Perched on the coast of tropical Far North Queensland, Cairns is a top spot for tourists looking to get a gander of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
But it’s not just one of the most popular tourist cities; Cairns locals are head over heels for this sunny spot too. Maybe it’s the (mostly) great weather, maybe it’s the relaxed lifestyle, or maybe it’s the cheese and chocolate factory, Dairyland (forget Disneyland – this is the happiest place on earth).
Whatever your reasons for considering planting your roots in Cairns, check out the pros and cons of this city before you pack your bags.
Living in Cairns: Pros and Cons
The natural beauty and seemingly endless sunshine are pretty easy to stomach, but can you live with the less-than-perfect parts of Cairns?
Pro: City meets rainforest
If you love the convenience of living in a big city but don’t like the endless skyline of manmade buildings and lack of greenery, Cairns is the perfect compromise. Here you have everything you could ever want in a city while being just minutes from lush, dense rainforest. You can escape the concrete jungle and get some fresh air in the many surrounding forests and nature parks – perfect for you outdoorsy, adventurous bunch.
Con: The humidity is real
If you love year-round warm weather, Cairns is your jam. However, the humidity during wet season can be pretty intolerable. Luckily most places in Cairns have air-conditioning, or you’d be sweating up a storm from morning to night. If you’re moving to Cairns, having air-conditioning in your home is a must – as is a decent umbrella.
Pro: Great nearby beaches
There’s a whole strip of stunning white-sand beaches just north of Cairns, including:
- Machans Beach – 15min drive from CBD
- Holloways Beach – 15min drive from CBD
- Yorkeys Knob – 20min drive from CBD
- Trinity Beach – 25min drive from CBD
- Kewarra Beach – 25min drive from CBD
- Clifton Beach – 25min drive from CBD
- Palm Cove – 30min drive from CBD.
Con: Traffic can be bad
Peak-hour traffic can be a nightmare in Cairns, particularly on the Bruce Highway. The roads can become especially congested during peak season like school holidays, so you’ll have to leave a little earlier to make that appointment on time.
Pro: Endless opportunities for daytrips
Cairns puts you on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest (along with countless other forests and nature parks), and a whole list of daytrips to beautiful (and free!) outdoor attractions. When you’re not shopping up a storm or bar-hopping in the city, you can hike to the top of Walsh’s pyramid, explore Barron Falls, and get the best view in the house on the rainforest cableway.
Bonus Pro: Cairns is home to Australia’s largest moth, the Hercules moth. If that’s not a claim to fame, we don’t know what is!
Best Cairns Suburbs to Live In
Be smack-bang in the middle of the action in the city or find yourself a tranquil escape on the outskirts. Whatever your preference, Cairns has a suburb for every lifestyle.
Kewarra Beach – Northern Suburb
About 20km north of the CBD, Kewarra Beach takes you well out of the way of the “touristy” scene. This quiet, leafy suburb boasts a long, uncrowded beach, friendly locals, shops, childcare, and a primary school. Kewarra Beach is perfect for young families and anyone looking to stay out of the hustle and bustle to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle.
Edge Hill – Inner Suburb
Home to the Cairns Botanic Gardens and just minutes from the CBD, Edge Hill is an inner city suburb with a twist. It puts you in the heart of the action and gives you easy access to parks and recreational activities. Edge Hill is one of the most sought-after inner city suburbs in Cairns, giving you the best of both worlds with its close proximity to the heart of the city and its leafy, laidback vibes.
Freshwater – Inner Suburb
Offering beautiful homes and easy connections to the city, airport, and northern beaches, it’s no surprise Freshwater is considered one of the premier suburbs of Cairns. It has a primary school and college as well as plenty of parks and waterholes. It also has a reputation of being quiet and safe, making it a great spot for young families.
Cairns’ Dining Scene
While Cairns may be Australia’s favourite place for fish and prawns, this city is famous for more than just its seafood. If you’ve got a craving, Cairns is sure to have a menu to satisfy it at one of the several dining precincts.
The Pier – 1 Pierpoint Road, Cairns
Delicious eats with a waterfront view? Yes please! The Pier Cairns is your go-to for alfresco dining by the sea. Whether you’re in the mood for steak, Italian, Chinese, or fresh seafood, you’ll find a tasty selection of fine dining, casual dining, and takeaway options at this bustling dining precinct. It’s the perfect setting for a Friday date night or lazy Sunday brunch with the gang.
The Cairns Esplanade
One of the most popular spots for hungry locals and visitors, the Cairns Esplanade is dotted with a diverse range of eateries. Tuck into a hearty burger, wrap your tastebuds around some authentic Thai fare, or kick off your day with some rave-worthy coffee. The Esplanade offers a range of cuisines to suit every craving and budget, and the view is pretty easy on the eyes, too.
Culture in Cairns
Cairns is currently preparing to enhance their arts scene with a brand new performing arts centre, set to seat 940 people and offer an impressive foyer, bar area, and amenities. The Cairns Civic Theatre is under construction to become the much bigger and better Cairns Performing Arts Centre.
Here’s a list of venues where you can enjoy quality theatre productions in the meantime. And to add to your culture fix, check out the Cairns Museum and the Cairns Art Gallery.
Cairns Museum – Cnr Lake and Shields Streets
Take a step back in time at the Cairns Museum, where you can discover the story of Cairns and its people. The Cairns Museum features exhibits showcasing how life in Cairns has changed, including the Cairns Traditional Owners, the transformation from an industrial port town to an international tourist city, and more. It also has a temporary gallery with changing local collections to check out.
Cairns Art Gallery – 40 Abbott St
Cop an eyeful of paintings, photography, sculptures, textile, and more at the independent Cairns Art Gallery. Whether you visit art galleries to be inspired and confronted or to simply get out of the house and look at something cool, you won’t leave disappointed.
Cairns’ tropical climate means a whole lot of moisture. Embrace the sunshine and be prepared for fine and wet days with this info.
Look, it might get a little uncomfortable. Summer in Cairns is hot, humid, and sticky, with average temperatures ranging from 23.5 to 31.5°C. The summer months are considered the ‘wet season’, bringing the most rainfall of the year, so don’t forget your brolly.
Warm and windy, autumn in Cairns brings average temperatures of around 21.5 – 29°C. The rain eases off around April, but the winds stick around until October.
Hello, peak season. Winter brings more pleasant weather (and tourists), with average temperatures ranging from 17.5 to 26°C. There’s not much rain or humidity during these months.
Spring in Cairns welcomes the humidity again as it builds up to the wet season. Average temperatures range from 20.5 to 29°C.
Getting Around Cairns
Getting out and about in Cairns is easy thanks to the city’s public transport options.
The Sunbus can take you wherever you need to go for an affordable fee. It runs from the northern beaches to the southern suburbs via the CBD.
As a flat city with wide streets, cycling is a great way to get from A to B. If you don’t own a bike, there are several places you can hire them.
Cairns is home to Black and White taxis, who are just one call away. You’ll also find it pretty easy to spot a taxi near busy areas like shopping centres and dining precincts.
Take some stress out of your move to Cairns with these 10 tips.