The local's Cairns

Tick the Tropical North's top attractions off your list with

Sam Zulueta's guide to Cairns and go like a local with us.

Sample small batch coffee at Blackbird Espresso

Melbourne may be Australia's coffee capital, but it's not the only city taking its morning cuppas seriously. At Blackbird Espresso, coffee is a craft – and this team of roasters and baristas are proud to share their specialty blends with the Far North. Grab a seat in the café and sip on one of their signature roasts or find a shady spot on the esplanade to indulge in a latté and locally-baked pastry to go.

Grab a paleo lunch at Pantry 15

After something more substantial? Keep your holiday wholesome at Pantry 15. Specialising in paleo fare, this trendy café serves food you can feel good about, from superfood smoothie bowls to smashed avocado. And with a dedicated breakfast and lunch menu for little ones, the whole family can fuel up for a day full of adventure..

Tuck in to fresh-caught seafood at Prawn Star

If you're setting out in search of local seafood, it doesn't get much fresher than Prawn Star. Located on a former fishing boat in the Cairns Marina, this floating bar and restaurant specialises in shellfish plucked straight from the sea. Feast on platters of freshly-shucked oysters and prawns or indulge in mud crab, crayfish and thinly-sliced salmon sashimi – all with unbeatable waterfront views.

Take a dip at Babinda Boulders

Nestled in the foothills beneath Queensland's highest mountain, this natural stream and swimming hole is an ideal place to beat the tropical heat – but don't let its lush rainforest setting fool you. While it may feel more like Jurassic Park than a national park, there's plenty of facilities for a relaxing afternoon. Pack a picnic and make use of the free barbecues or simply pop in for a quick dip before cruising back to Cairns..

Cool off at Josephine Falls

Famed as one of the Far North's most scenic waterfalls, this three-tiered cascade in the Cairns hinterland is a paradise for bushwalkers and beachgoers alike. Follow the leisurely 1.2-kilometre track to reach the viewing platform or opt to roll out a towel beneath the rainforest canopy instead. With crystal-clear water and plenty of rocks to perch on, even the most dedicated ocean lovers will forget they're miles from the coast.

Catch the sunset at Clifton Beach

Prefer to stick to the sea? Skip the rockpools and rainforests and head to Clifton Beach instead. Located just 20 minutes north of Cairns, this secluded stretch of sand is where locals go to unwind, with six kilometres of unspoiled shoreline to explore. And with the trendy bars and restaurants of Palm Cove just moments away, you can catch the sunset with a cold drink in hand.

Sip cocktails at Conservatory Bar

A pioneer of Cairns' flourishing small bar scene, Conservatory Bar is where quintessential Queensland architecture meets big city chic. Mix and match a selection of cheeses, meats and accompaniments to create your own grazing plate, then browse the impressive drinks menu to find your perfect pair. With seasonal cocktails, craft beer and more than 30 wines by the glass, you can be sure this hole-in-the-wall wine bar won't disappoint.

Watch live music at Three Wolves

If you want to have your bevvy with a side of live music, look no further than Three Wolves. Located in the heart of Cairns CBD, this laneway bar specialises in premium spirits and cocktails, with a weekly open mic night showcasing local acts. Add to that an impressive menu of Spanish tapas and share plates and you'll have no shortage of reasons to stay for another round.

Have a midnight snack at the night markets

The perfect place to begin or end a big night out, this eclectic collection of local stalls is home to everything from handmade jewellery to traditional souvenirs. And with shops open till' late every day of the year, this bustling marketplace is a sure bet no matter when you're in town. Head there early for a bite before hitting the town or make a pit stop between bars to grab some churros and gelato to go.

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