A New-Look Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

A lot has changed in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef in the last five years, with investment in the region at an all-time high. After two years of COVID-affected travel, we invite you back to explore the improved ‘natural place to meet’.

A fresh welcome

The Cairns Airport Domestic Terminal has undergone a $55million renovation and now provides a fresh welcome to the region. The large-scale refresh included a total restructure of the departure and arrivals lounge, and brand-new restaurants and retail outlets.

A pristine region

Cairns & Great Barrier Reef understands that event organisers, companies and delegates want to reduce their environmental impact, stage events with purpose, and give back as part of their event. We do too. The bureau works with operators that lead the way for your eco-sustainable event. An hour north of Cairns, Port Douglas Daintree was the first in the world to achieve Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Destination Certification.

The region created Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef to harness the human interest in the planet’s iconic natural wonder and mobilise them to protect, experience and learn about the World Heritage area. Delegates can become citizens and contribute by volunteering. Reef Restoration Foundation created the first Great Barrier Reef coral nursery at Fitzroy Island. They grow coral on frames and then replant them on nearby reefs, accelerating the growth process enabling reefs to recover from bleaching and cyclone damage faster. The idea that delegates can actively contribute to reef health through the Foundation, is a massive delegate booster.

New accommodation partners 

Crystalbrook Collection joined the Cairns skyline with three new 5-star properties. The first, Crystalbrook Riley was followed by Crystalbrook Bailey, and Crystalbrook Flynn. The development added 877 accommodation rooms to the city’s inventory, versatile event spaces, and a swathe of chic restaurants and bars. 

QT Port Douglas rebranded to Oaks Resort Port Douglas, leading the way for sister property Oaks Cairns Hotel to arrive as well – a $12million conversion into a five-storey hotel, rooftop restaurant and bar overlooking the Coral Sea.  

With the Sheraton Grand Mirage Port Douglas Resort’s $40million chic-coastal transformation and the arrival of new hotels, all of our top tier properties were inspired to upgrade. Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort (pictured) has a new lobby, guest rooms, alfresco restaurant and bar, and five revamped meeting spaces. And the refurbs don’t stop there.  

Shangri-La The Marina, Cairns’ $13million renovation of 184 guest rooms, delivered modern simplicity with nautical accents. The hotel welcomed new eatery The Backyard; Australia’s barbecued favourites are enjoyed overlooking the marina, ideal for alfresco welcome functions.  

Newly reopened Silky Oaks Lodge underwent a $10million refurbishment. Owned by Baillie Lodges, this iconic property now competes with the world’s leading luxury lodges whilst reflecting the essence of the region. 

The Pullman Reef Hotel Casino’s $6.5million refurbishment included a new lobby, expanded fine dining restaurant, and new café and bar. Sister property, Pullman Cairns International invested $10million in its immersive art and design rejuvenation across guest rooms, function spaces and poolside area. Its historic charm merges with a new level of contemporary luxe for Cairns.  

A renewed conference centre and CBD 

Complementing the renewed accommodation sector, the Cairns Convention Centre completed the first stage of its $176million project in 2021. In Stage 1 the existing footprint was refreshed. Stage 2, the expansion, is due for completion later this year, adding 10,000sqm of event space and a total redesign of the exterior.  

During the first stages of COVID in 2020, Cairns fast-tracked the $28million Esplanade Dining Precinct. Now the Esplanade has contemporary awnings for better weather protection, an extended dining area, vertical gardens, and limited-vehicle access to improve connectivity to the sprawling waterfront lawns.

It’s an urban jungle out there 

Hemingway’s Brewery Cairns Wharf now calls the iconic, heritage-listed Shed 2 at Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal home. The 1400m2 brewery serves craft beers and cider on tap, and is available for events for 1,000 delegates. 

The three-level Cairns Aquarium is the largest in Australia, showcasing the animals, plants and habitats of the only two adjoining World Heritage protected areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest. The restaurant seats 230 delegates, and the Aquarium itself boasts many function spaces. 

From humble beginnings with one trawler, Prawn Star has quadrupled in size to meet demand. Delegates can dine on the freshest seafood under festoon lights on one of their four restored fishing trawlers moored at the marina.

The small bar scene in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef is as hot as our tropical sun. Laneway bars and distilleries, micro-breweries (one overlooking a sugar cane field), cocktail lounges, and rooftop bars are ready to welcome delegates.

New group tours 

This Queensland-first invites delegates to swim in a croc’s kill zone with only a sheet of perspex between them and a modern-day dinosaur with killer instincts. The CrocArena at Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas is purpose built for underwater viewing and thrilling crocodile shows, with a grandstand seating 300 delegates. 

With a wetsuit and snorkel drift down the crystal-clear Mossman River on your own river raft and see freshwater fish, water dragons and turtles. The region is no stranger to iconic underwater experiences with the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep, but there’s a new way to explore; a water experience like no other, River Drift Snorkelling by Back Country Bliss Adventures is perfect for delegates to venture deep into the rainforest, stay cool and refresh for another day of conferencing.

There’s no stopping now 

And the wins just keep on coming; a state-of the-art Dreamtime Island Reef Pontoon launches this year, another two five-star properties are slated for Port Douglas – Crystalbrook on the Marina, and a Fairmont in the works – plus a fleet of zero-emission Nautilus Aviation’s Helicopters will be landing soon. With everything that Cairns & Great Barrier Reef now offers, you can’t refuse our invitation.  

 We invite you to embrace the spirit of this place, where stories are shared and memories are created. Cairns & Great Barrier Reef may surprise you with our fresh new vibe, old school hospitality, and world-class world heritage. We know that surrounding your team with great, makes your business greater.”