Known principally as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is now a global tourism destination with a vibrant culinary scene, good shopping and plenty of outdoor adventure – from scuba diving to bungee jumping. There are a myriad of reef tours leaving from the Cairns on a daily basis. Parents will find plenty of things to keep the kids amused, both in and out of the water. But Cairns really swings into top gear when the sun goes down. The party-loving city has a lively pub and nightclub scene. For something a little more genteel, book a table at one of the many waterfront restaurants, tuck into some local fare and soak up the tropical atmosphere.

Who goes there: Compagnie du Ponant, Azamara Club Cruises, Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Holland America, Silver Seas, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises.

Cruisers like: Good shopping, outdoors dining, lively bars, good restaurants and a balmy climate are just some of the drawcards here. Cairns also offers a dazzling range of things to see and do – whether you are snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or taking a gondola across the rainforest. Just about every outdoor adventure imaginable is on the menu – from hiking to white-water rafting and bungee jumping. There are plenty of child-friendly attractions, too, including the man-made lagoon on the Esplanade, the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Muddy’s Playground. To learn more about the region’s pre-European history visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park which stages music, dance and storytelling performances.

Best for: Mature couples, young families, scuba divers and anyone who wants to visit the Great Barrier Reef.

Getting around: Cruise ships berth at the Cruise Liner Terminal in Cairns or at Yorkeys Knob. Cairns is small enough to walk or cycle around, but there are plenty of taxis and buses, plus boat trips to the reef and rainforest.