The best camping near Cairns, Queensland.
Leave your campsite to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the islands and rainforests around Cairns.
Cairns is the only place where two World Heritage-listed sites meet. Here, the Wet Tropics Rainforest meets the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and this tropical city is a great base for campers to see both. Join a day trip to the Outer Reef or laze beside the city’s man-made lagoon on the Cairns esplanade. There’s no beach in Cairns city, but the northern beaches begin justRead more...
Cairns is the only place where two World Heritage-listed sites meet. Here, the Wet Tropics Rainforest meets the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and this tropical city is a great base for campers to see both. Join a day trip to the Outer Reef or laze beside the city’s man-made lagoon on the Cairns esplanade. There’s no beach in Cairns city, but the northern beaches begin just 15 minutes’ drive north of the city centre, one of the loveliest being Palm Cove. Don’t miss a visit to the Cairns Aquarium, a great introduction to the wonders of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Fitzroy Island is the closest island to Cairns, only 45 minutes by ferry, and camping sites are right next to the beach, a five-minute walk from the jetty. You can hire snorkelling and diving equipment, take glass-bottom boat rides, or hike the rainforest trails or to the old lighthouse. The Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on the island is also well worth visiting.
Kuranda is a rainforest village in the mountains near Barron Gorge National Park. It has two campgrounds, perfect for hikers, birdwatchers and nature lovers. Easy walking trails let you explore the Barron Falls and river and the rainforest. Other attractions will introduce you to koalas, butterflies and birds. A little further away is Davies Creek National Park, with granite boulders and swimming holes.
Beach camping with stunning views of the Coral Sea and islands is found at Ellis Beach, about half-way between Cairns and Port Douglas is an hour’s drive north of Cairns, on one of Queensland’s most spectacular coastal roads. Swaying palms surround you, and there are great facilities, including a restaurant across the street. No bookings are required; just turn up and pitch your tent.
Cape Tribulation's only national park camping area is near beautiful Noah Beach, where you can pitch your tent in a sheltered site under shady trees. This park is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and is closed January to Good Friday. Wildlife abounds: you’re likely to see giant lace monitors (goannas) and perhaps crocodiles as you cross the Daintree River on the ferry.
When to Go
April to November is the best time to visit Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical north. Any other time, it’s hot and humid. It’s also the time of year when water visibility for snorkelling and diving is at its best. Summer is less popular, due to the heat, hence camping areas will be less crowded. May to September is the peak camping season.
Know Before You Go
- Remember to pack sunscreen; the north Queensland sun can be fierce. Check out sunscreens that won’t damage the coral reefs (those that don’t contain oxybenzone or BP-3).
- Camping permits are required for all Queensland parks, forest and reserves and must be booked online and paid for before arrival.
- Despite its name, Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island isn’t for those who want to bare all. In fact, nude beaches are banned in Queensland.
- Boat transfers are available to the two free campsites on Russell Island in the Frankland Group National Park, just south of Cairns.