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Cairns (pronounced ‘cans’) has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a boggy swamp and rollicking goldfields port. As the number-one base for Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, today Cairns heaves under the weight of an ever-growing number of resorts, tour agencies, souvenir shops, backpacker bars and reef boats. This is a tourist town, and unashamedly so – luxury hotel development in 2018 and an increasingly busy cruise-ship port suggest it's only growing busier.

The city centre is more boardshorts than briefcases, and you'll find yourself throwing away all notions of speed and schedules here, thanks to heady humidity and a hearty hospitality. There's no beach in town, but spend time at the Esplanade lagoon or the Pier marina and you'll understand why many travellers fall for Cairns.

The Cairns region is the traditional land of the Yirrganydji and Yidinji peoples.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Cairns.

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Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef: from the reef to the rainforest