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Is Cairns Worth Visiting?

As the unofficial hub of Tropical North Queensland, Cairns is an often underrated and underexplored city. While the nature surrounding the city is what lures travellers from far and wide, Cairns itself is well worth the stay. From authentic street food to bustling markets and waterfront views, here’s our favourite reasons why you should visit Cairns.

Girl in a pool, Cairns, Australia


Food

The streets of Cairns are cocooned with the type of cafe culture that could (almost) give Melbourne a run for its money. From cozy cafes and brunch joints to breezy esplanade coffee shops and no-frills canteens,  the city is bound to leave your tastebuds tantalised. One of the most striking parts of Cairns’ food scene is the authentic street fare of Rusty’s Market and the Night Markets. Encompassing all of the flavours of East and South-East Asia, you’ll go on a trip through time with every bite of your banh mi or bento box.

Mango smoothie from Rusty's Market, Cairns, Australia


Markets

While the natural wonders of the Far North is the central reason people come to Cairns and stay here, there’s a lot to be said for the market scene in the city. 

The world-famous Rusty’s Market is a bustling and vibrant day market that is open from Friday to Sunday. Featuring the freshest fruit and vegetables, incredible street food, nibbles, beverages and artisan bric-a-brac, Rusty’s could keep one occupied for hours. One of the best parts of the market is its atmosphere - handfuls of buskers line the surrounding streets and the market itself, making for an incredible overall vibe that will leave you grinning.

Open every night from 4.30pm to 11pm for casual, authentic dining and intriguing shopping, Cairns Night Markets is a must-do for every first time visitor to the city. The bustle even lures locals in regularly, thanks to the delicious Asian street food available and its eclectic spread of stalls. From freshly farmed pearls to glass blowing, and for the daring, fish spas, there’s something to keep everyone perusing the maze until closing time.

Rusty's Market entrance, Cairns, Australia


Nightlife 

While the nightlife in Cairns can’t compare to the likes of Sydney and Melbourne, the scene offers a unique array of evening pastimes that the capitals can’t boast. From the lively night markets to Vietnamese street food and unbeatable happy hours, there’s something special about winding down in Cairns. 

Head to marina for a lively and upbeat atmosphere: filled to the brim with cocktail bars, snazzy tapas restaurants and beer gardens, there’s something for everyone. As the creamy sunset hues descend over the marina, there’s something to be said about the atmosphere: it’s like nowhere else! 

If you’re more in the mood for an eclectic experience, stay in the CBD and tuck into one of the many low-light bars for an extravagant cocktail or two. Looking for something more chill? The Northern suburbs have got your back, with classy, laidback vibes to boot.

People walking in the Esplanade, Cairns, Australia


Day Trips surroundings Cairns 

While Cairns itself is delightful, we can’t gloat about it without mentioning the incredible surrounding regions, too. Cairns is an absolute hub for day trips and offers an incredible portal to exploring nature. Whether you’re into the reef, the ancient rainforest, waterfalls, or tiny little hippy towns, Cairns has got you covered.

The idyllic and incredible Port Douglas is located just one hour and 15 minutes from Cairns. Buses go regularly too, making it the perfect day-trip, even without a car! Head to Port Douglas for the beautiful view of Four Mile Beach, and stay for the cute and cozy township.

If you’re short on time and are based in Cairns, Cape Tribulation is also a doable day-trip from the city. Taking just under three hours, it’s a mission that is bound to excite you! The road winds around luscious coastline, with an abundance of beautiful sights on the way. From tropical and deserted beaches to the oldest rainforest in the world, the trip to Cape Tribulation is a whirlwind in itself. 

Up for something a little unique? Head to the dreamy Kuranda, located approximately 30 minutes from Cairns. The streets are lined with colourful collectables, colourful people and colourful art - making it the perfect place to escape! Surrounded by lush green rainforest, there’s no better way to spend a day.

Couple walking in Cape Tribulation, Cairns, Australia

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