The Best Fishing Spots In Cairns, QLD: 15 Top Locations For Anglers

Anglers from all over the world flock to Cairns for a taste of this fishing paradise. It has become a favourite thanks to its fishing options, the abundance of trophy fish, and its accessibility to the city. The diverse scenery, the gorgeous weather, and the surrounding natural wonders add to a memorable angling experience. 

Cairns boasts prime fishing spots that offer a wide range of fish populations, including Marlin and Barramundi. This tropical oasis provides everything a fishing enthusiast needs- quality fishing charters, proximity to the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef, and activities for every budget.

If you are planning a fishing expedition to Cairns in North Queensland, knowing the best places to fish will give you the best results. We’ve gathered information about excellent locations so you can make the most out of this trip of a lifetime. 

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 What Are The Best Places To Go Fishing In Cairns? 

There’s always a perfect fishing spot in Cairns for every mood and budget. Whether you’re looking for some competitive fishing or planning a laid-back day, you’ll find something for you in Queensland’s prime fishing destination.

1. Yorkeys Knob

This breathtaking beach, just 20 km north of Cairns, is an excellent location to cast a line. You can also set up camp after a jam packed day of catching Trevallys, Flatheads, and Mangrove Jacks. This spot is conveniently located between Palm Cove and the downtown- an ideal location to enjoy the best of both worlds. 

At the northern edge of the beach, you can find a marina offering several charters. Its also home to the Half Moon Bay Marina, a famous watering hole where you relax with a cold brew in hand. 

Summer means it’s time for prime barramundi season. After nonstop rains, the adjacent creek flushes out prawns and baitfish. They seek refuge in the wall structures. 

How Do I Get To Yorkeys Knob? 

From Cairns airport, travel north and continue through the Machan Beach and Barron River Bridge. Drive until Hollaways Beach roundabouts and turn right at the Yorkey’s Knob signpost. You’ll drive through Varley Street and enter Yorkey’s Knob in about five km. You’ll find visitor information at the Friendly Grocer or local accommodation facilities.

There are various traveling options from the airport, including shuttle buses, limousine transfers, taxis, or cars for hire.

What Fish Can I Catch At Yorkeys Knob? 

You can catch huge saltwater Barramundi and other species that weigh over 10kg at Yorkeys Knob. You may also get lucky at either the south or north marina rock wall and catch some Trevallys, Flatheads, and Mangrove Jacks. If you trek south of the boat ramp towards a small rocky headland, you’ll be in for bountiful beach fishing in Cairns.

2. Port Douglas

Port Douglas, one of the tropical north’s gems, is a 45- minute drive north of Cairns. This fishing spot covers a small peninsula bordered by Dixon inlet on the West and the Four Mile Beach on the seaward side. The construction of the award-winning Sheraton Mirage in the 1980s prompted the creation of the port. 

One of the best things about this place is that most fishing options are within reach. You may try your luck at the small pier at Ben Cropps Museum. Just make sure you use standard fishing rigs and lines for a good catch.

Baitfish are flushed out of the Dixon inlet during the summer months following heavy rainfall. The prey usually goes to the rocks to find shelter, but predators like Fingermarks, Jacks and Barramundis typically find them. 

How Do I Get To Port Douglas? 

Thanks to a wide range of transportation options, including road, air, or rail, getting to Port Douglas is relatively easy. It’s 70 km north of Cairns, which ideally can be reached in an hour via road travel. However, flying to Cairns is the most popular choice among seasoned travelers. After the flight, you may hire a car and drive along the scenic Captain Cook Highway to reach Port Douglas.

What Fish Can I Catch In Port Douglas? 

You can catch a fantastic variety of fish in Port Douglas, making it a prime spot for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you’ll go on a guided sport fishing tour or take a more laid back approach with your handline, you’ll surely be satisfied with your catch. Anglers who wish to hunt for the elusive sea giants, the Sailfish or Black Marlin can go on a seasonal boating tour. Other types of fish that you can catch are Coral Trout, Flathead, Mangrove Jack, Sooty Grunter, Snapper, and Barracuda.

3. Trinity Beach

Trinity Beach should be the first destination on your list if you want to haul Mangrove Jack, Barramundi, Golden Snapper, Salmon, and Mud Crab. There’s an impressive 90 km expanse of waterways for you to discover and enjoy. You can also find excellent spots to gather fishing baits, such as prawns and pilchards hiding in underwater structures and fallen trees. Charter operators can help you arrange a boat tour for another memorable experience. 

How Do I Get To Trinity Beach? 

Trinity Beach is a 15-minute drive from the Cairns International Airport via the Captain Cook Highway. You can book a private hire car service, a car hire, or a coach transfer when you arrange for your beach accommodation.

What Fish Can I Catch In Trinity Beach? 

Trinity Beach has many fishing attributes despite not being fed by any creek systems. You’ll discover a deep water wind-protected gutter created by its rocky headland borders at the beach’s southern end. You can catch a few whiting on that ideal spot. Putting on live bait will allow you to snare something larger. 

4. Cape Grafton

If you’re looking for an excellent spot to wet your line, Cape Grafton is your place. You will see the coastal headland of this location when you reach open waters. The movement of the tide as it drives towards the headland gathers bait that magnets predatory pelagic species such as Trevally, Mackerel, and Queenfish.

How Do I Get To Cape Grafton? 

You can hire a car from Cairns International Airport and drive via the Captain Cook Highway. You may arrange a car service when you book your accommodation at nearby resorts. 

What Fish Can I Catch In Cape Grafton?

Aside from the pelagic fish that cruise around the cape, you can also catch some huge Coral Trout, Golden Snapper, Barramundi, and coastal Mangrove Jacks. These ocean giants thrive in underwater caves and bottom reefs. This area hits the bullseye if you’re after trophy fish. 

5. Mulgrave River

Mulgrave River is the best spot if you’re craving a perfect combination of peace and action. The spectacular mountain view and the serene waters are the best companions when you want a relaxing fishing atmosphere. It’s a productive river with abundant brackish-dwelling creatures and freshwater fish. 

How Do I Get To Mulgrave River?

The best way to get to Mulgrave River is by flying into Cairns airport and booking a car for hire. You may also arrange for transportation when you book nearby accommodations.

What Fish Can I Catch In Mulgrave River?

During the summer season, rainfall floods the narrow valley. Baitfish fill the creeks, lagoons, and backwaters when the waters recede, attracting medium-sized Barramundi. 

6. Captain Cook Highway

Captain Cook Highway is the expansive link between Cairns and Port Douglas. This road will reveal several mesmerizing sandy beaches, boulder-strewn points, and rocky headlands. The beaches may not offer a bountiful haul, but the rocky headlands can bring you luck. Usually, during persistent rainfall during the summer months, you’ll discover large Barramundi that ply the bait-rich rock areas. 

This highway is also a popular stop for travelers heading to other Cairns fishing spots. It’s worth your time getting down and taking a few photos with the balancing stones as your background.

How Do I Get To The Captain Cook Highway?

You can fly into Cairns Airport and hire a car to reach Cook Highway. It’s a 35-minute scenic drive that’s already an experience. 

H3: What Fish Can I Catch In Captain Cook Highway?

Aside from the Barramundi, you can also catch Flathead, Crayfish, Abalone, and Trumpeter.

7. Barron River

The Baron River boasts prime tropical river fish in several recommended locations for land-based anglers. You can get the best fishing bait from local river prawns caught in nets when the tide leaves. You can cast your line from the old Kamerunga bridge used as a fishing platform. At the mouth of the river, you’ll find sand flats that are safe for family fishing. 

How Do I Get To The Barron River?

Barron River is a 20-minute car ride from Cairns city proper. You may hire a car or arrange for a taxi service from the airport.

What Fish Can I Catch In The Barron River?

The fish species you can catch from Barron River are Flathead, Bream, Salmon, and Grunter. If you’re lucky, you’ll also snare some Barramundi. 

8. Lake Tinaroo

Thanks to the Queensland Department of Primary Industry’s Recreational Freshwater Fishing Enhancement Program, Tinaroo Lake is filled with Sooty Grunter and Barramundi. Fundraising, lobbying, and volunteering by the Tableland Fish Stocking Society had been challenging, but their efforts paid off. They were able to release thousands of fingerlings that thrived in the area’s rich waters. This enormous lake also boasts several access points and sports and recreational activities.

How Do I Get To Lake Tinaroo?

Lake Tinaroo is a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Cairns city proper. You can book bus or car services at the airport. You may also ask your accommodation provider for other transportation options and booking.

What Fish Can I Catch In Lake Tinaroo?

The lake is considered one of the best fishing spots in Cairns for catching Barramundi. The best times to spot a Barra are sunset and sunrise on balmy, humid days. You may also catch a robust Sooty during the mornings or late afternoons.

9. Princess Charlotte Bay

Enthusiastic anglers will have the time of their lives in Princess Charlotte Bay. This fishing spot, protected by southeast trade winds, boasts various lagoons, offshore coral reefs, and mangrove river systems. 

How Do I Get To Princess Charlotte Bay?

To reach Princess Charlotte Bay, you need to take an hour-and-a-half plane ride from Cairns. You’ll fly over the World Heritage Daintree Forest and Port Douglas. You might even glimpse the Kennedy Rivers, Cooktown, and Normanby. 

What Fish Can I Catch In Princess Charlotte Bay?

The catch in Princess Charlotte Bay is as diverse as the Great Barrier Reef. You can snare Red Emperor, Coral Trout, Barramundi, Mackerel, various pelagic fish, and mud crabs. 

10. Hinchinbrook Island

The mesmerizing Hinchinbrook Island as a backdrop makes the fishing experience more spectacular. It’s also one of the few Australian fishing spots where you can hunt the Snub-Nosed Dart or Permit. The island is blessed with rich flora and fauna that thrive in mangrove line waterways and palm-lined beaches. Prime tropical sports fish abound in the spot’s mainland proper and surrounding channel systems. 

Hinchinbrook Island, Australia’s largest Island National Park, is situated almost halfway between Cairns and Townsville (approx. 200kms south of Cairns). The Island abounds in flora, fauna, palm-fringed beaches, and extensive mangrove-lined waterways. The vast flats and channel systems surrounding the Island and mainland proper are home to many prime tropical sportfish.

How Do I Get To Hinchinbrook Island

There is no direct access from the Cairns town proper to Hinchinbrook Island. You either leave via a private vessel from Cardwell, a city 203 south of Cairns or travel via commercial ferries that ply both ends of the Thorsborne Trail. Availability of transportation services depends on tidal conditions, time of the year, and the weather.   

What Fish Can I Catch On Hinchinbrook Island?

Aside from the much-prized Snub Nosed Dart, you can also catch Mangrove Jacks, Barramundi, Queenfish, Trevally, Fingermark, Grunter, Cod, and Salmon. 

11. Mourilyan Harbour

Mourilyan Harbor is an alternative tidal estuary with mangrove-lined creeks, channels, shale bottom areas, and sandbars. It can be productive during the wet season since it does not have large rivers. An extensive system surrounds the harbour, but some areas prohibit fishing. There are signs along mangrove edges that mark protected areas. It’s best to be very careful, especially if you’re new to fishing and boating. Be sure to check the necessary fishing licenses and restrictions before casting your line. 

How Do I Get To Mourilyan Harbour?

Mourilyan Harbor is a two-hour drive from Cairns. You may fly into Cairns Airport and hire a car to get you to the fishing spot. 

What Fish Can I Catch In Mourilyan Harbour?

You can get a satisfying prime Barramundi catch during the summer months. It would help if you cast your lures around back eddies, small islands, and mangrove roots. The fishing spot is also the best place to get a good haul of Jacks using diving lures cast parallel to the steep banks and along the channels. There’s also a wide range of tropical species that you can catch, including Cod, Bream, Flathead, Salmon, and Barracuda. 

12. The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is 2,900 kilometers of paradise for new and seasoned anglers. It’s always on top of the bucket list of any fishing enthusiast. Its productive coral reefs are teeming with plenty of game fish best caught with a hook and line—anglers from around the globe troop to this renowned area to fish and dabble in tournaments. 

How Do I Get To The Great Barrier Reef?

Cairns is an excellent gateway to the great barrier reef. Several resorts in town offer tours to bring you this prize fishing spot. Tourist boats depart at regular schedules from the marina. However, trips are dependent on weather and tide conditions. 

What Fish Can I Catch In The Great Barrier Reef?

There are around 120 species of fish produced in the Great Barrier Reef. High-value target types include Red Throat Emperor, Coral Trout, Spanish Mackerel, and tropical Snapper.

13. Palm Cove

Palm Cove is a gorgeous seaside suburb perfect for fishing and family fun. It’s one of the most productive fishing spots in Northern Queensland. Anglers taking a holiday with their family can enjoy the luxury resorts and vacation homes conveniently located near the beach. Its tropical tree-lined shores are a perfect place to relax after a long day of fishing. 

How Do I Get To Palm Cove?

Palm Cove is a 24-minute drive from Cairns Airport. You can ride a taxi, hire a car or book a bus transfer service to Palm Cove.

What Fish Can I Catch In Palm Cove?

Prime Spanish Mackerel swim near the shore and pass parallel to the beach through the gutter. You can catch Whiting and Grunter from the jetty, as well. Other popular targets are sharks and rays that can be snared from the bottom using a dropper rig. 

14. Fitzroy Island

Day-trippers and fishing enthusiasts can have a fantastic time at Fitzroy Island. It’s home to Nudey beach, one of the most stunning beaches in the region named after a nudibranch, a soft-bodied mollusc that thrives in fringing reefs. The island has several restaurants and beachfront bars that offer good food and a relaxing ambience perfect after a day of angling. 

How Do I Get To Fitzroy Island?

The journey to Fitzroy Island is as beautiful as the destination itself. You can enjoy a 45-minute ferry ride from Marlin Marina in Cairns to get to the fishing spot. The boat service is available three times daily but operates twice a day from February to March. 

What Fish Can I Catch On Fitzroy Island?

The months of July to September can bring you the prized Black Marlin, one of the world’s most iconic fish species. You’re also lucky for some juvenile Marlins who can weigh more than 40 kg. 

15. Kings Point

King’s Point is a famous big fish area. However, its exposed position makes it prone to prevailing southeast winds and rough weather. This passage between Fitzroy Island and the mainland has a channel that steeply drops into deep water. The mainland side is peppered with bombies and rocks. 

How Do I Get To Kings Point?

From Cairns Harbor, you can book several fishing charters to get you to Kings Point. 

H3: What Fish Can I Catch In Kings Point?

It’s a famous area to hunt for Black Jewfish and Golden Snappers. The summer months will usually bring you squid and crayfish.

Do I Need A Permit To Fish In Cairns?

Queensland does not require any permit or license for recreational fishing. However, you may need a stock impoundment permit if you plan to fish in stock impoundment areas. You’ll get the best out of your fishing trip if you know and understand the rules and restrictions of every location. Awareness of specific policies can save you from being fined and protect natural resources. 

When Is The Best Time To Go Fishing In Cairns? 

The best time for a Cairns trip depends on the kind of fishing activity you plan on doing. If You have your eyes on the great Barramundi, October to April are the best times to visit. Barras love warm water, so summer is ideal. Plan your trip around the cooler season if you’re hunting for Trevally and Queenies. For marlins, seasoned anglers recommend  September to mid-December. 

Related Questions

Where Can I Catch Barramundi in Cairns?

Lake Tinaroo is a treasure trove of giant barramundis. It was filled with thousands of fingerlings many years ago, so add this spot to your itinerary if you’re new to fishing and would love a haul of great Barras. 

Can You Catch Snapper in Cairns?

You can catch big golden snappers at Kings Point during the summer months. It’s also the time when bait and squid abound in the area. 

Where Can I Fish in Cairns Inlet?

There are plenty of places to fish in the Cairns inlet. The Cairns estuary inlet has over 100km of waterways, perfect for fishing. The best spot is the Trinity Inlet, which is home to a variety of fish species. As the main estuary system in Cairns, Trinity Inlet is about 9km in length and offers great spots for boat and land fishing. 

Do You Catch Squid in Cairns?

There are a number of fishing spots in Cairns where you can catch squid. The most popular is Kings Point. During the summer months, the waters of Kings Point are abundant with squid. 

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