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Thanks to the presence of an international airport just a few kilometres outside the city centre, Cairns has established itself as the capital of the far north and one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations. Moreover, it serves as an ideal base for those wishing to explore the far north of the Queensland region thanks to its location as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests of Cape Tribulation.

The first settlers to arrive in the area were the Aborigines and they were followed by Dutch navigators led by Captain James Cook. He claimed the coast for Britain and in doing so paved the way for European settlement to commence.

The city itself was founded in 1876 as a port for inland mines and has developed from a frontier town to an international metropolis which was named as Australia's most desirable residential regional centre in 1995. It has also been classified as the country's fastest growing resort city for the last two decades.

Cairns is now home to almost one hundred thousand residents but despite the city's relatively rapid growth, the good news is that everything has remained close and accessible. The main activity in the city centre takes place around the Esplanade where you will find a concentration of excellent pubs, restaurants and shops.

Great Barrier Reef gained World Heritage status in 1981 as the largest and most complex expanse of living coral on earth. Extending from north of Cape York to south of the Tropic of Capricorn the reef grows closest to the mainland in the north.

Whatever you have read or seen of it on film, nothing will prepare you for the reality of its underwater coral gardens, its cays and islands and the huge variety of fish, marine mammals, turtles and birds.

Semi-submersibles, glass bottom boats and underwater observatories ensure a close-up look for even those who cannot swim. For those who can there will never be a better place to learn to snorkel or dive. Some cruises cater for experienced and learner divers and have marine biologists in their crews. To appreciate the overall size and form of the reef take a helicopter or light aircraft tour.

In tropical north you can do it all ranging from the thrills of white water rafting, bungy jumping and scuba diving to bush walking, trail riding and golf. Go sightseeing in a helicopter, seaplane or the gondola of a rainforest cableway. Let experts help you land a game fish, barramundi or a mud crab.

Take to the water on a windsurfer, boom net, kayak, paddle steamer, or sailing boat. Climb a mountain, cool off under a waterfall, try aerobatics in an open cockpit biplane, drive a go kart.

By Air

Flying to Tropical North Queensland is easy! There are many International and Domestic flights coming in and out of Cairns.

By Car

Several days are needed to drive down the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to Cairns, allowing time for stopovers to take in many interesting sights and towns on the way.

By Bus

There is a number of interstate coaches that travel to Cairns from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

By Train

Queensland Rail has two trains which travel from Brisbane to Cairns five times per week. The Sunlander has seats and berths and takes 31 hours. The Tilt Train offers only business class seats and takes 25 hours.