The 1,700 km Bruce Highway running south along the coast connects Cairns to the state capital, Brisbane. It takes 22 hours to drive without stopping, and you should allow at least 2-3 days of solid driving, or longer for a more relaxed pace of drive up the coast. There are regular towns along the way which make good stopping off and sightseeing points. In the wet season (usually between November and March) you may encounter flooding which could delay your journey.
Cairns International Airport is the primary international gateway into the region and is also served by many domestic flights. It has two terminals; a domestic terminal and an international terminal, both within walking distance from each other. The airport itself is in a lovely spot surrounded by tropical mountains.
The international airlines serving Cairns are:
- Jetstar from Tokyo, Osaka and Singapore
- Air Niugini from Port Moresby.
- Air New Zealand from Auckland.
- Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong four times a week.
- Airlines PNG from Port Moresby, Tabuil and Mt Hagen.
- Continental Airlines from Guam.
- Airfast Indonesia from Timika.
- Korean Air from Incheon.
The domestic airlines serving Cairns are:
- Qantas from Horn Island, Weipa, Gove/Nhulunbuy, Alice Springs, Yulara (Uluru), Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane.
- Virgin Blue from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
- Jetstar from Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, Perth, the Gold Coast, and Brisbane.
- Tiger Airways from Melbourne
- SkyTrans flying from regional Queensland including Townsville and Mount Isa.
The hourly-or-so Airport Shuttle Bus into town costs $7, while a taxi will do the same trip directly for around $15.
TrainCairns Station is right in the city centre, within easy walking distance of the waterfront and most hotels.
- The Tilt Train and the Sunlander services run by Queensland Rail connect Cairns to Brisbane (via Townsville and Rockhampton), taking 32 hours for the full journey. Even though the Tilt Train reaches speeds of 160 km/h between Townsville and Brisbane, running between Townsville and Cairns it runs at 80 km/h due to the poor alignment of the line. Although a trip between Townsville and Cairns takes four hours by car, it can take over seven hours by train.
- The Kuranda Scenic Railway, also operated by Queensland Rail, runs between Cairns and Kuranda, stopping over the majestic Barron Gorge to allow passengers to leave the train and enjoy the beautiful view over the water. Trains depart Cairns at 8.30am and 9.30am daily arriving at Kuranda at 10.15am and 11.15am.
- The Savannahlander also travels from Cairns to Kuranda but then continues on to the outback town of Forsayth. It leaves Cairns at 6.30am every Wednesday with a compulsory overnight stop at Almaden, before arriving at Forsayth Station at 5.45pm on Thursday. The Savannahlander does not run between December and March.