktails. Tucked away in a laneway, Three Wolves is opposite their Wolf Lane Distillery and both are worth a visit!
32 Abbott Street, Cairns City
Things to do in Cairns: Explore
Cairns Esplanade has 5km of paved walking paths along the waterfront with a number of exercise stations, playgrounds and a swimming lagoon. The Promenade is easily accessed from the CBD with a number of shops, restaurants and cafes worth exploring.
Cairns Botanical Gardens
Located in the beautiful enclave of Edge Hill, the Botanic Gardens is a popular destination for nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts alike. The Gardens boast an impressive collection of tropical plant life, including rare and exotic species.
For those looking for a more strenuous workout, the Gardens precinct offer several walking trails including the Red, Green and Yellow Arrow trails. These trails wind their way through the lush tropical foliage and provide breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Shopping & Markets
The Cairns CBD is a shopper’s paradise, with a wide variety of boutiques and shops to suit every taste and budget. Some of the post popular being Oceana Arcade, Boutiques on Grafton Street, Makin’ Whoopie Shields St, Cairns Central Shopping Centre and Rusty’s Markets selling local produce and handmade goods.
The local markets are in abudance across the region selling fresh fruit & vegetables, handcrafted gifts and items. Some of the most popular are the Port Douglas Sunday Markets, Palm Cove Markets, Tanks Art Market and Atherton Tableland markets. Days and times of operation can be found here.
Hit the Road
Cairns and its surrounding areas offer a wealth of exciting and unique attractions to explore. Hire a car and head South to the enchanting Paronella Park near Mission Beach with a stop at the Babinda Boulders for a picnic and freshwater swim. Head West to the Atherton Tablelands to follow the waterfall trail and try delicious locally made cheese and chocolate or pick fresh strawberries. Otherwise head North to Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge the Daintree River and oldest Rainforest on the planet. Whatever your interest there is something new to experience at every turn.
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!
For comprehensive holiday assistance, including tour bookings, transport and more, head to our Destination Management Services page to learn more.
For more destination guides and local travel inspiration, head to Sitchu.