Some destinations, like people, are overachievers and the capital of Tropical North Queensland, Cairns, stands out for all the right reasons.
Cairns hasn’t just caught the eye of the 150,000 people who call it home, but upwards of three million others who decide to holiday in Cairns and its surrounds each year.
With two World Heritage-listed sites on its doorstep, an adventure industry worthy of performing your own stunt acts and a rich Indigenous culture, you’ll want to get organised to see Cairns with just two days on your hands.
Make the most of your time on the ground, following this 48–hour guide to Cairns.
10am – Arrive into Paradise
Welcome to Cairns in Tropical North Queensland where the local time and temperature is nothing short of perfect.
With an international airport, all major car hire companies operating from postcode 4870 and the Bruce Highway feeding the city from the south, access to this northern frontier city scores well when it comes to accessibility.
No matter how you arrive, we’d suggest starting your time in the tropics in the means you wish to go on, with your heart rate up and endorphins freely flowing.
11am – Get your heart rate up
Most hotels keep their air–conditioning units and utilities on their rooftop, but the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino uses its roof space for something much more fun and pleasing on the eye, Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome (oh and some beehives producing local honey).
In a world first Cairns ZOOM combines high ropes with a wildlife park – all in the centre of the CBD.
Pack your sense of adventure and swing your way through the 65 different ropes courses and ziplines, its most famous of which flies directly over Goliath a four-metre saltwater crocodile.
If you came to Cairns for adventure, you’ll find that here too, jumping feet first off a 13m freefall tower, attached by only a rope.
2pm – Check into complete comfort
In real estate they talk about position, position, position and the same goes for holidays, especially when you check into Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.
This 7 story hotel is waiting for you on the marina, a short three-minute walk to where the Great Barrier Reef day trips take off and a quick amble into downtown Cairns where you’ll find a bustling bar and cafe scene.
Not that we expect you’ll want to leave when there’s a roof top pool, five restaurants (and bars) onsite and each room (regardless of price tag) comes with a spa bath and garden balcony.
If it’s a money-can’t-buy experience you’re looking for, ask to check into Pullman Reef Hotel Casino’s koala experience package.
The knock at the door won’t be housekeeping, but a visit from a furry friend (a koala from upstairs at Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome), in your junior suite for 15 minutes of interaction and photos –guaranteed one-on-one koal–ity time with Australia’s famous non-bear.
7pm - Dinner to dream about
Not all hotel restaurants are Australian Good Food Guide hatted, but Tamarind at the base of Pullman Reef Hotel Casino certainly is.
In fact, this hotel is home to Cairns’ only hatted restaurant.
It’s Cairns’ answer to fine dining, carefully marrying local and international flavours across a daily degustation and a la carte menu.
Tamarind’s menu reflects its modern-Asian roots with a Penang duck curry and crispy skinned barramundi, two dishes so popular that locals won’t let staff take them off the menu.
To help you navigate its more colourful herbs and spices, simply turn to the back of the menu where you’ll find out more about the ingredient’s origins and how your food has been meticulously prepared for you this evening.
10pm - Rest your head
8am – Merchant of breakfast
Here you’ll find barista–made coffee and brunch bites pumping through the pass from 7am – 2pm, Monday to Friday.
The a la carte breakfast menu stars local produce, with the likes of house–made Tully banana bread, cinnamon and apple compote, sky garden honey (from the roof top hives), whipped mascarpone, toasted walnuts and snow sugar on the menu, to start your day on a sweet note.
If you accidentally sleep in thanks to the calming effect of the cooling breeze floating straight off the marina into your room, the lunch menu focusses on share plates and certainly doesn’t disappoint. Local barramundi spring rolls with lemon myrtle mayonnaise, anyone?
10am - See the Rainforest from new heights
After a night spent overlooking Cairns’ leafy mountains, spend today getting amongst them, booking a day trip package via the hotel reception to Kuranda.
Join Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to see the rainforest from new heights. From onboard a gondola, you’ll glide above the rainforest canopy, making your way towards the rainforest village of Kuranda.
The trip which takes approximately an hour and a half will take you up to 40.5m above the forest floor.
The pot of gold at the end of your journey? The rainforest village of Kuranda which is home to not one but two markets which have been running since 1978.
Shake up your return journey by swapping modern transport for ancient, riding the rails back to Cairns with the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
The two-hour rail ride will connect you back with Cairns, after passing rainforest, gorges and waterfalls – all perfectly framed by your carriage’s timber windows.
6pm – Observe cocktail hour
If you’re looking for a different outlook to enjoy your sundowners than your room’s balcony, pop downstairs to BAR36 near the entry to the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino’s gaming hall.
You’ll find a drinks list that doesn’t disappoint with local and imported favourites on the menu.
If you feel peckish, add a chip or bar bite to your bill. Once the live music starts, you might find that you decide to stay and play a while.
Too early for bed? Why not kick on to the casino. Just one of the perks about staying the night at the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.
8am – Check out early for a day on the reef
The perks of staying only three minutes’ walk from the marina is you’ll get the closest thing to a sleep in before your day trip to the reef.
Leave your bags with reception, before joining one of the day trips to the outer reef departing from Cairns Marina.
Depending on which tour you choose, you’ll be out and back before 5.00pm, with all your meals, snorkelling and activities like glass bottom boating included.
If you need help finding which tour is for you, we’ve done the flipper work for you over here.
We have a sneaky suspicion that once you’ve had a taste of Cairns in 48 hours, you’ll certainly be back for more … even if only for round two of the duck curry at Tamarind.