Set high in the beautiful state of Queensland, Cairns is a gateway to lush rainforests and the tropical Great Barrier Reef, as well offering a number of different iconic road trip opportunities. Picking up a car hire from Cairns Airport will not only give you the freedom to explore the beautiful country around Cairns, but also to strike out for distant destinations - heading west into the Outback, south for a taste of coastal paradise or north to escape into remote tropical Australia.
In fact, although you may want to schedule a bit of time to holiday in and around Cairns itself, it would be practically criminal to miss out on the abundant road trip opportunities on offer when you opt for a car rental from Cairns Airport.
Cairns Airport has a large number of car hire suppliers, and hunting through their various websites in an attempt to find the best deal can be a bit of a chore - fortunately there’s a better way secure your Cairns transportation. AirportRentals.com.au allows you to compare the car rental offerings from a wide range of suppliers side by side, so it’s easy to see which deal is the best for your trip.
To begin the process of booking your Cairns Airport car hire, just enter a few basic details about your upcoming journey into the AirportRentals.com.au search tool, like where you’re picking up the vehicle from, how long you’ll need it for, and where you want to drop it off. After that, it’s just a simple matter of scrolling through the list of options to find the vehicle that best suits your needs. You can even narrow down the results using criteria like rental supplier, car type and transmission. Once you’ve made your choice, the rest of the process will be over and done within a few minutes - it’s as easy as that.
Cairns Airport Car Hire Brands
The selection of car rental suppliers at Cairns Airport includes many internationally known brands in addition to a few smaller local suppliers which can sometimes offer unparalleled bargains. Europcar, Hertz, Avis, Budget and Thrifty are among the household name car hire brands represented at Cairns Airport, while less well known (but still excellent) suppliers include Firefly and Redspot.
Cairns Airport Information
Cairns Airport features two terminals, which are separated by about 600 metres. Terminal 1 services international flights, with ten gates in total, while Terminal 2 is reserved for domestic flights, with 17 gates.
Free WiFi can be found at Cairns Airport. If you’re in the international terminal, you’ll be able to access an hour of free WiFi over a 12 hour period, while domestic passengers can access 30 minutes per 12 hours. If you need more than this, there are also paid options available.
ATMs are available in both the domestic and international terminals and international currency exchange can be found both in pre-immigration/security and the Departures & Arrivals Hall.
Driving in Cairns
While it’s still a major city, Cairns is substantially smaller than places like Brisbane or Sydney - consequently it’s a bit easier to drive and park here than in those larger centres.
Parking in Cairns
Parking is cheap, but visitors should be careful about what they leave in the car - not only should valuables be kept out of sight as usual, but in the height of summer temperatures can soar, meaning that anything left in the car that can melt will melt. This includes CDs and things made from soft plastic or rubber.
Rules of the road
Throughout the state of Queensland, a 50 km/h speed limit generally applies in residential built-up areas, so if you’re unsure which speed you’re meant to be sticking to but can see houses around you, keeping to 50 km/h is the safe bet. There are plenty of speed cameras in the area, so staying under the limit is not only the safest course of action, but the smartest.
Drink driving is illegal in Queensland (and the rest of Australia) with the legal blood alcohol level set at 0.05%. In layman’s terms, two standard drinks or fewer could put you over the legal limit, so it’s safest not to drive at all if you’ve been drinking.
The vast majority of intersections will be signposted with give way or stop signs, but on the unlikely chance that you come across an uncontrolled intersection, remember to give way to traffic coming from your right.
Cairns petrol stations
Although you won’t need to worry about petrol for a little while as your Cairns Airport car rental will almost always come with a full fuel tank, it is still worth noting where petrol stations are around the city as you’ll be required to return the vehicle with a full tank of petrol unless your rental agreement specifically states otherwise. Puma Stratford is one of the closest stations to the airport, but being located just off the Captain Cook Highway on Arnold Street, it may not be on your way. BP Sheridan Street may be a better choice - it’s right in the heart of Cairns, but still less than 10 minutes drive south of the airport.
Animals on the road
Queensland teems with weird and wonderful wildlife, which makes for a fascinating visit, but also means that those travelling country roads need to be extra vigilant. Many of these creatures are more active at night and have no qualms about crossing roads, so keep a sharp lookout for animals like kangaroos, pigs and bandicoots that may step into your path. Hitting a large animal with your car can be very dangerous and will significantly damage your car rental at the very least. This isn’t so much of a problem within Cairns itself, but if you’re venturing into rural areas during or after dusk, keep your eyes peeled.
Getting from the Cairns Airport to the CBD
Cairns Airport is within easy reach of the city CBD. It’s only about 10 minutes drive down Airport Ave and Lake Street to arrive in the heart of Cairns. This could take a bit longer during peak hour traffic, so try to avoid making the trip between 7-9am and 4-7pm if possible.
At a certain point of course, most visitors will want to venture beyond Cairns to discover what the surrounding country has to offer - fortunately, the regions around Cairns have a host of surprises in store for road trippers.
For those who want to get a taste of Australia’s most iconic environment - the arid expanses of the Outback - Cairns is a great place to start. Head down along the coast to Townsville, then follow Overlander’s Way, an old cattle driving route, through the desert to emerge in tropical Darwin.
Coastal Road Tripping
If you’re up for a truly epic road trip, consider heading down the coast for a week or so, to discover the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and even the Gold Coast. With attractions along the way like Townsville, Airlie Beach and Seventeen Seventy (yes, that is a real town name) you’re sure to discover many unexpected delights along the way.
Into the Tropics
Cairns itself has a tropical climate, but you can head even further north to discover a coastal paradise boasting some of the best beaches in Australia. Port Douglas in particular is popular with sun and sand seekers. Four Mile Beach exemplifies the tropical vibe, with white sand beaches, palm trees, and calm blue water.
Cairns Airport Car Rental Pick Up Depots
You can find a number of different rental suppliers with desks at Cairns Airport, and a few others will have rental depots located just a short distance from the airport. If your rental supplier has a pick up location off airport, they should have a complimentary shuttle that you can take from your terminal straight to the depot. The only thing you need to figure out is where to catch the shuttle to get to your pick up point. Car rental brands which are based directly at Cairns Airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot, Thrifty, Firefly, Auto Europe and Apollo.
A short shuttle trip away from Cairns Airport, you can find a few more car hire depots:
Atlas Car Rental can be found just a short shuttle ride away from Cairns Airport on 410 Sheridan Street, Cairns.
East Coast Car Rental has a rental depot nearby the airport on 146 Sheridan Street, Cairns.
Ace Car Rentals is located at 147 Lake Street, Cairns - only a short journey from the airport.
A Guide to Cairns City
Cairns Airport Accommodation
If you’re in Cairns for business, sometimes all you need is a way to get around the city and a place near the airport to rest your head. Fortunately, there are number of different accommodation options that are within a few kilometres of the Cairns Airport and even offer airport transfers. Those hunting for a decent place to stay at a bargain price won’t want to pass up Calypso Inn Backpackers Resort. Free airport transfers are available which is a nice bonus, and there’s even free nightly entertainment. The Lakes Resort Cairns offers a substantial step up in quality, as a 4 ½ star resort. It’s only 7 minutes drive from Cairns Airport, so it’s easy to hop across via taxi. Comfort Inn Discovery Cairns offers a nice mid-range option with a good blend of comfort and affordability. A 5 minute walk from the waterfront Esplanade, and about 10 minutes from Cairns Airport, Comfort Inn Discovery is easily accessible for casual travellers.
Although the natural attractions around Cairns tend to be top of mind for many visitors, Cairns has plenty of fun events for visitors to get involved with while in town. The Cairns Show is a huge annual 3-day event with a family friendly vibe. A community carnival type event, it includes an Auto Spectacular, impressive fireworks displays, wine awards and whole bunch of wild rides.
Cairns Festival is a colourful celebration of Cairns culture and the tropical lifestyle that this northerly city enjoys. The Grand Parade down the Esplanade is the centrepiece of the fest, but there’s far more to the Cairns Festival than just that. Street performers, live music and fireworks are just a few of the things that festival goers can look forward to.
If a bit of racetrack excitement and glamour sounds enticing, the Cairns Amateur Racing Carnival is the event for you. The racing itself takes place over two days but the celebration of fashion and society stretches over four days in early September. Don your best frock, find your most fanciful hat and head along for several days of high society extravagance.
Food & Wine
Although it’s not possible to point to one signature dish that characterises Cairns, the city’s position in Australia’s tropical north means that a wide range of locally grown tropical foods are easily available. Don’t miss out on the exotic fruits, originally from far flung places like South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, which now grow in the region around Cairns - even if you’ve tried these fruits elsewhere, trying fresh local specimens is likely to be a taste revelation. The city’s position on the coast also allows for bountiful harvest from the sea. Four different kinds of prawn are found in the offshore waters, in addition to dozens of delicious fish species. Sustainable fishing is an important focus in this region, so you can rest assured that the beautiful Coral Sea wasn’t harmed to bring you the sumptuous meal on your plate.
Australia is famous for its Chardonnay and Shiraz, but Cairns uses its tropical location to craft wines and liqueurs of a distinctly different kind. Instead of vineyards, you’re more likely to find mangoes, passionfruit, lychees and pineapples. The region’s tropical fruit wines and liqueurs offer the chance to branch out and maybe even discover your new favourite wine.
Geography, Culture & People
As stated repeatedly above, Cairns is a coastal city and there’s no doubt that this influences its vibe in a major way. A laidback culture pervades the city that is one part beach town, one part tropical resort. It’s impossible to discuss the culture of Cairns without mentioning the indigenous people of far north Queensland.
One of the best ways to gain an insight to the indigenous culture of the area is to pay a visit to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Featuring a range of interactive experiences which will offer an authentic view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, Tjapukai will have visitors engaged with indigenous activities and delighted by delicious traditional meals.
For a look at more modern local culture, head to the Cairns Regional Gallery. With a broad selection of pieces from many different local artists, you’ll begin to get a picture of the creative landscape of Cairns as you peruse the many offerings.
You don’t have to be in town for a major event in order to find things to keep you busy here - there are plenty of things to do in Cairns all year round. The Great Barrier Reef is a powerful drawcard for many who land in Cairns - as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, this is should be top priority on your agenda if you have the time. There are different ways to experience the glory of the reef but arguably the best way to experience Great Barrier Reef is snorkelling or scuba diving. While there are a number of rules and requirements for scuba divers, snorkelling is open to just about anyone and will have you up close and personal with the numerous colourful inhabitants of the reef. If you’d prefer to stay above water, there are also glass bottom boat tours which will allow you to peer between your feet at another world below.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can choose to head west instead of east and ascend into rainforest canopy. One of the most visually spectacular ways to explore Queensland’s rainforest ecosystem is to ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Offering a perspective that you’d never be able to gain on your own two feet, the Cableway will have you gliding high above the rainforest floor and observing a world that is usually hidden from the eyes of humans. Adults and children alike can appreciate this awe-inspiring journey.
The Saturday Esplanade market is always popular with bargain hunters, offering a wide array of clothing, jewellry and top-notch local skincare products. For those looking for fresh and delicious local produce, Rusty’s Markets is the place to be - set in the midst of the CBD three days a week, this one of the best ways to taste the best of what Cairns has to offer.
Adrenaline seekers will find plenty to sate their appetite for adventure in Cairns. Skydiving not only offers thrills but the chance to see the Great Barrier Reef from above, the Tully and Barron Rivers provide some of the best whitewater rafting in the country and bungy jumping, quad biking and hang-gliding are also on the menu.
If you’ve arranged for a Cairns Airport car hire, you may not need to bother with public transport, but there’s always the chance that it may be prove to be a better option in some circumstances. While rail is designed for taking passengers from city to city (Cairns to Brisbane in particular) those travelling within Cairns will need to catch the bus. Sunbus services operate throughout the city, encompassing both the southern suburbs and northern beaches.
As Cairns lies in the tropics the weather here is usually pretty warm, scaling to extremely hot at certain times of the year. Winters tend to be mild and dry, while summer is hot and humid. The rainforest comes alive in summer, and the water temperature averages around 29 degrees, making this an ideal time to explore reef or rainforest. In spite of that, most visitors head to Cairns in the winter to escape chillier climes to the south and take advantage of the clement weather.