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Visiting Cairns: gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

The Far North Queensland destination of Cairns is a tropical paradise for all walks of life. Regardless of budget, age group, leisure or active holiday mode, the breathtaking natural beauty, idyllic weather and proximity to blissful beaches and World Heritage-listed marine sites make Cairns the perfect year-round getaway.

This vibrant tropical city, with an average forecast of 27 degrees, is the gateway to the snorkelling and sightseeing treasures of the Great Barrier Reef. Its Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tells the story of indigenous and Torres Strait Islander heritage with captivating music and dance performances.  Cairns Esplanade, lined with bars and restaurants offers its own swimming lagoon. Northwest of the city, explore the spectacular mountainous landscape, gorges and beaches of the Daintree Rainforest.

Visiting Cairns: gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef Global Grasshopper

Getting there is a breeze with regular flights from Australian capital cities and, given that Cairns also offers an international airport, it is little wonder that the region attracts more than two million annual visitors. Whether you’re a honeymooner or revelling in tropical-style romance, families on a budget or party people seeking the city’s entertainment highlights, Cairns can put you in the picture for memorable holiday magic. World-class beaches and resorts are also at your doorstep, given Cairns’ proximity to Palm Cove and Port Douglas. Hotels.com offers a range of Cairns accommodation options to suit all holiday styles, ages and budgets.

Honeymooners and eternal romantics can be transported in the tropics with a dawn-breaking hot air balloon experience.  Loved-up couples can float high above Cairns’ nearby Atherton Tablelands in a serene dream as sunrise bathes the wide-open bushland, natural rainforest and mountainous landscapes a perfect rose gold. Following up this unforgettable joy flight with a sparkling Champagne breakfast, is unlike any high-flying exercise you could imagine in Tropical Far North Queensland.

Visiting Cairns: gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef Global Grasshopper

Romantics and families can remain afloat with a cableway ride over the Barron Falls or by taking a scenic train journey that weaves through the rainforest to and from Kuranda.The five-star Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Hilton Cairns, Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina and four-star The Abbott Boutique Hotel provide central, glamorous accommodation options to revel in your fine romance.

Family-style sightseeing, strolls, swims and whetting the appetite are assured with a meander along the Cairns Esplanade Boardwalk. The sandy-edged 4800 square-metre saltwater pool, with its Woven Fish sculptures, is lifeguard patrolled and illuminated at night. The adjacent three-kilometre foreshore boardwalk offers picnic spots, bird-watching opportunities and free fitness equipment. Muddy’s is the meeting place for child-friendly water parks, skate ramp, beach volleyball courts and the Fun Ship playground. There’s also a selection of the freshest tropical food, markets, concerts, festivals and free fitness instruction on the Esplanade.

The four-star Reef Encounter and Piermonde Apartments – Cairns and 3.5-star Mid City Luxury Suites are popular accommodation options that provide close proximity to the Cairns Esplanade for budget-minded families and travellers.

Visiting Cairns: gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef Global Grasshopper

Venturing to popular freshwater swimming site Crystal Cascades and Josephine Falls provides rainforest walking trails, a refreshing dip in pristine waters and a mesmerising rainforest setting. Like many of the region’s natural charms, this priceless experience is absolutely free. 

You could also scale the world’s tallest pyramid, not in the Egyptian capital but from Far North Queensland paradise. Walsh’s Pyramid is a short drive from Cairns and provides a gentle climb, of between four and six hours, to the top. Pack a picnic lunch, bring bottled water, and savour the 360-degree views of Cairns and surrounding rainforest as you and your family ascend the summit.

Visiting Cairns: gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef Global Grasshopper

If you love the nightlife, Cairns is also your lively entertainment destination. For such a relatively compact city centre, there are an endless variety of pubs, dining, and live music venues to suit all budgets and tastes. Sampling the local cuisine while tripping the light fantastic is a given in chilled-out style, with the complimentary inclusion of mountain and ocean views, from the marina-based Salt Club. Peruse and choose from the killer cocktail list at The Cotton Club, channel Melbourne-style laneway cool at Three Wolves and revel in party central at The Woolshed and Gilligan’s.

Nocturnal adventures also encompass the dark natural beauty in night dives of the Great Barrier Reef. Diving into the inky depths after hours in tours that shine a light on daytime-shy marine creatures, such as slipping lobsters and reef sharks, is a lifetime event. Taking the plunge between October and December also provides the distinct possibility of marvelling at the rare phenomena of coral spawning.

Habitat in Port Douglas also offers nocturnal tours to observe native wildlife, such as wallabies, kangaroos and mahogany gliders, engage in their nightly shenanigans.

This article was written in collaboration with Hotels.com

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