The ultimate guide to the best things to do in Cairns

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Winter is well and truly on the way, and if we’re being honest, we’re already not making it. For most of the year, we live in a land of perpetual summer, but those pesky polar blasts have brought winter chill right to our doorstep. If you can’t face another few months of cold winter mornings, chapped lips and 5pm sunsets, don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve found the perfect place to enjoy a tropical getaway, even when most of Australia is chilling in sweater weather. But it’s even better – we’ve planned every aspect of your trip, where to stay, what to do and, most importantly, where to eat. Pack your bags and chase the sun north, here are all the best things to do in Cairns.

Where to stay in Cairns

Crystalbrook Flynn

For exceptional views, modern interiors and a 5-star location, look no further than Crystalbrook Flynn. This luxury hotel is just a short walk from the Esplanade Promenade, a scenic 2.5km strip in the heart of Cairns. As well as stunning sea views, Crystalbrook Flynn exudes a fun and energetic personality that can be appreciated in almost every facet of the hotel – from the welcome note scribbled on the mirror to the hot pink pen, to the pink bathrobes and exuberant purples – you’re bound to feel like the party life here. And let’s not forget the sprawling indoor pool, surrounded by gently swaying palms and towering marble pillars – it’s the perfect backdrop for the ultimate tropical getaway.

Crystalbrook Riley

If you can’t pass a stunning lagoon pool and private beach, Crystalbrook Riley is the hotel for you. The five-star accommodation is located at the northern end of Cairns’ iconic Esplanade and is home to the Paper Crane Restaurant, the very best in modern dining. The property also features the highest rooftop bar in town, complete with 24-hour in-room dining.

Crystalbrook Bailey

Artists in the building? Those with an eye for the abstract are sure to fall in love with Crystalbrook Bailey. Like her sister Flynn, Bailey offers guests next-level luxury accommodation in Cairns, but trades in a seaside location for stunning city views and the latest in sustainable living innovations. Minutes from the Cairns Aquarium and Regional Gallery, it’s the perfect place to explore the cultural side of the city.

Best cafes and restaurants in Cairns

Flynn’s Italian

There is no doubt about it: Flynn’s Italian by Crystalbrook is easily one of the best restaurants in Cairns. Promising a unique fusion of the region’s finest local produce with Italian flavors, this joint dining experience is sure to please all ages. Open for breakfast and dinner, be sure to book a table so you can savor the epitome of Flynn’s Italian spread and be sure to order the tiramisu for dessert.

CC’s Bar & Grill

Did you know that the Crystalbrooks raise all their beef on their own farm, 3 hours inland from Cairns? We neither. But when we found out, we were even more excited to dine at CC’s Bar & Grill by Crystalbrook – and it didn’t disappoint. This place has a very candle-like steak house vibe, with its own dry aging room displaying all their delicious Crystalbrook Signature beef. Any steak you order will be *the chef’s kiss*, but when it comes to sides, be sure to order mac and cheese and onion rings. Sensational.

paper crane

If you love fresh and delicious Asian cuisine, look no further than the beautiful waterfront restaurant, Paper Crane by Crystalbrook. The menu is designed to be shared and includes a range of appetizing small, medium and large dishes as well as sides. Our recommendations ? Impossible to leave without having devoured the crispy katsu sando chicken and the sautéed rice with fatty duck eggs.

Smith Street Cafe

Having recently changed ownership, the Smith Street Cafe is a local favorite known for its salivate-worthy bacon and egg panini special. Of course, there are plenty of other delicious dishes on the menu, including fresh salads, peanut butter balls of happiness, and cupboards full of baked goods. Drop by from 6am for a morning pick-me-up in the form of a cup of hot ‘jo and a homemade muffin.

The rooms

Known by locals as one of the best cafes in Cairns, The Chambers is our go-to spot for a fresh, hearty breakfast in the heart of the CBD. The café’s seasonally inspired menu showcases the local flavors of the region, while also offering freshly prepared sweet and savory treats. Treat yourself to a mimosa and salmon bagel in the morning, followed by a fruit flan filled with custard for a cheeky midday dessert. Count. We. In.

Caffeind

Even on vacation, you can’t go anywhere without your morning cup of coffee. Fortunately, Caffiend has your back, with a range of freshly brewed coffee drinks and teas to get you started. For something a little heartier, order a dish from their all-day menu. Miso-infused scrambled eggs are a total game-changer.

The best bars in Cairns

Rocco

Offering 270 degree panoramic views of Cairns and the Coral Sea, Rocco is the highest bar-restaurant in town. Sitting atop Crystalbrook Riley, it is perfectly positioned for travelers staying at this 5-star luxury hotel. The Mediterranean-inspired menu is full of sophisticated cocktails, not to mention a stellar champagne menu to enjoy under the soft glow of the sunset.

Whiskey and Wine

Having only recently reopened to the public, we can safely say that Whiskey and Wine is back and better than ever. With a magnificent view of the ocean adorned with palm trees, there is no better place to have an aperitif in Cairns. And while enjoying a sweet al fresco cocktail should definitely be on the agenda here, be sure to check out their seriously impressive whiskey bar. Not only does it look amazing, it also boasts an impressive pedigree of local and imported whiskeys – perfect for a nightcap after dinner.

Hemingway Brewery

Experience the best of fresh local beer while overlooking the water at Hemingway Brewery. Perched on the shores of the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, the bar serves a plethora of award-winning craft beers produced in Far North Queensland. Not sure which infusion is right for you? Check out their online beer selector to find a beer that will knock your socks off.

Wolf Lane Distillery and Bar

Looking for something a little… louder? Wolf Lane has you covered, with an impressive range of award-winning gin and coffee liqueur. Try something new with a tropical take on the botanical concoction, or dare the distillery’s marine varieties. Order at the bar or book a tasting to taste it all.

The little fox bar

A small speakeasy establishment with fine wines, spirits and craft beers, The Fox is one of our top picks for the best bars in Cairns. Their extensive cocktail list is beaten only by their vast array of reds, whites, and pinks, not to mention their tantalizing dessert wines. Located right next to the airport in the suburb of Stratford, The Fox is the perfect place to get a feel for the city or to end your stay with a nightcap of wine.

three wolves

Hidden down a red brick alley in the heart of Cairns CBD, Three Wolves is a traveler’s favorite retreat. Their menu offers a range of specialty whiskeys, spirits, cocktails, wines and beers, not to mention a ton of delicious food to complement your drink choice. Our favourite? You can’t miss the Candy Shop cocktail, a divine sweet treat made with pink gin, moscato, hibiscus syrup, lemon and soda.

Things to do in Cairns

Unwind and relax at Eléme Day Spa

Let’s be real – while there is plenty of fun and adventure to be had in Cairns – sometimes you want (and need) to relax and unwind. The perfect place to do this? Element Day Spa at Crystalbrook Flynn and Crystalbrook Riley. Prepare for an instant calm and tranquility that will wash over you as soon as you enter their beautiful facility and treatment rooms. All of their massages and facials are simply divine, but if you’re looking for something a little different, book their Bust & Booty treatment which improves the health and firmness of breast tissue and gluteal muscles.

Mandingalbay Ancient Aboriginal Tours

Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours is an authentic and insightful way to learn about traditional owners and the land they have lived on for thousands of years. In a small group, Mandingalbay Yidinji guides will discuss topics of cultural significance and lead interpretive walks, showcasing the traditional use of natural resources for medicinal and subsistence purposes. A grounded and memorable experience not to be missed in Cairns.

Embark on an underwater adventure on Fitzroy Island

Home to some of the finest beaches in Australia (if not the world), a day trip to Fitzroy Island is an absolute must on a northern adventure. Book yourself into a day trip and enjoy a gentle cruise to the island, where you can enjoy plenty of activities in the crystal clear, shallow waters of the Great Barrier Reef. We’re talking glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, rainforest walks, secret beaches, and more. Trust us, a trip to Fitzroy Island is truly a day in paradise.

Adventure among the treetops with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Embark on an unforgettable journey above Australia’s World Heritage-listed rainforests with a trip to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This award-winning 7.5 kilometer sightseeing experience offers stunning views across the Wet Tropics of Queensland to Kuranda in the Atherton Tablelands. On the way back, take the scenic railway and travel through some of the oldest and grandest rainforests in the world.

Take a road trip to the Babinda Boulders

Book yourself a rental car and load up a podcast for the hour-long drive to Babinda Boulders. Nestled among the lush rainforests of Far North Queensland, granite boulders are found dotted throughout the bubbling Bandina Creek, making it a popular tourist attraction. Once you’ve taken in the views, stop at the famous Babinda Bakery for mouth-watering baked goods before heading to nearby Josephine Falls for a quick swim before heading home.

Looking for more local escapes? Grab your homies and rent this entire private island in the Whitsundays.

Image credit: Tourism & Events Queensland, Wolf Lane, Crystalbrook, The Chambers
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