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The interstate route between Brisbane and Cairns is the airport’s busiest, with nearly 20 flights a day between the Queensland capital and ‘top end’ city. Virgin Australia, Qantas, and Jetstar all make the 2 hour, 15-minute journey from Brisbane. Cairns also enjoys frequent service from Sydney and Melbourne, with nearly a dozen flights making the 3-hour trip. In addition, the Gold Coast, Adelaide and Darwin, as well as regional centres like Townsville, Weipa, Mt. Isa and Hamilton Island all benefit from direct access to Cairns, with a handful of daily flights from each. There are plenty of one-way and return flight options to Cairns from the west coast too. Whether it’s flying via Ayers Rock and Alice Springs or via one of the east coast capital cities, there are many one-stop options to Cairns.
Don’t let its top end location fool you, there are plenty of flight options to choose from when flying to Cairns. The following Australian airlines operate scheduled services from cities across the country.
Regional Express (REX)
Cairns is beautiful no matter what time of year you visit, but in summer, be prepared for hot, humid conditions as day time temperatures rise to near 40 degrees. Not surprisingly, summer in Cairns is the slow season for tourists, so if you’re looking for smaller crowds, and lower prices, this might just be the time to plan a visit. Tours to the Great Barrier Reef are the perfect way to cool down, and day trips to the nearby rainforest offer some heat relief too.
Winter weather is breezy and warm, with cool and comfortable nights, and this is when the peak tourist season is in full swing. There are plenty of cheap flights to Cairns even during the busy, peak travel season, but booking in advance, or travelling on evening flights are two strategies when looking for the best flight deal.
Cairns International Airport is located just minutes from the CBD, directly off the Captain Cook Highway. Palm Cove is about a 30-minute drive north while Port Douglas is an hour away. Taxis serve the coastal region and shuttle buses drop-off at hotels and resorts in the city and as far north as Port Douglas.
There are two car parks at Cairns Airport. Carpark T1 is located next to the international terminal and offers free parking for the first 10 minutes. Carpark T2 is in front of the Domestic Terminal and has both a covered and uncovered area. The first 10 minutes is free only in the uncovered section.
The Cairns Airport website provides maps of its terminals and car park facilities.
Virgin Australia and Qantas both feature a lounge for their top-tier frequent flyers and business class guests. The lounges are located on the upper level of the Domestic Terminal.
In the main terminal area, Cairns Airport provides free 1 hour Wi-Fi access in the international terminal, and free 30 minute access in the Domestic Terminal. Passengers have the option to pay for further usage. Food and retail options are plentiful and cater to every taste.
For anyone who enjoys the outdoors, Cairns is the perfect destination. Even if you’re not the adventurous type, the sightseeing options are as exciting as they are numerous.
Of course any trip to Cairns or Port Douglas would be incomplete without a snorkelling or diving tour to the Great Barrier Reef. One of the best places in Queensland to view this natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef can be enjoyed on a full day trip, or quick 3 to 4 hour long tour by speed boat.
Just minutes outside of Cairns, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes visitors on a thrilling 90-minute ride (one way) to the tiny, mountain side village of Kuranda. Known for its beautiful natural setting in the Atherton Tableland, Kuranda’s lush rainforest setting offers a beautiful contrast to the otherwise coastal settings of Cairns. But it’s the ride there that makes it all the more exciting. Gondolas make stops at two rainforest stations. Riders can either continue on their way to Kuranda, or explore the short rainforest pathways during their stop. Visitors can either return to Cairns on the gondola or board an historic train for the trip back down the mountain.
Cairns is well served by taxis, shuttle busses and organised tours.