Cairns is an important transport hub in the Far North Queensland region. Located at the base of Cape York Peninsula, it provides important transport links between the Peninsula and Gulf of Carpentaria regions, and the areas to the south of the state. Cairns International Airport is essential to the viability of the area's tourism industry.
The Bruce Highway runs for from Brisbane, and terminates in the Cairns CBD. From there the Captain Cook Highway (also referred to as the Cook Highway) commences, and runs for approximately northwest to Mossman.
A need for future upgrades to the Bruce Highway to motorway standards through the southern suburbs to Gordonvale has been identified in regional planning strategies to cope with increasing congestion from rapid population growth. This will result in overpasses at all major intersections from Woree to Gordonvale. The motorway will divert from Bentley Park to Gordonvale, bypassing Edmonton to reduce the effects of road noise on residential areas.
The Kennedy Highway commences at Smithfield on the Barron River flood plain north of Cairns, and ascends the Macalister Range to the township of Kuranda. The highway then extends to the town of Mareeba on the Atherton Tableland, and continues to communities of Cape York Peninsula.
The Gillies Highway commences at the township of Gordonvale, and ascends the Gillies Range (part of the Great Dividing Range) to the town of Atherton on the Atherton Tableland, passing through the township of Yungaburra on the way.
The controversial private road, Quaid Road, was constructed in 1989 through what is now a Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and links Wangetti, on the coast just north of Cairns, to Southedge, just south of Mount Molloy. The road is not open to the public and is not used for general traffic.
Cairns is served by long-distance coaches to Brisbane, and regional cities to the south. Coaches also operate west to Mount Isa via Townsville, and to Alice Springs and Darwin in the Northern Territory. The longest running locally owned Coach company is Tropic Wings Coach Tours, originally established in 1981 and operated under the name of "Blue Wings Coaches" changing to "Tropic Wings Coach Tours" in 1984. Tropic Wings Coach Tours was the first local company to service Kuranda on a regular basis and has continued to service North Queensland to this day.
A public transport network is operated throughout the city by Marlin Coast Sunbus. A transit mall is located in the CBD, through which all services operate. Services include most parts of the city, from Palm Cove in the north, to Gordonvale in the south. Bus services operated by 'Trans North' run to Kuranda and to the Atherton Tableland. A smaller minibus service, Jon's Kuranda Bus runs between Cairns and Kuranda. Cairns also has one major taxi company, Cairns Taxis, which services the Cairns region.
Cairns railway station is the terminus for Queensland's North Coast railway line, which follows the eastern seaboard from Brisbane. Services are operated by Queensland Rail (QR). In April 2009, the high speed tilt train service from Brisbane to Cairns was suspended due to safety concerns but resumed service on 4 May. Freight trains also operate along the route, with a QR Freight handling facility located at Portsmith.
Pacific National Queensland (a division of Pacific National, owned by Asciano Limited) operates a rail siding at Woree. It runs private trains on the rail network owned by the Queensland State Government and managed by QR's Network Division.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway operates from Cairns. The tourist railway ascends the Macalister Range and is not used for commuter services. It passes through the suburbs of Stratford, Freshwater (stopping at Freshwater Station) and Redlynch before reaching Kuranda.
Freight services to Forsayth were discontinued in the mid-1990s. These were mixed freight and passenger services that served the semi-remote towns west of the Great Dividing Range. There is now a weekly passenger-only service, The Savannahlander, that leaves Cairns on Wednesday mornings. The Savannahlander is run by a private company, Cairns Kuranda Steam Trains.
Cairns is served by a narrow gauge cane railway (or cane train) network that hauls harvested sugar cane to the Mulgrave Mill located in Gordonvale. The pressure of urban sprawl on land previously cultivated by cane farmers has seen this network reduced over recent years.
The use of the existing heavy rail line for commuter services between Redlynch and Gordonvale is occasionally discussed; however this is not a favoured option under the FNQ 2010 Regional Plan, which recommends the use of buses.
Cairns International Airport is located north of Cairns City between the CBD and the Northern Beaches. It is Australia's seventh busiest domestic airport and sixth busiest international airport. In 2005/2006 there were 3.76 million international and domestic passenger movements.
The domestic terminal at Cairns Airport underwent an extensive redevelopment which began in 2007 and was completed in 2010.
The airport has a domestic terminal, a separate international terminal, and a general aviation area. The airport handles international flights, and flights to major Australian cities, tourist destinations, and regional destinations throughout North Queensland. It is an important base for general aviation serving the Cape York Peninsula and Gulf of Carpentaria communities. The Cairns airport is also a base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The Cairns Seaport, located on Trinity Inlet, is operated by the Cairns Port Authority.
It serves as an important port for tourist operators providing daily reef trips. These consist of large catamarans capable of carrying over 300 passengers, as well as smaller operators that may take as few as 12 tourists. Cairns Port is also a port of call for cruise ships, such as Captain Cook Cruises, cruising the South Pacific Ocean. It also provides freight services to coastal townships on Cape York Peninsula, the Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Yearly cargo through the port totals 1.13 million tonnes. Almost 90% of the trade is bulk cargoes – including petroleum, sugar, molasses, fertiliser and LP gas. A large number of fishing trawlers are also located at the port. There is also a marina that houses private yachts and boats used for tourist operations.
The Royal Australian Navy has a base in Cairns (HMAS Cairns). The base has a complement of 900 personnel, and supports fourteen warships, including the four Armidale class patrol boats of Ardent Division, four of the six Balikpapan class landing craft, and all six ships of the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Service.
The Trinity Wharf has recently been the subject of a major redevelopment to improve the area for tourist and cruise ship operations. The freight wharves are located to the south of Trinity Wharf further up Trinity Inlet.
The Rocks Rd
Capt Cook Hwy
417 Shannonvale Rd
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