Where to stay in Cairns for first time: 6 Safe areas

I had a great holiday in Cairns and I understand that Finding where to stay in Cairns as a first-timer can be a headache. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in Cairns for the first time.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in Cairns for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Cairns and recommend some of the best hotels for all budgets.

Cairns is a popular tourist destination in Far North Queensland and is known for its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system. It is also close to the Wet Tropics of Queensland, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest.

Visitors often use Cairns as a base for exploring the reef, diving, snorkeling, and other water activities. The city itself offers a range of attractions, including the Cairns Esplanade, Cairns Aquarium, and the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.

The city has a tropical climate, hot and humid in summer(November to April) and cooler, drier in the winter (May to October). Cyclones can occur during the wet season.

The city has an international airport, Cairns Airport, making it accessible to both domestic and international travelers. It is also well-connected by road and has a railway station.

Is Cairns safe to visit?

Yes, Cairns is generally a safe destination for travelers. However, Like any other destination, it’s advisable to be aware of your surroundings, secure your belongings, stay in the populated areas, and avoid poorly lit areas and parks after dark.

Cairns is home to diverse wildlife, including marine stingers and crocodiles in certain areas. You should pay attention to warning signs, especially at beaches and rivers. If swimming in the ocean, use designated swimming areas, and wear protective clothing like stinger suits.

The sun can be intense in this area, so you should use sunscreen with a high SPF, wear a hat, sunglasses, and lightweight clothing to protect yourself from sunburn.

Where to stay in Cairns for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Cairns for first-timers and tourists are Cairns Esplanade, Cairns CBD, Parramatta Park, Cairns North, Trinity Beach/Palm Cove, and Port Douglas. It’s essential to take standard safety precautions no matter which neighborhood you are in.

Cairns Esplanade and the CBD are the most popular areas for first-time visitors to book their accommodations. They have the highest range of accommodations for all budgets and provide central locations with easy access to amenities. 

If you’re looking for a quieter beach experience, Trinity Beach or Palm Cove could be ideal. If you want a more upscale resort experience, consider Port Douglas.

As a visitor, it is best to avoid some areas in Cairn such as Manunda, Mooroobool and Manoora. It is best to stick into well-lit populated areas such as the Esplanade and CBD.

During my trip to Cairns, I stayed for a week at the Crystalbrook Flynn. It was a great hotel in central Cairns, right next to the famous Esplanade, close to good restaurants. My room was clean and comfortable with stunning ocean views.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Cairns for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Cairns first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Cairns first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Cairns, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Cairns have been carefully selected by me from well-known booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

6 Safe areas to stay in Cairns for first-timers and tourists

1. Cairns Esplanade 

Cairns Esplanade is a popular area for first-timers and travelers who want a central location with easy access to attractions, amenities, and a scenic waterfront.

The Esplanade is located along the waterfront, providing beautiful views of the Coral Sea. You can enjoy strolls along the promenade, take in the scenery, and even go for a swim in the man-made lagoon.

The area offers various recreational facilities such as workout stations, skate parks, and playgrounds, making it suitable for outdoor activities.

Cairns Esplanade’s central location offers easy access to shopping centers, restaurants, bars, and tour operators. Many tour departures for the Great Barrier Reef and other attractions are conveniently located nearby.

There are numerous dining options along the Esplanade, ranging from casual cafes to upscale restaurants. The area also has a vibrant nightlife scene with bars and entertainment venues.

Best places to stay in Cairns Esplanade for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Crystalbrook Riley, popular 5-star hotel centrally located on The Esplanade, easy distance from Center of Contemporary Arts, Performing Arts Center, and Great Barrier Reef Departure Terminal. It has an outdoor swimming pool, 24-hour front desk, and good breakfast. You can choose to stay in a room with views of the ocean and the pool.

Mid-range ($$): Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort, great 4.5 star hotel conveniently located on Lake Street close to The Esplanade, Cairns Aquarium, Reef Casino, and Cairns Museum. It has a beautiful lagoon pool with a swim up bar, children’s pool, 24-hour front desk, and private parking for those who drive. 

Budget ($): Cairns Plaza Hotel, great 3-star hotel located right on The Esplanade in front of Trinity Bay, within walking distance from everything. It has an outdoor swimming pool, comfortable family rooms, and free on-site parking. The hotel’s tour desk can help you arrange tours to Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. 


2. Cairns CBD

Cairns CBD is an ideal location if you want to be in the midst of the city’s activities. It is a bustling area in the heart of Cairns, offering a mix of convenience, entertainment, and accessibility. 

Cairns CBD is home to various shopping centers, boutique shops, and markets. You’ll find a range of retail options, from well-known brands to local crafts.

There’s a diverse range of dining options, from casual eateries to fine dining restaurants. The CBD also has a lively nightlife scene with bars, pubs, and clubs for those looking to enjoy the evenings.

The area is home to cultural attractions such as the Cairns Art Gallery and the Cairns Civic Theatre, providing opportunities for art and entertainment.

Cairns CBD serves as a transportation hub, with easy access to the Cairns Esplanade, the Reef Fleet Terminal (for Great Barrier Reef tours), and public transportation options.

Best places to stay in Cairns CBD for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, great 5-star hotel located on a prime location on Wharf Street, a short walk from Cairns Convention Center, the marina and the heart of the city. Easy access to local shops and cafes. They can help organize day trips to diving/snorkeling, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Mid-range ($$): The Abbott Boutique Hotel, 4-star good value for money hotel in central Cairns, close to all attractions only a short walk from the piers and from many restaurants and bars. Close to the Civic Theater, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Cairns Station and Regional Gallery.

Mid-range ($$): Oaks Cairns Hotel, 4-star hotel located in the heart of Cairns, right next to the Esplanade and a short walk to the piers where boats for the Reef depart. Easy distance from the beachfront boardwalk and Esplanade Lagoon. It has spacious rooms, a rooftop restaurant, and Very Good Breakfast.


3. Parramatta Park 

Parramatta Park is a residential suburb located near the Cairns CBD. It is a good choice for travelers who prefer a more laid-back and residential setting while still being close to the city center. 

While not as bustling as the CBD, Parramatta Park has its own local amenities, including some shops, cafes, and services.

Accommodation options in Parramatta Park may be limited compared to the CBD or Esplanade. However, there are still some hotels, motels, and vacation rentals available.

Best places to stay in Cairns in Parramatta Park:

Mid-range ($$): Southern Cross Atrium Apartments, popular apartment on Water Street, close to close to the train/bus station, shopping center, and city center. It is also only 20 mins walk to the iconic Esplanade. It has laundry facilities and a well equipped kitchen area.

Budget ($$$): Travellers Oasis, good value for money accommodation on Scott Street, very close to the Central Shopping Center and train station. You can also find many restaurants and bars nearby. TThe hotel has coin-operated laundry facilities, free luggage storage, and a tour desk.

Budget ($): Dreamtime Travellers Rest, 3-star safe and cozy hostel located on Terminus Street, best suited for adults (12-60 years old). This is a quiet and relaxing place, close to a mall, railway station and bus terminal. 15-20 minutes from the pier and downtown area.


4. Cairns North 

Cairns North is a suitable choice for travelers seeking a quieter and more residential experience while still having easy access to the waterfront and the city center.

Cairns North is close to the Cairns Esplanade, allowing easy access to the scenic waterfront, parks, and recreational facilities.

The suburb is home to the Cairns Botanic Gardens, a lush and tropical botanical garden that provides a peaceful escape.

Cairns International Airport is relatively close to Cairns North, making it convenient for travelers arriving by air.

Best places to stay in Cairns North for visitors:

  • Mid-range ($$): Coral Towers Holiday Suites, clean apartment located just a few minutes walk to the Esplanade, Muddy’s Cafe, children’s play area, and a skate park.
  • Mid-range ($$): Waterfront Terraces, 4-star self-catering apartment situated in a quiet location with the promenade just across the road for a short walk to cafes, bars and restaurants.
  • Mid-range ($$): NRMA Cairns Holiday Park, good holiday park that has free parking, BBQ facilities, Outdoor swimming pool, and laundry facilities.

5. Trinity Beach/Palm Cove

Trinity Beach and Palm Cove are beautiful coastal suburbs located north of Cairns, offering a more relaxed and beach-oriented atmosphere. 

Palm Cove is often considered more upscale, featuring luxury resorts and high-end accommodation options. It boasts a selection of high-quality restaurants and cafes, making it an excellent choice for those who enjoy fine dining.

Best places to stay in Trinity Beach/Palm Cove for tourists:

  • Luxury ($$$): Elysium The Beach Club, great 5-star beachfront hotel, located along the Main Street in Palm Cove, featuring a beautiful pool with a pool bar. 
  • Mid-range ($$): The Reef Retreat Palm Cove, 4-star self-catering accommodation in a quiet location, just off the main beach road. It has free covered parking, paid airport shuttle service, and family rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): Sea Point on Trinity Beach, 4-star accommodation located on Vasey Esplanade, within a short distance from Trinity Beach. The hotel can help arrange trips to Great Barrier Reef cruises and Cape Tribulation.

6. Port Douglas

Port Douglas is an excellent choice for travelers looking for a more exclusive and resort-style experience, especially those interested in exploring the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

Port Douglas is a charming coastal town located north of Cairns in Far North Queensland known for its natural beauty and upscale resorts.

Port Douglas is one of the primary gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. Many reef tours depart from the marina in Port Douglas, providing easy access to this natural wonder.

The town is situated close to the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests in the world. You can explore the lush landscapes, unique wildlife, and indigenous culture of the region.

Port Douglas is home to the beautiful Four Mile Beach, a long stretch of sandy coastline where visitors can relax, swim, and enjoy water activities.

The town itself has a laid-back and charming atmosphere with boutique shops, art galleries, and a variety of dining options.

Best places to stay in Cairns in Port Douglas for travelers:


In conclusion, the Esplanade, CBD, Parramatta Park, Cairns North, Trinity Beach/Palm Cove, and Port Douglas are the best places to stay in Cairns for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe areas with a wide range of hotels and amenities, but it’s important to stay alert anywhere you travel.

You can continue reading about Cairns and other destinations in Australia in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Cairns. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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