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A Guide to Cairns
Know Before You Go
- Buy a tour package. With so much to see and do in Cairns, it can be draining on your budget. Compare prices with local tour companies to see if it would be cheaper to pay for a tour or do everything individually.
- Eating on a budget. The restaurants in Cairns can be quite expensive for budget travellers. If you want to save money, stick to the cheaper Asian or Indian food establishments or cook your own food.
- Get free WiFi. There are more than 100 WiFi access points in the city. Users can access up to 30 minutes of free WiFi per location, per device.
- Spend a day at the Daintree Rainforest instead of the zoo. You'll save money on admission fees and get to see Cairns unique biodiversity in its natural environment. The rainforest is also full of wildlife, so you stand a good chance of seeing most of the animals.
- If you want to go to the Great Barrier Reef, book your trip between June and October. It's prime diving season with excellent visibility. The only downside is that it will be crowded and room rates will be high. Book in advance to lock in lower prices and to get a room in your first choice hotel.
Getting Around Cairns
- Explore the city on foot. Due to Cairns city centre being flat, it's easy to walk to most places. Not only is it a scenic option, but you'll get to discover some hidden spots on your way to your next destination. But if you are walking around in the wet season, you'll need to remember an umbrella as well as a water bottle to stay hydrated in the heat.
- Take the bus. It's the cheapest way to get around if you don't want to walk. Sunbus runs regular services to the nearby suburbs, beaches and the city. You can find timetables at most hotels and bus stops.
- Hail down a taxi. There are plenty of metered taxis available in Cairns. You can either flag one down from the street, go to a taxi rank or book a ride by calling ahead. The flag fall rate is AUD 2.90, and the drivers charge AUD 2.34 per kilometre.
- Hire a car. If you prefer having your own set of wheels, you can rent a car either at the airport or from one of the companies in the CBD.
When is The Best Time to Visit Cairns?
Cairns has a tropical climate and two distinct wet and dry seasons.
The best time to visit Cairns is during its winter months. From June to August, temperatures are most pleasant, ranging around 20-26°C. The calm winds and dry sky mean these months are perfect for sailing. Plus, you'll be in time for the migrating humpback whales!
During summer (December to February) the Cairns rainforests are at their best. The waterfalls and rivers inside the Daintree and Cape Tribulation are pulsing and are ideal for white river rafting. The Great Barrier Reef also has visibility up to 50 metres, making it one of the best times to go diving in the region.
April is when the dry season begins. Temperatures range from 22 to 29°C, and the lack of rain means it's prime time for activities like bungee jumping or hot air ballooning.
Springtime is from September to December. The weather starts to warm up and plant life in the national parks is in full bloom. There's also plenty of animal activity, making it an ideal time for any wildlife attractions. The only downside is that there is more rain during this time of year. But luckily, the storms usually take place in the evenings, giving you enough time to explore during the day.
Airports in Cairns
Cairns Airport is the seventh busiest airport in Australia. It operates direct flights to 18 international and 30 domestic destinations. The airport is a hub for Jetstar Airways, and Skytrans Airlines and is a focus city for Qantas.
Getting To and From Cairns Airport
The cheapest way to get from the airport into Cairns is with the Airport Connect bus. It only costs AUD 4 and will take you to the Sheridan Street bus stops. From there, you can transfer to a Translink bus heading into Cairns City for AUD 2.20.
If you're using Uber, follow the Ride-Booking signs. The pick-up location is in the T2 Domestic zone and the north end of the public pick-up lane.
The airport offers a door-to-door shuttle service. The buses leave every half hour and cost between AUD 15-17. But if you're staying at select hostels, you can get a discounted rate and only pay AUD 10 for a return trip.
The taxi ranks are located in front of each terminal building. On top of your fare, you'll also have to pay an exit fee of AUD 4.40.
There are also six car rental companies in the Arrivals Halls of T1 and T2.