Car Rental Cairns
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Why rent a car in Cairns?
Cairns is a great place to explore by car. The largest city in the region of Far North Queensland, it is the center of the most tropical part of Australia. The nature is stunning here with plenty of unique attractions and the sea coast is even more dramatic and impressive than in the rest of Australia. So are the distances - so getting a rental car is your best bet to see as much as you can.
Top ways to enter Cairns
- Cairns Airport: The seventh-busiest in Australia, Cairns Airport serves around 5 million travelers every year. The airport has flights by 20 different airlines and is connected to many domestic destinations all over Queensland and the rest of Australia as well as to Singapore, Papua New Guinea, China, South Korea, and Japan. Conveniently, the airport is located just 6km (4 miles) from Cairns’ city center and can be reached in about 10 minutes.
- Townsville Airport: Served by 8 different airlines, Townsville Airport handles about 2 million travelers every year. As of 2019, the airport only has domestic flights. Townsville Airport is located 340km (211 miles) south of Cairns and can be reached in about four hours. Most of this drive goes along the coast and also crosses Wooroonooran National Park offering plenty of scenic views.
Useful city facts
- Cairns experiences a tropical monsoon climate with a wet season from November to May and a dry season from June to October. Cairns is the most humid large city of Australia. The average temperature is 28°C (82°F) from December to February, the hottest months, and 212°C (71°F) in July, the coldest month.
- With around 145,000 inhabitants, Cairns is the fifth most-populous city in the state of Queensland. Located in the northernmost part of Australia, Cairns is a remote destination located nearly 1,700km (1,056 miles) from the state capital, Brisbane, and about 2,500km (1,553 miles) from the capital of Australia, Canberra. The nearest capital city to Cairns, therefore, is not Canberra, but Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
- Historically inhabited by the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people who still live in and around the city to this day, 8.9% of Cairns inhabitants are Native Australians, a number that is significantly higher than for Australia as a whole.
Top destinations and activities
- The Great Barrier Reef. The number one attraction for visitors coming to Cairns and a natural wonder of the world, there’s no other place in the world like the Great Barrier Reef. The amazing coral structure and a number of coral islands can be accessed by boat from Cairns. While there are excellent opportunities for scuba diving, even just seeing the reef would be an experience of a lifetime.
- Cairns Botanical Gardens. Divided into five separate zones, such as the Rainforest Boardwalk and the Mangroves Boardwalk, the botanical gardens introduce visitors to different types of flora characteristic of tropical Northern Australia. If you’re short on time and cannot visit the actual rainforests, coming to the gardens is your best bet to see as much as you can.
- Cairns Museum. Focusing on the history of human habitation of the Cairns area, this small, but unique museum has plenty of objects, photographs, and other artifacts relating to all things Cairns. If you’re interested in how Cairns grew and changed from a native settlement to a mining and farming town to the largest city in Northern Queensland, this is the right place to visit.
Traffic and parking tips
- One of the largest road hazards in Australia is the wildlife. Take extra caution when driving in bad weather or after dark as this is when most of the collisions with wildlife take place.
- Mobile coverage is rarely available outside of major highways and population centers, so take extra caution when traveling in rural areas.
- Another great risk when traveling off of main highways is the heat. The temperatures can reach extremes very easily, especially during the summer months and in inland areas. Always stay properly hydrated and plan your route in advance to be able to refill your water supplies.
- Driving under the influence laws differ from territory to territory in Australia. In Queensland, the legal alcohol limit is 0.05% for experienced drivers and 0.00% for novice drivers and drivers with provisional licences. Exceeding the limit can lead to large fines and a driver licence ban.
- Proof of insurance and the car’s documentation needs to be in the car whenever you’re driving.
- When driving, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
- The primary, nationwide emergency number in Australia is 000.
There are a number of toll roads in Australia, mainly in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland.
Most toll roads in Australia use an open toll system with mainline barrier toll gates. All toll roads in Australia use cashless payment systems. You can purchase a prepaid pass for most toll roads. Some rental cars in Australia are equipped with an electronic toll transponder, the price of which is usually included in the rental price. Ask your car rental provider about it in advance.
Different toll roads are operated by different companies, so there is no nation-wide system in place.
For more information about the toll roads in the state of Queensland, visit the state’s toll road website.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Kuranda. Located in the nearby mountains and surrounded by lush jungle, Kuranda is a famous outdoors destination. There are many hiking trails, and you can also park your rental car in the town and take a trip on a skyrail that takes you right through the rainforest with plenty of interesting stops on the way. Located just 27km (17 miles) northwest of Cairns, Kuranda can be reached in half an hour.
- Daintree National Park. If Kuranda didn’t satiate your appetite for rainforest, Daintree is where the jungle gets really dense and impressive. Mangroves and palms dominate the area and unique Australian animals like amethystine the python, platypus, and musky-rat kangaroo are all native to the forest. There are plenty of hiking opportunities, but it’s advisable to hire a guide or at least do some research and plan a route in advance - some of the animal species can be quite dangerous. Located about 125km (77 miles) north of Cairns, Daintree National Park can be reached in just over two hours.
- Mission Beach. While Queensland has no shortage of stunning beaches, Mission Beach might just be number one among them. Tropical and pristine, it offers a more relaxed atmosphere than beaches around Cairns or Brisbane. See if you can spot the rare and unique cassowary bird while visiting. From here, you can also easily reach the beautiful Dunk and Bedarra Islands. Mission Beach is about 140km (87 miles) south of Cairns and can be reached by car in two hours.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular rental car types in Cairns are intermediate, compact, and standard. The most popular rental car is the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Kia Rio and the Toyota Camry.
- Port Douglas. A calm and pretty resort town, Port Douglas is home to many impressive beaches as well as the Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, a place with different habitats, such as wetlands and grasslands, that house animal species like emus, crocodiles, and kangaroos. Port Douglas is about 67km (42 miles) north of Cairns, a picturesque one hour’s drive along the coast.
- Mossman Gorge. A part of the native Kuku Yalanji area, Mossman Gorge is a place where some locals come to escape the unbearable heat of the Australian summer. Walking across a suspension bridge above Rex Creek is a thrilling experience and you might even spot local wildlife like Boyd’s forest dragon and the Australian brush turkey. Mossman Gorge is about 78km (48 miles) north of Cairns and can be reached in one hour.
- Brisbane. An adventure like no other, the road from Cairns to the state capital and Australia’s third largest city is 1,700km (1,056 miles) long and takes at least two days to do. You should come well-prepared with water, supplies, and maps, but those who dare to do it will be rewarded with fantastic views and pristine beaches along the way as well as a stunning city at the end of the trip.
How can I save money on my rental car?
Keep these tips in mind when booking a rental car in Cairns:
- Compare the rates of different rental car providers
- Book your rental car well in advance
- Plan your route before you go
- Know your fuel and mileage requirements
- Visit during the month when the rental prices are the cheapest. According to our data, visiting Cairns is the cheapest in June when renting a car is about 41% cheaper than the yearly average and 67% cheaper than booking a car in November when it’s springtime in Cairns.
Top 20 Locations near Cairns
Cairns Airport Car Rentals from $14.16 per day
Townsville Airport Car Rentals from $51.05 per day284.3 km / 176.6 miles away
Rockhampton Airport Car Rentals from $47.85 per day874.0 km / 543.1 miles away
Bundaberg Airport Car Rentals from $21.58 per day1121.9 km / 697.1 miles away
Hervey Bay Airport Car Rentals from $45.77 per day1193.4 km / 741.5 miles away
Marcoola, Sunshine Coast Airport Car Rentals from $16.43 per day1318.9 km / 819.5 miles away
Brisbane Airport Car Rentals from $19.64 per day1391.1 km / 864.4 miles away
Brisbane Domestic Airport (BNET02) Car Rentals from $42.33 per day1391.4 km / 864.6 miles away
Gold Coast Airport Car Rentals from $17.83 per day1484.3 km / 922.3 miles away
Tamworth Airport Car Rentals from $31.48 per day1660.8 km / 1031.9 miles away
Darwin Airport Car Rentals from $308.01 per day1675.3 km / 1041.0 miles away
Port Macquarie Airport Car Rentals from $50.48 per day1770.0 km / 1099.8 miles away
Newcastle Airport Car Rentals from $49.72 per day1871.3 km / 1162.8 miles away
Sydney Airport Car Rentals from $18.40 per day1972.0 km / 1225.3 miles away
Canberra Airport Car Rentals from $55.75 per day2076.5 km / 1290.3 miles away
Adelaide Airport Car Rentals from $28.51 per day2132.4 km / 1325.0 miles away
Melbourne Airport Car Rentals from $20.76 per day2313.2 km / 1437.3 miles away
Devonport Airport Car Rentals from $42.85 per day2701.0 km / 1678.3 miles away
Launceston Airport Car Rentals from $49.08 per day2745.5 km / 1706.0 miles away
Hobart Airport Car Rentals from $49.51 per day2890.3 km / 1796.0 miles away
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