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.
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.
Explore Cairns through our heritage trails through the Cairns CBD, along the Cairns Esplanade and the suburbs of Stratford and Freshwater. Read more about the heritage trails.
- Anzac Trail site information ( PDF, 2.89 MB )
- Cairns CBD Heritage Walk information and map ( PDF, 0.92 MB )
- Cairns Esplanade Heritage Walk information and map ( PDF, 0.78 MB )
- Freshwater Heritage Trail information and map ( PDF, 0.66 MB )
- Stratford Heritage Trail information and map ( PDF, 1.11 MB )
- Cairns Southern Trail (Edmonton - Gordonvale - Babinda) drive information and map ( PDF, 5.73 MB )