While Australia is a world of innumerable awe-inspiring natural wonders, the world-famous Great Barrier Reef is something that takes beauty and awesomeness to a whole new level. And while there are many spots to soak up this artful handiwork of nature, Cairns is one of the most popular destinations. Of course, there are other fine spots to experience this natural leviathan. One of these is Port Douglas, 41 miles away from Cairns towards the northern sides—an attractive, small town that’s cooly laid-back—and which has beautiful pristine beaches with stunning vistas that stretch to the horizon.


Then there are Whitsundays, many islands, and a dozen other spots sitting on the 2,300-kilometer stretch of the largest reef system on the planet. However, few spots can hold a candle to Cairns, the traditional gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s a travel guide that’ll make your trip to Cairns a breeze.

How To Access Cairns In Order To See The Great Barrier Reef

First, it would be well to map the location of Cairns. The city of Cairns is in the state of Queensland, one of Australia's six states and the second largest after Western Australia. While the capital of Australia is Canberra, an independent enclave inside the state of New South Wales, the capital of Queensland is Brisbane. More than 80% of Queenslanders live in the cities and towns that line the coastal strip on the eastern side of the Sunshine State. The rest are spread out on an impossibly vast outback dotted with some spectacular landscapes that are just as insanely attractive. Cairns itself is a beautiful, sprawling city—a good 863 miles away from Brisbane—and about 1, 500 miles from Sydney, the most famous and populous Australian city. The city of Cairns sits on a peninsula between an imposing mountain range on the west and the endless blue of the Coral Sea on the east.

Related: Great Barrier Reef: 25 Little-Known Things That'll Make Us Want To Visit

The far-off location of Cairns means one thing: unless someone is significantly motivated, and has the energy—and of course, the time, driving to Cairns from any of the large cities is an energy-sapping affair. It’ll take one 27 hours from Sydney—and a good 30 hours from Melbourne. While there are many awesome things to see and do in Australia, to meaningfully explore such a vast country will require more than a few days or weeks. Now here’s the best and quickest way to access Cairns: Take a flight direct to Cairns International (CNS), a busy international airport just 10 minutes north of the city of Cairns. The airport has domestic flights to all the major Australian cities. On the international front, it has direct flights to Papua New Guinea, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore, through Darwin.

Currently, there are no direct flights from the United States or Europe to Cairns. If one is traveling from London, Singapore Airlines seems to be a fine option as it has only a single stop-over. Of course, there are direct flights from the United States to Cairns but with one or more stop-overs. Those intending to travel should check out Skyscanner for some of the cheapest flight deals. And while one can chance on a $478 flight, the average cost from the US to Cairns is $1, 540 —according to the popular flight search engine Kayak.

Once someone lands at the Cairns Airport, he or she can easily wend his way to the city center by using a taxi or a ride-share. This should be between $18 to $22, or AUD (25-30). Apart from a taxi or a ride-share, there are also shuttle services that one can use. There are many luxury (and not so luxury) accommodation facilities within and around the city of Cairns. These range from high-end hotels and lodges to budget hostels and camping sites. Bookings.com is a perfect site to check out hotels while Hostelworld.com does it for more affordable hostels. For a beach experience, many stunning islands lavishly dot the coastline. The northern sides of Cairns are particularly a sea-side treasure. Palm Cove, just a 15-mile trip northwards—is one awesome spot on earth. But downtown Cairns is still perfect since the central location puts travelers at the heart of all action. And almost all tours to the Great Barrier Reef leave from the Cairns Marina located in the city’s Central Business District.

  • What Is The Best Time To Travel To Cairns To See The Great Barrier Reef: The Great Barrier Reef is not just seen but experienced, and the best time for this is during the dry season that runs from May to October.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Melbourne Is The Best Australian City (& 5 Why Sydney Is)

Staying In Cairns? Check Out These Money-Saving Tips

Here’s the truth. Australia is not a cheap destination. According to NationMaster, restaurant prices are 27% higher than those in the United States. Consequently, one should eat out rarely. An excellent option is to head out to Woolworths or any other supermarket for some delicious snack, sandwich, or any other simple meal. And aside from the Great Barrier Reef, one should check out a few other free but interesting activities to do within the town—like a visit to the Cairns Art Gallery.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of nature’s finest handwriting. And if Cairns is the gateway, a travel guide must be a close companion.