Cairns Regional CouncilEconomic profile
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Cairns Regional Council

About the area

Name origin

Cairns Regional Council is named after William Wellington Cairns, former Governor of Queensland.

Location and boundaries

The Cairns Regional Council area is located in Far North Queensland, about 1,700 kilometres north of the Brisbane CBD, and 350 kilometres north of the Townsville CBD. The Cairns Regional Council area is bounded by Douglas Shire in the north, the Coral Sea and Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire in the east, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council area in the south, and the Tablelands Regional Council area and Mareeba Shire in the west.

Included areas

The Cairns Regional Council area includes the localities of Aeroglen, Aloomba, Babinda, Barron, Barron Gorge, Bartle Frere, Bayview Heights, Bellenden Ker, Bentley Park, Bramston Beach, Brinsmead, Bungalow, Cairns City, Cairns North, Caravonica, Clifton Beach, Deeral, Earlville, East Russell, East Trinity, Edge Hill, Edmonton, Ellis Beach, Eubenangee (part), Fishery Falls, Fitzroy Island, Freshwater, Glen Boughton, Goldsborough, Gordonvale, Green Hill, Green Island, Holloways Beach, Kamerunga, Kanimbla, Kewarra Beach, Lamb Range, Little Mulgrave, Macalister Range, Machans Beach, Manoora, Manunda, Mirriwinni, Mooroobool, Mount Peter, Mount Sheridan, Ngatjan (part), Packers Camp, Palm Cove, Parramatta Park, Portsmith, Redlynch, Smithfield, Stratford, Trinity Beach, Trinity Park, Waugh Pocket, Westcourt, White Rock, Whitfield, Woopen Creek, Wooroonooran (part), Woree, Wrights Creek and Yorkeys Knob.

Economic region

Land use

The Cairns Regional Council area includes significant areas of national park and state forest, rural areas and growing urban areas. The Council area encompasses a total land area of about 1,700 square kilometres. The main urban centre is Cairns, with smaller urban areas in Babinda, Gordonvale and various small villages. Urban areas include residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, entertainment and tourist land uses. Rural land is used predominantly for sugar cane farming.


The Cairns Regional Council area is served by the Bruce Highway, the Captain Cook Highway, Cairns Airport, the Port of Cairns and the North Coast (Brisbane - Cairns) railway line.

Settlement history

European settlement dates from 1876 when the township of Cairns was established to serve miners heading for the Hodgkinson River goldfield. The main industries to develop were gold mining, timber getting and sugar cane production. Population was minimal until the 1880s and 1890s, aided by the opening of the railway line to Kuranda in 1891. Cairns became a major port for exporting sugar cane, gold, metals, minerals and agricultural products. Expansion continued during the early 1900s, spurred by the opening of the railway line to Brisbane in 1924. Significant development did not occur until the post-war years, as the Cairns area began to develop into a centre for tourism. Rapid growth took place during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the urban areas. Growth continued from the 1990s, with the population of the Council area rising from about 102,000 in 1991 to about 167,000 in 2016. Growth is expected to continue, particularly in the southern suburbs.

Indigenous background

The original inhabitants of the Cairns Regional Council area were the Tjapukai and the Walubarra Yidinji Aboriginal people.