Facts, figures & history


Map showing extent of Cairns local government area

The Cairns Regional Council local government area encompasses 1687 km2 of land on a narrow coastal strip between the Great Dividing Range and the Coral Sea.  It extends from the Eubenangee Swamp (near Mirriwinni) in the south to the Macalister Range (near Ellis Beach) in the north.

The region is part of Australia's Wet Tropics and is framed by the lush World Heritage listed Wet Tropics rainforest to the west and north and the Coral Sea and World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to the east. These attributes make the region a world renowned tourist destination.

Cairns city is the principal centre of the region and is centrally located along the coastal strip with sub-regions to the north and south consisting predominantly good quality agricultural land and areas of high ecological significance. The region is an important gateway to the nearby Atherton Tablelands, Daintree and Wet Tropics rainforest, and the outback Savannah region beyond the Great Dividing Range.

The Russell, Mulgrave and Barron Rivers are the main river systems within the region. The region also includes a number of offshore islands: Fitzroy, Green and the Frankland Islands.


The estimated residential population of the Cairns region was 165,525 persons as at 30 June 2018. The region has experienced an average annual growth rate of 1.9% over the last 10 years.

It is predicted that two thirds of Tropical North Queensland's population growth (approximately 70,000 people) will be accommodated within the Cairns region, with up to 50,000 ultimately accommodated within the Mount Peter Master Planned Area.

You can access our free community profiles below for more information about population and socio-demographic characteristics.

Community profile

Our community profile is a great tool for analysing the population characteristics of your community, understanding how they have changed over time and how they compare to other areas.

Community atlas

The community atlas presents key socio-demographic characteristics for the area as interactive maps, based on data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

Economic profile

The Cairns Regional Council economic profile draws on a variety of economic data sources to profile the characteristics of the local economy, how it compares to other areas and how it is changing.

Living in Cairns (Residents Guide)

Council has produced a handy guide to living, working and playing in Cairns.

Hard copies are available on request from Council's Customer Service Centre in Cairns and at Cairns Library branches. You may also request a hard copy by phoning Council on (07) 4044 3044 or emailing marketing@cairns.qld.gov.au.

History & heritage

Local history and heritage are important aspects of any community, and the Cairns region has a rich and diverse history.

Heritage places provide a tangible connection to the people and events that have shaped the Cairns region. They help us appreciate the social and technological changes that have gone before us and give a point of reference for the changes to come. Council is committed to protecting and managing the region's cultural heritage for current and future generations.

Council's library service offers an extensive suite of tools and databases to assist you in researching local and regional heritage as well as your own family history.

Indigenous culture and history

Two large interpretive display panels on the Cairns Esplanade tell the story of the Traditional Owners of the area today known as Cairns.  Read about the Indigenous culture and history including information about the Yidinji people, the Yirriganydji culture and history, the King of Cairns, and the story of Gindaja the Cassowary.

Cairns historic milestones

Cairns was officially founded in 1876 and named after the State Governor of the day, Sir William Wellington Cairns. It was formally declared a town in 1903, with a registered population of 3500.

Council timeline

The Cairns region has an interesting local government history. This timeline outlines the various bodies that have governed Cairns since 1876.

Street names and suburb history

Do you want to know more about your street name and suburb history?  Read about the origin and histories of local places of interest.

Neighbourhood Character Study

The CairnsPlan 2009 designated a number of character precincts across the city and surrounding suburbs.  Council commissioned a Neighbourhood Character Study to undertake a detailed review of these precincts and identify valued elements of the character of each of the precincts that should be retained and enhanced.

Cairns Heritage Study

The Cairns Heritage Study ( PDF, 5.43 MB ) used the key historical themes and thematic history to help understand what is distinctive about the Cairns region in comparison to other regions.The thematic histories provide an explanation of the themes and activities that have been important in shaping the Cairns region as it is today. A thematic approach also helps to ensure a consistent approach to heritage identification and assessment at all levels from local to state to national level.

Last updated: 04 February 2020