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Population : 122,731 (2006) (14th)
Density : 250.9/km² (649.8/sq mi) 
Established : 1876
Coordinates : 16°55′32″S 145°46′31″E / 16.92556°S 145
77528°E / -16.92556; 145.77528
Area: 488.1 km² (188.5 sq mi) 
Time zone: AEST (UTC+10)
* 1707 km (1,061 mi) NW of Brisbane
* 2420 km (1,504 mi) NNW of Sydney
Cairns is a regional city in Far North Queensland, Australia. The city
itself was named after William Wellington Cairns (the then Governor of
Queensland). It was formed to serve miners heading for the Hodgkinson River
goldfield, but experienced a decline when an easier route was discovered
from Port Douglas. It later developed into a railhead and major port for
exporting sugar cane, gold, metals, minerals and agricultural products from
surrounding coastal areas and the Atherton Tableland region.
The city is rapidly expanding, with a population of 122,731 at the 2006
census. Tourism is the largest income producer for the region, followed
closely by the sugar industry.
Cairns is located about 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane, and about 2,420
km (1,504 mi) from Sydney by road. It is a popular travel destination for
foreign tourists because of its tropical climate and proximity to many
attractions. The Great Barrier Reef can be reached in less than an hour by
boat. Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation, about 130 km (81 mi)
north of Cairns, are popular areas for experiencing a tropical rainforest.
It is also a starting point for people wanting to explore Cooktown, Cape
York Peninsula, and the Atherton Tableland.
The city has used its natural surroundings to its advantage, with the
construction of several small theme parks for tourists. Among them are
Rainforestation Nature Park, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, and Kuranda
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which extends for 7.5 km (4.7 mi) over World
A notable feature of the Cairns esplanade is a swimming lagoon with
adjoining barbecue areas. In May 2003, the then Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne
declared that topless sunbaking is permitted here, as the area is a
gathering point for people from around the world who may wish to do so. A
boardwalk allows pedestrians and cyclists to move along the foreshore from
the lagoon in a sustainable manner.
Cairns is located on the east coast of Cape York Peninsula on a coastal
strip between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range. The northern part
of the city is located on Trinity Bay and the city centre is located on
Trinity Inlet. Some of the city's suburbs are located on flood plains. The
Mulgrave River and Barron River flow within the city's boundary but not
through the city itself. The city centre's foreshore is located on a mud
Cairns is a provincial city, with a linear urban layout that runs from the
south, at Edmonton, to the north, at Ellis Beach. The city is approximately
52 km (32 mi) from north to south. Cairns has experienced recent urban
sprawl, with suburbs occupying land previously used for sugar cane farming.
The Northern Beaches consist of a number of beach communities extending
north along the coast. In general, each beach suburb is located at the end
of a spur road extending from the Captain Cook Highway. From south to north,
these are Machans Beach, Holloways Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Park,
Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove, and Ellis Beach.
The suburb of Smithfield is located inland against the mountains of the
Great Dividing Range, between Yorkeys Knob and Trinity Park. It serves as
the main hub for the Northern Beaches, with a modern shopping arcade, called
Smithfield Shopping Centre.
Located south of Smithfield and inland from the Northern Beaches along the
edge of the Barron River flood plain are the suburbs of Caravonica,
Kamerunga, Freshwater, and Stratford. This area is sometimes referred to as
Freshwater Valley, though it is actually the lower part of Redlynch Valley;
further up the valley are the suburbs of Redlynch, on the western side of
Redlynch Valley, and Brinsmead on the eastern side. Stratford, Freshwater,
and Brinsmead are separated from Cairns city by Mount Whitfield (elevation
365 m (1,198 ft)) and Whitfield Range. Crystal Cascades and Copperlode Dam
are also located behind this range. This area is serviced by the Redlynch
Central Shopping Centre, a relatively new shopping centre, located in the
fast growing area of the Redlynch Valley. This shopping centre is also due
to be expanded in the future.
The city centre of Cairns is adjacent to the suburbs of Cairns North, and
Parramatta Park, Bungalow, Portsmith, and in close proximity to Westcourt,
Manunda, Manoora, Edge Hill, Whitfield, Kanimbla, Mooroobool, Earlville,
Woree and Bayview Heights. The small suburb of Aeroglen is pressed between
Mount Whitfield and the airport, on the Captain Cook Highway between Cairns
North and Stratford.
Southside Cairns, situated in a narrow area between Trinity Inlet to the
east and Lamb Range to the west, includes the suburbs of White Rock, Mount
Sheridan, Bentley Park and Edmonton. The townships of Goldsborough, Little
Mulgrave, and Aloomba are in close proximity to Gordonvale, located on the
Mulgrave River. This area is serviced by the Bruce Highway, which is to be
developed into a motorway between Woree and Gordonvale to address increasing
Several other small towns and communities within Cairns' jurisdiction are
sparsely located along the Bruce highway, the furthest being Mirriwinni, 66
kilometres (41.0 mi) south of Cairns city; the largest of these townships is
Babinda, about 60 kilometres (37.3 mi) from Cairns.
The town of Kuranda is located upstream on the Barron River on the western
side of the Macalister Range, part of the Great Dividing Range. Kuranda is
located in the Tablelands local government area and, due to the geography of
the Macalister Range, is not part of the Cairns urban area; however, it
forms part of the Cairns economic catchment.
History of Cairns, Queensland
The land originally belonged to the Walubarra Yidinji people, who still
recognise indigenous property rights in the area. The area upon which the
city has been built is known in the local Yidiny language as Gimuy.
In 1770, James Cook first mapped the future site of Cairns, naming it
Trinity Bay. Closer investigation by several official expeditions 100 years
later established its potential for development into a port.
Cairns was founded in 1876, hastened by the need to export gold discovered
on the tablelands to the west of the inlet. The site was predominantly
mangrove swamps and sand ridges. The swamps were gradually cleared by
laborers, and the sand ridges were filled in with dried mud, sawdust from
local sawmills, and ballast from a quarry at Edge Hill. Debris collected
from the construction of a railway to Herberton on the Atherton Tableland, a
project which started in 1886, was also used. The railway opened up land
that was later used for agriculture on the lowlands (sugar cane, corn, rice,
bananas, pineapples), and for fruit and dairy production on the Tableland.
The success of local agriculture helped Cairns to establish itself as a port
and the creation of a harbour board in 1906 helped to support its economic
During World War II, Cairns was used by the Allied Forces as a staging base
for operations in the Pacific. After World War II, Cairns slowly reinvented
itself as a centre for tourism. The opening of the Cairns International
Airport in 1984, and the building of the Cairns Convention Centre
established the city's overseas reputation as a desirable destination for
the tourism and business conference markets.
Cairns experiences a warm tropical climate, specifically a Tropical monsoon
climate (Am) under the Köppen climate classification. A wet season with
tropical monsoons runs from December to April, with a relatively dry season
from May to November, though showers are frequent for most of this period.
Mean rainfall of Cairns is 1,992.8 millimetres (78.5 in). The township of
Babinda at the southern end of the city is one of Australia's wettest towns,
recording an annual rainfall of over 4,200 millimetres (165.4 in). It has
hot, humid summers and milder temperatures in winter. Mean temperatures vary
from 25.7 °C (78.3 °F) in July to 31.4 °C (88.5 °F) in January. Monsoonal
activity during the wet season occasionally causes major flooding of the
Barron and Mulgrave Rivers, cutting off road and rail access to the city.
Like most of North and Far North Queensland, Cairns is prone to tropical
cyclones, usually forming between November and May.
Notable cyclones that have affected the Cairns region include:
* Cyclone Larry, 2006
* Cyclone Abigail, 2001
* Cyclone Steve, 2000
* Cyclone Rona, 1999
* Cyclone Justin, 1997
Tropical Cyclone Larry struck areas to the south of Cairns at 7 a.m. on 20
March 2006. Cyclone Larry crossed land near the town of Innisfail, 100 km
(62 mi) south of Cairns as a category five cyclone. It was downgraded to a
category four cyclone shortly before midday, and further downgraded to a
category three cyclone a few hours later. Wind gusts of up to 300 km/h (186
mph) were recorded around the Cairns region, with wind gusts up to 180 km/h
(112 mph) reported in the city. It is estimated that about one in four
houses in Cairns and surrounding areas were affected by Cyclone Larry
Cairns is part of the Cairns Region local government area which is governed
by a Regional Council. The Council consists of a directly elected mayor and
10 councillors, elected from 10 single-member divisions (or wards) using an
optional preferential voting system. Elections are held every four years.
The Cairns Region consists of three former local government areas. The first
was the original City of Cairns, consisting of the Cairns City region as
listed above. The second, which was amalgamated in 1995, was the Shire of
Mulgrave (comprising the other areas, namely the Northern Beaches, Redlynch
Valley and Southside). The town of Gordonvale was once called Mulgrave. The
third area is the Shire of Douglas, which amalgamated in 2008 during major
statewide local government reforms.
At the time of the 1995 amalgamation, Cairns City had a population of
approximately 40,000 and Mulgrave Shire had a population of approximately 60
000. Both local government authorities had chambers in the Cairns CBD. The
old Cairns City Council chambers has been converted into a new city library.
In a controversial decision, new Council chambers were constructed on
previously contaminated land in the mainly industrial suburb of Portsmith.
Cairns has three representatives in the Queensland Parliament, from the
electoral districts of Barron River, Cairns and Mulgrave. The city is
represented in the Federal Parliament by representatives elected from the
districts of Leichhardt and Kennedy.
Prior to the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Commission (ATSIC), the indigenous people in Cairns were represented by the
Cairns and District Regional Council. The Council had twelve Councillors,
who elected a chairperson from among them. The Cairns area was represented
on ATSIC by the Commissioner for Queensland North Zone. The last
Commissioner for Queensland North was Lionel Quartermaine, who also served
as ATSIC's Deputy Chair.
Cairns serves as the major commercial centre for the Far North Queensland
and Cape York Peninsula Regions. It is a base for the regional offices of
various government departments.
Tourism plays a major part in the Cairns economy. According to Tourism
Australia, the Cairns region is the fourth-most popular destination for
international tourists in Australia after Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
While the city does not rank amongst Australia's top 10 destinations for
domestic tourism, it attracts a significant number of Australian holiday
makers given its distance from major capitals. The city's proximity to the
Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, and the Atherton
Tableland makes it a popular destination. The city contains hundreds of
hotels, resorts, motels and backpackers hostels. Activities in the region
include golf, white water rafting, cruises to the Great Barrier Reef, and
coach tours to the Daintree Rainforest, Atherton Tableland and Paronella
Park. There are also scenic flights, day trips to Kuranda, crocodile farms,
and a food-and-wine tour visiting tropical fruit wineries.
Several shopping centres of various sizes are located throughout Cairns. The
largest of these are Cairns Central shopping centre, located in the central
business district, and Stockland Cairns, located in the suburb of Earlville.
In Westcourt, one of the city's oldest shopping centres has been refurbished
with the city's first Direct Factory Outlet. To service the needs of
suburbs further from the city centre, shopping complexes are also located at
Mount Sheridan, Redlynch, Smithfield, and Clifton Beach.
The city is becoming a significant economical centre in not just tourism,
but in services as well, with many new office towers being built and planned
for the near future, including the Cairns Corporate Tower #2.
The Cairns Post is a daily newspaper published in the city; a weekly paper,
The Cairns Sun, is also published. The Courier-Mail is a daily
Queensland-wide newspaper published in Brisbane. The Australian newspaper
also circulates widely.
The Cairns Bulletin (cairnsbulletin.com.au) is the only independent suburban
newspaper in circulation in Cairns. It is distributed from Palm Cove in the
north to Gordonvale in the south.
Cairns is served by regional affiliates of the three Australian commercial
television networks (Ten, Nine and Seven) and the two public broadcasters
(ABC and SBS). Austar Limited provides subscription satellite television
Cairns radio stations include a number of public, commercial and community
broadcasters. The ABC broadcasts ABC Radio National, ABC Local, ABC Classic
FM and the Triple J youth network. Commercial radio stations include 4CA-FM,
AM846, HOT FM, SeaFM, 4CCR-FM, 87.6 XFM, 98.7FM, 101.9 Coast FM, and 104.3
4TAB sports radio.
Industry and agriculture
The land around Cairns is still used for sugar cane farming, although this
land is increasingly under pressure from new suburbs as the city grows.
Within the Cairns City Council area, sugar mills operate in Gordonvale and
The Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station is located nearby in Kuranda,
and provides green power for some of the city's needs.
Cairns is an important transport hub in the Far North Queensland region.
Located at the base of Cape York Peninsula, it provides important transport
links between the Peninsula and Gulf of Carpentaria regions, and the areas
to the south of the state. Cairns International Airport is essential to the
viability of the area's tourism industry.
The Bruce Highway runs for 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane, and terminates
in the Cairns CBD, from which the Captain Cook Highway (also referred to as
the Cook Highway) commences, which runs for approximately 76 km (47 mi) from
Cairns to Mossman to the northwest.
A need for future upgrades to the Bruce Highway to motorway standards
through the southern suburbs to Gordonvale has been identified in regional
planning strategies to cope with increasing congestion from rapid population
growth. This will result in overpasses at all major intersections from Woree
to Gordonvale. The motorway will divert from Bentley Park to Gordonvale,
bypassing Edmonton to reduce the affects of road noise on residential areas.
The Kennedy Highway commences at Smithfield on the Barron River flood plain
north of Cairns, and ascends the Macalister Range to the township of Kuranda
The highway then extends to the town of Mareeba on the Atherton Tableland,
and continues to communities of Cape York Peninsula. There are plans to
construct an overpass as part of the Kennedy Range Motorway, which will run
from Smithfield to Kuranda.
The Gillies Highway commences at the township of Gordonvale, and ascends the
Gillies Range (part of the Great Dividing Range) to the town of Atherton on
the Atherton Tableland, passing through the township of Yungaburra on the
The controversial private road, Quaid Road, was constructed in 1989 through
what is now a Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and links Wangetti, on the
coast just north of Cairns, to Southedge, just south of Mount Molloy. The
road is not open to the public and is not used for general traffic.
Cairns is served by long-distance coaches to Brisbane, and regional cities
to the south. Coaches also operate west to Mount Isa via Townsville, and to
Alice Springs and Darwin in the Northern Territory. The longest running
locally owned Coach company is Tropic Wings Coach Tours, originally
established in 1981 and opperated under the name of "Blue Wings Coaches"
changing to "Tropic Wings Coach Tours" in 1984. Tropic Wings Coach Tours was
the first local company to service Kuranda on a regular basis and has
continued to service North Queensland to this day.
A public transport network is operated throughout the city by Marlin Coast
Sunbus. A transit mall is located in the CBD, through which all services
operate. Services include most parts of the city, from Palm Cove in the
north, to Gordonvale in the south. Bus services operated by Whitecar Coaches
run to Kuranda and to the Atherton Tableland. A smaller minibus service, Jon
s Kuranda Bus runs between Cairns and Kuranda. Cairns also has one major
taxi company, Black and White Cabs, which services the Cairns region.
Cairns is the terminus for Queensland's North Coast railway line, which
follows the eastern seaboard from Brisbane. Services are operated by
Queensland Rail (QR). In April 2009, the high speed tilt train service from
Brisbane to Cairns was suspended due to safety concerns but resumed service
on 4 May. Freight trains also operate along the route, with a QR Freight
handling facility located at Portsmith.
Pacific National Queensland (a division of Pacific National, owned by
Asciano Limited) operates a rail siding at Woree. It runs private trains on
the rail network owned by the Queensland State Government and managed by QR
s Network Division.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway operates from Cairns. The tourist railway ascends
the Macalister Range and is not used for commuter services. It passes
through the suburbs of Stratford, Freshwater (stopping at Freshwater
Station) and Redlynch before reaching Kuranda.
Freight services to Forsayth were discontinued in the mid-1990s. These were
mixed freight and passenger services that served the semi-remote towns west
of the Great Dividing Range. There is now a weekly passenger-only service,
The Savannahlander, that leaves Cairns on Wednesday mornings. The
Savannahlander is run by a private company, Cairns Kuranda Steam Trains.
Cairns is served by a narrow gauge cane railway (or cane train) network that
hauls harvested sugar cane to the Mulgrave Mill located in Gordonvale. The
pressure of urban sprawl on land previously cultivated by cane farmers has
seen this network reduced over recent years. There has been discussion that
these railway corridors may be used for a possible future light rail mass
transit system, however no plans have been drawn up.
The use of the existing heavy rail line for commuter services between
Redlynch and Gordonvale is occasionally discussed; however this is not a
favoured option under the FNQ 2010 Regional Plan, which recommends the use
Cairns International Airport
Cairns International Airport is located 7 km (4 mi) north of Cairns City
between the CBD and the Northern Beaches. It is Australia's seventh busiest
domestic airport and sixth busiest international airport. In 2005/2006 there
were 3.76 million international and domestic passenger movements.
The airport has a domestic terminal, a separate international terminal, and
a general aviation area. The airport handles international flights, and
flights to major Australian cities, tourist destinations, and regional
destinations throughout North Queensland. It is an important base for
general aviation serving the Cape York Peninsula and Gulf of Carpentaria
communities. The Cairns airport is also a base for the Royal Flying Doctor
The Cairns Seaport, located on Trinity Inlet, is operated by the Cairns Port
Authority. It serves as an important port for tourist operators providing
daily reef trips. These consist of large catamarans capable of carrying over
300 passengers, as well as smaller operators that may take as few as 12
tourists. Cairns Port is also a port of call for cruise ships, such as
Captain Cook Cruises, cruising the South Pacific Ocean. It also provides
freight services to coastal townships on Cape York Peninsula, the Torres
Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Yearly cargo through the port totals 1.13 million tonnes. Almost 90% of the
trade is bulk cargoes including petroleum, sugar, molasses, fertiliser and
LP gas. A large number of fishing trawlers are also located at the port.
There is also a marina that houses private yachts and boats used for tourist
The Royal Australian Navy has a base in Cairns (HMAS Cairns). The base has a
complement of 900 personnel, and supports fourteen warships, including the
four Armidale class patrol boats of Ardent Division, four of the six
Balikpapan class landing craft, and all six ships of the Royal Australian
Navy Hydrographic Service.
The Trinity Wharf has recently been the subject of a major redevelopment to
improve the area for tourist and cruise ship operations. The freight wharves
are located to the south of Trinity Wharf further up Trinity Inlet.
* Papua New Guinea Lae, Papua New Guinea (Morobe Province) since 1984
* Japan Minami, Japan (Tokushima Prefecture) since 1969
* Japan Oyama, Japan (Tochigi Prefecture) since June 15, 2006
* Latvia Riga, Latvia since 1990
* United States Scottsdale, Arizona (USA) since 1987
* Canada Sidney, British Columbia (Canada) since 1984
* People's Republic of China Zhanjiang, People's Republic of China
(Guangdong province) since 2004
Cairns has numerous primary and secondary schools. Separate systems of
private and public schools operate in Queensland. There are 20 state primary
schools and 16 state high schools operated by the Queensland state
government Department of Education within the Cairns City Council area,
including 6 schools in the predominantly rural areas south of Gordonvale.
Roman Catholic schools are operated by Catholic Education Cairns. The Roman
Catholic system encompasses nineteen primary schools, six secondary colleges
and one P-12 college. There are almost 6,000 primary students and 3,250
secondary students enrolled in the Roman Catholic school system.
The Cairns Campus of James Cook University is located at Smithfield. The
city is also home to a TAFE college, and a School of the Air base, both
located in the inner suburb of Manunda.
The Cairns Base Hospital is situated on the Cairns Esplanade and is the
major hospital for the Cape York Peninsula Region. The smaller Cairns
Private Hospital is located nearby. On the north side of the Base hospital
is located the Australian Red Cross Blood Service
Cairns is a base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which operates clinics
and provides emergency evacuations in remote communities throughout the
Sport and recreation
Notable sporting grounds include Barlow Park, Cairns Showground and Cazaly's
Stadium, the Cairns Convention Centre (basketball), and the Cairns Hockey
Cairns also has a National Basketball League (NBL) team, the Cairns Taipans.
The Skill360 Australia Northern Pride Queensland Cup rugby league team
played their first season in 2008, and act as a feeder team to the North
Queensland Cowboys who play in the National Rugby League. There is also a
growing base for Rugby Union in Cairns. In Cairns Australian rules football
is followed, and there is an active local league.
Cairns is a major international destination for scuba diving due to its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. Other recreational activities popular with tourists include whitewater rafting, skydiving, kitesurfing and snorkelling.