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 during World War II
Cairns and the Far North region was at the forefront of the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942 and the general Pacific offensive during 1943.
- view our collection of World War II stories and photographs
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.
Character and heritage studies
The 2010 Neighbourhood Character Study reviewed the city's designated character precincts and local heritage places to identify valued elements that should be retained and enhanced.
The Cairns Heritage Study ( PDF, 5.43 MB ) used key historical themes and thematic history to help understand what is distinctive about the Cairns region in comparison to other regions, and how different activities have shaped Cairns as it is today.
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 )