Car Rental in Cairns
Cheapest Car Rental Rates
Most Popular Car Rental Deals
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. The scenic drives north of Cairns to Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest will take your breath away. Australia is a big country with limited public transport, never underestimate distances and drive times here. Cairns airport is not close to the city of Cairns, nor Palm Cove and Port Douglas — so getting a rental car is your best bet to see as much as you can in this part of the world.
One-Way Car Rentals in Cairns
The most popular one-way rental options for pick up in Cairns and drop off in another city include:
- From Cairns to Gold Coast - 35 offers from $69.19 per day
- From Cairns to Brisbane - 35 offers from $69.19 per day
- From Cairns to Townsville - 35 offers from $41.86 per day
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, Bali, 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 five hours.
- 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 or Port Douglas. While there are excellent opportunities for scuba diving, most visitors snorkel. Seeing the reef is an experience of a lifetime.
- The Daintree Rainforest. Visitors can visit the oldest rainforest on Earth by driving about an hour and a half north of Cairns. The Daintree Rainforest is like stepping back to the days of the dinosaurs, if you’re short of time, visit the Mossman Gorge, another section of the rainforest with a crystal clear tropical waterway to enjoy. You may be able to spot unique local wildlife like cassowaries and tree kangaroos. Wallabies are an almost guaranteed sighting just north of Cairns.
- 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
- 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. The wet season can bring some localised flooding in February and March, typically. Cyclones do occur in the Cairns region infrequently too.
- 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. Never leave children or pets inside a vehicle, not only is it dangerous, it can land you with a hefty fine.
- Speed traps are a very common occurrence on roads around Cairns, be careful to follow speed signs carefully.
- 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 license with you at all times.
- The primary, nationwide emergency number in Australia is 000.
There are no toll roads around Cairns but to cross the Daintree River into the Daintree Rainforest you will need to pay a fee.
There are a number of toll roads elsewhere in Australia, mainly in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and other parts of 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 day trips
- 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. Alternatively take a trip on the Cairns Skyrail that takes you from just north of Cairns right above the rainforest to Kuranda. Located just 27km (17 miles) northwest of Cairns, Kuranda can be reached in half an hour, although the road to Kuranda from Cairns is dangerous and is sometimes closed due to accidents.
- 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 carpet python, cassowaries, and tree kangaroos are all native to the forest. There are plenty of hiking opportunities on well laid out boardwalks and beaches. It’s advisable to hire a guide or take a tour to get the most out of your day in Daintree. Located about 125km (77 miles) north of Cairns, Daintree National Park can be reached in just under two hours
- Local Beaches. There are any number of beaches just north of Cairns, several with netted swimming enclosures for safer swimming in the wet season when dangerous jellyfish can be present in tropical waters.
- Crocodiles. Cairns is home to saltwater crocodiles, there are many opportunities to see these creatures in the wild or at crocodile attractions like Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures or the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat.
- 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.
- Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. A unique protected area, Chillagoe-Mungana is a great place to experience continental Australia without traveling for days. Markedly different from the coastal parts and with a more primeval atmosphere, the area is home to limestone caves and Indigenous Australian art, as well as impressive rock formations. On a relatively more recent note, the town of Chillagoe also has a number of late 19th and early 20th century mines and smelters which have now been turned into heritage sites. Located about 215 km (133 miles) west of Cairns, the national park takes about three hours to reach: however, the road to Chillagoe is unsealed gravel, so most car rental companies won’t allow you to drive there. Camping is not permitted inside the park, but there are a few options for accommodation in the surrounding area, particularly in the Chillagoe township.
Most popular 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.
Most locals in the region generally prefer four-wheel drive vehicles and larger cars because of the rugged nature of local roads.
- Port Douglas. A calm and pretty resort town, Port Douglas is home to many impressive beaches as well as the Wildlife Habitat, 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.
- Townsville. Gateway to a wealth of beaches, lakes, creeks, and dives, cozy Townsville has plenty to enjoy. The city is just a short ferry ride from Magnetic Island, a popular tourist attraction and national park which is home to koalas and different bird species (it is usually possible to take a car to the island, although ask your rental car provider and the ferry company in advance). Located about 345 km (214 miles) south of Cairns, Townsville can be reached in some five hours by car, although there are plenty of interesting attractions on the way, such as Girringun National Park.
- 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 24 hours to do. You should come well-prepared with water, supplies, fuel, 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 modern city at the end of the trip.
Car Rental Prices in Cairns
- Large cars - from $103 per day
- Medium cars - from $94 per day
- Vans - from $172 per day
- Premium cars - from $87 per day
- Small cars - from $106 per day
- SUVs - from $88 per day
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.
Top 11 Cities near Cairns
Townsville Car Rentals from $79.03 per day284.3 km / 176.6 miles away
Proserpine Car Rentals from $123.99 per day497.2 km / 309.0 miles away
Mackay Car Rentals from $76.66 per day597.2 km / 371.1 miles away
Rockhampton Car Rentals from $65.91 per day874.0 km / 543.1 miles away
Gladstone Car Rentals from $63.88 per day962.9 km / 598.3 miles away
Emerald Car Rentals from $49.16 per day784.8 km / 487.6 miles away
Mount Isa Car Rentals from $62.69 per day781.9 km / 485.8 miles away
Thangool Car Rentals from $133.33 per day982.8 km / 610.7 miles away
Port Douglas Car Rentals from $70.97 per day54.3 km / 33.7 miles away
Moranbah Car Rentals from $144.41 per day624.6 km / 388.1 miles away
694.5 km / 431.6 miles away
Top 20 Locations near Cairns
Cairns Airport Car Rentals from $35.91 per day4.6 km / 2.8 miles away
Cairns Domestic Airport (CNST02) Car Rentals from $64.57 per day5.6 km / 3.5 miles away
Townsville Airport Car Rentals from $79.03 per day279.7 km / 173.8 miles away
Whitsunday Coast Airport Car Rentals from $123.99 per day492.7 km / 306.1 miles away
Mackay Airport Car Rentals from $76.66 per day592.6 km / 368.2 miles away
Emerald Airport Car Rentals from $49.16 per day780.3 km / 484.9 miles away
Rockhampton Airport Car Rentals from $65.91 per day869.5 km / 540.3 miles away
Gladstone Airport Car Rentals from $63.88 per day958.4 km / 595.5 miles away
Bundaberg Airport Car Rentals from $52.15 per day1117.3 km / 694.3 miles away
Hervey Bay Airport Car Rentals from $65.60 per day1188.8 km / 738.7 miles away
Sunshine Coast Airport Car Rentals from $26.64 per day1314.3 km / 816.7 miles away
Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport Car Rentals from $41.53 per day1338.9 km / 832.0 miles away
Brisbane Brendale Car Rentals from $54.03 per day1372.8 km / 853.0 miles away
Brisbane Airport Car Rentals from $37.91 per day1386.6 km / 861.6 miles away
Brisbane Domestic Airport (BNET02) Car Rentals from $63.62 per day1386.9 km / 861.8 miles away
Brisbane Ascot Car Rentals from $94.80 per day1388.2 km / 862.6 miles away
Brisbane Fortitude Valley Car Rentals from $89.27 per day1388.8 km / 863.0 miles away
Brisbane Tingalpa Car Rentals from $62.73 per day1393.5 km / 865.9 miles away
Brisbane Rocklea Car Rentals from $39.09 per day1396.1 km / 867.5 miles away
Brisbane Archerfield Car Rentals from $54.03 per day1398.0 km / 868.7 miles away
Map of Car Rental Locations
Which is the cheapest month to rent a car in Cairns?
What’s the usual rental length in Cairns?
What's the most popular month to rent a car in Cairns?
Car Rental Information
|Car rental locations||3|
|Popular suppliers||Bargain Car Rentals, Jucy, EastCoast Car Rentals, SIXT, Alamo|
|Popular car categories||SUVs, Medium cars, Large cars, Vans|
|Lowest price||$31 per day|
Most Popular Car Models of Rental Suppliers
|Jucy||Toyota Corolla||5||3||Medium cars|
|Bargain Car Rentals||Hyundai Kona||4||3||SUVs|
|Bargain Car Rentals||Hyundai Accent||4||2||Medium cars|
|EastCoast Car Rentals||Hyundai Kona||5||2||SUVs|
|Bargain Car Rentals||Nissan X-Trail||4||2||SUVs|
|EastCoast Car Rentals||Hyundai i30||4||2||Large cars|
|Bargain Car Rentals||Toyota Corolla||4||2||Large cars|
|EastCoast Car Rentals||Suzuki Swift||5||1||Small cars|
|Jucy||Toyota Corolla||5||2||Large cars|
|SIXT||Hyundai Kona||5||2||Medium cars|
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