Blog Post

A backpacker’s guide to nightlife in Cairns

Danielle Spillet

TNQ Writer

Cairns may be known as the gateway to the reef and rainforest, but don’t be fooled… the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down around here. In fact, you’re guaranteed a party every single night of the week in this vibrant small-town city. Find out exactly where to go in this handy nightlife guide.


Gilligan's is the place to party

Known as the ultimate backpacker venue, Gilligan’s is a one-stop shop to stay, play and party in style with budget accommodation, cheap eats and not one, but two nightclubs on site. Gilligan’s also offers a range of themed events and entertainment, including live music and the annual Sinners Ball.

The Attic Lounge Bar

For a luxurious nightclub feel, try The Attic

Photo by @theatticloungebar

If you’re in the mood for something a little different, head upstairs to The Attic. Open to the public Friday and Saturday nights, this bar offers a VIP bottle service, delicious cocktails and premium pour spirits with world-class DJs hitting the decks. Looking for the perfect venue for your next party? The Attic is available for bookings and private functions 7 days a week.

The Woolshed

The Woolshed

Widely regarded as Cairns’ original party venue, your night isn’t complete without going to The Woolshed. Situated above The Cotton Club, leave your dignity downstairs and get ready to really let your hair down as the music pumps and the atmosphere soars. With everything from wet t-shirt competitions to resident DJs, you know you’re “out out” when you hit The Woolshed.

The Cotton Club

The signature gin & tonic will cool you down or heat the night up

The Cotton Club is a swanky cocktail bar perfect for a casual meal before dancing your way into the early hours of the morning with a glass of something sweet in your hand. Don’t miss The Cotton Club’s signature cocktails as you make your way through the exotic drinks menu. Made with a combination of Hendricks Gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar, and topped with the very popular homemade Aloe Vera flavoured foam, it’s easy to see why the Hendricks Iced Tea is the bar’s best seller – the cucumber garnishing also makes it one of your five-a-day, right?

P.J. O’Brien’s - The Irish Pub

P.J. O’Brien’s

P.J. O’Brien’s

P.J. O’Brien’s

Bringing a little Irish charm to the Tropics, P.J. O’Brien’s encapsulates “traditional Irish pub” perfectly – think wooden beams, mahogany furniture with bric-a-brac adorning the walls and old-fashioned upholstery that wouldn’t look a bit out of place at your great Nan’s house. With everything from quiz nights and giveaways to karaoke and dancing competitions, there is no such thing as a dull night at P.J. O’Brien’s. Join the party on Friday and Saturday nights for a cheeky Irish jig to an awesome live band and roll back in for a Sunday Roast to cure those hangover blues.

The Pier Bar

The Pier Bar

Enjoy live music at The Pier Bar

Enjoy the view by the water

Known as somewhat of an institution in Cairns, The Pier Bar is a great place to start your night out. Grab a bevvy, nab a table out on the terrace before the crowds begin to flock, and enjoy the beautiful sea views while you’re still sober enough to appreciate them. Beware though… the hours will fly by as you soak in the upbeat atmosphere and before you know it, composure will cease, and you’ll be on the dance floor strutting your stuff like nobody’s business. Note: Dancing is especially hard to avoid during The Pier Bar’s live local music sessions – you have been warned.

Salt House

Salt House

Glamorous, chilled out and stylish, Salt House is the ideal place for a long afternoon spent sipping on wine and admiring the marina front views spanning mountain and ocean. Get comfortable on a daybed surrounded by flowing ponds and fire features, order an array of small plates to see you through and settle in for a peaceful start to the evening. As darkness sweeps across the marina, revitalise with a delicious Espresso Martini, which will put the spring back in your step as Salt House comes alive. Don’t forget “hospo night” every Monday from 8pm, where DJs spin the decks playing the best in house music.

Rattle ‘n Hum

Rattle 'n Hum

Situated in a prime location on the Cairns Esplanade, Rattle ‘n Hum is the perfect spot to ease into your evening with a delicious wood-fired pizza and happy hour jug of beer. Enjoy a spot of people watching on the outside deck or enjoy the good old laid back, friendly Aussie pub vibes indoors.

Ultimate Party Bus

The Ultimate Party Bus

Don’t want the hassle of organising a night out or keen to make some new alcohol-fuelled, lifelong besties? The Ultimate Party Bus has you covered. Running every Friday and Saturday, this double-decker pub crawl hits five of the best bars and clubs in Cairns for a mammoth six-hour session. Placed in the hands of party-loving locals, you are pretty much guaranteed a night out of epic proportions – the free drink in each venue, VIP treatment and party games will also contribute to said epic-ness; so, buckle those seatbelts as you’re in for a wild night.

The Jack

Live music five nights a week

If kicking off your night with a dose of live sport sounds appealing, The Jack is the place for you. With a whopping five super projector screens, ten large flat screens and three bars, you won’t miss a second of the action. And, if sporting events don’t float your boat… never fear, The Jack also hosts an array of top comedy acts, DJs and live music, with world-class touring artists gracing the stage every month. With a tasty menu, far exceeding that of the usual “pub grub”, The Jack is a great place to start your night and curb those hunger pangs before quenching your thirst.

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

The Courtyard

If you’re looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun with an American twist, the Courtyard is your go-to in Cairns. Perch yourself under one of the colourful umbrellas at a high table along the Esplanade, and test your skills at jenga while you people watch to your heart’s content. This American diner boasts an incredible selection of craft beers and exotic cocktails to quench your thirst on those warm tropical nights, and a menu to make anyone hungry just reading it – philli cheese steak, loaded fries and the best damned fried chicken wings in town. Do yourself a big favour and get down there for Taco-Tuesday for cheap, epic and mouth-watering tacos, best spent devouring with friends over a sky-high beer tower.

Recovery time

You’ve had a big night out, now it’s time to recover… and that doesn’t mean a day wasted in bed with everything Tropical North Queensland has to offer.

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