The hub of tropical North Queensland, Cairns is the gateway to some of Australia’s best beaches, surfing, and national parks.
There are a variety of neighborhoods and areas in Cairns, each offering something slightly different. It’s easy to get around Cairns especially if you have a car, but it’s a good idea to know what’s on offer in each area.
To help you out, we’ve created this guide on where to stay in Cairns, so you can pick somewhere to suit your travel style and budget. It’s not the cheapest destination, so we’ve done our best to find accommodation for everyone.
Let’s get into it!
These are our top picks for accommodation in Cairns for any travel style and budget!
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Best Airbnb in the Cairns: Stylish luxury apartment
This stunning apartment is bright, spacious, and has unbeatable views of the ocean. The property sleeps two guests, perfect for a romantic trip to Cairns. You’ll likely be out most of the time, but there’s a pool and BBQ for you to enjoy when you’re not.
Best Hostel in Cairns: Travellers Oasis
Travellers Oasis is a chilled-out haven in Queensland’s tropical north. In between trips to the Great Barrier Reef or Daintree Rainforest, you can take it easy in the inviting outdoor swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers, hammocks and palm trees.
Best Hotel in Cairns: Waters Edge Apartments Cairns
Situated on the Esplanade, this hotel is ideal for groups and families vin Cairns. Accommodation is self-catered, and apartments are spacious and modern. Staying here, you’ll be within easy walking distance of the beach, restaurants, and Barrier Reef tours.
Cairns Neighbourhood Guide – Places to Stay in Cairns
Esplanade is the area running alongside Cairns North and the CBD, on the waterfront. It’s right in the centre of all the action, with the coffee shops, bars and market of town all within easy reach.
Just west of the city centre is Parramatta Park. And when we say ‘just west’ we mean it’s about 500m from the edge of Parramatta Park to the waterfront on the other side of the CBD. So, very close.
The City Centre
The CBD is a bustling part of town that sits on the waterfront and right on the ferry port. Due to Cairns’s status as the endpoint for many backpackers’ road-tripping adventures, this town is a hub for travelers from all over the globe.
With Cairns being rated the second most hipster city in Australia, based on a calculation around coffee shops, tattoo stores and vegan restaurants, anywhere you stay is bound to be pretty cool.
This suburb is a short 15-minute drive from Cairns International Airport. It’s not right in the smaller township of Cairns but is still within the city limits.
From the world’s largest coral reef to its oldest rainforest, Queensland really is a bucket-list destination. The best way to experience it all is on a road-trip through the state, and Cairns provides the perfect place to base yourself.
Cairns is also the best place to stay if you’re looking for accommodation near the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel, dive or cruise to your heart’s content, and be comforted knowing that the water temperature will never drop below 24°C (75°F), year round!
If you’re in Cairns for the first time, we recommend staying in Cairns Esplanade. Situated on the seafront and directly next to North Cairns, you’ll be in the heart of all the action. With easy connections around the area, this is the best base for discovering Cairns.
If you’re on a budget, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Parramatta Park. Located by the CBD, it’s got a huge park and is a short walk from the ocean.
The City Centre is the best place to stay in Cairns for nightlife. Full of nightclubs and bars, this area is as bustling day and night. Accommodation here isn’t as pricey as you may think – especially if it’s split between a couple of mates.
Cairns North is our pick for the coolest place to stay in Cairns, thanks to its epic location and unique atmosphere. It’s a hip neighborhood, with trendy coffee shops and stores around every corner.
If you’re deciding where to stay in Cairns with family, Trinity Beach is a great option. Located just outside the city and a short drive from the airport, visitors here can enjoy easy access to shops, restaurants, and activities.
Read on for more detailed information on each of these areas, as well as the best accommodation and things to do in each!
Cairns’ 5 Best Neighbourhoods to StayIn
With so many adventures to be had, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right base. So, here are five of the greatest!
1. Esplanade – Where to Stay in Cairns for your First Time
The Esplanade runns alongside Cairns North and the CBD, on the waterfront. It’s right in the centre of all the action, with the coffee shops, bars and market of town all within easy reach.
There’s easy access to the Reef too, as well as connections to Kuranda. Vibrant markets take place weekly, and there are plenty of open spaces where you can chill out and take in the ambience.
Best Airbnb in Esplanade: Ocean View Apartment
This stunning Airbnb in Queensland sleeps five guests and boasts unbeatable views of the ocean and jungle-covered hills. Complete with all the comforts of home and an onsite gym, you’re guaranteed a comfortable stay right on the Esplanade. The city centre is a few minutes away, so you can explore the best of what’s on offer.
Best Hostel in Esplanade: Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront
Set right on the Esplanade, guests of this upmarket hostel in Cairns get to enjoy its prime location. It’s close to all the best attractions, bars & restaurants – and the lagoon is just across the road.
Best Hotel in Esplanade: 181 The Esplanade
This award-winning property provides well-equipped and modern accommodation in Cairns. Amenities include a hot tub, pool and sauna, as well as a beachfront BBQ area. Ideally situated close to shops and restaurants, you can’t go wrong!
Best Hotel in Esplanade: Waters Edge Apartments Cairns
Conveniently located, Waters Edge Apartments allows for easy access to Cairns’s best hot spots. Popular features include free wired internet and a swimming pool, and you’ll get to enjoy views of the lagoon.
Things to See and Do in Esplanade:
- Check out a free fitness class in the park.
- Go for a swim in the lagoon.
- Check out local markets
- Walk alongside the waterfront in the sunshine.
- Use your close proximity to *literally everything* to plan a day in the city.
2. Parramatta Park – Where to Stay in Cairns on a Budget
Accommodation in Parramatta Park comes at a great price given its epic location. You won’t have to stray too far from the city centre to find something to suit your budget, and you’ll be at the waterfront in under 10 minutes.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway is within easy reach, as well as the main markets and shopping centres. If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the best place to stay.
Best Hotel in Parramatta Park: Dreamtime Travellers Rest
This guest house provides visitors with a pool, free wifi and airport shuttle service. There’s a bar onsite and family rooms are available, making this a great choice for solo travelers or groups visiting Cairns.
Best Hotel in Parramatta Park: Ryan’s Rest Boutique Accommodation
Featuring a restaurant, bar and outdoor pool, Ryan’s Rest Boutique provides comfortable accommodation to travelers. Rooms are simple but comfortable, and there are plenty of social spaces on offer. It’s conveniently situated a short walk away from shops, restaurants and bars.
Best Airbnb in Parramatta Park: Top Level Apartment on Draper Street
Sleeping up to six guests, this apartment provides comfortable accommodation for a great price given the location. There’s a full kitchen, wifi and laundry facilities on hand, and the city centre is a short walk away. When you’re not hiking and snorkelling, there’s a deck and BBQ area for chilling out on.
Top Level Apartment on Draper Street is one of our favourites in Cairns but they’re not taking guests right now. We’re not sure if they’re closed for good but we hope they’ll come back soon.
Best Hostel in Parramatta Park: Tropic Days Backpackers
Tropic Days is a charming guest house set amongst tropical landscaped gardens. Guests can enjoy free unlimited WiFi, a light breakfast and tea/coffee. It’s a short walk from the beach and supermarkets, so you can settle in quickly.
Tropic Days Backpackers is one of our favourites in Cairns but they’re not taking guests right now. We’re not sure if they’re closed for good but we hope they’ll come back soon.
Things to See and Do in Parramatta Park:
- Catch a train to take you along the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
- Stretch your legs and chill out in Parramatta Park.
- Check out the Cairns Central Shopping Centre.
- Cheer on a team at the Cairns Convention Centre.
- Attend an event at the Cairns Showgrounds. If there’s none on, they do good coffee here too!
3. City Centre – Best Area to Stay in Cairns for Nightlife
Due to Cairns’s status as a hub for travelers from all over the globe, the ensuing nightlife is something to behold! Pub crawls from hostels, travel buddies’ last nights out together, reunions of friends made on the road: it’s all here.
The city centre is also an ideal jumping off point for the Great Barrier Reef, Kuranda Scenic Railway, or the Esplanade lagoon. You’ll also find the highest concentration of coffee shops here, so you’ll truly be spoiled for choice.
Best Airbnb in the City Centre: Stylish luxury apartment
This Airbnb is ideal for nightlife enthusiasts. The luxurious apartment is close to the city, casino, as well as bars and clubs – you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. You’ll have incredible views and all the conveniences of home – perfect for a visit to Cairns.
Best Hostel in the City Centre: Bounce Cairns
This resort-style hostel in Cairns offers wifi, a free airport shuttle, bike hire and a free breakfast. Social events are offered each evening, and there’s an onsite pool and bar where you can enjoy cheaper drinks before heading out.
Best Hotel in the City Centre: Il Palazzo Boutique Hotel
The stylish air-conditioned rooms of this 4-star hotel are equipped with plasma TVs and free wireless internet access. There are a range of amenities on offer to those staying at the hotel, such as a beauty centre, an outdoor pool and a sun deck.
Best Hotel in the City Centre: Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
This 5-star hotel features an on-site casino along with a rooftop pool. The holiday apartments are ideal for families and groups wanting to stay in the city center, and provide easy access to the Reef and rainforest.
Things to See and Do in the City Centre:
- Head to Gilligan’s for a refreshing cocktail or two.
- Keep it classy with some crafted cocktails at The Conservatory.
- Round it off by dancing on the tables at The Woolshed. It’s encouraged!
- Revive yourself with something caffeinated from Blackbird Laneway, the 5-star rated coffee shop.
- Grab a boat out to the Reef (for a change of pace).
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4. Cairns North – Coolest Place to Stay in Cairns
Cairns North is bordered by the Esplanade and is home to the Botanic Gardens. It’s a quieter neighborhood than central Cairns and is full of quirky cafes, bookshops and stores.
It has a pretty small population and a mixture of cultures. Cairns North is also home to a night market, which is definitely worth checking out even if you choose to stay elsewhere.
Best Airbnb in Cairns North: Unique botanic apartment
This Airbnb is styled with a very tropical flair. Despite being in the heart of the neighborhood, the property sits in its own botanic garden, with turtles, fish ponds, and wildlife. It sleeps two guests and contains modern amenities, ideal for couples looking for a retreat in the city.
Best Hostel in Cairns: Summer House Cairns
This epic hostel offers mixed dorms and private rooms. There’s an abundance of facilities on offer, including an onsite bar, cafe, and lagoon style pool. The hostel is walking distance to the Esplanade, and the central shopping district and Cairns Night Markets are just a 25 minute stroll away.
Best Hotel in Cairns North: Cairns Sheridan Hotel
Sheridan Hotel is within walking distance of Cairns Esplanade. There’s an onsite pool and bar, and family rooms are available. Breakfast can be provided in your room, and food is available to purchase throughout the day.
Best Hotel in Cairns North: North Cove Waterfront Suites
Situated between Cairns North and the Esplanade, this hotel boasts an outdoor pool, garden and BBQ area. The Night Markets are a short walk away, and snorkelling and diving opportunities will be right on your doorstep. The four-star hotel is also surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
Things to See and Do in Cairns North:
- Spend an afternoon exploring the Botanic Gardens.
- Get down to the waterfront on the other side of the Esplanade.
- Grab brunch and a coffee at the highly recommended Smith Street Cafe.
- Visit the Cairns Aquarium, just near the centre.
- Head to the Night Market, for something tasty!
5. Trinity Beach – Best Neighborhood in Cairns for Families
Trinity beach provides a base for families that’s calmer than central Cairns, but just as beautiful. A car would be useful if you’re staying here, as it’ll provide easy access to the ferry port, Esplanade lagoon and Kuranda wildlife park.
It’s a residential area away from tourist crowds, and the beach here is a favorite among the locals. Trinity Beach is home to its own esplanade with shops and restaurants, so there’ll be plenty to do within arm’s reach.
Best Airbnb in Trinity Beach: Cool Beach-Dome-Home
Surprise your family with this cool Airbnb for your holiday. Up to five guests can stay in the dome, which is ideally located right on a lifeguarded beach. Interiors are bright and modern, and contain all the comforts of home including a kitchen, laundry facilities and wifi.
Best Hotel in Trinity Beach: Trinity Beach Club
Trinity Beach Club is within a 20-minute drive of Cairns Airport. There’s an onsite pool, and the hotel offers babysitting and ticket services to help you organise your activities. Each apartment includes a full kitchen, but there are plenty of restaurants in the area as well.
Best Hotel in Trinity Beach: Marlin Cove Holiday Resort
Marlin Cove Holiday Resort is an easy drive from Kuranda Scenic Railway and provides free public parking on site. There are a variety of amenities on offer including pools and a sauna, and rooms themselves are spacious and modern.
Best Hotel in Trinity Beach: Coral Sands Beachfront Resort
This incredible resort is right on the beach and is surrounded by green spaces and tropical gardens. Accommodation here ranges from one to three bed apartments, each with free wifi and a kitchenette. With an onsite pool, tour desk and restaurant, you’ll be guaranteed a relaxing holiday.
Things to See and Do in Trinity Beach:
- Head to the esplanade to take advantage of the walking trails and children’s playgrounds dotted along it.
- Grab your beach bag and head down for a day on the sand.
- Have a family meal at the well known Trinity Beach Tavern and enjoy the views out over the Great Barrier Reef.
- Get a takeaway coffee from Tranquility Cafe then let the kids run riot on Coastwatchers Park, right next door.
- Take the car out to Kuranda for the day – there’s heaps of family-oriented activities there to entertain everyone and create awesome memories.
FAQ about Finding a Place to Stay in Cairns
Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Cairns and where to stay.
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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cairns
With so much to explore, Cairns is an absolute must-visit for anyone traveling Australia. From scenic rainforests to trendy coffee shops and everything in between, there’s a myriad of things to see and do.
If you’re still not sure where to stay in Cairns, you can’t go wrong with Travellers Oasis. This epic hostel enjoys a fantastic location, and with a free breakfast, you really can’t go wrong.
If you’re not looking for that hostel life, definitely check out Waters Edge Apartments Cairns. It’s got everything you need and is right on the Esplanade, so you’ll have easy access to the best attractions in Cairns.
That being said, wherever you decide to stay in Cairns really depends on what you want out of your trip! We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your options for your upcoming trip to Cairns.
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