Renting a car in Cairns Australia

Renting a car in Cairns Australia

Since arriving in Australia we’ve toyed with the idea of renting a car. In every location we talked about it but never took the plunge. The cost and risk associated with renting a car put me off – that was until we arrived in Cairns. While researching Cairns we discovered there was a lot to see outside of the city and the only way to see most attractions was on a tour or by renting a car. As we are on a strict budget tours weren’t an option so we plumped for a car.

Another factor in our decision was our friend Christina. Christina had recently done the road trip from Cairns to Cape Tribulation and spoke so passionately about it we just had to go. She said the drive there, part of which is the Great Tropical Drive was as good, if not better than the Great Ocean Road. I regret not driving the Great Ocean Road so this was perfect to make up for missing it.

This post will cover details of renting a car in Cairns Australia and where we went in the car!

Renting the car

We did some online research and decided to rent from Europcar. However we had a problem, the online terms and conditions stated that I must bring my full drivers license with me to pick up the car. Being from the UK I have a British license. British Licenses have two parts, the plastic card and a paper counterpart. Well my paper counterpart is in the UK. I looked at some online forums for advice, some people said it was essential others had no problems renting without it. I didn’t want to risk paying for the car then not being allowed to rent it so I called into the store to ask about the license. Luckily the paper counterpart wasn’t needed. Instead I was told to bring my plastic license, passport and a credit card.

While we were in the store we showed them the price we got online and asked them to match it, they did and our car was booked! We reserved the car 4 days in advance but we were travelling off season. It would be wiser to book a little earlier if you’re travelling in high season.

We rented a hyundai I20 with full insurance. It cost us $278 for three days, Friday morning to Monday morning. We travelled about 700km across the three days and fuel cost us $80. Fuel is much cheaper in Oz than in the UK!


Renting a car in Cairns Australia

We picked up the car in Cairns CBD and set off on our adventure


Renting a car in Cairns Australia

We kept a picnic set in the boot of the car to use across the three days

Where we went in Northern Queensland

The great tropical drive 

This was the route my friend said was as good as the Great Ocean Way and she wasn’t wrong! We didn’t do the whole 2079km instead we did the section between Cairns and Cape Tribulation. Our first day with a car was a really sunny day and driving along the coast next to such beautiful beaches was awesome. 

After passing many beautiful beaches we stopped off at Port Douglas for lunch. Port Douglas was pretty but not particularly exciting. The population were a bit older than us and the town had a nice atmosphere but it didn’t compare to Cairns that has a fun holiday vibe. Port Douglas reminded me of Noosa on the Sunshine coast but I preferred Noosa.

Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest by rental car

From Port Douglas we continued driving and reached the Daintree Rainforest. The roads became narrower and plants arched over the road making the drive feel very tropical.

To access the northern part of the Daintree and continue on to Cape Tribulation you have to get a river ferry. I was nervous about getting the river ferry, I imagined a floating multi story car park, cars crammed in and plenty of opportunities to scratch my lovely rental car. Luckily it was nothing like that! It’s essentially a floating platform. You drive on down a ramp, get guided into a row and wait. The ferry is three cars wide and the one we went on was empty. It was very easy and shouldn’t put you off visiting this part of the country! The ferry was $23 return and runs from early morning until 12 at night.

After the ferry we made three stops. Alexandra lookout, Daintree Discovery Centre and Cape Tribulation. All three were worth stopping at and offered something different. The lookout was great because it lets you see where the rainforest meets the reef. The look out takes less than 20 minutes and we ate lunch there. The Daintree discovery centre was interesting. It’s an educational attraction that lets you to explore the rainforest from the forest floor, mid canopy and from above the trees. I thought it was a bit pricey at $32.00 per adult. Finally we visited Cape Tribulation, the reason for our drive, and it was as beautiful as we’d hoped. We had the beach to ourselves and wandered around looking for coconuts to drink. Sadly we didn’t find any nor did we spot any cassowary but I’m told both are possible with better luck!

Renting a car in Cairns Australia

Cape Tribulation was beautiful and we had the beach to ourselves

Exploring the Tablelands by rental car

We spent two days exploring the tablelands and that is probably the minimum amount of time you’ll need to get the most from them. The two days we went up there were very wet and we decided not to do Paronella Park but add that into the equation and three days is more necessary. 

On day one of the visiting the Tablelands we left Cairns and headed South to Babinda Boulders. The Boulders were amazing, I’ve never seen anything like them. While there we walked to the two lookout spots and took lots of photos. There are a lot of signs at the boulders telling people not to swim in certain parts. I did some research after our visit and the area has an interesting history and folklore, but that’s for another post!

After the boulders we visiting Etty Bay, Mugalli Creek Dairy, the waterfall circuit and Lake Eacham. Day two on the tablelands we visited Lake Barrine, the Curtain Fig Tree, Coffee Works and the Granite Gorge. All of these were wonderful and credit their own post which will arrive shortly!

Coffee works in Atherton

Coffee works in Atherton

Renting a car in Cairns Australia

The Babinda Boulders

Renting a car in Cairns Australia

Jake listening to the audioguide at the Discovery Centre

Renting a car in Cairns Australia

The Daintree Discovery Centre

Renting a car in Cairns Australia

The Curtain Fig Tree

I hope you enjoyed this post and its inspired you to rent a car wherever you are in the world but especially if you’re visiting Cairns. I’d be happy to answer any questions on renting a car in Cairns Australia, just drop me a line.

Until next time, take care

Lisa x

Renting a car in Cairns Australia isn’t uncommon, have you rented a car there? Did you take a similar route to us or do something different? I’d love to hear about your trip. 

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