Tropical retail therapy: Cairns shopping and markets guide
You’d be forgiven for thinking retail therapy plays second fiddle to other more outdoorsy pursuits during a visit to Cairns. As the springboard to the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics Rainforest and a bounty of waterfalls, shopping kinda falls by the wayside.
But if you can’t imagine the thought of a holiday without a lil’ shopping spree or want to pick up the ultimate in Aussie souvenirs for your friends back home (kangaroo scrotum coin purse, anyone?) then start your PayPass engines, people.
Beyond the ubiquitous surf shops and souvenir stands you’ll find on almost every street, here are some of the best spots in the Cairns shopping stakes.
For high-end design: Galleria
Like a beacon shining for all luxury label lovers, Galleria, is housed in a gorgeous art deco-style building, blissfully air-conditioned and playing host to the only Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Hermes and Coach counters north of Brisbane.
Work your way from the Marc by Marc Jacobs handbags to the Dior make-up counter, pick up a Michael Kors watch for a steal, slide on a new pair of Ray Bans and take home a taste of Queensland with a few bottles of Siromet wine, from the winery near Brisbane.
International visitors enjoy duty-free shopping here while Australians can still partake, but won’t escape the GST. Stop by the concierge desk for tips on what to do during your stay in Cairns.
Find it: On the corner of Abbott and Spence Streets.
Open: Seven days from 12pm-8pm.
For indie labels, vintage and gifts: Oceana Walk Arcade
Scratch the surface of the Cairns CBD and you’ll find this laneway tucked between Grafton and Lake Streets where you could easily lose a morning between the racks of vintage dresses, vinyl records, crystals and eco-friendly children’s toys.
First thing’s first: fuel up with some of Cairns best coffee at Blackbird Espresso at the Lake Street end of the laneway and prepare for that caffeine + shopping buzz to kick in at these stores:
Vintage lovers will feel like they’ve died and gone to ’70s heaven amongst the racks of dresses, safari suits and Glomesh handbags inside this compact store, about halfway down the lane.
From quirky mod sunglasses to chunky costume jewellery and retro kitchen canisters in dashing shades of burnt orange and lime green, you’ll feel like a magpie pouncing on All. The. Things.
Boho fashion lovers, welcome to your nirvana. The racks are lined with all your favourite labels here – Le Salty, Arnhem, Auguste, we’re looking at you – while there are also plenty of denim cut-offs and leather sandals to mix and match to your gypsy heart’s content.
Stepping through the doors of Gypsett is a feast for any print-lover’s senses and we guarantee you’ll walk out with more than you intended. Is it cocktail hour yet? Because you’ve got a hot new outfit ready!
Speaking right to the core of any parent or parent-to-be who’s proclaimed they’re going screen-time-free, Earth Toys is filled with all sorts of wonderful non-battery-power-operated toys and educational treats for kids.
From wooden trikes to board games, dollhouses to puppets, and kites to science experiments your imagination will run wild here, especially if someone has a birthday coming up soon.
Utilising recycled plastics and other natural materials like wool, bamboo and timber, everything inside this store is eco-friendly and sustainable.
Hello Miss Poppyseed
Winning the award for biggest “awwww” inducing powers in this laneway, Hello Miss Poppyseed is the place to head for the perfect newborn pressie.
They stock a huge range of adorable children’s clothing and bedding as well as customisable prints for the nursery or kids bedroom and Yumbox lunchboxes, which are ideal to pop into the backpack for a day trip during your stay in Cairns.
Eggplant & Poppy
What happens when two girls who are nuts about crafting meet while running market stalls in Cairns and decide to go the whole hog and open a store together? If you’ve arrived at E&P (aka Eggplant & Poppy), you’re standing in it.
This cornucopia of quirky gifts, hilarious handmade cards, jewellery, books, prints and eco-friendly (and fabulous) coffee cups and lunch bags here will make you want to do an entire year’s worth of gift shopping.
Having a chat to the girls in between their crazy craft-making out back makes the whole experience even more enjoyable.
Find Oceana Walk Arcade: 62 Grafton Street, Cairns.
Open: Opening times vary. Check the individual stores for details.
For genuine UGG boots: Premium Brands Cairns
You can’t leave Australia’s shores without a pair of UGG boots, even if the temps in Cairns never generally drop below 20 degrees Celcius. Fashion doesn’t have to make sense.
The Premium Brands store also stocks Teva, Emu Australia, Nautica and The North Face, among others.
Find it: Shop 9, Cairns Square, 42-52 Abbott Street. They also have an outlet store at 15 Spence Street, Cairns City.
Open: Monday to Saturday 9am-9pm; Sunday 2pm-9pm.
For big-name brands: Cairns Central
Looking for authentic R.M. Williams boots and Akubras? Head for Cairns Central, where you’ll also find the main department and variety stores like Myer, Kmart, Target as well as Event Cinemas.
Psst! There’s also free WiFi here if you’re running on an international sim and need an Insta-fix.
Find it: 1-21 McLeod St, Cairns City.
Open: Monday – Saturday 9am-5:30pm (Thursday until 9pm); Sunday 10:30am-4pm.
For the biggest discounts: DFO Cairns
What to do when it rains in Cairns? Head for DFO (Direct Factory Outlets) and fill up those suitcases with some bargains.
You’ll find discounted racks from Australian brands like Lorna Jane, Cotton On, Bonds, as well as outlet stores for Quicksilver, TK Maxx, Converse and more.
Once you’ve had your shopping fix you can battle it out with a game of lasertag or slip into a virtual reality with the family at Laserfun.
Find it: 274 Musgrave Road, Cairns.
Open: Monday – Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 10am-4pm.
For local delicacies: Rusty’s Market
There’s no better place to taste real life in the tropics than at Rusty’s Markets, on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the centre of Cairns city. What started in the ’70s as a few humble stalls has exploded into a market hall of tropical fruits, steaming dim sum and a token mix of jewellery and massage stalls for good measure.
It’s not just the plethora fruit and vegetable stands at this farmers market that makes it a worthwhile stop on the itinerary – the tasty street food-style stalls, Vietnamese iced coffee and fresh drinking coconuts deliver the perfect brunch spot, too.
Find it: 57-89 Grafton Street, Cairns. Score two hours free parking in the Gilligan’s / Rusty’s carpark, above Rusty’s on Sheridan Street.
Open: Friday and Saturday 5am-6pm; Sunday 5am-3pm.
For Indigenous art
Check out these galleries in and around Cairns.
For local designers and quirky souvenirs: Cairns markets
If you have a penchant for quirky trinkets, plush kangaroos, local produce and tasty eats, make a beeline for one of these local markets in Cairns for a browse and chat with the makers behind them.
Cairns Esplanade Markets
On every Saturday from 8am-4pm near the Cairns lagoon.
Cairns Night Markets
Head here for everything from noodles to didgeridoos.
Daily from 5pm-11pm, 71-75 The Esplanade.
Ports North Cruise Liner Markets
When the cruise ships dock in Cairns the markets jump to attention!
Relevant cruise ship sites during the season (usually between October and April), 10am-5pm.
Head to Kuranda, the village in the rainforest, for two market options – the Original Markets and the Heritage Markets. Expect plenty of Australiana from opals, macadamia nuts, and Aboriginal artwork and have your fortune told while you’re at it.
They’re both open daily from 9am-3pm.
Tanks Arts Centre Markets
There’s plenty going on at Tanks Arts Centre day to day – from music performances to exhibitions and the Cairns Tropical Pride Fair Day but once a month its leafy botanic gardens location also plays hosts to market stalls brimming with vintage clothing, natural health products, crafts and live music.
On the last Sunday of the month (Apr-Nov) from 9am-2pm at Collins Ave, Edge Hill.
*Check the Cairns Markets Facebook page for the most up-to-date markets details.