Cairns is one of the centers of Australian tourism and as a result people come here from all over the world to work, study and play. This means a cosmopolitan dining scene that can hold its own with the eating on offer in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Cairns is the sweltering gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia's second-largest tourist attraction (after Uluru) and the largest living thing in the world. Most people who visit here do so fleetingly, in order to take boat trips to the Reef. This is a shame since Cairns itself is a thriving tourist center that marks the entrance to the far north tropics of Australia.
Cairns is very much a night time city since the soaring temperatures and soggy humidity during the day prohibit any kind of vigorous activity during the day time. Of an evening, the international crowd flocks to bars and restaurants that pulsate with travelers from all backgrounds, and the variety of nightlife and atmosphere here is truly electric.
The main thing to bear in mind when approaching a stay in Cairns is the heat and humidity. This is a very steamy part of the world and the most frequent cause of discomfort and distress is unfamiliarity or lack of preparation for extreme temperatures. Also, be sure to avoid swimming in the waters directly off Cairns as crocodiles swim in the wild here. Tourist traps are another concern, and most visitors should try to book well in advance for all trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
Sophisticated and multi-cultural Cairns is a shopper's heaven with a great mix of shopping malls and department stores as well as souvenir and trinket stores which are a dime a dozen by the main port and The Esplanade. Good buys include crocodile skin leather goods and pearls.