Far North Queensland is the northernmost part of Queensland, stretching from Cairns up to the Torres Strait. It is Queensland’s largest region, covering 20% of the state. It is also one of the most beautiful and diverse.
As well as the city of Cairns, Far North Queensland encompasses:
- The Wet Tropics — Hinchinbrook, Cassowary Coast, Cairns, Atherton Tableland
- The Gulf — Croydon, Etheridge, Carpentaria, Mornington, Burke
- Cape York — Cook, Aurukun and Torres.
At the heart of Far North Queensland, Cairns is a modern tropical city with strong global connections.
It is also the gateway to the natural beauties of the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage rainforests, attracting almost three million visitors each year.
Cairns International Airport is serviced by 10 international airlines and provides direct access to many global markets, including Japan, Hong Kong, China and Papua New Guinea. Cairns Airport is Australia’s busiest regional international airport, and a gateway to Asia and other world destinations.
Cairns Seaport is located just minutes from the city centre. A multi-purpose regional port, it caters to cruise shipping, fishing fleets, reef passenger ferries and bulk and general cargo. The port’s bulk cargo includes petroleum products, sugar, fertiliser and liquid petroleum gas.
As a major regional centre, Cairns services 2,400 km of Far North Queensland’s coastline — to the tip of Cape York Peninsula, and around the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Northern Territory border.
Far North Queensland covers a vast and economically diverse area. Key industries are tourism, agriculture, and mining and construction.
Domestic and international tourism contribute billions of dollars each year to the local and Queensland economy.
Outside of Cairns, agriculture, livestock, fishing and forestry account for much of the subregional economy. Mining continues to make a major economic contribution, while construction is one of the region’s largest employers.
Marine and aviation services are increasingly important sectors. Education is also significant.
Cairns city is Far North Queensland’s administrative and health services base.
Far North Queensland’s world-class natural attractions provide the basis for a thriving tourism industry that contributed $4.7 billion to the regional economy in 2015.
Visitor numbers are rising, with 1.8 million domestic and 890,000 international visitors to Cairns in 2017.
The region is the third-most important Australian destination for international visitors after Sydney and Melbourne. The largest group of international visitors to the region comes from China, followed by Japan, the USA, UK and Europe.
Visitor expenditure exceeded $1 billion in 2017. The tourism industry is a major employer, and a catalyst for public and private infrastructure development in Far North Queensland.
Agriculture is one of Far North Queensland’s largest sectors, contributing A$863 million to the regional economy.
Leading agricultural export products include raw sugar, live cattle, horticulture (mangoes, avocadoes, lychees and coffee) and tropical pasture seed. Peanuts and macadamias are sent to South East Queensland for processing and export.
A large fishing industry supplies Asian and domestic markets with fresh and frozen product, while the aquaculture sector focuses on prawns, barramundi and red claw, primarily for local markets.
A small food-manufacturing sector produces mostly dried tropical fruits, a large range of fruit wines and liqueurs, Australian native fruit condiments, vanilla bean and flavoured products, and specialty cheeses.
The mining industry contributes A$860 million to the regional economy. The North West Queensland minerals province and nearby Papua New Guinea have attracted a growing cluster of mining services to the region.
Cairns is an ideal engineering and manufacturing hub for the booming resource sector in the Oceania-Australasia region. The engineering and steel fabrication sector provides specialist metal products, machinery and equipment manufacturing capabilities for a diverse range of industries.
The region has a diverse and highly capable building and construction sector, which is one of the largest industry employers in Cairns.
Approximately 3,000 of the region’s businesses are involved in the construction industry. Environmental sustainability, tropical design and liveability are driving building solutions in the region.
Cairns is home to a large maritime servicing and shipbuilding sector, based around fishing and reef fleets, small craft and super yachts, cargo vessels and cruise liners.
Cairns offers ship repair services as well as ancillary services including ship building, maintenance, training and coastal shipping. The Pacific region also offers marine services markets.
The region’s aviation industry has grown steadily over the past 20 years and continues to demonstrate strong growth, enhanced by the tourism industry. Many supply-chain industries have developed to support the aviation industry, including flight catering, engineering, trucking, logistics and air transport.
Equipment installation, maintenance and training have also been developed to service the industry. Cairns has the only recognised service facility for Bombardier’s Dash 8 Q-Series aircraft in the southern hemisphere and boasts the largest avionics facility in Australia. Cairns Aviation Skills Centre is a major training institution for aircraft engineers and technical support staff, attracting students from around Australia and the world.
The Cairns region boasts the world-renowned James Cook University, CQ University’s Cairns campus, and the state-of-the-art TAFE North.
The diversity of education options is immense, with more than 140 schools, while the training capability of the region spans the marine, aviation, mining, tourism and hospitality sectors.
International students make up an increasingly important part of the local education economy, with 32,000 international students studying in Cairns in 2016.