Cairns (Far North Queensland Region): 29 Estates [May 2024]


Cairns is a regional city, located along the north-eastern coastline between the Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range in Queensland and approximately 98.2 square kilometres in area, forming part of the Far North Region and administered by the Cairns Regional Council. 

Located 1,698 kilometres north of Brisbane, the coastal city contains 48 suburbs, an airport, a hospital, city centre, hotels, commercial and industrial areas, residential areas, beaches, national parks and 56 schools. The urbanised area is surrounded by the Lamb Mountain Range, national parks and reserves.

Location – Google Maps
Location – Google Maps


The regional city boundary is located along the property boundaries, Kennedy Highway corridor, Freshwaterwater Creek and Lake Morris Road in the west and property boundaries in the south. 

The Coastal Waters of the Great Barrier Reef's long coastline provide a natural boundary along to Chimaman Creek and wetlands to the east. The northern boundary is also provided by the Great Barrier Reef's coastline and includes Double Island, just off the coastline.

A local road network is found throughout Cairns, providing access to the city suburbs and surrounding townships via the local network of roads. The Captain Cook Highway, Bruce Highway, Cairns Western Aerial and Redlynch Bypass Road all interconnect and provide north-south connections through Cairns.

Kennedy highway provides the only east-west connection through the mountain range to link to Mareeba and other major arterial roads.

Cairns - Zones - Council Mapping 1
Cairns - Zones - Council Mapping 1
Cairns - Zones - Council Mapping 2
Cairns - Zones - Council Mapping 2
Cairns - Google Earth
Cairns - Google Earth


The heart of Cairns is located in the south - eastern portion of the city, beside the Trinity Inlet and bound by the Esplanade, Wharf Road, Florence Street and the train line along Dutton Street and Bunda Street. The Cairns City Centre is undergoing a Master Plan process to provide for the Revitalisation, strengthening its regional identity, role and function as a place for investment and business and the social and cultural heart of the city. 

The Cairns City Centre Master Plan 2019 will provide opportunities for the city centre to support economic growth, be well connected, provide cultural experiences and the long term growth of the city’s future. The values and aspirations are expressed through the following five guiding principles which will shape the five public space project opportunities identified in this plan.

  1. Embrace Tropical Urbanism
  2. Support economic growth and diversity
  3. Create an accessible and connected city centre
  4. Celebrate culture, creativity and the arts
  5. Deliver a sustainable, safe and liveable city centre

The master plan identifies five project opportunities that respond to the changing shape of the Cairns city centre and deliver on the guiding principles. These opportunities will progress through further investigation, community engagement and concept development.

Cairns - City Centre - Council Mapping
Cairns - City Centre - Council Mapping


Esplanade Dining Precinct

The outdoor dining precinct extends along the Esplanade from Aplin Street to Shields Street and includes the adjoining section of Shields Street between Esplanade and Abbott Street. This project will enhance the best features of the Esplanade Dining Precinct: the dining area will be expanded to provide space for additional dining and seating, views to the parklands will be improved and pedestrian connection will be increased.

Cairns Gallery Precinct

This project will transform and connect three heritage listed buildings in the Cairns city centre (the Cairns Art Gallery, former Cairns Court House and former Mulgrave Shire Council offices) and establish a vibrant new world-class gallery building to celebrate the city’s cultural heritage. The result will be a unique, dynamic gallery precinct with social, cultural and economic benefits for the local community as well as domestic and international visitors.

Renewed Esplanade Parklands

A new mangrove boardwalk renewed Fun Ship playground and commercial activity will enhance the northern end.  Additional facilities, clear pathways, an expanded Muddy's playground and new viewing platforms will feature in the central section of the Esplanade parklands.  At the southern end, additional viewing platforms, a new Florence Street Pier and expanded parklands will enhance this popular destination.

Florence Street

The opportunity exists to enhance Florence Street with attractive tropical landscaping to encourage pedestrian movement between the Cairns Performing Arts Centre/Munro Martin Parklands and the Esplanade. Signalised intersections at Abbott and Lake streets will improve safety for pedestrians and aid traffic flows to the city centre. A new pier will connect the Florence Street project to the Esplanade boardwalk.

City Streets

All streets within the city centre are valuable public spaces, playing an important role in movement and circulation. This project focuses on streetscapes that create a connected, tropical public place with active street life. The project will guide the evolution of city streets in a consistent way, through a distinct and cohesive suite of materials and treatments.

Cairns - Regional Plan - QLD Globe
Cairns - Regional Plan - QLD Globe


Towards 2050: Shaping Cairns Growth Strategy
The last 3 decades have seen the population of Cairns almost double, growing to more than 165,000 in 2022 and the predicted population is expected to reach 265,000 by 2050. As a result, the Towards 2050: Shaping Cairns Growth Management Strategy provides a long term plan for the growth and development of the Cairns local government area and addresses the key planning challenges and opportunities facing the region.

The Growth Strategy will:

  • Shape a prosperous, resilient and sustainable future for the Cairns local government area (LGA).
  • Promote, protect and enhance our iconic natural environment now and for generations to come.
  • Create safe, sustainable and connected places that support quality life.
  • Ensure the community adapts to the inevitable changes in how we live and interact with our places, spaces and environment.
  • Provide for a range of housing and employment supported by essential infrastructure, services and facilities that meet the future needs of the Cairns LGA.
  • Comprehensively engage with and be informed by the Cairns community.
  • Represent best practice, contemporary and progressive planning and growth management in a manner that directly responds to the unique environment, including the needs and challenges of the Cairns LGA.
  • Provide the foundation and necessary data inputs for Council’s new planning scheme and other growth-related initiatives being delivered by Council.

The document provides an avenue to provide a new planning scheme for the city and identify appropriate and sustainable growth for the next three decades and beyond.

Challenging Areas:

  • climate resilience
  • natural hazards,
  • housing choice, 
  • diversity 
  • affordability, 
  • neighbourhood character 
  • scenic amenity
  • future employment opportunities.

The project will be underway from August 2022 with Phase 1 of the community engagement recently finished. Council is committed to early, comprehensive and ongoing engagement with the Cairns community and there are further opportunities to participate and help shape the future of Cairns.

The next phase of community engagement is expected to run from late January 2023 to June 2023, with updates found here Towards 2050 | Have Your Say Cairns.

Cairns - Regional Plan - QLD Globe - Residential land Supply
Cairns - Regional Plan - QLD Globe - Residential land Supply


The Cairns City Council, part of the Far North Queensland Region is experiencing a period of significant growth and change that will provide opportunities for its people and businesses. A Priority Development Area (PDA) was Declared in November 2018 and varied in February 2020, with the Cairns South State Development Area (SDA)  providing 1159 hectares for regionally significant industrial development over two separate areas. The Cairns South SDA facilitates economic growth and diversification of the Cairns economy as well as job creation to support the long-term needs of the Cairns region. The SDA provides benefits to businesses and industries looking to invest in Queensland such as:

  • locational advantages including direct access to the North Coast Line and Bruce Highway
  • efficient use of land, including the opportunity for:
    • facilitation of intermodal and freight related development
    • large-scale regionally significant industrial development
    • bio-industrial development to co-locate with the Mulgrave Mill
  • proximity to employment catchments and major support services
  • streamlined assessment processes for applications and requests for development in the SDA
  • regulation of material change of use, reconfiguring a lot, and operational work (in certain circumstances) to improve development coordination and reduce the regulatory burden on proponents
  • best practice land-use planning and management – ensuring land and infrastructure are attractive to potential investors.
Cairns, QLD – Cairns South State Development Area (SDA)
Cairns, QLD – Cairns South State Development Area (SDA)


Far North Queensland Regional Plan 2009–2031

To address the changes occurring in Cairns and other neighbouring towns, the Queensland State Government released the Far North Queensland Regional Plan 2009–2031 in 2009. The plan describes land use policies and aligned strategies to achieve the vision, strategic directions and desired regional outcomes for the region.

On 7 September 2022, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning Steven Miles announced the Far North Queensland Regional Plan will be updated, followed by all Regional Plans over the next three years. Deputy Premier and Minister for Planning Steven Miles said good planning would continue to deliver more jobs in more industries, better services and protect the Queensland lifestyle. Media Statement

The Regional Plan makes decisions about managing the region’s development during this growth period. The  plan provides the following: 

  • identifies sufficient developable land to meet future growth
  • prepares for growth in a way that progresses the Queensland Government’s Q2 objectives, and protects and enhances the region’s natural environment, biodiversity and natural resources 
  • resolves conflicts between state and local planning policies at a regional level 
  • establishes sound urban development principles that support a compact, wellserviced and efficient urban form 
  • promotes infrastructure delivery that is timely and cost–effective, and supports community and economic development 
  • maintains and enhances the quality of life for existing and future communities 
  • ensures the region’s growth is responsive to the possible impacts of climate change and oil vulnerability 
  • promotes safe, efficient and effective movement of goods and people, and facilitates access to places and services 
  • supports a viable and diverse economy with well-located employment opportunities and economic activity centres 
  • gives the private sector greater certainty of future growth and development objectives when they make business investment decisions
Cairns, QLD – Cairns South State Development Area - Zones
Cairns, QLD – Cairns South State Development Area - Zones


Growth Areas

The Far North Queensland Regional Plan 2009–2031 provides the preferred pattern of development for the future spatial structure of towns and villages across the Far North Region that best achieves the regional vision. The preferred pattern of development: 

  • provides sufficient land to accommodate the projected population growth while promoting compact urban form and associated infrastructure efficiencies 
  • consolidates urban growth around existing urban settlements, in particular, the principal and major regional activity centres and future transit oriented communities 
  • allocates additional land around specific centres to stimulate the growth of those centres 
  • locates growth areas close to employment nodes and avoids establishment or expansion of satellite towns and suburbs  promotes flexibility and innovation in urban design and the role of activity centres in accommodating future residents in closer proximity to employment opportunities, services and leisure opportunities 
  • avoids expansion into areas with significant regional landscape or rural production values or land use constraints


Suburb Summary



City / State

Cairns, east coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland

Suburb Area

98.2 square kilometres


  • North – Great Barrier Reefs coastline and includes Double Island
  • East – Great Barrier Reef, Chimaman Creek and wetlands
  • West – property boundaries, Kennedy Highway corridor, Freshwaterwater Creek and Lake Morris Road
  • South property boundaries

Cairns Precinct 

Suburb inclusions

  • 72,624 dwellings 
  • 52 schools
  • 48 suburbs
  • An airport and hospital, city centre, hotels, commercial and industrial areas, residential areas, beaches, national parks and 56 schools
  • 4 university campus
  • 36 Suburbs
  • 13 local centres
  • Town Centre
  • 8 Library’s
  • Over a hundred local parks, reserves and recreation areas
  • Playing fields

Community Amenity

  • A mix of contemporary, innovative and traditional architectural styles ensures that each city, town, village and community maintain and enhances its distinct character and identity
  • Local parks
  • Spots and recreational space 
  • Town centre
  • Coastal vegetation


1,698 kilometres north of Brisbane City


  • 21 private/ non government schools
  • 25 state primary schools
  • 10 state high schools

Types of Residential

Housing choice and diversity to meet the needs of the community, through a mix of housing styles including stand-alone, rural residential housing. Low – High density dwellings. Long and Short term holiday rentals are also available

Employment Areas

  • Local businesses
  • Trades
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Constrictions
  • Farming
  • Retail
  • Health care
  • Town and retail centres
  • Schools and services


  • Local road network
  • Taxis
  • Boats
  • Private transfers
  • Buses and cycling

Recreation Areas 

  • Local parks
  • Wetlands
  • Open space
  • Watercourse corridors
  • Ocean


World Heritage - Great Barrier Reef, local and state places


  • Marine National Park
  • Conservation Park
  • Kuranda Forest Reserve
  • Little Mulgrave Forest Reserve
  • Malbon Thompson Forest Reserve
  • Green Island  
  • Barr Creek
  • Half Moon Creek
  • Trinity Inlet
  • World Heritage areas 
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Wet Tropics of Queensland
  • Yorkeys Creek

Settlement Pattern

Informal grid based on natural layout and seaside township sprawl 



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