Cairns City Centre Master Plan

Shaping Cairns City Centre into the future

As a design and planning framework, the Master Plan reflects Council’s Corporate Plan 2017-2022 and the community’s values and aspirations for their city. These 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

This plan builds upon previous master plans and strategies, and will be an important tool for Council to guide the development of public spaces and drive positive development outcomes in the city centre.

The guiding principles and project opportunities in this master plan reflect the outcomes of this engagement process undertaken by Council in 2018 (see Background section below), as well as the community’s values expressed in the 2016 Our Cairns community survey and forums. The master plan also considers the Cairns 2050 Shared Vision, a strategic document developed by Council with key stakeholders that outlines a bold vision for the city’s future.

Project opportunities

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.

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 the 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 for movement and circulation. This project focuses on streetscapes that create a connected, tropical public place with an 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.


In April 2018, Council sought public input as the first step in developing a new Cairns City Centre Master Plan.  The community had a say on three project ideas - a renewed Esplanade Parklands, an Esplanade Dining Precinct, and the Gallery Precinct.  A total of 2422 respondents took part in this initial engagement process, telling us what is important to them, what they value most and what issues they'd like to see addressed in a new Master Plan.  Read more in the Consultation Snapshot ( PDF, 1.88 MB ).

Following this initial consultation, Council released a Cairns City Centre Master Plan Opportunities Paper ( PDF, 6.8 MB ) containing a suite of project proposals and preliminary concept sketches for the Esplanade Parklands (northern end, central and southern end including Fogarty Park), Esplanade Dining Precinct, Gallery Precinct and City Streets. In July and August 2018, the community provided feedback on these project opportunities.

Last updated: 16 June 2020