Car Hire at Cairns
This information is correct as of June 2015.
If you need a car to get around the streets of Cairns, make sure that you use Skyscanner. With access to over 800 car hire providers worldwide, booking your car has never been easier. Below is a guide on how you can conveniently roam the streets of Cairns.
Where to hire a car at Cairns
Upon arriving at the Cairns Airport, you will already find some car agencies namely Redspot, Avis, and Europcar. Other major car companies that operate within the city include Budget, Hertz, Thrifty, Honk, Ace Rental cars, Jucy Rentals, East Coast, Apollo, and Atlas Car Rental. All these companies have more than one location in Cairns, making it easy for you to choose the car hire provider that will serve you from your desired pick-up and drop-off location. Just make sure that you bring all necessary documents that are needed when driving as a tourist in Cairns.
What to expect when hiring a car from Cairns
Cairns isn’t a very populous city, with only a population of 140,000; but it is known to be a tourist spot especially for Japanese visitors who are even given a special treatment given that some shop signs are written in both their language and English. With numerous companies providing cheap car hires, expect some very low rates and lots of options to choose from. An average economy car should cost around NZD 30.00 for a day, with costs of minibuses and vans reaching an estimate of NZD 110.00.
There is no toll system in Cairns and this is only applicable if you wish to visit the greater Brisbane Area (which is accessible by road via a 22-hour non-stop drive off the 1,700-kilometre long Bruce Highway). Although Cairns is relatively small, the traffic here is known to get pretty heavy also on peak times, especially on the Northern beaches suburbs side on Bruce Highway, as well as on the Captain Cook Highway which is only a dual lane highway. A standard 20 minutes ride from the nearby town of Smithfield could take up to an hour and above, especially if some accident happened in the area. Other areas known to experience some traffic include the Smithfield roundabout and the intersection of James St and Sheridan St. People complain about the need for traffic light synchronisation, so make sure that your eyes are always checking the traffic lights when you drive around Cairns.
Getting to your destination
There are various places in Cairns you can reach with a car hire. Some of them are:
Located about 14 kilometres from Cairns is the Crystal Cascades, a haven of beautiful waterfalls and crocodile-free swimming holes that is known to be a popular spot among locals. You can also visit Lake Morris by taking a steep rainforest walk from this place, although that would take a three- hour walk to get there.
To get here, you will really need your own car because this place is off-limits to public transportation. It is a known concern that there is no mobile phone reception in the area, so make sure that you don’t get lost or you will find very little help if you get stranded here. With your rental car, just drive to the suburb of Redlynch, and follow the signs that will lead to Crystal Cascades. From the Red Beret Pub, the swimming holes are just about 10 kilometres away.
Cairns Esplanade, Boardwalk & Lagoon
Another spectacular spot that tourists love going to is the Cairns’ Esplanade’s swimming lagoon on the city’s foreshore. It is artificially built with a chlorinated saltwater pool that is safely guarded by lifeguards even at night. The adjacent three-kilometre boardwalk is where families hang out to picnic, eat, and relax. At times, there are free and fun events that are planned in the area. It is also worth visiting the Muddy’s playground which is just sitting north of the boardwalk.
From Cairns Central Shopping Centre (smack right in the centre of the city), just drive south towards Bunda Street till your reach the A1 section of the Bruce Highway, where you will turn left and head all the way to Wharf St (just past the Cairns Convention Centre) and you will find Esplanade right away. Take a right via Spence St from the Esplanade if you wish to visit the Sunlover Reef Cruises.
Port Douglas is known to many as the spot where the world's most influential people can always be seen. This is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and it only takes a short drive into the heart of the Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation.
To reach Port Douglas from Cairns, head north from the Cairns International Airport via Stratford using the Bruce Highway. It should take just an hour drive, passing by the Barron river in the process, and it will connect you to the Captain Hook Highway. Look out on the right side of the highway for the Wildlife Habitat and turn right and that is already the Port Douglas road. Right at the end of that street, keep heading northwest and you will reach Port Douglas.