where to stay in cairns australia

Where to Stay in Cairns, Australia: Best Areas & 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 area to stay in Cairn. Read on as I show you the best of Cairns.

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

Where to Stay in Cairns: Tips & Info

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.

Where to Stay in Cairns Australia – 6 Best Areas to Stay in Cairns

Cairns is a tropical city in the heart of Tropical Northern Queensland, and an excellent spot for travellers 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 Best area to Stay in Cairns, go to Google Map;

1. Esplanade, Where to Stay in Cairns for Great Barrier Reef

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. 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 travellers. 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.


  • 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.

2. The Central Business District (CBD), Where to Stay in Cairns for Shopping, 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 Great 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.


  • 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.

3. Parramatta Park, Where to Stay in Cairns for Quiet Holiday but Close to Cairns CBD

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. 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 excellent 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. 


  • You like quieter areas
  • You want to be away from the CBD, but still close.
  • You enjoy shopping
  • You want to catch the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
  • You don’t mind being away from the best nightlife.

4. Trinity Beach, Where to Stay in Cairns for Best Beaches

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-minute drive 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.


  • You like to be next to the beach.
  • You like quiet areas.
  • You want to relax
  • You don’t mind not being near the CBD.
  • You don’t mind not being away from any nightlife.

5. Port Douglas, Where to Stay in Cairns for Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation

Where to Stay in Cairns Australia : port douglas
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, Port Douglas 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.

Port Douglas 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.


  • 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. 

6. Cairns North, Where to Stay in Cairns for hipster

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. 

Where To Stay In Cairns For The First Time Visitors?

A great area for first time travellers is the CBD. It’s the perfect central location to pretty much everything the CBD has to offer.

The CBD is the main nightlife area in Cairns, and if you’re looking to enjoy nights out in the city then this is the best spot to be. It’s only a short walk to the esplanade and the lagoon which is important during the summer months. It’s very easy to get here from the airport, with numerous public transport options which take you directly there.

You can find accommodation to match every single type of budget here.

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 Great 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 Daintree 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 Great 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 Great 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, Daintree 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.

Where To Stay In Cairns Cbd?

Cairns CBD has a massive variety of accommodation options, from high-end hotels to budget hostels with private rooms. The options are endless.

If you’re looking for a high-end hotel a good option is the Citysider Cairns Holiday Apartments. Located in the Cairns VBD, these apartments offer fantastic amenities such as outdoor swimming pool, BBQ area, entertainment area. And the rooms come with flat screen TV’s, laundry, cable TV channels and balconies.

A great budget option is the popular Giligans Backpacker Hotel & Resort, which offers budget private rooms and great nightlife.


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.

About Author

I'm Linda Smith. I'm passionate about traveling and I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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