Copperlode Dam, Lake Morris, Cairns
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Copperlode Dam, Lake Morris, Cairns


Cairns travel guide

Queensland is where sun-drenched Australian adventures begin, and the rainforest-clad city of Cairns is the adventure capital of the Sunshine State. Legions of dive-boats whoosh out to the Great Barrier Reef from this tropical coastal city, and a veritable army of backpacker minibuses transports enthusiastic young travellers towards their first skydive, bungee jump, balloon ride or white-water rafting safari.

Surprisingly, this tourist hotspot was founded as a supply depot for gold miners, but locals soon cottoned on to the fantastic tourist potential of the surrounding landscape. Modern Cairns trades heavily on its proximity to the remarkable biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, both on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

There are few other places where you can sip an espresso in a waterfront café at breakfast and be combing the rainforest for crocodiles, cassowaries and platypuses by lunchtime, or dive with reef sharks at noon and be gambling on a casino roulette wheel by teatime.

Tour companies provide excellent transport connections to the surrounding rainforest and mountains. You can ride a train through the rainforest canopy to Kuranda, or track down some of Australia’s most remarkable wildlife in the Atherton Tablelands or the dense Wet Tropics Rainforest of the Daintree. Indeed, many visitors use Cairns just as a staging post for more rugged adventures to Cape Tribulation or the wilds of Cape York.

Great Barrier Reef trips feature on almost every itinerary, from low-key snorkel tours to backpacker party boats and high-speed catamarans that promise to zip you out to the coral with minimum fuss and effort. Understandably, this is one of the most popular places in the world to learn to scuba dive.

Cairns has earned a reputation as a party town, but behind the backpacker bars and hostel barbecues, it is a small country town at heart, with a busy farmers market, old-fashioned Aussie pubs and a manmade lagoon that fills the role of public beach. If you feel the need to escape the tourist hubbub on the seafront Esplanade, the rainforest spills into public parks and nature reserves around the city limits.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.