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Where to stay in Cairns – a neighborhood guide

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As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns grows more popular with each year that passes. Millions of visitors from all walks of life base themselves in the tropical city and visit the reef and surrounding rain forests. As so, Cairns has developed into a fantastic place to stay with an abundance of hotels, hostels and B&Bs to suit any budget.

Matt & Jan Turner

My Destination local expert on


Cairns City Center


The city center in Cairns is a hub of activity throughout the day and night. With Cairns being an ending point to many backpacker’s journeys up the east coast, the town has become famous for celebratory parties with many great bars, restaurants and clubs to take your pick from.


Cairns City Center Accommodation


The city center has everything you can expect from any major city. Despite being small in size Cairns has a great range of hotels for those looking for a bit of comfort and of course there are plenty of backpacker hostels available throughout the town. Many hostels are exceptionally modern with a fantastic range of facilities to make anyone feel at home.




Cairns is all about the ocean. The biggest attraction is just offshore so it’s no wonder that it has tried to bring the ocean into the design of the city. The amazing new marina development, along with the boardwalk along the water’s edge, has turned Cairns into an extremely desirable ocean town.


Oceanside Accommodation


As with any beachside destination, many of the most glamorous places to stay have a sea view. While Cairns City doesn’t have a beach it does have a port and marina as well as a bustling Esplanade. The latter is where you’ll find some of those luxury 5 star hotels as well as a range of 3 and 4 star options. Venture outside Cairns center and there are a wide variety of seafront accommodation options on Cairns Northern Beaches and at nearby Port Douglas.


Rain Forest


In this part of the world, the natural environment is awe-inspiring. All along the coast is a beautiful lush green rain forest, absolutely teeming with life. Take part in one of the many walks deep into the forests and experience a real slice of Australian wildlife; just beware of spiders!  Although freely accessible walking tracks are available – it’s often best for a visitor to take one of the many tours available – operators have licenses to take people into areas not accessible to the normal public, and of course are versed in the local dangers and carry supplies to cope with any emergency.


Rain Forest Accommodation


Among the rain forests surrounding Cairns, you have the chance to live like George of the Jungle himself! A great variety of options are available to get you away from the centre of town and up into the lush green hills. Hotels and lodges to suit all budgets are available and really give you that perfect sense of escapism.


Live Aboard


The Barrier Reef here is the big attraction, with hundreds of boats taking large groups out each day there are endless options in which you can experience it. Take part in a snorkel trip or get amongst it on one of the many diving trips available.


Live Aboard Accommodation


The live aboard option in Cairns is one of the best ways to really see the world famous Barrier Reef. By staying on board a boat for a 3 or 4-day trip means you will get to visit all the best parts of the reef including the famous outer reef. Whether you are a novice diver or a seasoned pro, this is surely is the best option to make the most of your time on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.