As a local I’ve come to know many hotels and resorts in the city. So to help you choose your accommodation in Cairns, here are my top picks for a range of budgets!
Cairns is a unique tropical city that first paved a career in tourism after WW2, but is evolving into so much more. It’s changed quite a bit since I first visited in 2014 and nowadays it’s oozing more hipster vibes, with a burgeoning arts scene, a few street art pieces & laneways to explore, and some new cool new social hangouts.
Whilst you may want to book your whole trip in Cairns if you fancy more of an urban escape, there’s so much incredible nature in Far North Queensland that I’d suggest mixing it up a bit.
If you have 10 days to spare, then a good way to go could be basing yourself in two or three places. Perhaps an agenda may look like : 2-3 nights in Cairns, 4 nights on a beach somewhere along the coast or an island (perhaps Port Douglas – check out things to do from here) and 2-3 nights in the rainforest or hinterland (either the Daintree, Cape Tribulation or the Atherton Tablelands). The possibilities are endless!
The Sailor and I have lived in the region for nearly 2 years now and we’re always popping to ‘Cans’ for a weekend getaway. So to help you plan your trip, here are my favourite Cairns accommodation picks that are good value for money.
Cairns is only a medium-sized city so even if you stay in the outskirts it won’t take long to get downtown. However I enjoy staying closer to the centre so I can easily leave the hotel and walk everywhere without worrying about taxis. But Uber works well here if you’re further out.
Anywhere along the esplanade will keep you in the action or around the marina. Perhaps avoid staying on the busy main road that leads in to the city (Sheridan Street) unless the hotel has good double glazing.
Being a city, you’re obviously going to get a wider range of stays that suit all budgets compared to remote locations nearby, and slightly more competitive prices. Though unlike southern hotspots such as Melbourne and Sydney, accommodation in Cairns is heaps more affordable and you can stay in the centre for a pretty good rate.
But if you want to get even more bang for your buck, then try to plan a trip here during the low season. As a teacher though, I know it’s not always possible!
The main high season runs from May to October and peaks between June-August, so many hotels and resorts in Cairns will inflate their rates during this time. The other semi-high season is Christmas and New Year, and throughout the Aussie summer holidays (mid December to late January). Advance bookings are recommended.
Outside of these seasons are where you’re going to get the cheapest rates ~ between mid-October to mid-December and February to May (bar Easter). As rates fluctuate between seasons, use the prices below as a guide.
Cairns Accommodation – Best Low to Mid-Range Places To Stay
You’ll find a lot of mid 19th century Queenslander-style hotels in the region which have quite a bit of character, but often the walls are paper thin and the rooms are on the smaller side. They’ll often be your low to mid range stays.
I stayed in too many of them when we relocated here last year and am a bit over them now! But if I had to recommend one, then Bay Village Tropical Retreat would be my top pick as it has a pukka Balinese restaurant downstairs and the staff were really friendly. Rooms here start at $109 AUD per night via Booking.com’s Basic option.
For all other resorts and hotels, here are my top picks that start from $100 – $180 per night.
We often stay here when we visit Cairns. It’s a pretty basic set-up but the hotel has everything you need, the rooms are really well priced and I love the location.
Park Regis is at the quieter end of the marina which is a great area to walk around or go for a morning run. You can grab a coffee or brunch at Wharf One Cafe, or a beer at Hemingway’s Brewery (or nightcap at the Conservatory Bar downstairs 😉).
This hotel is a good pick if you’re here for a shorter stay and want comfort and convenience for a banging price.
- Room price: From $85 AUD per night for 2 people (approx. £47 GBP or $57 USD). If you want more space then the 1-bed apartment are just a fraction more but offer a generous 55m². For the best rates and Genius discounts, I always book rooms via Booking.com.
BreakFree, despite it’s unfortunate name, is right in town opposite the lagoon and looks like another great value option. Although the hotel facade doesn’t look like much from the outside, they’re really well rated on Booking.com and all rooms are a simple yet spacey 55m².
It’s positioned right above the Night Markets at the busier end of the esplanade, so be aware that it could potentially get a bit noisy when the windows and doors are open.
- Room price: From $129 AUD per night for 2 people (approx. £69 GBP or $86 USD). To read reviews and book, head to Booking.com.
We booked here once for a change and really enjoyed our stay. It’s right in town so can get a little noisier, however their newly renovated rooms have double glazing which blocks everything out- we moved to one on the first floor after the first night. I’m pretty sure they’ll be revamping all rooms but check before booking.
Their modernised rooms are really well styled and it was like staying in a new hotel. The pool isn’t huge so you may be competing for deckchairs, but it’s a nice area and a perfect place to sip your morning cuppa- life’s little luxuries eh.
- Room price: From $149 AUD per night for 2 people with Booking.com’s Genius discount (approx. £80 GBP or $100 USD).
If you’re counting the pennies then Rydges is another good choice. It has a bigger capacity than 1-3 but it’s at the quieter end of the esplanade, with spacey rooms starting at 32 m² and a nice lagoon pool. I’d recommend Muddy’s Cafe just across the road for brunch.
- Room price: From $121 AUD per night for 2 people with Booking.com’s Genius discount (approx. £65 GBP or $81 USD).
We recently stayed at Hilton Cairns on a pretty sweet local’s package. In addition to a discounted rate of $150 per night- which I think is awesome considering it’s a 5-star hotel, we also got $50 free dining credit per day.
They even upgraded us to their Deluxe King Waterview Room (not quite show how we deserved it!) which really made the trip. It overlooked the marina, creek and ranges, which is by far the best view I’ve had in Cairns yet.
We sat on the balcony for ages at dusk, watching the lorikeets put on a little bird show before roosting in the palm trees opposite. Sipping a morning coffee there whilst the clouds escaped the rainforest was truly peaceful too. I didn’t want to leave!
The dining credit could be used for drinks or dinner at Mondo’s restaurant downstairs or brekkie (advanced bookings are recommended during ‘Rona restrictions). We ordered in room which arrived warm despite them being busy.
The hotel has a great outdoor pool, although it’s a bit cold for me at this time of year unless the sun is pounding! But their jacuzzi hit the spot- it was like a hot bubbly bath, which was just what we needed after our hardcore kitesurfing lesson that day. My only critique was that it had way too much chlorine, and the pool bar was closed… I guess because of ‘Rona so can’t be helped.
- Room price: If you’re a lovely local, then book direct for their $150 local’s package per night which lasts until December 2020 (see their Facebook for more deets).
- Otherwise the price has dropped for out of towners too making it a great 5-star option at mid-range prices. Rooms for non locals until December ’20 start at $157 – $179 AUD per night via Booking.com.
Cairns Accommodation – Best 5-Star & Luxury Places To Stay
These resorts start from $185 per night.
Dubai based Billionaire Ghassan Aboud has transformed the hotel scene in Cairns with the opening of not one, not two but three Crystalbrook hotels- all within the space of 18 months 😳. He’s been busy, but it’s been a much needed modern revival to the slightly outdated hotel builds.
Although I haven’t yet stayed at Riley (still waiting for that special occasion) I regularly visit their ground floor bar, which is easily becoming the hottest sunset spot in town. Their rooftop bar & restaurant ‘Rocco’ is impressive too when I remember to wear shoes… it’s no thongs allowed!
@travel_mermaidRiley’s Resort in ##Cairns♬ original sound – travel_mermaid
Unlike some other hotel chains, Crystalbrook are committed to sustainability and have branded themselves as ‘responsible luxury’ – so extra browny points won there. The downstairs pool looks lush and their spacey 32 m² rooms are beautifully decorated. If you have the budget to fork out a bit extra, then Riley is my first choice.
- Room price: From $224 AUD per night for 2 people with Booking.com’s Genius discount (approx. £121 GBP or $150 USD).
We had a great stay at Pullman when we moved back to the region last year, as you’d expect from this chain. It’s positioned near the marina and all the goodies, but at the quieter end of town.
Rooms are a generous 40 m² and their pool and hot tub will please. The staff were also really friendly and we enjoyed grabbing a night cap at their ground floor bar.
- Room price: From $229 AUD per night for 2 people (approx. £124 GBP or $153 USD). To read reviews and receive Genius discounts, book via Booking.com.
This is the second Crystalbrook hotel in Cairns which opened up just last November. Bailey is a little cheaper than Riley but maintains the same high standards. It’s more of an arty 5-star hotel with two restaurants (a grill and Latin tapas joint) and a desert ‘Milk’ bar.
The modern rooms are a little smaller at 26 m² and well-styled, and facilities include a swimming pool and gym. The location is in the thick of the action too.
- Room price: From $188 AUD per night for 2 people with Booking.com’s Genius discount (approx. £101 GBP or $126 USD). Click to see more.
* * *
Whether you’re staying just for a night or 7, I hope you found my accommodation picks in Cairns useful. It’s not the biggest city but has enough hotels and resorts to suit all kinds of travellers & budgets.
I haven’t got any posts on the Daintree or Cape Tribulation yet, but I have stayed in a couple of places there. For my honeymoon I booked us into Daintree Ecolodge which was uber relaxing & peaceful as you’re surrounded by rainforest. They’ve recently renovated their rooms, although nowadays they seem quite a bit pricier.
For my birthday last year I also stayed at Wildwood which was an awesome rainforest cabin with a BBQ and campfire facilities. They have a tropical fruit farm on site too which you’re free to explore- I highly recommend this place.
As I’m a local, just should if you have any questions and hopefully I can help you out. As always, happy booking and have a pukka stay in Cairns!
* * *
Like it? Pin it for later!
Disclosure: In this article I’ve included some useful links of which some are affiliates- at no cost to you- to help keep this website running. 🤙🏻