Cairns resorts for Aussies seeking a taste of the tropics

Best known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is also an ideal destination for a city break in perpetually warm weather.

When thinking of relaxing Queensland holiday destinations, Cairns is at the top of many people’s list. You can spend your days cooling off at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon or head to Muddy’s Playground to tire out your energetic kids with fun on flying foxes, rope bridges and see-saws. And when the sun goes down and the temperature cools down a notch, wander along The Esplanade to find a table at one of the many restaurants serving world-class cuisine or find the perfect souvenir at Cairns Night Markets.

You’ll find this year-round getaway spot is also packed with resort-style accommodation offering lagoon pools, tasty cocktails and luxurious spas. Stay in five-star opulence in the heart of the marina, or in a colourful boutique hotel with on-site barbecues that invite home-cooked meals eaten under the wide open sky. When you finally retire to your hotel room, let the tropical ocean breeze help you drift off to sleep so you’re refreshed for another day’s sightseeing.

An affordable Cairns resort in a prime waterfront location


BreakFree Royal Harbour offers contemporary self-catering apartments with views over the ocean or lush gardens. Drink in the warm North Queensland breeze from your own balcony or sunny courtyard after an easy morning of breakfast prepared in-room. For the afternoon, grab a shady spot under a market umbrella with views stretching across the Esplanade Lagoon and out to sea.

Swing by the on-site tour desk for tips on local activities—you can also rely on the helpful staff to take the hassle out of booking your trip to the Great Barrier Reef. Closer to home are the famous Cairns Night Markets brimming with colourful wares and a lively atmosphere. Fill your arms with souvenirs and local crafts after munching on international fare at one of the tempting restaurants along the Esplanade.

BreakFree Royal Harbour

Top rated
8.6 Excellent (775 reviews)

A family-friendly spot in central Cairns


In the heart of the action, Rydges Esplanade is a great launching pad for seeing the sights of Cairns with the whole family in tow. Sleek, modern rooms range from standard twins to family rooms complete with bunk beds and an Xbox console. After filling up at the breakfast buffet, you can challenge the family to a game of tennis on one of the two courts.

On hot afternoons, perfect your breaststroke in the shaded lap pool or laze beside the lagoon-style pool that winds around the resort. Sun and splashes tend to work up an appetite, best satiated at the resort’s famous
Fire & Ice Seafood Buffet Dinner served on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The fully equipped gym and sauna will be waiting should you need to work off any overindulgence of prawns, Pacific oysters, baby octopus and chargrilled steaks.

Rydges Esplanade

7.8 Good (3864 reviews)

Cool bars and poolside cocktails


Step into your light, airy room at the Shangri-La Hotel The Marina, where wooden floors and a nautical colour scheme give off a beachy vibe. Early risers can squeeze in a workout at the gym before breakfast, though Egyptian cotton sheets might convince you to spend the morning in a thick bathrobe.

Laze away the remaining pre-noon hours on a Balinese daybed by the pool. Come afternoon, you can sip a craft cocktail on the lawn at The Backyard container bar, staying on for a succulent seafood dinner. You’re a stone’s throw from Cairns’ biggest attractions should you want a change of scene, whether you choose to shop at The Pier or embark on a river cruise.

Shangri-La Hotel The Marina

Top rated
8.5 Excellent (4476 reviews)

Full-on luxury at Cairns’ largest five-star resort


Escape the tropical heat at Pullman Cairns International Hotel, where you’ll find a glimmering lagoon pool ornamented with wooden bridges and an island pontoon. You can catch up on your reading under the shade of a poolside cabana, or dive straight into the turquoise water while a bartender fixes your drink of choice. Inside, your spacious room will open up to a balcony overlooking staggering mountain or sea views.

Ideal for a girls’ weekend or indulgent special occasion, the on-site spa offers tempting day packages combining blissful treatments and high tea. Once you’re feeling fresh and renewed, stop in at Coco’s Kitchen + Bar for a Bushfire Smoked Gin cocktail before sharing a hot-and-cold seafood tower loaded with North Queensland’s best catches.

Pullman Cairns International Hotel

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (4177 reviews)

Apartment-style accommodation for longer stays on the waterfront


Just steps from Reef Fleet Terminal, Cairns Harbour Lights apartments come with furnished balconies to take advantage of sweeping views of the marina, city or parklands. Set yourself up for the day with a hot coffee and simple breakfast prepared in your kitchen while the ocean breeze flows throw open sliding doors.

You can take a stroll along Harbour Walk from the lagoon to Trinity Inlet and look for rare birds, or pop into the nearby Reef Casino to try your luck at the tables. For dinner, settle in at any of the hotel’s waterfront venues. Try Australian bush tucker at Dundee’s, or watch the sun set at Boatshed while you sip on a spritz made from lemon, elderflower and sparkling wine. Migrate to the bubbling Jacuzzi on the outdoor deck to watch the moon rise over the marina.

Cairns Harbour Lights

8.4 Very good (1895 reviews)

A Cairns resort hidden in a garden


Within two-and-a-half hectares of tropical gardens, Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort Hotel is a tranquil spot to catch your breath between sightseeing. Wander down palm-lined paths scented with blossoms to the spa, and leave your cares on the green silk-laid treatment table. The resort also has the largest lagoon-style pool in the Central Business District, so you can watch the kids paddle and splash while you ease into a comfortable sunlounger.

Try a “Cheeky Tiki” cocktail at the resort’s own Moku Beach Club, or dig into a grilled reef fishburger with fresh mango and papaya salsa. Top off the day with one final dip in the pool, splashing up to the swim-up bar for a tropical juice. Wander back to your suite as evening falls for some alone time in the oversized spa bath.

Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort Hotel

7.7 Good (3682 reviews)

A taste of Tuscany's warmth in Cairns


Bringing a bit of sunny Italy to Australia’s tropical north, Il Palazzo Boutique Hotel boasts sophisticated one-bedroom apartments in the centre of Cairns. The unique style starts in the lobby with a human-sized replica of Michelangelo’s David. Step into your own suite made of wood and marble, where European appliances and bespoke furnishings continue the Italian vibes.

Spend each morning with a rich coffee on the warm terracotta terrace or rooftop deck, or swap your patio table for a sunlounger by the pool. You can slip comfortably into the crystal-clear waters any time of year, too, thanks to winter heating. For something truly breathtaking, desk staff can arrange a champagne balloon flight over nearby Kuranda and the Tablelands.

Il Palazzo Boutique Apartment Hotel

8.9 Excellent (1129 reviews)

Enjoy meals alfresco in the heart of Cairns


A sanctuary from the city, Coral Tree Inn Cairns offers modern rooms decorated in a bright, crisp style. Fuel up at the buffet breakfast served poolside, or just enjoy a quiet coffee beneath the shade of rustling palm trees. The Esplanade is a short walk away so you can make the most of the tropical climate with a stroll along the foreshore or a splash in the lagoon.

Your breezy room, freshly cleaned by daily housekeeping, makes a tempting spot for an indulgent midday nap in your king-size bed. Late afternoon is when guests start to gather around the communal barbecue. For the full Aussie experience, gather the family under the thatched gazebo and munch on grilled sausages or prime cuts of steak. Soak up the last of the North Queensland sun after dinner from a daybed by the saltwater pool.

Coral Tree Inn Cairns

7.9 Good (2340 reviews)