Where to Stay in Cairns – 6 Incredible Areas (+Prices & Map)

Aerial view of a Cairns with modern buildings, a wide river, lush greenery, and mountains in the background on a clear day.

Cairns is a city in tropical North Queensland, Australia, known as the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the amazing ancient Daintree Rainforest. The city has many unique areas, each with its own character, different accommodation options, and attractions, so deciding where to stay in Cairns can seem a bit tricky at first. 

No need to worry! I took the time to compare all Cairns neighborhoods and came up with a list of the 6 best ones. So now I can tell you that Cairns Esplanade is the perfect place to stay if you are coming to Cairns for the first time since it offers a variety of attractions suited for all kinds of travelers. 

To make the choice even easier, I also looked at nearly all accommodations and handpicked the best hotels in Cairns across all price categories to suit people with different travel preferences. 

With Cairns being one of the most popular destinations in Australia, I suggest you book your favorite hotel far in advance if you don’t want to lose the spot!

Well… enough talking, let’s jump right in!

Quick Picks for Your Stay

Check out the top hotels on the Cairns Esplanade:

luxury hotel
Luxury resort pool view from a dining area with a fruit platter on the table, tropical plants, and blue sky
mid-range hotel
A colorful three-story commercial building with shops on the ground floor, set against a bright sky, surrounded by lush greenery.
budget hotel
Modern hotel room with a patterned sofa, abstract wall art, and warm lighting creating an inviting atmosphere

Heritage Cairns Hotel

Best affordable accommodation in the center

Take a look at this map showcasing the Cairns areas featured in this post:

A colorful map highlighting the best areas to stay in Cairns with numbered locations and labels for easy navigations
  1. Esplanade: for first-timers
  2. Parramatta Park: on a budget
  3. CAIRNS NORTH & EDGE HILL: for cool vibes
  4. Trinity Beach: for families
  5. Palm Cove: for couples
  6. Kuranda: near Cairns

1. Cairns Esplanade – where to stay in Cairns for the first time

Waterfront at Cairns Esplanade scene with modern buildings and a marina filled with boats under a clear sky, likely in a coastal city

The Esplanade is a long coastal area that extends from North Cairns all the way South of the city center (Cairns CBD). It is a very vibrant area and the best starting point for people coming to the city for the first time!

In fact, here, you’ll have access to a big promenade where you can stroll, engage in outdoor activities (jogging, rollerblading, biking, etc.), and gaze at stunning views of the ocean. One of the main attractions of the area is the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon (map), a large public swimming pool – definitely one of the best places to escape the heat! 

In the Lagoon area, you’ll also find many great waterfront restaurants where you can enjoy delicious dinners and refreshing drinks… and make sure you stay until dark when it lights up in shining neon colors: an incredible show to see!

But there’s plenty more to see and do in the Esplanade area! I’d suggest you explore the underwater world at the Cairns Aquarium, visit the Cairns Museum, and of course, do some shopping. The famous Cairns Central Shopping Centre (map) is the largest shopping center in North Queensland and definitely worth a visit. 

And if you’re craving some good food and want to experience the local atmosphere, then be sure to check out the Cairns Night Markets (map), as well as Rusty’s Markets (map) – you won’t be disappointed! 

Last but not least, this area is also perfect if you want to join a boat tour to explore the fantastic Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will just blow your mind as this is where the tours depart.

The Esplanade has the widest range of options, from the most luxurious Cairns resorts to budget hostels. My top picks for each category are featured below:

Luxury hotel
Collage featuring the Shangri-La The Marina: a high-end hotel room with a modern aesthetic, featuring a minimalist bedroom with pendant lights, a sleek living area with scenic window views, and a refreshing outdoor pool with lounge chairs and umbrellas

This 5-star hotel is one of the best places to stay in Cairns near the city center. Wake up to stunning ocean views, relax in the outdoor swimming pool, and stay active at the fitness center. Another big plus is its great location, a 10-minute drive from Cairns International Airport and walking distance from the Great Barrier Reef Departure Terminal.

Other accommodation options in Esplanade

A yellow and white three-story building with retail shops on the ground floor, under a clear blue sky, surrounded by greenery and parked cars.

A lovely hotel with non-smoking rooms, each with a private bathroom with free toiletries, plus air conditioning and TV

Stylish bedroom with a plush bed, geometric-patterned sofa, and an abstract red and grey wall painting

If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in Cairns city, check out this hotel with spacious accommodation!

Breathtaking view from a balcony overlooking a serene bay, lush mountains, and a coastal resort landscape

This traveler’s oasis, conveniently located near the city center, with the best views of Cairns and a comfortable king-sized bed

Since there are so many hotels in Cairns Esplanade and it is the most popular area, I decided to give you some more options to choose from. Check them out – they’re listed in descending order from most to least expensive:

Collage featuring hotels in Cairns Esplanade: a chic bedroom with balcony access and ocean view, a living area with plush sofas and work desk, and an inviting bean-shaped pool surrounded by a stone deck and tropical plants
  • Crystalbrook Riley ($$$) – in this luxury hotel, you can enjoy the 3 restaurants and bars (including Cairns’ highest rooftop bar), a huge lagoon-style pool and private beach, a stunning Eléme Day Spa, and a fitness center. And if you feel like leaving the hotel, you’ll be a very short distance from all the best attractions!
  • Cairns Plaza Hotel ($$)—This amazing hotel has the best location: walking distance from the beach, central Cairns, and many shops and restaurants. But the hotel itself is also amazing, offering very spacious rooms with a private balcony and free Wi-Fi… Some of them even have a kitchenette or an ocean view!
  • Global Backpackers Cairns ($) – this backpackers hostel is the perfect option if you are traveling on a budget but you don’t want to renounce quality! Located a 1-min walk from the beach, the property offers a wide range of accommodation options, from private rooms with balconies to shared dormitories.

Things to do in Esplanade

  • Swim and splash in the Cairns Lagoon
  • Visit Cairns Museum
  • Explore the Great Barrier Reef on this full-day cruise
  • Indulge in some shopping at Cairns Central Shopping Centre
  • Spend a fun day at the Cairns Aquarium
  • Enjoy a delicious breakfast at Muddy’s Cafe (map)
  • Try the delicious street food at the Cairns Night Markets and Rusty’s Markets
  • Walk alongside the Cairns Esplanade and enjoy the water views

2. Parramatta Park – where to stay in Cairns on a budget

Parramatta Park with a winding river, pedestrian paths, and green lawns, bordered by a cityscape, suggestive of a tranquil area within a bustling city

The Parramatta Park suburb is in a great location: West of the Cairns Esplanade, a short walk from the ocean, and near Cairns Railway Station… so you have easy access to everything! The neighborhood is more residential and is characterized by a more suburban and laid-back atmosphere than other areas in the city. 

Seeing as the neighborhood is not as touristy as the city center, there are not as many attractions, which is great if you want a quieter stay. That also means that the prices are more affordable, making Parramatta Park the best place to stay in Cairns on a budget.

While here, you can attend a sports event at Barlow Park (map) or attend an event at Cairns Showgrounds (map). Other than that, you can go on strolls around the neighborhood and if you want to explore any other part of the city, this area is perfectly connected with public transportation… What else do you need?

Luxury hotel
Collage featuring the Citysider-Cairns-Holiday-Apartments: a cozy bedroom with balcony access, a spacious living room with a sectional sofa and large TV, and a kidney-shaped community pool with lounging chairs

All of the apartments at this Cairns accommodation are self-contained and individually furnished. Each unit features a full kitchen, a seating area with a flat-screen TV, and a private balcony suitable for outdoor dining. During your stay, you’ll gain access to a large outdoor pool, secure parking, and barbecue facilities.

Other accommodation options in Parramatta Park

A two-story house with gray walls and orange shutters, surrounded by lush greenery and a white fence, under a clear sky.

This lovely homestay offers rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi, plus free parking and various activities

Bright and cozy interior of a home with a mix of modern and vintage furniture, decorative lattice room dividers, and vibrant greenery visible through the windows.

A vibrant, eco-friendly hostel offering both private rooms and beds in shared dormitories, plus free Wi-Fi and parking

Rustic bedroom with a wooden bed, blue-striped bedding, and a large vibrant painting of flowers above the headboard

Check out this beautiful 2-bedroom house within walking distance of the city, with a fully-equipped kitchen and a tropical garden

Things to do in Parramatta Park

  • Chill out and have long walks around the neighborhood
  • Go rainforest tubing on the Mulgrave River
  • Attend a match or an event at the Barlow Park
  • See the coolest shows at the Cairns Showgrounds

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3. Cairns North & Edge Hill – the coolest place to stay in Cairns

Traditional red pagoda in Cairns Botanic Gardens by a lily-covered pond in a lush green park, evoking a serene Asian-influenced garden atmosphere

Cairns North is a small coastal district located North of Cairns CBD and the Esplanade, with a laid-back vibe. Just West of it, you’ll come across the trendy Edge Hill area, both great places to stay in Cairns for cool vibes

The 2 neighborhoods are very similar in terms of offers, brimming with quirky bars, boutiques, bookshops, and vintage stores. 

But with their historical sites, cool attractions like the Cairns Botanic Gardens, and boat tours departing from Cairns Harbour, there’s something to do at any time of the day! And if you’re traveling with kids, take them to Centenary Lakes Nature Play Space (map) and have a fun family day. 

Another very exciting thing you can do around here is take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway; it’s just a 12-min drive from Cairns North and offers the most stunning views over the Barron Gorge National Park – it’s a must while in Cairns! 

You will also love the location of these areas, which give you direct access to the sandy beach but are also super close to the hustle and bustle of Cairns CBD—just a half-hour’s walk or a 4-min drive! And if you want to extend your trip to other amazing Australian cities like Brisbane, the Cairns airport is just a 5-minute drive away! 

Luxury hotel
Collage featuring the Cairns-Harbourside-Hotel: a modern bedroom with a large bed and sea view, the hotel's multi-story façade illuminated at dusk, and an outdoor pool area with tables set for dining

An upscale waterfront hotel overlooking Trinity Bay, where each of the rooms has a private balcony, a work desk, and coffee-making facilities. While you’re staying at this gorgeous hotel, you can order an in-room massage and go for a swim in the pool, and if you feel like doing some sightseeing, you can commission the free shuttle to Cairns City Center.

Other options in Cairns North & Edge Hill

Hotel room with a wooden arched headboard bed, chevron pattern throw, and a balcony overlooking a mountainous landscape

This is one of the best hotels in Cairns, featuring apartments with a private balcony and lovely views

People relaxing on sun loungers and enjoying the pool on a sunny day, surrounded by lush greenery and palm trees.

This laid-back hostel features an outdoor pool, a garden, and a lounge, and provides free bicycles and evening entertainment

Exotic bedroom featuring a four-poster bed with elegant draping, surrounded by lush tropical plants and ambient lighting

The perfect place to stay in Cairns if you want to enjoy some privacy with fish ponds, turtles & wildlife

Things to do in Cairns North & Edge Hill

  • Spend an afternoon in nature at the Cairns Botanic Gardens
  • Grab a cocktail at Dunwoody’s Hotel (map)
  • Take the kids to Centenary Lakes Nature Play Space
  • Jump on a full-day boat tour to Fitzroy Island
  • Embark on a scenic ride with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
  • Go swimming at Tobruk Memorial Pool (map)

4. Trinity Beach – where to stay in Cairns with family

Trinity beach with golden sand, lined with palm trees under a vivid blue sky, indicating a tranquil coastal destination

Trinity Beach, located about 20 minutes North of Cairns CBD, is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia and is the ultimate Cairns destination for a family holiday! It’s safe, has a lively atmosphere, and plenty of fun things to do for the whole family! 

On the beach itself (map), a locals’ favorite, you can either engage in cool water sports like surfing, paddleboarding, and jet-skiing or just sunbathe and enjoy some well-deserved relaxation.

And when you’re not enjoying the beach life, this small residential area offers many shops to buy souvenirs and restaurants for the best dinners. If this wasn’t enough for you, Trinity Beach offers access to some incredible parks, like Centenary Park (map), home to a large number of wallabies! 

Luxury hotel
Collage featuring the Sea Change Beachfront Apartments: a warm and cozy living space with sofa and balcony overlooking the sea, a serene bedroom bathed in natural light with subtle decor, and a tranquil poolside with thatched umbrellas and lush palm trees, illustrating a tropical paradise

If you want to stay in Cairns right on the beach, this is one of the best Cairns family hotels, offering family rooms and cots/extra beds available for a surcharge. Each spacious apartment has a spa bath and access to an outdoor swimming pool or covered spa pool… you definitely won’t find excuses not to relax here!

Other accommodation options in Trinity Beach

Neat hotel room with a wooden headboard, white bedding, and a geometric patterned runner across the bed

These spacious, lovely apartments have fully equipped kitchens and private balconies, plus an outdoor salt-water pool and heated spa pool

Hotel's outdoor swimming pool surrounded by brick paving and tropical foliage, with a hot tub and lounging chairs

One of the best budget hotels in Cairns, nestled on a spectacular beachfront with a rainforest backdrop

Homely apartment interior with open-plan kitchen, dining area with wooden furniture, and a TV unit, adorned with houseplants

This apartment is a short walk from the beach and has a very comfy bed and a lap pool

Things to do in Trinity Beach

  • Lie down and relax at Trinity Beach
  • Try some water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving
  • Hike up to the Earl Hill Summit (map)
  • See the wallabies at Centenary Park
  • Have dinner at Trinity Beach Tavern (map) while enjoying Great Barrier Reef views
  • Try some of the Italian dishes at L’Unico Trattoria Italiano (map)

5. Palm Cove – where to stay in Cairns for couples

Palm Cove - Paved pathway running alongside a pristine tropical beach shaded by palm trees, hinting at a scenic waterfront promenade

Palm Cove is a tropical and luxurious paradise brimming with ancient melaleuca trees and warm Coral Sea waters, about a 30-min drive North of Cairns CBD.

With its stunningly pristine beaches, elegant resorts, fine-dining restaurants, and countless spa centers, there’s no wonder why Palm Cove has also become a top pick for honeymoons and romantic getaways!

Here, you’ll find a super-long esplanade to enjoy long walks, runs, or rides, several world-class restaurants serving the most delicious and fresh fish you’ll ever try, and some refreshing cocktails.

One of the best Palm Cove attractions is Palm Cove Beach (map), a gorgeous sandy beach perfect for swimming and relaxing with a cocktail in hand. The Palm Cove Jetty (map) is an absolute must-visit, too; take the time to enjoy this scenic walk, and if you’re a fishing enthusiast, don’t forget your gear!

If you have enough time, I suggest you visit nearby Port Douglas, a town on the Coral Sea just an hour’s drive North of Cairns. It’s famous for the incredible Daintree Rainforest, but there are countless other things to do in Port Douglas

If you keep going further North, you’ll reach the town of Mossman and the Mossman Gorge (map), one of the ultimate hiking spots in the region! Or, you can head in the opposite direction, to the Atherton Tablelands, a quaint rural town located a 1h30min drive Southwest of Palm Cove. 

Even if it’s a small town, Palm Cove offers many accommodation options, from luxury resorts to small boutique hotels and holiday apartments. Let’s check them out:

Luxury hotel
Collage featuring the Alamanda-Palm-Cove-by-Lancemore: a hotel entrance with towering palm trees, a minimalist bedroom with a wooden floor and large art piece, and a resort-style pool lined with umbrellas and surrounded by lush gardens

This luxurious resort boasts 3 swimming pools, a hot tub, and a day spa, plus many modern amenities like air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and streaming services. All rooms at the resort have a private balcony, and guests also benefit from free parking, as well as the tour desk that can make your arrangements for the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. 

Other accommodation options in Palm Cove

Inviting hotel room with a large window, a comfortable bed featuring white linens, gray coverlet, and green accent pillows

Check out this beautiful beach resort featuring a lagoon-style swimming pool and rooms with garden or ocean views

A modern living room with a gray sofa, turquoise cushions, a glass coffee table, and a beach-themed painting above the sofa. a window with a garden view is on the left.

A 2-bedroom, well-furnished apartment that can accommodate up to 5 people and offers access to a pool

A serene backyard with a swimming pool surrounded by tropical trees and multiple lounge chairs, adjacent to a two-story house.

An intimate suite nestled in the rainforest, with a king-sized bed, a private spa bath, and a balcony

Things to do in Palm Cove

  • Spend a day relaxing under the palm trees on Palm Cove Beach
  • Enjoy the stroll along the Palm Cove Jetty
  • Go on a day trip to Port Douglas!
  • Check out the Daintree Rainforest, the largest tropical rainforest in Australia
  • Embark on a hike to Mossman Gorge
  • Make the drive out to the Atherton Tablelands

6. Kuranda – where to stay near Cairns

Historic train on Kuranda Scenic Railway crossing a steel bridge over a lush gorge, possibly a scenic railway route popular with tourists

Kuranda is a rural village nestled in the Cairns mountains, 30km (18 miles) Northwest of Cairns. It is known as ‘The Village in the Rainforest” and has the most serene atmosphere you can imagine – perfect if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and connect with nature. 

To get to the village, you can take the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a historical and panoramic rail line that passes through the green rainforest hills and over the Barron Gorge National Park. Here, you’ll gaze at incredible views of the Barron Falls!

Another way to see the majestic Barron Falls from above is to take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway… a unique and exciting experience that you definitely need to try. But Kuranda offers countless things to do, especially if you’re interested in Australia’s protected wildlife.

In fact, here you can visit the colorful Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (map), the Rainforestation Nature Park (map), where you can see native Pamagirri Aboriginals dancing to traditional music, and the Kuranda Koala Gardens (map) – THE place to cuddle and see koalas!

Last but not least, Kuranda is also home to many eclectic markets, like the Kuranda Original Rainforest Market (map) and the Heritage Markets (map). These are perfect for buying hand-crafted local goods, clothes, jewelry, and fresh local produce… Kuranda has it all!

NOTE: since Kuranda is a small village, it doesn’t have any luxury hotels or resorts, but there are some great choices for mid-range and budget travelers. 

Other accommodation options in Kuranda

Charming garden cottage surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and vibrant red foliage plants.

Check out this 2-bedroom house, set among tropical gardens and rainforest, with an outdoor dining area and barbecue facilities

A cozy bedroom with a neatly made bed, framed pictures on the wall, and a small dining table with two chairs and a fruit bowl.

A comfortable and spacious apartment, with a 1 bedroom, a kitchenette, a balcony, and even a private pool

Outdoor freestanding bathtub on a wooden deck amidst a serene rainforest setting for a relaxing nature bath experience

Enjoy a special getaway in this stunning 1-bedroom cabin with an outdoor bath, nestled in the rainforest

Things to do in Kuranda

  • Have a panoramic ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway
  • Spend a day nestled in nature at the Barron Gorge National Park (map)
  • See the Barron Falls from above on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
  • Buy some souvenirs at the Heritage Markets or the Original Rainforest Markets
  • Hug cute koalas at the Kuranda Koala Gardens
  • See colorful butterflies at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
  • Visit the Rainforestation Nature Park
  • Stroll around the picturesque streets of Kuranda Village
👑 Luxury price:US$220
💵 Mid-range:US$140
🛏️ Budget:US$80
📍 Best area:Esplanade
🛎️ Best luxury hotel:Shangri-La The Marina
🧳 Best mid-range hotel:The Abbott Boutique Hotel
👛 Best budget hotel:Heritage Cairns Hotel

FAQs about where to stay in Cairns

A curious koala clings to a branch, its silver fur and large, expressive eyes highlighting the unique wildlife native to Australia

📍 Which is the best area where to stay in Cairns?

The best area to stay in Cairns is the Esplanade, right next to the city center. Here, you can find some major attractions, such as the Cairns Aquarium and Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, plus the best Cairns hotels, like Shangri-La The Marina or The Abbott Boutique Hotel.

🏖️ Which is the best area where to stay in Cairns for the beach?

The best area to stay in Cairns for a beach holiday is Palm Cove, with its stunning sandy beach—the best of Cairns’s northern beaches. You can stay at the Alamanda Palm Cove or the Mantra Amphora.

👀 What are the best things to do in Cairns?

When visiting Cairns, you should definitely experience a panoramic ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, explore the cool Cairns night markets, and see the Great Barrier Reef on this tour to Fitzroy Island!

📅 How many days in Cairns is enough?

5 days is the perfect amount of time to stay in Cairns if you want to take advantage of all the cool attractions and sightseeing, but you could stay for 7 days and still have things to do!

🤔 Which is better, Cairns or Port Douglas?

If you’re looking for a more urban vibe and more shopping and dining options, Cairns is the better choice for your vacation. However, if you want a more relaxed atmosphere and want to be surrounded by nature, then Port Douglas is the better choice. 

🚗 Do you need a car in Cairns, Australia?

No, you don’t need a car to explore Cairns. The city is very walkable, and you can reach the main attractions on foot. However, if you want to hit the beach at Palm Cove and Trinity Beach, then it’s a good idea to rent a car.

🏊 Can you swim in Cairns?

Yes, you can swim in Cairns, but it’s best to avoid it between November and May. When you do swim, be wary of jellyfish and stingrays.

☀️ When is the best time to visit Cairns?

The best time of the year to visit Cairns is between June and October, during the dry season, so you can explore the city without having to deal with rain and enjoy worry-free swimming.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 Is Cairns suitable for family stays?

Yes, Cairns is a great place to visit with family. I recommend staying in Trinity Beach, where you can enjoy the golden sands, try some water sports, and stay at family-friendly hotels, such as the Sea Change Beachfront Apartments and Trinity Beach Club.

Final thoughts on where to stay in Cairns, Australia

Nighttime view of a vibrant marina, illuminated buildings reflecting on the water with a dramatic purple sky above, possibly in a coastal city like Cairns, Australia

Congrats! You made it to the end of this extensive guide on where to stay in Cairns, the Australian getaway for the Great Barrier Reef! I hope that my advice helped you pick an area that suits your travel preferences and book a hotel. 

But if you still don’t know which accommodation is the best one for your holiday in Cairns, check out my favorite 2 hotels located on the Cairns Esplanade:

Whatever your decision, hurry up and book your hotel! By booking in advance, you’ll not only secure your stay but also get the best deals on Cairns accommodations!

If you have any questions or you want to share some extra tips, please do so in the comments below. I am looking forward to reading them!

Enjoy your holiday!


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Guide to '28 Best Hotels in Cairns, Australia' featuring a stylish hotel room and a tropical poolside dining setup

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One Response

  1. Dr.Simantan Basu 16.11.2022 at 18:12

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