Cairns Attractions

So what touristic Cairns attractions are there?

There are not that many - because Cairns is not that type of city.

It is a very enjoyable city, with lots of colourful atmosphere to take in, good markets, walking tracks, nice cafes, pubs, restaurants, excellent accommodation and a great night life.

It has a lot of adventures, outdoors activities and some great free things to do, but it's not as rich in museums as are the cities further south.

cairns museum

There are some attractions, and they are listed below.

Cairns Attractions in the City

old cairns museum

Cairns Museum
Cairns museum is an interesting place to visit if you are into the history of Cairns and the area around it. There are some interesting displays about Aboriginal, Chinese and European history, such as sugar cane, timber logging, mining, and the building of the Cairns-Kuranda Railway. UPDATE 2017 the
NEW Cairns Museum is open!

cairns aquarium

The New Cairns Aquarium
Apart from the brand new Cairns Museum, the other great new thing that got ready in the same year, 2017 - is the new Cairns Aquarium.
It was about time as Townsville has had theirs for decades and Cairns is really a lot more touristic and a lot more of a coral reef destination. The new aquarium is amazing!

cairns regional gallery

Cairns Regional Gallery
Cairns Regional Gallery has a few different exhibitions of paintings, ceramics, jewellery, and all sorts of art by local as well as national and international artists.
There are a few galleries in the central Cairns, but this one is the best known.

cairns casino

Cairns Casino
It's funny to add a casino to a list of tourist attractions, but this is what Cairns casino really is. It attracts herds of Asian tourists, and is also a hotel. Take a lift up to the roof where you have some views, and another one of great Cairns attractions - the Wildlife Dome with unique Australian animals.

cairns attractions

North Cairns Attractions

cairns botanic gardens

Flecker Botanic Gardens
They are lovely botanic gardens in  northern Cairns, in Edge Hill.
There are walking tracks in the rainforest, some great tropical flowers and trees, and rainforest understory plants. There is also a fern house and an orchid house. It's a great place to stroll around.

the tanks art centre

The Tanks Art Centre
This art centre is always on the list of Cairns attractions, but when you visit, you may actually not see more than three, albeit quite impressive WWII tanks. With better luck there happens to be an art exhibition, but it's not the case all the time. It's worth finding out what's on at the time of your visit.

royal flying doctors service

Royal Flying Doctor Service
If you are from overseas you may not know what this service is. Because Australia is such a huge country with remote areas, RFDS provides the remote areas with medical services. The Cairns base is
the largest in the whole country, and the one that services the Cape York area.

cairns museum

Cairns Attractions North of the City


Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
North of the city is Tjapukai - a great Aboriginal cultural park, particularly if you are from overseas.

They are the original local tribe and they have done a great job on creating a beautiful park and a fantastic local indigenous exprience.

skyrail cairns

And next door is Skyrail - the cableway up the Kuranda Range, where you can experience flying over the tree tops of this ancient tropical rainforest.

There are also magnificent views over the coast, Coral Sea and some north Cairns suburbs.

cairns armour and artillery museum

The New Armour and Artillery Museum
Another one of the new Cairns attractions - opened in 2014, is the
new Armour and Artillery Museum next door to the above two.
Supposedly the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, it's a great collection of armoured vehicles and artillery both from the First and the Second World War.

cairns tropical zoo

Cairns Tropical Zoo
Other than the already mentioned Dome in the roof of the Casino, this is the closest zoo park to Cairns. It is about 20 minutes drive from the city centre and there are buses too.
It has the usual Australian animals like
kangaroos, koalas, wombats, dingos, cassowaries, as well as some not found in Australia.

cairns night zoo

Cairns Night Zoo
Just next door to the Cairns Tropical Zoo, this is a night time experience with nocturnal animal spotlighting; as well as a BBQ dinner, live music and entertainment, meant for overseas visitors as a fun way to learn a bit about the Aussie culture. UPDATE 2016 unfortunately both Cairns Tropical Zoo and the Night Zoo were permanently closed.

cairns outback opal mine

Outback Opal Mine
Next door to the Cairns Tropical Zoo and Cairns Night Zoo, this is actually not an opal mine but a shop. And on top of that far north Queensland is not opal country, you have more opals down south. But in case you are from overseas and interested, this is not a bad shop, there is also some opal information, and knowledgeable staff.

The Old Cairns Museum

Cairns museum is one of the best Cairns attractions and a fun place to visit if you like history. It is right in the middle of the city centre, at the City Place on the corner of Lake and Shield Streets.

There are displays on the history of Cairns and the area around it, including:

* Photos of streets of early Cairns

Aboriginal history, fish traps, canoes and tools

European homes, kitchenware, furnitures, typing machines, dresses and ceremonies
   old cairns museum

Mining history (Hodgkinson Goldfields, which was the reason why Cairns was first built)
* Gold rushes and
and the history of the early Chinese

Sugar cane, cotton, pineapple, banana and other farming history
   old cairns museum display

* Kuranda Railway construction

* H
istory of Cairns Airport, Cairns Aerial Ambulance, timber industry and the Old Telegraph Track in Cape York

UPDATE 2014 The museum is closed for renovation.

The NEW Cairns Museum is open :-)

Cairns Regional Gallery

Cairns Regional Gallery is one of Cairns attractions and is the largest art gallery in city.

It is right in the city centre, one block from the Lagoon and the Esplanade, on the corner of Abbott and Shield Streets.

It is in a nice historical building, built in 1933-1936, which is listed in the Heritage Register of Queensland.

It used to be State Public Office Building, but was given a two million dollar facelift in 1994 and turned into art gallery in 1995.

There are many different gallery rooms, and many exhibitions are changing displays of works of local artists.

There are paintings as well as all sorts of modern art, including modern Aboriginal art.

cairns regional gallery

Ground Floor

On the ground floor there are the foyer (obviously!), the Gallery Shop, the Gallery Cafe and Restaurant, and the Lady Norman Gallery.

The Lady Norman Gallery has spotted gum and silver ash flooring, and art donated by Lady Betty Norman.

The Gallery Shop sells books, postcards, and hand made glass, ceramics, home wares, jewellery, prints and other Australian art and craft products.

The Perrotta's Cafe and Restaurant is in the front of the building - open for dinner.

perrottas cafe and restaurant

First Floor

On the first floor is the Focus Gallery, the Public Curator's Gallery, the Ireland Family's Gallery, and The Niche. There is also an education room.

The Focus Gallery displays individual works from the collection of Cairns Regional Gallery.

The Public Curator's Gallery has Chillagoe marble flooring and columns from the 1930s when the building was first built. This room used to be the Public Curator's office.

The Ireland Family Access Gallery has art donated by the Ireland Family.

The Niche has exhibitions and the Education Room is for children's programs, art classes, workshops and seminars.

Second Floor

On the second floor is the Loft Gallery that profiles arts collectives and the work of artists' of tropical north Queensland.

Flecker Botanic Gardens

Flecker Botanic Gardens is one of the Cairns attractions in north Cairns. It is a nice place to stroll around if you got an hour or two to kill in Cairns and prefer nature to the city.

There are some other places to experience tropical rainforests in Cairns but they are all in northern and western suburbs while this one is closest to the city.

There is a self guided walk, a fern house and an orchid house, a cafe and information centre. Plants include vines, shrubs, flowering trees, tropical fruits, bamboo, ginger, palms and ferns - native as well as exotic species.

The Flecker Botanic Gardens information centre and cafe are a short stroll from the main entrance, and the self guided walk starts at the information centre.
   flecker botanic gardens

It goes past a few marked rainforests species such as a sugar palm, a native Dutchman's pipe vine (one of the most important host plants of Cairns Birdwing butterfly), sealing wax palm, foxtail palm, Havana cigar and red torch ginger, before it comes to George Watkins Orchid House.
   orchid house

And after that you continue walking north and the next one is Munro Martin Fern House.
   fern house

Then the self guided walk continues past lots of plants like cardboard plant, a bromeliad garden, elephant ear, native backscratcher ginger, variegated ginger, tar tree, fan palm, salacca, Caroline Ivory nut, burity palm, Panama hat, lacy tree philodendron, Timor giant black bamboo, Bali bamboo, giant Buddha belly bamboo, nimbung palm, teak tree, strangler fig, Tahitian ginger, Pinang yaki, travellers palm, blood banana and song of India.
   self guided walk

e walk finally takes you back to where it started at the Flecker Botanic Gardens information centre. West of the information centre is the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden.
   aboriginal plant use trail

And north of that is a section called Understory Rainforest Plants, with tracks along and acrosss a creek.
   rainforest plants

If you continue east along those tracks, you come to an interpretive centre,
and finally to Australia's Gondwanan Heritage Garden - a section of plants with Gondwanan origin.
   gondwanan evolution garden

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