Cairns might be best known as a tourist hotspot, but there is a lot more to the tropical metropolis than just island hopping, glass bottom boat tours, scuba diving and nightclubs.
Cairns sees: the rainforest meet the reef; mountains shade the sparkling blue waters of Coral Sea; waterfalls frame lush farmlands; freshwater lakes pool in volcanic craters; and graceful old buildings with sweeping verandahs throw back to time when life was more leisurely.
Take in all that Cairns has to offer, explore nearby cities of Port Douglas and Atherton, or day trip to World Heritage listed natural wonders like the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
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A thriving tourism industry has seen Cairns attract world-class chefs looking for business opportunities. Access to outstanding fresh local produce, in particular seafood from the Coral Sea and meat and produce from the Atherton Tablelands, has kept these renowned culinary experts in residence, leading Cairns’ restaurants to rank among the best in Australia – a huge feat for a city with a relatively small population.
Seafood is Cairns’ crowning culinary glory; with shiploads delivered everyday fresh from the bay and beyond. Barnacle Bills, on the Esplanade, serves and quality seafood with menus available in Japanese, German, French, and Italian. Also on the Esplanade, Charlies – one of Cairns' favourite restaurants – boasts the best of the regions seafood in buffet-style. Pesci’s On The Water, Cairns' only seafood restaurant overlooking the famous Marlin Marina, specialising in fresh local and southern seafood and modern Australian cuisine. Sheridan Gourmet Seafood’s fast-paced take away was recently voted best fish and chips in Cairns.
Infusing regional produce with exotic flavours there few restaurants in Cairns that plate up spectacular Modern Australian cuisine. Ochre Restaurant's incorporates Australian bush foods into innovative exciting dishes. Tjapukai night tours showcase the spirit of indigenous Australia, with four-course buffet dinners and live performance demonstrating the Aboriginal culture. Dundees On The Waterfront serves traditional Aussie meals such as crocodile, kangaroo, emu and buffalo, alongside a range of fresh seafood.
Cairns dining scene has a notably strong Asian influence on food. On the weekend at the Cairns Market, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Korean and Chinese stallholders gather to sell everything from limes to lemongrass and bananas to dragon fruit. Restaurants and dining experiences have emerged in the past few years bringing focus to the ever-changing Cairns’ food landscape of Asian cuisine. Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant offers the authentic flavours of the Balinese cuisine in a tropical ambience. Cherry Blossom Japanese Restaurant utilising fresh Great Barrier Reef seafood with the refined preparation styles of Japanese cooking. Hanuman celebrates Thai, Indian and Nonya culinary traditions with innovative and modern cuisine in an elegant setting.
Cairns is a treasure trove of high fashion finds; it just takes local knowledge to know where to look. The CBD – in particular Lake, Shields and Grafton streets – is speckled with stylish boutiques, showcasing the latest in local, national and international fashions.
U Boutique, on Grafton Street, has an understated metropolitan style, hosting a simple but smart set-up with much-loved Australian labels, such as Fleur Wood, Tallulah, Rachel Gilbert and Bec & Bridge on the racks. Across the road, Tea Lily features a range of precious pieces from Akira, Lisa Ho and Metalicus. The Eye, on Shields Street, has a small selection of garments from Camilla, Flamingo Sands and Zimmerman hidden among the store’s huge range of swimwear. Delinquent, also on Grafton Street, has the boys covered with cool pieces from great on-trend brands. Up the road, Shivamoon is one the Cairns most talked-about boutiques, stocking an eclectic mix of designs, hand-picked by the store’s owner. While We’re on Lake St stocks some of the country’s finest labels, including Romance was Born, Antipodium, Sass & Bide, Lover and Cheap Monday – brands not often seen outside Australia’s capital cities.
Department giant Myer can also be found in the town’s CBD, alongside hundreds of speciality stores at the Cairns Central Shopping Centre. Cairns Central isn’t the only complex in town…. The Orchid Plaza also hosts a range of fashion, jewellery, gifts and souvenirs stores, alongside a post office.
The Pier Marketplace is Cairns’ most impressive retail destination. An urban lifestyle centre featuring dining options, shopping outlets, specialty stores, offices, a gym, health spa and a hotel. The Pier is a great place to stroll and shop.