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Cairns (Yorkey's Knob) Cruise Port Guide

Cairns is often considered to be the gateway city to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The city serves as the starting point for many visitors on a cruise to Australia to make the short jaunt to the world-famous reef. Cairns is located in Far North Queensland and is known for its tropical climate and awe-inspiring natural sights.

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Top Sights & Attractions for Cruises to Cairns (Yorkey's Knob)

Great Barrier Reef

The main attraction for those on one of our Cairns cruises is the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders. During a cruise to Cairns, you can take shore excursions and tours to the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest coral reef on the planet and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to a variety of sea creatures and is a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving.

City of Cairns

Cairns itself shouldn’t be missed while you’re in port. It has a vibrant downtown area with shops, restaurants, and a scenic waterfront.  Cairns even has a man-made saltwater lagoon, which was built to ensure visitors don’t come into contact with the crocodiles that sometimes hang out around the beaches of Cairns. You can swim without worry in the saltwater lagoon.

Daintree Rainforest

When it comes to nature and beauty, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t the only natural attraction near Cairns to visit. The Daintree Rainforest makes for a memorable sight to see during Cairns cruises. This Australian rainforest is the country’s largest contiguous area of tropical rainforest.

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Top Things to Do in Cairns (Yorkey's Knob)

Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a great excursion to enjoy during a Cairns cruise. See the region’s beautiful World Heritage-listed forest as you journey from Cairns to the town of Kuranda. The railway was built over 120 years ago and takes about two hours one-way.

Helicopter Ride Over the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is so massive that it’s hard to truly comprehend its size when visiting it via water. A helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef will give you an amazing bird’s-eye view of the reef and help you to truly comprehend its colossal scope and importance to the world’s ecosystem.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

One of the most fun and scenic ways to visit the rainforests near Cairns is on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which is a 7.5-meter cableway that runs over the canopies of Barron Gorge National Park. You can choose from a variety of gondolas to ride in, including glass-bottom gondolas, so you don’t miss any of the beauty happening beneath your feet.

Top Food and Drink Spots Near the Cairns (Yorkey's Knob) Cruise Port

Cairns has a variety of restaurants and bars, many of which boast beachfront real estate. For some good eats and drinks, head to these spots during Cairns cruises. 

 

Salt House

You’ll find pizza and more at this restaurant and bar in Cairns that has excellent mountain and ocean views you can enjoy while eating. 

 

C'est Bon

Order some French-inspired, fresh seafood dishes at C’est Bon, an authentic French restaurant located in Cairns.

 

Apex Milk Bar

For some casual cuisine, head to Apex Milk Bar, where you’ll find some of Cairns’ best burgers and fish and chips. You’ll also want to try one of their spectacularly delicious milkshakes. 

Culture & History of the Cairns (Yorkey's Knob) Cruise Port

Cairns has a rich history that includes some important parts of Australia’s history. You’ll learn more about the aboriginal cultures that have long called the region home, as well as see the point where Captain Cook pulled ashore to repair his boat. Cairns also has roots as an industrial town that produced timber and sugar.

The culture of Cairns today has a heavy focus on the beach, with a strong surf culture. You’ll also find that the party scene in Cairns is thriving, particularly after the sun goes down. It’s not all laid-back beaches and bar hopping, though. Cairns also has a variety of museums and art galleries along with a delicious modern Australian culinary scene.

Cairns (Yorkey's Knob) Port Facilities & Location

Larger ships visiting the Cairns cruise port will anchor offshore and tender passengers to Yorkeys Knob, which is a 15-minute shuttle bus ride away from Cairns’ city center. There are also restaurants, shopping, and a beach located within walking distance of the cruise dock.

Transportation in Cairns (Yorkey's Knob)

Public buses operate routes all around Cairns, out to its suburbs and neighboring cities, and attractions. In addition, you can find taxis in Cairns. 

Shopping Near the Cairns (Yorkey's Knob) Cruise Port

From markets to boutiques to shopping centers, you’ll have a variety of shopping options to choose from during Cairns cruises. Popular souvenirs to get from Cairns include photography prints of the coastline and Great Barrier Reef, jewelry made with local pearls, and quintessential Australian clothing like Akubra hats or locally made leather boots. 

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

Tipping is not expected in Australia, and that includes restaurants and bars. It is appreciated, however, and how much to tip for quality service is up to the visitor. In general, you can expect to tip less than you would in the U.S. – think more along the lines of 10% to 12%. 

As for what to pay and tip with, the official currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD$). Keep in mind that instead of $1 bills, Australia uses $1 coins, and also has $2 coins. Don’t misplace your loose change as it can add up quickly! Credit cards are also commonly taken in Cairns, with Visa and Mastercard being the most widely accepted.

 

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In tropical North Queensland, surrounded on three sides by lush rainforest, your Cairns cruise makes the perfect launchpad for excursions to the Great Barrier Reef. This reef is the largest living thing on the planet—so big you can see it from space—but it's made up of billions of tiny organisms known as coral polyps.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the reef supports a vast diversity of marine life, with 600 types of soft and hard corals, 1,625 types of fish, and 30 species of whales and dolphins. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park covers 133,000 square miles, including 3,000 coral reefs and 900 islands. The snorkeling and diving here are unmatched.

Inland, explore the rainforest by cable car and scenic railway, soaring above treetops, peering into gorges, and observing jungle waterfalls. Join a whitewater rafting adventure in Barron Gorge National Park.

Stop at a rainforest village to see kangaroos, birds, butterflies, and reptiles. Hold a koala in your arms and feed a wallaby. Watch traditional Aboriginal dancers perform and artisans create their pottery, paintings, glass works, jewelry, and fabrics. You can shop for these original keepsakes to take back aboard your Cairns cruise.

Back in town, stroll the lovely native flowers, plants, and trees at Cairns Botanic Gardens. You might even get lucky in the local casino. What a way to top off your cruise to Cairns.