Welcome to balmy Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and one of the best locations to start your holiday in Queensland, Australia. After selecting the perfect vacation home on wheels, it’s time to start planning your adventure.
Where are the top attractions in Cairns? What is there to do? Well.. a lot! This city caters to tourists in every way so there is an abundance of activities and experiences to choose from. Read on as we cover events, activities, and itineraries to help refine your options and plan your route.
For information on motorhome campsites, dump stations, rest stops and other motorhome travel tips, take advantage of our ‘On the Road’ tab to the right of this page.
Let the planning begin!
Where does your adventure begin? Pick up in Cairns or wrap up your trip in the tropical Queensland city using our itinerary guides to help plan your route.
East Coast Bliss: Sydney to Cairns (or Cairns to Sydney)
Wake up every morning on Australia’s east coast on this road trip in tropical paradise. Start in either Sydney or Cairns and make your way up or down New South Wales and Queensland. In two to three weeks, visit unparalleled beaches, national parks, a Koala Hospital, luscious rainforests, waterfalls and more. Hang out in the hippie surf town of Byron Bay and swing through Brisbane, the cosmopolitan capital city of Queensland.
Don’t miss: Airlie Beach for a boat trip to Whitsunday Island, famous for its pristine, white sand beaches.
Seas, Trees and Deserts: Cairns to Darwin (or Darwin to Cairns)
Take the road less travelled when you take your home on wheels from Cairns to Darwin. Cruise south towards Townsville to experience the Great Barrier Reef and fly above the treetops on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Head inland stopping by aquariums, mining towns, horse ranches, national parks and more. Enjoy an aboriginal cultural experience and explore Nitmiluk National Park for a chance to hike, kayak, camp and swim in the awe-inspiring Katherine Gorge. Wrap up the trip in colourful Darwin, a waterfront city sprawling with beaches, green parks and museums. The trip takes anywhere from 12 to 25 days and can be customised to your preferences.
Don’t miss: Kakadu National Park, one of Australia’s most loved parks for its wide range of bird species and mammals. It’s a wildlife experience, you’ll never forget.
Local events in Cairns
After booking your motorhome rental, check out what events are happening when you are in town. Here’s a few of Cairns’ biggest annual events worth checking out:
This annual celebration brings the entire city together for a weeklong party showcasing the city’s diverse culture through music, art, parades and more.
Celebrate the indigenous culture with art exhibits across the city by emerging Indigenous Australian artists.
Cairns hosts some of the best local and international blues artists for one day of nonstop live blues music.
Three days of fun, fashion, food and entertainment for two days of horse racing
Big fan of Rugby? This October, the Rugby League World Cup comes to Cairns with 3 big matches played at Barlow Park.
Action-packed activities in and around Cairns
Queensland is an outdoor playground full of adrenaline junkie activities, sightseeing tours and underwater exploration. Anything a traveller could imagine can happen in Cairns. Choose from numerous attractions and see all you can in this tropical gem - it’s easy to spend several days here!
Book a tour out to Australia’s most incredible underwater ecosystem. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth and you have the chance to experience it. Take a glass bottom boat tour if you prefer to stay dry or swim through the reefs with thousands of different species. The city is full of snorkeling and scuba diving outfits that will take you to this underworld paradise. You might also wish to get your scuba PADI if you have a few extra days.
Rather heading below sea level, fly above! Helicopter and plane tours travel above the Great Barrier Reef, rainforest and coastline. Take a serene hot air balloon tour, floating alongside the GBR and above the Atherton tablelands.
Wander through one of the longest standing surviving rainforests on earth. Ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway above the Barron Gorge National Park, book a tour through the rainforest to see exotic critters in their natural habitat or head north to Daintree National Park for heaps of hiking treks and zipline trips through the dense tropical rainforest.
Swimming in Cairns
Beat the heat with a trip to the local water park. Try your turn at wakeboarding or kneeboarding, available for beginners and advanced. Plus enjoy the Cairns Aqua Park, a water playground for kids and adults. Most tourists head to the local swimming pool - a free lagoon at the Esplanade. You can chill out here for an afternoon and fire up the Barbie.
Check out one of the wildlife parks for a close encounter with Australia’s largest reptiles. Most tours include a show, boat cruise, plus opportunities to meet some of the more friendly locals. Hold a koala, spot endangered birds, see kangaroos, snakes and more. Head to ZOOM to zip line above the trees and rope climb inside the wildlife dome.
What to do in Cairns
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
There’s nothing quite like seeing a crocodile in action: all leather skin, sharp teeth, sneaky swimming and amazing power. At Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, you can visit them properly in a replica of their natural tropical habitat, along with other critters such as birds, invertebrates and reptiles of different kinds. There is plenty to do here for all tastes, thanks to various attractions including the Hartley’s Lagoon full of crocs, a wildlife discovery trail, and the Gondwana Gateway educational exhibit.
The Big Croc Experience allows you to get even closer, and even personally pole-feed one of the mammoth crocodiles. You’ll certainly need your souvenir photo to remember that one! Hartley’s is less than an hour from Cairns on the Captain Cook Highway, easy to get to once you pick up your Cairns motorhome rental.
Where: Captain Cook Hwy, Wangetti QLD 4879, Australia
Opening Hours: 8:30am to 5pm daily (closed Christmas day)
With a Cairns motorhome rental, you will find it easy to experience a unique wildlife encounter in Australia’s beautiful Northern Queensland region: Birdworld Kuranda. Upon entry to this vast rainforest aviary, you will discover a fantastic array of birds flying freely - around 75 different species, many of which are Australian natives. At Birdworld you can hand-feed parrots, have your photo taken with cockatoos, and feast your eyes on the splashy colours of so many different feathered friends together in one place. As they are so well used to human contact, many of the birds allow visitors to get quite close.
The aviary itself is an attraction, beautifully landscaped with waterfalls and ponds to replicate the birds’ natural habitats. Guided tours are offered daily by expert bird keepers, and many visitors combine a visit to Birdworld with calling in to the neighbouring Kuranda Koala Gardens and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary for the full wildlife experience. Seen it all? Head even farther north to Darwin for a motorhome road trip adventure.
Where: 8 Rob Veivers Dr, Kuranda QLD 4881, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily 9am to 4pm, closed on Christmas day.
Kuranda Koala Gardens
Cuddling a koala is on any Australia bucket list, and you can easily tick it off when you pick up a Cairns motorhome rental. The Kuranda Koala Gardens is a popular wildlife attraction just 30 kilometres from the city, and it focuses on the most adorable of marsupials. Visitors can really cuddle a koala, and get a photo to mark the occasion. The Gardens is one of a handful of places where people are allowed to actually hold koalas, and they operate under a strict government-regulated code of practice to prevent any harm to people and animals alike.
There is more, however, than just koalas and cuddling to make your visit to Kuranda interesting. At the Gardens you will also find kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, freshwater crocodiles and other reptiles. Combine the Koala Gardens Experience with a visit to nearby Birdworld and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary for a trio of wildlife hotspots during your visit to Cairns.
Where: 2-4 Rob Veivers Dr, Kuranda QLD 4881, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily 9am to 4pm
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
With their fluttering wings flashing bright colours, butterflies are quite a sight to behold - and even more so when they are viewed en masse! Head out from Cairns to the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, located near sister attractions Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld in Kuranda, and visit the largest butterfly sanctuary and exhibit in the southern hemisphere. It is home to more than 200 butterfly species all flying around together, so there is always something different to see.
As well as wandering amidst the wonderful and vibrant winged insects, visitors can learn more about them thanks to educational exhibits and a butterfly museum, get on a guided tour, visit the laboratory to see caterpillars and chrysalises in different stages of development, and then swing by the gift shop to grab a souvenir of time spent in butterfly utopia. Pick up a motorhome rental from Cairns and prepare to be amazed by the fauna of Queensland!
Where: 8 Rob Veivers Dr, Kuranda QLD 4881, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily from 9:45am to 4pm. Closed Christmas day.
Rainforestation Nature Park
Pick up your Cairns motorhome rental and head out to discover the best of Northern Queensland’s amazing flora and fauna at the Rainforestation Nature Park. Just 20-30 minutes’ drive from the city in Kuranda, the park’s experiences include many different activities such as tours of the rainforest in amphibious vehicles called “Army Ducks”, cultural shows, photos with koalas and crocodiles, and very informative and interesting “Bush Tucka” walks with aboriginal guides.
Visitors can also learn about the park’s volunteer program, and walk amongst the animals who dwell in the koala and wildlife park. A choice of several restaurants means you won’t go hungry during your visit, and there is also a gift shop so you can take a memory of the park home with you.
Where: 1030 Kennedy Highway, Kuranda QLD 4881, Australia
Opening hours: Daily from 9am to 4pm. Closed Christmas Day
This attraction in Port Douglas is essentially a zoo, but one that’s different to most. Wildlife Habitat lets you get up close and (almost) personal with its critters, kitted out with boardwalks allowing visitors to walk through themed “Rainforest,” “Savannah and Woodlands” and “Wetlands” environments and check out the wildlife in their own natural habitats. Prepare to see snakes, crocodiles, koalas, kangaroos and a huge variety of birds which fly around the place freely.
The Wildlife Habitat offers a range of specialised experiences to make your visit extra interesting: picnics with parrots, lunch with lorikeets, guided tours, presentations which include feedings of various critters, and photos with the animals too. Of particular interest for many people is the Wildnight Nocturnal Tour, a fantastic activity for those willing to return in the evening to get a different perspective on some of the flora and fauna. Pick up a Cairns motorhome rental, make your way to beautiful Port Douglas and experience this unique zoo.
Where: Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas QLD 4877, Australia
Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day)
Australian Armour & Artillery Museum
Calling all history lovers; this one is for you. The Australian Armour & Artillery Museum is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and holds an incredible collection of World War II military artefacts. Visit the sleek, modern building just 10-minutes drive from Cairns Airport.
Wander through the halls and view over a hundred armoured vehicles, tanks, armours, guns and so much more. You can even take a ride in a genuine decommissioned armoured vehicle, or take your aim at the shooting gallery as you fire an authentic WWII firearm.
For visitors curious about the country’s military past, the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum is a must-do. With a car park just outside, it’s the perfect place to drive up to with your motorhome rental and spend a few hours.
Where: 1145 Kamerunga Road, Smithfield, Queensland, 4878, Australia
Phone: +61 07 4038 1665
Soar through the tree tops with the fabulous team at Jungle Surfing, and experience the Daintree Rainforest in northern Queensland like never before.
You’ll be taken on a 2-hour tour through the trees, venturing through six different platforms in the jungle canopy, zooming down seven ziplines, and stepping into the world’s very first Human Hamster Wheel cable lift. Your tour guide is with you every step of the way, as they lead you through the lofty heights of the forest, down to the flowing streams which run straight to the Great Barrier Reef, telling you all about the ecology of the jungle as they go.
An expedition for all ages, pull up in your Cairns motorhome rental and take the Jungle Surfing tour for an adventure you’ll never forget.
Where: Camelot Close, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia
Open: 7 days, 8:00am – 5:30pm
Sitting between the tropical rainforest of north Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, Thala Beach offers four different private accommodation options, all tucked away in the surrounding Australian bush, with wide views over the sparkling Coral Sea. A vast array of on-site activities await you, such as guided tours of the area, nature walks, and stargazing in the observatory.
Whether you’re staying for a few nights, or dining in at the delicious Osprey’s Restaurant, you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away. Just a stone’s throw away from private beaches, and the coastal town of Port Douglas, head to Thala Beach in your motorhome rental from Cairns Airport and be there in under an hour.
Where: Captain Cook Highway, Oak Beach, Queensland, Australia
Phone: +61 07 4098 5700
Where to Stay in Cairns
In the far north of tropical Queensland lies the city of Cairns. A thriving hub of activity all year round, there are myriad activities, fantastic accommodation options and delicious restaurants ready to delight visitors and entice them back. Browse our recommended list of hot spots to help you plan your Cairns motorhome holiday.
Island Views Palm Cove
Wake up to the sparkling waters of the Coral Sea and white sand beaches stretching for miles when you book a room at Island Views Palm Cove on the coast of Queensland. Located right on the waterfront, the Island Views apartments are fresh and modern, with elegant furnishings and exquisite design. Each apartment has its own theme, but no matter which one you book, you’ll have a beautiful private balcony overlooking the sea, and a separate lounge area for watching a movie or lounging with your holiday companions. Take a break from your Cairns motorhome rental and book an apartment with Island Views in Palm Cove.
Where: 137 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove, Queensland, 4879, Australia
Opening hours: Daily from 8.00 am – 6.00 pm and after hours by arrangement
Cairns Sheridan Hotel
They pride themselves on affordable luxury, and with beautiful rooms at modest prices, the Cairns Sheridan Hotel delivers that and much more. With multiple suites to choose from, guests will enjoy air conditioning, WiFi, a mini bar, in-house movies and TV, and the ever important tea and coffee facilities. Enjoy dining out or an evening drink at the Palms Restaurant and Cocktail bar, work off your delicious dinner at the hotel gym, or take a dip in the pool. The Cairns Sheridan Hotel is in close proximity to the Cairns Airport, local beach, and the city centre. Stay a night or two before heading out to explore the area in your Cairns motorhome rental.
Where: 295 Sheridan Street, Cairns, Queensland, 4870, Australia
Phone: +61 07 4031 6500
Whether you’re planning on staying a night or two in the incredible accommodations, or just dining at the fantastic restaurant, Foxwell Park has something to offer all visitors to northern Queensland. There are multiple accommodation options at Foxwell Park, beginning with the Homestead, a beautiful 3-bedroom home with central living area and a gorgeous veranda for those relaxing summer nights. The Fairways Suites are another room option, featuring a private deck and a large spa to soak away the evening. The beautiful estate gardens offer a stunning backdrop for weddings and other large functions, such as family gatherings or anniversaries. Nearby are numerous outdoor attractions, including tropical rainforest and volcanic crater lakes with cascading waterfalls waiting to be explored. Just over an hour’s drive from Cairns in your motorhome rental, Foxwell Park is located in prime position for day trips out to experience the Tablelands of Queensland.
Where: 336 Foxwell Road, Peeramon, Queensland, 4885, Australia
Phone: +61 07 4096 6183
Dining in Cairns
The Swedish Shop
You don’t have to travel to Sweden to experience the delicious flavours of this Scandinavian country. The Swedish Shop in the heart of Cairns offers an extensive range of spectacular Swedish products, which can be picked up in store or shipped anywhere in Australia.
It was 2010 when the idea for The Swedish Shop began, and since then it has grown into a fantastically stocked international grocery store and Swedish cafe. Enjoy a taste of Sweden at the Cafe Fika, and then pick up a few products to bring on the road. Sample crisp bread, jams and pickles, pick and mix sweets, Swedish liquorice, and so much more.
Pick up your motorhome rental at Cairns airport and head just 11 minutes into the heart of the city to start your Swedish shopping.
Where: 111-115 Grafton Street, Cairns City, Queensland, 4870, Australia
Open: Monday-Friday between 7 am to 4 pm and Saturdays 9am-2pm
Ochre Restaurant and Catering
Top award winning restaurant, Ochre Restaurant and Catering will tantalise the tastebuds of all guests with its range of elegantly served culinary delights. Unique cocktails infused with Australian fruit and spices, and a list of over 80 different wines are reason enough to visit, but this waterfront restaurant's main event is the food. For more than 23 years, Ochre Restaurant and Catering has been using local produce and fresh seasonal ingredients to create delectable dishes, beautifully presented and matched with the perfect wine. You really can’t visit Cairns in your motorhome rental and not spend at least one evening at this wonderful restaurant.
Where: 6/1 Marlin Parade, Cairns, Queensland, 4870, Australia
Opening hours: Open 7 days, including public holidays.
Lunch: 11.30 - 2.30 pm
Dinner: 5:30 - 9.30pm
Additional tips, tricks and articles for Aussie adventures
Take advantage of these useful articles to prepare you for your upcoming motorhome holiday.
Is this your first motorhome rental in Australia? Learn the essential tips for camping in Australia.
Learn about one of the oldest cultures on earth. Head to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park located in Cairns to discover the history of its Aboriginal roots. Read more.
Love visiting national parks? Read about the top 5 Australian National Parks great for campervans.
Confused about the names and different styles of campervans available to rent? You are not alone. We break it down for you in our easy guide to campervan lingo. Read more.
Prefer less tourists on the open road? Try visiting in winter when you can save on motorhome rates and take advantage of cooler temperatures in certain states.
There is a reason Australia is rated as one of the best destinations for a motorhome holiday. experience it for yourself with a Motorhome Republic rental.