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How To Get To Cairns

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Lily Kerley
Updated Mon 23 Jan 2023

Two people waving goodbye to each other on the airport escalator

Cairns is a regional hub in Far North Queensland. With an airport, bus stops, taxi ranks and ride-share services, there are ample transport options for all travellers… whatever your style! Whether you’re arriving in Cairns from near or far, or whether you have your own car or are relying on public transport, check out our comprehensive guide to getting to Cairns.

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Domestic flights to Cairns Airport

There are currently 24 direct domestic flights to Cairns within Australia.

Cities with direct flights into Cairns include Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Darwin, Mount Isa and Townsville. Smaller domestic towns that fly directly to Cairns include Airlie Beach (Proserpine), Normanton, Cooktown, Bamaga, Groote Eylandt, Kowanyama, Weipa, Horn Island, Yulara, Gove, Coen, Aurukun and Powmpuraaw.

A woman pointing at the departures board at Cairns Airport

Getting to Cairns from Brisbane

From Brisbane, Cairns is a 20 hr 30 min drive in a car. We recommend doing this over three days, with stops at the seaside town of Airlie Beach along the way! 

A Greyhound Bus takes roughly 29 hours, departing from Brisbane Coach Terminal, Parkland Cres, Brisbane and arriving at Bus Stop, Platform 1, Cairns Railway Station, 142 Bunda St, Cairns. We recommend the East Coast Bus Pass to make the most of the wonder-filled beach towns and corners of the Great Barrier Reef.

A direct flight from Brisbane to Cairns takes 2hrs 15mins, with prices varying a lot depending on the time of year you book.

Silver 4WD car with forest in the backpground

Getting to Cairns from Sydney

Either a 28-hour drive or a 3-hour direct flight, getting from Cairns to Sydney is way easier if you fly! However, if you’re up for the adventure and have time, we can’t not suggest a Sydney to Cairns East Coast road trip.

Or, if you’re keen to save some money, the Greyhound from Sydney to Cairns takes 2 days, departing from Sydney Central Station, Forecourt, Coach Bays 5 & 6, Haymarket and arriving at Bus Stop, Platform 1, Cairns Railway Station, 142 Bunda St, Cairns.

Two people poking out the top of a silver van

Getting to Cairns from Melbourne

The best and fastest way to get from Melbourne to Cairns is by plane, taking just 3hrs 15mins direct. 

A truly long-haul drive, getting from Melbourne to Cairns takes 31 hours, which we recommend doing over 4 - 5 days, or 2 - 3 weeks for the scenic road trip option!

Welcome to Cairns Airport sign

Getting to Cairns from Airlie Beach 

The drive from Airlie Beach to Cairns takes 7hrs 30mins and can be done in a day, or two with stops in Bowen, Townsville and Mission Beach.

A flight from Airlie Beach (Proserpine Airport) to Cairns takes just 1hr 20mins, so pack a carry-on and head up to the tropical hub of FNQ for a weekend with ease! 

Hop on a one-way Greyhound from Airlie to Cairns and arrive in just over 10 hours. The one-way option costs around $100, or is accessible with the East Coast Whimit pass for optimised value!

Proserpine Airport, Airlie Beach

Direct international flights from Cairns

There are 5 countries that currently fly directly in and out of Cairns Airport. These cities include:

  • Denpasar, Indonesia
  • Changi Airport, Singapore
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Osaka, Japan 
  • Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
  • Auckland, New Zealand

However, many international flights arrive in Cairns via Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, so the world is really your oyster when visiting Far North Queensland… wherever your hometown!

Man checking in at the self-serve counter in Sydney

Cheapest time to fly into Cairns

Shoulder seasons, including March, August and September are the cheapest times to fly to Cairns. A Brisbane to Cairns flight during this time can cost as little as $85 - 90 AUD. Check out KAYAK’s handy flight comparison tool to find the cheapest deal and best flight for you!

People boarding the plane

How to get to Cairns from Cairns Airport

There are many options for getting from the airport to Cairns City, including taxi, bus, shuttle, rideshares and private vehicle hire. Check out our guide to getting from Cairns Airport to the city.

Cairns Esplanade at Sunset

How can I get to Cairns without a car?

Greyhound and Premier Bus services run all along the East Coast, with budget-friendly, seamless travel options. 

We recommend an East Coast Whimit Pass to get the best bang for your buck.

Domestic flights to Cairns are a more expensive, but far quicker, option when compared to bus travel.

Cairns Bus Stop, Cairns City

Is it cheaper to fly or drive to Cairns?

Depending on where you’re coming from and when, it’s often cheaper to fly into Cairns. Check out this handy cheap flight finder tool, or, if you’re craving a good old-fashioned road trip, the drive to Cairns is beautiful and full of regional gems! Check out our guide to car rentals in Cairns.

Woman in a white hat looking at the beach

Our local team of travel experts are just a tap away for any more Cairns questions! 

Don’t hesitate to get in touch via live chat or call us on (07) 4082 7470 to book your next adventure in Cairns.

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