Cairns & Port Douglas: Eat, Stay, Play

The low-down on where to eat, stay and play in Cairns and Port Douglas

Top view of Kuranda rainforest.
  • Emily Wilson
  • April 2018

Cairns

Eat: crowd favourites

Looking for a quick and tasty meal? Cairns has a lot of amazing eateries – follow the locals to these sure-fire hits.

The ramen at Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum has a cult following, with lines often spilling out the door. But with the AUD $1.50 noodle top-up option, you’re sure to be satisfied no matter how long the wait.

Insta foodies unite at Pineapple Café Cairns. This trendy spot offers the perfect long brunch for the health conscious.

Locals can’t go past Cairns Burger Café for a quick and satisfying meal. The hearty burgers are full of tropical Queensland flavours.

Try the Cairns Night Markets for hawker-style street food from around the globe, and stay on to browse the locally made items and souvenirs.

A woman and a child, enjoying the view aboard the Sky Rail.
Looking down from the Sky Rail near Cairns in Queensland.

Play: natural wonders

With so many natural wonders right on cairns’ doorstep, there’s no excuse not to get outside to enjoy them all Skyrail Rainforest Cableway lets you glide above the canopy and gaze at the lush rainforest below. The six-person gondolas ride up to Kuranda and back down. Combine your trip with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway to really see the rainforest from both angles. Don’t forget the camera!

Tjapukai offers a true cultural experience. Highlighting both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, pick from traditional performances, bush skills or guided bush walks.

If your trip includes a function or business meeting, the Cairns Convention Centre is the place to do it. This fully equipped function space is in a picturesque spot on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest.

Stay: centrally located

Make central Cairns the starting point for your adventures.

The Hotel Cairns is full of tropical charm. The bone-white, heritage-plantation style boutique hotel is conveniently located one block from Cairns’ famous Esplanade. Shade yourself under a palm on the terrace and enjoy a spot of calm in busy central Cairns.

Port Douglas

Eat: local flavours

Known as the food bowl of the tropics, the region from Cairns to Port Douglas is a foodie dream Bistro H in Port Douglas combines the craft of Michelin-starred chef Spencer Patrick and the relaxed, alfresco vibe of Port Douglas. The classic European menu showcases the best protein and produce the regional area has to offer.

Long tropical days call for a sunset cocktail at the Watergate. Sip on a classic daiquiri or sample native tropical flavours – perfect after a long day of relaxing.

If farm-to-table food is your thing, book a table at Salsa Bar and Grill. Chef Goran Zonai combines home-grown tastes in his cooking; expect Daintree chocolate, redclaw crayfish and Queensland’s exotic fruit.

A green sea turtle swimming above the coral reef.
A green sea turtle swimming off the coast of Cairns, Queensland.

Play: sand & sun

Known for picturesque beaches, Port Douglas is best enjoyed close to sand and sun Get up close to the Great Barrier Reef with Ocean Safari tours. Go snorkelling with sea turtles, explore the coral reefs and learn all about the marine life with your expert guides.

Back on the mainland, dip your toes in the Coral Sea at Four Mile Beach. Relax on the golden sand, splash in the turquoise waters or take a stroll up to the lookout and see the sand stretch as far as the eye can see.

Once you’ve had your fill of sand, meander around Mossman Markets, on every Saturday. Pack a rug, pick from the best produce and set up a picnic with some delicious goods. Or peruse high-end designers and local crafts down Port Douglas’ famous shopping strip, Macrossan Street.

Stay: Balinese luxury

Bring the tranquil vibes of Bali to your stay in Port Douglas. Experience the luxury of Balinese living in North Queensland at Niramaya Villas and Spa. The boutique villas are set among a range of other facilities such as the onsite spa, tennis courts, fitness centre, restaurant and infinity pool.

Make a daytrip of it

For something off the beaten track, venture to Paronella Park. This heritage-listed site, first opened to the public in 1935, boasts a castle nestled between creek falls and tropical rainforest. Be sure to join a story tour of the grounds.