Where to Stay in Cairns: Best Areas and Hotels

If you’re heading to Cairns, you’re probably thinking of where to stay in Cairns Australia. This article will give you an insight into the best areas to stay in Cairn. Read on as I show you the best of Cairns.

Cairns is a trendy town in Tropical North Queensland with 3 million tourists visiting every year, and there are plenty of accommodation options.

See more about Queensland: Where to Stay in Brisbane

Cairns is a relatively small city, with a population of around 150,000, you don’t have to worry about being very isolated from attractions.

With that said, it’s also essential to find the best area to match your requirements. The best place to stay in Cairns depends on what you want from the city, do you want to enjoy the intense nightlife? or do you want to relax on tropical beaches? These are the questions to ask.

Cairns offers all of this. The CBD is a nightlife hub with some great nightlife and very cheap drinks deals, but spots like the Esplanade offer relaxing areas too. 

You can also consider staying just outside cairns in places like Trinity Beach or Port Douglas if you prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle and alone in peaceful tropical seclusion. And the great thing is, you’ll never be too far away from Cairns.

I personally believe the best spot to stay is the Esplanade. You will be next to the lagoon and able to swim during the hot summer months, and you’re only a short walk from the CBD and all the best attractions of the city. It’s also easily accessible from the airport, and a very easy drive to other spots along the coast.

💖 Best Area:Esplanade
💎 Best luxury hotel:Shangri-La The Marina, Cairns
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort
💰 Best budget hotel:Bounce Cairns


📌 Where to Stay in Cairns: 6 Best Areas to Stay in Cairns

Cairns is a tropical city in the heart of Tropical North Queensland, and an excellent spot for travelers of all budgets.

Located next to the Great Barrier Reef, this is Australia’s best gateway to the natural wonder. If you’re staying in Cairns, the city will locate you next to so many excellent spots around you. 

You can head to the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree Rainforest, Port Douglas, and many more. Cairns has significant accommodation areas for backpackers, families, large groups, and high-end travellers.

So, Where is the best area to stay in Cairns? In this section, I’ll break down the six best areas to stay in Cairns and make it easy for you.

Where to Stay in Cairns Map

Where to Stay in Cairns Map
Where to Stay in Cairns Map

To see more detail of the Best area to Stay in Cairns, go to Google Map;

1. 💖 Esplanade, where to stay in Cairns for first time visitors

Where to Stay in Cairns Australia : Esplanade Cairns
Esplanade Cairns @Michael Woodhead

The esplanade is a fantastic place to stay if you want to be right on the coast and next to the beach. It’s a great spot if you’re going to be near the lagoon, the shops, and all the main attractions.

A popular spot to hang out in the Esplanade is the Esplanade Lagoon, and this is the best place to swim in the city. Unfortunately, due to a large local population of Salt Water Crocodiles, you’re not able to swim in Cairns unless you take a dip in the lagoon.

You can also check monuments such as the Olympic Torch Monument, the US Army Small Ships Memorial, The Cairns Cenotaph and Memorial, and the Merchant Navy Memorial.

If you want to be next to the lagoon, this is the best spot. You will find some good budget hotels here, catering to backpackers and budget travelers. And you can also find plenty of medium to high-end hotels.

The best spot to stay in the city if you want to be close to the Great Barrier Reef tours, the CBD, and the best attractions.

Stay in Esplanade if you want to be on the coast, you would prefer to be next to the lagoon, you want to be close to the attractions, you like to be near the shops, you don’t mind busier areas.

Best Hotels in Cairns Esplanade:

Best luxury hotel: Shangri-La The Marina, Cairns The 5-star Shangri-La Hotel offers luxury accommodation with stunning ocean views of the Cairns Marlin Marina. Within walking distance from The Barrier Reef Departure Terminal, the Pier Shopping Centre, Cairns Marlin Marina, Cairns Regional Gallery, Cairns Night Markets, Cairns City Library, and The Cairns Museum.

Best mid-range hotel: Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort is a 4.5-star resort featuring a gorgeous pool, complete with a sandy beach, children’s pool, and a swim-up bar. The hotel is a short walk from the Esplanade, The Center of Contemporary Arts, Cairns Railway Station, The Cairns Civic Theater, Rusty’s Markets, and the Reef Casino. It also has easy access to the many attractions of the region such as the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.

Best budget hotel: Bounce Cairns is one of the best hostels in Cairns, offers resort-style, award-winning hostel accommodation featuring a free breakfast and free high-speed WiFi. Guests can relax in the outdoor pool and enjoy the outdoor bar to socialize and meet new people. It is centrally located in the heart of Cairns and just a short walk from the main attractions of the city.

Crystalbrook Riley This 5 star hotel is centrally located at the northern end of Cairns iconic waterfront Esplanade, Crystalbrook Riley features 311 stylish rooms and suites, three restaurants and bars including Cairns’ highest rooftop bar, Rocco, an expansive lagoon pool and private beach, the stunning Eléme Day Spa, functions and events spaces for up to 400 people and a 24-hour fitness centre.


🎬 Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Cairns in this video or continue reading:

Where to stay in Cairns: Best Areas to Stay in Cairns, Australia

See more:

2. Central Business District (CBD), best area to stay in Cairns for nightlife

Where to Stay in Cairns Australia : Cairns CBD
Cairns CBD @Neal Jennings

The CBD is the heart of Cairns, and it’s where you will find all the best shops, bars, nightlife, restaurants, and some great attractions.

The CBD is home to the best nightlife of the city, such as the popular nightclubs The Woolshed and Gilligans. But if nightlife isn’t what you’re looking for, you have the option of the brilliant Cairns Aquarium which first began in 2017. The aquarium is the only one in the world that is dedicated to fish found on the Barrier Reef, it’s an excellent spot to learn about the native marine life.

You can find an excellent array of accommodation options. The CBD is perfect for backpackers, and you can find lots of budget accommodation. Alternatively, you can find medium to high-end hotels too.

Stay in Cairns CBD if you like to be next to the shops, you want to stay in busy areas, you want a central location, you don’t mind a lot of people around you, you don’t mind being around a lot of nightlife, you want to shop at Cairns Night Markets.

Where To Stay In Cairns Cbd?:

Pullman Reef Hotel Casino This 5-star hotel offers Cairns Wildlife Dome, with koalas, wallabies, and crocodiles, a casino, 4 bars with live music, a rooftop swimming pool, spa pool, and sauna. It’s within walking distance from Cairns Convention Centre, Martin College, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, and Cairns Family Court.

Southern Cross Atrium Apartments is conveniently located in central Cairns, this property offers access to 3 tropical landscaped pools and a fitness center with a sauna. There is also an on-site cafe, open for breakfast only, and a tour desk. Within a short stroll from the restaurants and bars on the Cairns Esplanade, the railway station, Cairns Central Shopping Complex, Cairns Convention Centre. Don’t miss out on restaurants like Ochre Restaurant, Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Inn, Golden Boat Chinese Restaurant, and Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse.

Cairns Queenslander Hotel & Apartments offers 4-star accommodation with a private, furnished balcony. Free parking is available on-site. The property is located within easy walking distance of the Cairns Esplanade and waterfront. Cairns city center is a 20-minute walk from the property and there are many restaurants and convenience stores nearby

Cairns City Palms self-contained suites and apartments are located 20 minutes’ walk from the centre of Cairns, and a 10-minute drive from Cairns Airport.5-minute walk away you will find supermarkets, restaurants, bars, bottle shops, a fitness centre and other take away food outlets.


3. Parramatta Park, a quiet area in Cairns

If you want to stay in a spot that’s very close to the CBD, but a bit quieter then you will love Parramatta Park. 

Parramatta park is next to some of the best shops in the city, and you’re next to Cairns Central Shopping Centre. The shopping centre is home to some great food, options, a variety of shops, and the local supermarket. Also, check out Cairns Convention Centre and the Cairns Showgrounds.

Parramatta Park will locate you next to Cairns Railway Station which is a fantastic thing if you want to catch a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. The Kuranda Scenic Railway offers incredible views of the surrounding rainforest scenery.

Parramatta Park has a type of accommodation to suit all needs; you can find great budget hotels and some mid to high-end hotels too. 

Stay in Parramatta Park if you like quieter area, you want to be away from the CBD, but still close, you enjoy shoppin, you want to catch the Kuranda Scenic Railway, you don’t mind being away from the best nightlife.

Best Places to Stay in Cairns Parramatta Park:

SKYE Hotel Suites Parramatta Boasting a 3-storey atrium hotel lobby, a 25 m outdoor lap pool, fitness centre and a contemporary restaurant, SKYE Hotel Suites Parramatta is located in the heart of Parramatta CBD.

PARKROYAL Parramatta PARKROYAL Parramatta is located in the popular Church Street dining and shopping precinct in Parramatta, Western Sydney. It features free WiFi throughout and a fitness centre. Riverside Theatre is a 5-minute walk away and Parramatta Train Station is a 10-minute walk. Rosehill Gardens Racecourse is a 5-minutes drive away. Sydney Olympic Park, Raging Waters Sydney and the ANZ Stadium are a 15-minutes drive

Meriton Suites Church Street, Parramatta Set beside the Parramatta River, Meriton Suites Church Street, Parramatta boasts a range of self-contained, luxurious 1, 2 and 3 bedroom suites. Guests enjoy the indoor and outdoor swimming pool, an onsite 24-hour fitness centre and free unlimited WiFi. Parramatta Station is 10 minutes’ walk away and onsite car parking is available.

Western Sydney University Village – Parramatta  is just 650 m from the University of Western Sydney Parramatta. It offers a lounge with a flat-screen cable TV. It is 5 minutes’ drive from Parramatta Train Station and Westfield Parramatta Shopping Mall. Sydney’s city centre and Sydney Airport are each a 45-minutes drive away.


4. Trinity Beach, where to stay near Cairns for quiet holiday

Where to Stay in Cairns Australia : Trinity Beach
Trinity Beach @ jackoscage

Suppose you want to escape the city and be next to the true tropical nature of this part of the world. Then be sure to head to Trinity Beach, it’s a beautiful spot just a 15 minutes driving outside the CBD.

Trinity Beach is next to many fantastic beaches, such as Palm Cove and Clifton Beach, which are all tremendous tropical spots. It’s straightforward to catch the road north to Port Douglas, and many other beautiful sites in the area. And you can easily access the Barron Gorge National Park which has some of the best waterfalls in the area.

Trinity Beach caters to mid to high-end travellers, it’s superb for couples and families, but you will struggle to find any budget accommodation here.

Stay in Trinity Beach if you like to be next to the beach, you like quiet areas, you want to rela, you don’t mind not being near the CBD, you don’t mind not being away from any nightlife.

Best Places to Stay in Trinity Beach:

Blue Lagoon Resort is a 4-minute walk from Trinity Beach, this palm-fringed resort offers accommodation with balconies overlooking rainforest mountains, 2 outdoor pools, and a tennis court. You can easily find many cafés along the shore and the local shopping centers nearby, and beaches such as Kewarra Beach and Clifton Beach. The resort has free parking and is 20 minutes driving from Cairns city center, and 15 minutes drive from Cairns International Airport.

 On The Beach Nestled on the spectacular beachfront at Trinity Beach and set against a backdrop of stunning rainforest. Don’t miss out on Lunico’s Italian Restaurant,  Trinity Beach Bar and Grill, Blue Moon Grill. You can also find attractions nearby such as Bluewater Marina, Half Moon Bay Marina, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, and Cairns Flecker Botanic Gardens.

Sea Change Beachfront Apartments is situated on Trinity Beach, just 15 minutes north of Cairns. It offers luxurious 5-star apartments with breathtaking ocean views of the Coral Sea from each private balcony. Guests enjoy free WiFi and free on-site parking.

Trinity Beach Club Holiday Apartments The 4-star Trinity Beach Club Holiday Apartments are just 200 m from Trinity Beach. Cairns city and Cairns International/Domestic Airport are a 20-minute drive away. Each of the fully-furnished apartments are surrounded by gardens


5. Port Douglas, good area for Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation

Where to Stay in Cairns Australia : port douglas

Located 55km from Cairns CBD, Port Douglas is a fantastic option if you’re looking for an alternative to staying centrally in Cairns but still want to be close to the city.

Port Douglas is a quiet tourist town just North of Cairns, and it has an array of excellent beaches such as the four-mile beach that spans along the coast. If you want to be in a better location for Cape Tribulation and Daintree rainforest, this area is an excellent choice. Port Douglas is a getaway to the barrier reef with the opportunity to snorkel at Agincourt Reef, but also check out the local native wildlife at the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas.

This area has some budget hotel options, but not many. You will find more mid to high-end hotels in the town, with some great luxury options.

Stay in Port Douglas if you want to stay in a tranquil spot, you want a better location for Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, you enjoy hidden tropical beaches, you don’t mind being away from any nightlife, you don’t mind being a short drive from Cairns.

Best Places to Stay near Cairns Port Douglas:

Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas boasts a prime location as the only beachfront property to the Famous Four Mile Beach. Surrounded by 147 hectares of lush gardens, the hotel offers 2 hectares of sparkling saltwater lagoon pools, an an18-hole golf course, and 5-star resort amenities. You can also easily explore attractions nearby such as Mossman Gorge, Flames of the Forest, Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, Macrossan Street, and Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina.

Sea Temple Port Douglas Luxury Apartments is located on Four Mile Beach. Among the various facilities of this property are an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. The resort provides pool views and a sun terrace.

Silkari Lagoons Port Douglas Whether you want to can relax by one of the resorts 6 lagoon-style pools or explore the world-famous Barrier Reef and Rainforest, Silkari Lagoons is the place for you. Silkari Lagoons is located just a short stroll from the Four Mile Beach.

Pool Resort Port Dougla offers luxury apartments just 5 minutes’ walk from the world-famous Four Mile Beach. Guests can swim up to their apartment from the lagoon-style swimming pool. All apartments offer a balcony with outdoor furniture. Pool Port Douglas is a short 5-minute stroll from cafes, bars and restaurants. It provides guests with the perfect base to explore the nearby Barrier Reef and Rainforest.


6. Cairns North, a hipster area in Cairns

Cairns North is an excellent spot if you want to stay in the most hipster part of the city. Cairns North is only a short walk from the principal attractions, but it also offers a quieter part of the city to relax.

Cairns North is home to the famous healthy food shop called the healthy hub, which has lots of vegan food. But it’s also great if you like coffee shops and restaurants with some excellent options in this part of the city. The significant aspect of Cairns North is that it’s very close to the airport, and you are still close to the barrier reef tours. It’s also straightforward to get around the city and to the surrounding attractions from here.

You can find accommodation to suit all types of budgets in Cairns North, due to the quieter location there are fewer backpacker options, but there is still a wide range of low to high-end accommodation. 

Best Places to Stay Near Cairns North:

Summer House Backpackers Cairns  features a restaurant, free bikes, an outdoor swimming pool and bar in Cairns. 3.7 km from Cairns Convention Centre and 1.8 km from Cairns Flecker Botanic Gardens, the property features a shared lounge and a garden.

Tropic Towers Apartments  Featuring a private balcony with lovely garden views, Tropic Towers Apartments are just 5 minutes’ walk from Cairns Esplanade. The property features an outdoor pool and a barbecue area set in landscaped tropical gardens.


Where Is The Best Area To Stay In Cairns?

I personally believe the best spot to stay is the Esplanade. You will be next to the lagoon and able to swim during the hot summer months.

The main attractions in the city are very close to the esplanade, and you will be next to where the Barrier Reef tours start. It’s also easily accessible from the airport, and a very easy drive to other spots along the coast such as Port Douglas, Palm Cove, and Trinity Beach.

The esplanade is a great place to relax and enjoy life, and has some great restaurants, bars, and you’re very close to the nightlife of the CBD. It’s a great all round spot with some good accommodation options for all budgets.

Where To Stay In Cairns Or Port Douglas?

I think Cairns is the better option. There are great benefits to staying in Port Douglas such as the close proximity to Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

But you can do superb day tours to these spots from Cairns, so you wouldn’t need to worry too much about staying close to them. Cairns has so much more to offer in terms of the Barrier Reef, nightlife, bars, restaurants, shops, and many more.

Cairns offers more things to do and a better location.

Where To Stay In Cairns To See The Great Barrier Reef?

If you’re looking to do a tour of the incredible Great Barrier Reef, the best place to stay is near the Esplanade. 

The Esplanade is next to where the vast majority of the Barrier Reef tours are located. You can stay in many areas in Cairns, and some tours will pick you up from your hotel no matter where it is. It doesn’t hugely matter where you stay in terms of seeing the Great Barrier Reef.

But if you’re looking to stay somewhere close it would be the Esplanade.

Where To Stay In Cairns With A Family?

The best place to stay if you have a family is Trinity Beach. This is a great location because it has so much open space for the kids to play.

Trinity beach also offers some fantastic family accommodation and you can find great deals on large hotel rooms. The benefit of Trinity Beach is that you’re never too far from Cairns, and you can hire a car and drive to Cairns very easily and enjoy all the attractions that Cairns CBD has to offer.

Trinity Beach is an all round get spot for the family.

How Long To Stay In Cairns?

Cairns is a small city, and there isn’t a huge amount of things to do and see in the city compared to other Australian cities.

Most visitors use Cairns as a central point where they can travel around to surrounding areas. I would say you only need 5 days in Cairns, but 3-4 of those days would be spent traveling to areas such as Cape Tribulation, Rainforest, Atherton Tablelands, and the Great Barrier Reef. 

You probably only need 1-2 days maximum of exploring Cairns, and the other 3-4 days visiting surrounding areas.

Should I Stay In Cairns Or Palm Cove?

I think the best option would be to stay in Cairns, because there are more things to do and see here.

Palm Cove is a beautiful beach resort next to Trinity Beach, but there aren’t a lot of things to do around here. Unless you want to spend your days at the beach, you would be looking to travel to Cairns to explore the shops, restaurants, and attractions. 

You can always hire a car and drive from Cairns, it only takes 15 minutes and is an effortless drive. Cairns is a better place to stay for these reasons.

See Also:

Cairns is a wonderful connection point to the surrounding Tropical Northern Queensland and it is the best gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. 

The city is very small, so there isn’t a massive dilemma when it comes to areas to stay because you’re always a short walk from everything the city has to offer. 

However, an important choice is whether to stay in Cairns or the surrounding beach resorts such as Trinity Beach or Port Douglas.

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