Car hire Cairns Airport

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Make your move with a Cairns Airport car rental

Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, handy base for visitors to Northern Queensland, tropical city, and friendly Aussie metropolis: it’s no wonder that Cairns is popular as a tourist town. The weather is warm and so is the hospitality. The options for entertainment in and around Cairns are endless, many focused on the natural beauty of this spectacular region.

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Pick up:
Brisbane Airport, Brisbane - Hendra, Coolangatta (Gold Coast) Airport and 3 more
Drop off:
Brisbane Airport, Brisbane - Hendra, Coolangatta (Gold Coast) Airport and 3 more
17 Nov 2021 - 30 Mar 2022

What you need to know for your Cairns Airport car hire

Chinamans Creek waterfront in the afternoon.With a hire car from Cairns Airport, you can see it all—or just the parts that are of interest. Having your own set of wheels makes it easy to get around the city, explore the nearby beaches, and enjoy the sights of Northern Queensland from air-conditioned comfort. GoSee can help you to track down the perfect rental vehicle to make your Cairns plans a reality.

Guide to Cairns Airport

Cairns Airport (IATA: CNS) is an international airport and the 7th-busiest in Australia. It has one runway and two terminals: Terminal 1 which serves domestic flights and Terminal 2 which serves international flights.

Both terminals are well equipped with facilities to make passengers and visitors comfortable. These include an array of shopping and dining outlets, baggage storage, ATMs, extensive and accessible bathroom facilities, and free WiFi. There are covered and uncovered parking lots, and parking can be booked in advance on the official airport website.

Rental car counters can be found inside the Arrivals hall of each terminal. The terminals are connected by a covered walkway.

Tips for driving your rental car in and around Cairns

Hitting the roads in a new place requires some care and preparation. If you are driving in Cairns for the first time or in Australia for the first time, it’s important to equip yourself with the basic knowledge which will set you up for a trouble-free and low-stress experience. Read our top tips for visiting drivers! 

  • In Australia, all traffic drives on the left. Yes, this means that drivers sit on the right-hand side in the vast majority of vehicles! If you are not accustomed to this configuration, it’s a good idea to take some time to practice on quiet, low-speed roads.
  • All speed limits posted are in kilometres per hour, and distances posted are in kilometres—not miles.
  • Cairns has default speed limits of 50 kph in built-up areas and 40 kph in the CBD. Most open roads have limits of 100 kph. Always rely on posted signs for the most accurate information regarding speed limits.
  • Northern Queensland has narrow-gauge “cane trains” running during the crushing season from June to November. Many of the road crossings are marked but have no barriers, so always keep an eye out for the trains.
  • It gets very hot in this part of the country! Always stock your Cairns Airport rental car with extra water for yourself and for the radiator.
  • The blood alcohol concentration limit for fully licenced drivers in Queensland is 0.05%.

Destination ideas in Cairns and Northern Queensland

Whether you’re in town for a brief city break, for business, or for a lengthy road trip, a rental car from Cairns Airport makes it possible to properly explore. With so many things to see and do, it can be difficult to put together the perfect itinerary. We hope that these ideas will help you create yours.

Here are a few fantastic places you could go, all within a few hours of driving from Cairns.

Allow a whole day to explore the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef

You can’t reach the world’s largest coral reef system by car, but can drive to one of the many dive tour operators located in and around Cairns to get your adventure started. While most visitors to this spectacular underwater landscape get closer with scuba equipment or snorkel, you can also stay dry and enjoy the views from a glass-bottomed boat or even a semi-submersible.

Port Douglas

Just over an hour of driving north from Cairns in your rental car will see you in Port Douglas, a chic and relaxed seaside town that is a fantastic place to chill by the beach in a beautiful setting. It’s full of luxury accommodation, so if you want to leave Cairns behind for a night or two this is a great destination choice.

Daintree Rainforest

Discover more of nature at the Daintree Rainforest. The ancient rainforest located a few hours north of Cairns is part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent, and one of the oldest in the world. Base yourself in one of the small towns in the area to experience this incredible living landscape. River tours, wildlife encounters, guided walks, adventure activities, and cultural experiences with Aboriginal guides are all on offer to visitors to the Daintree area.


For some mountain scenery, head northwest out of Cairns to Kuranda which is known as a rainforest retreat. The scenic drive there is part of the fun, and you can enjoy more beautiful views on the famous Kuranda Scenic Railway. There is shopping to be done at the village markets, riverboat cruises, wildlife encounters, and plenty of eateries to enjoy. The spectacular Barron Falls is located just outside of Kuranda.

Atherton Tablelands

You could easily spend a few days exploring this inland region which boasts waterfalls, a variety of landscapes, a cooler climate, a plethora of walking trails, and some fabulous local food including dairy products like cheese and ice cream.

If you fancy other popular pick up locations in Australia, you can grab a car hire from Gold Coast Airport or Brisbane. Exploring Adelaide with a rental car is also a great option. The choice is yours!

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Car hire Cairns Airport: Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to hire a car in Cairns?

With a range of rental partners and different types of vehicles on offer, prices for Cairns Airport rental vehicles can vary widely—from AUD$40 per day to upwards of AUD$400 per day. To find a rental that fits your budget, enter your dates into the simple GoSee search engine and compare the various options at different price points. You can sort by highest or lowest price.

What is the cheapest car hire agency in Cairns?

This will vary according to each supplier and their pricing. Off-airport suppliers like Apex and Jucy tend to have very affordable rental rates, while Alamo is a cheap option for on-airport car rentals.

What car rental partners are at Cairns airport?

Car rental providers at Cairns Airport include but are not limited to Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Thrifty, Budget, Enterprise, East Coast, Apex, Alamo, Ace, National, and Jucy. Each supplier has a wide range of vehicle types.

Where is Cairns Airport (CNS)?

Cairns Airport is located on the coast north of the city, just six kilometres or eight minutes drive from Cairns CBD.

Which car hire companies in Cairns have updated their vehicle cleaning and safety policies because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Most car rental companies operating at Cairns Airport have updated their policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be listed under features as “enhanced cleaning” and you can find more in-depth information on company websites.

Can I collect a car from Cairns Airport and return somewhere else?

Yes, many suppliers offer one-way rentals from Cairns, and this may incur an added one-way relocation fee. To find a vehicle that suits you, specify your pick-up and drop-off locations when searching.

What is the most popular car hire in Cairns?

Affordable and popular car hire options include compact and economy models from a variety of suppliers. Station wagons and SUVs are also popular for those embarking on longer road trips

Can I return a car after hours at Cairns Airport?

Some suppliers will allow after-hours pick-ups or returns by special arrangement. Additionally, most in-airport rental companies are open late.

Do you need to hire a car in Cairns?

If you are heading outside of central Cairns, a rental car is a very good option. The only public transport available is Sunbus, the local public bus service.