Riley Hotel in Cairns, Australia

SDCairns Hotels › Riley
Updated: January 4, 2022
By Santorini Dave

• Location: Along the Esplanade in the center of downtown Cairns.
• Hotel website:
• Hotel phone: +61 (0)7 4252 7777
Check prices for Riley

Review of Riley hotel in Cairns

The huge swimming pool at Riley Hotel in Cairns.

Riley – New, vast, and chic tropical resort facing the sea on the edge of downtown.

The appeal and welcome are instant as guests step into the spacious, airy, and tropical-style lobby. The rooms and suites are in whitewashed buildings based in the old Tradewinds hotel and in a sparkling-new glass tower that’s easily seen across the bay. As the sort of tropical resort usually only found along the rural coastline, the Riley boasts a massive lagoon-style pool with cabanas, sandy edges, and a shallow section for children. All accommodations are well-sized, and views from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the tower are exceptional. Within a quiet suburban area, the Riley is only about a kilometer from the boat terminal which is also accessible via a seaside path ideal for walking and cycling. And the extensive Muddy’s Playground within shady gardens opposite the hotel is a real bonus for the youngsters.

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Riley – The Location

  • Address: 131-141 Esplanade. In fact, the main entrance is along Abbott Street, but most guests will come and go on foot through the gates along the Esplanade.
  • Area: Faces the Esplanade which runs alongside the sea and leads to the main tourist district less than 1km away. Quiet area of budget hotels and apartment blocks.
  • How to Get There: The only option to/from the Cairns Airport (6km) is by Cairns Taxis. See below for information about buses and trains.
  • Handy to: Muddy’s Playground (see later).

Riley – The Basics

  • Guests: Mostly couples, and especially ideal for those on romantic getaways, although a fine option for families, too.
  • Pets: Not permitted.
  • Views: Many rooms in the older white buildings face the bay, but only those on upper floors provide sea views not obstructed by the hotel pool and park across the street. All accommodations in the glass tower feature full-length windows overlooking the sea or streets.
  • Private Pools/Jacuzzis: None, but not really expected at a resort within the city center.
  • Parking: Self-parking and valet parking available for a daily fee.
  • How to Book: will have the best rates.
  • Phone: +61 (0)7 4252 7777
  • Email:
  • Website:

Riley – Amenities

  • Pool: Massive infinity pool with beach-like sandy sections facing the Esplanade. Shallow section for children, as well as a jacuzzi and inviting cabanas for all.
  • Spa: The very classy Eléme Day Spa offers a marvelous range of heavenly therapies and treatments using their own organic products.
  • Fitness Center: Surprisingly small but open 24/7.
  • Other Facilities: Bicycle rentals (ideal along the seaside path). Gift shop.

Riley – Food and Drink

  • Restaurants: Paper Crane – hugely popular for its contemporary, award-winning Asian cuisine and delightful esplanade setting with views of the sea and park. Bookings recommended. • Greenfields – laidback open-air café facing the pool and Esplanade. Open early for coffee and until late for cocktails – and plenty of healthy food in between.
  • Bar: Rocco is Cairns’ highest rooftop bar/bistro. It offers extraordinary all-round views of the city, bay, and islets. Popular for cocktails, especially at sunset, and Mediterranean cuisine ideal for sharing.
  • Breakfast: Can be included depending on how the room was booked, but usually costs extra.
  • Room Service: Available 24/7.

Riley – Rooms

  • Room Types: Urban Rooms • Resort Rooms • Sea Rooms • Panoramic Sea Rooms • Family Rooms • Suites • Riley’s Suites • List of all rooms
  • Smoking Rooms: Smoking is forbidden anywhere within the hotel complex.
  • Best Room: The signature Riley’s Suites feature 2 bedrooms, separate living areas, and the broadest sea views from any city hotel along the 3 separate balconies.
  • For Families: All rooms can accommodate 3 people, while the Suites are suitable for 4. The Family Rooms are just 2 rooms with connecting doors that can accommodate up to 6. Best are the 2-bedroom Riley’s Suites which can also fit in 6.

Riley – Local Transport

  • Walking & Cycling: Cairns is so compact and wonderful for walking. A dedicated path for cycling heads in both directions through the shady park opposite the hotel. The resort rents out bikes to guests.
  • Buses: Services operated by Sunbus head to the lovely tropical beaches less than an hour away. The most convenient bus station is on Lake Street (700m). Greyhound Australia offers buses all over Queensland and the rest of Australia from near the Reef Fleet Terminal (1 km).
  • Trains: Running between Cairns and Brisbane 5 times a week, the Spirit of Queensland is one of Australia’s most spectacular train services. Just as amazing – and far shorter – are the daily trips on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. All trains use the terminal (1km) attached to the Cairns Central shopping center (see below).
  • Taxis & Ride-shares: Best to book ahead for Cairns Taxis. Uber also operates as far as Port Douglas.
  • Car Rental: Most internationally-known agencies (and several locally-run ones) offer rentals, including Avis and Hertz.
  • Boats: All sorts of boats for sightseeing, diving, fishing, and sailing depart from the Reef Fleet Terminal, 1 km away. Book online, at any travel agency in downtown, or at the official booking office opposite the terminal.

Riley – What’s Nearby?

Almost every restaurant and café in Cairns is licensed to serve alcohol.

Best Nearby Restaurants & Bars

  • Muddy’s Café – inviting and shady, with tables inside and out. Open from breakfast onwards and tempting specials all day. Within a marvelous playground (see below), 200m along the seaside path.
  • Bagus Café – simple eatery with plastic outdoor tables 200m along the Esplanade from the hotel. Authentic and affordable Indonesian food and friendly staff.
  • Cairns RSL Club Esplanade – down the Esplanade (200m), this war vets club is open to all. Well-priced drinks and meals in a quiet setting overlooking the waterside park and war memorial.
  • Outback Jacks Bar & Grill – always busy with lovers of grilled meats and cold beers. Stuffed crocodile on the wall above the Aussie-style bar. 500m along Abbott Street.
  • Dundee’s at the Cairns Aquarium – seafood, steaks, pastas, and salads served in a garden veranda and tables alongside a remarkable aquarium wall. About 200m down Abbott Street. Another outlet is along a boardwalk (1 km) near the boat terminal.
  • Bailey and Flynn – several more options are in the sister hotels, Bailey (400m along Abbott Street), such as the world-class steakhouse, CC’s Bar and Grill and the very new Flynn. Guests at the Riley can charge costs to their hotel bill.

Nearby Shops

    About 600m along Abbott Street, the Cairns Night Markets are a bit of a tourist trap. Open every day, with souvenir stalls from 5pm and cafés from 10am. More vibrant is the Asian-style Rusty’s Markets (open from early, Friday to Sunday), on Grafton Street 1 km from the hotel. Mostly fresh produce, but also souvenirs, live music, and food court. The massive Cairns Central shopping center is about 1 km via Aplin Street.

Nearby Attractions

  • Muddy’s Playground – huge, shady, and safe play area only 200m up the Esplanade. Open daily 9am to 7pm, it’s educational, interactive, and heaps of fun. Rope bridge, waterpark, and outdoor games.
  • Cairns Aquarium – the city’s newest attraction is just 200m along Abbott Street. Among the 15,000 marine creatures are giant sawfish, hammerhead sharks, and turtles, as well as crocs, frogs, and snakes unique to the region. Open daily.
  • Boat trips – from the Reef Fleet Terminal (1 km), all sorts of organized trips are available – whether diving/snorkeling, fishing, sailing, water-sports, or whale-watching among the most extraordinary coral reefs on the planet. Others just swim, snorkel, hike, or dine at Fitzroy Island or Green Island – both only 45 minutes one-way by boat.
  • Lagoon – in lieu of any beaches in the city, this massive open-air swimming pool is along the Esplanade (600m). Surrounded by shady lawns with free barbecue facilities. Open from about 6am to 9pm daily. Free entry.
  • Beaches – some will be disappointed that the coastline within Cairns is swampy and muddy. Thankfully, perfect tropical beaches – Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, and Palm Cove – all with plenty of places to eat, drink, shop, and stay can be found within an hour north by local bus. Note the warning signs about stingers (jellyfish) and even crocodiles.

Riley – What’s Nearby?

The hotel's new glass tower is striking.

The new circular glass tower at the Riley resort can be easily seen across the bay.

The hotel has several buildings.

The Riley comprises many rooms and suites in several older white buildings and the newer glass tower.

The glass tower rooms have floor to ceiling windows.

All accommodations inside the very distinctive glass tower provides floor-to-ceiling windows.

The resort is between the esplanade and Abbott Street.

The resort spreads between the Esplanade and Abbott Street where the main entrance is located.

Most rooms face the sea.

Based around the old Tradewinds hotel, most rooms at the Riley face the Esplanade and sea.

The pool is lagoon-shaped with a sandy area.

As a classic tropical resort, the pool is shaped like a lagoon and features sandy edges and a shallow area for toddlers.

Greenfields cafe is by the pool.

The Greenfields café within the Riley also faces the pool (which is only available to hotel guests).

The lobby has a pool table.

The design throughout is fashionable – even the pool table in the lobby area.

Paper Crane restaurant has an attractive setting.

Particularly attractive is the setting of the Paper Crane restaurant within the hotel.

Paper Crane restaurant serves Asian cuisine.

The Paper Crane restaurant offers a menu of contemporary Asian cuisine.

Rocco bar and bistro is on the 12th floor of the glass tower.

The Rocco bar and bistro on the 12th floor of the glass tower at the Riley offers sweeping views.

Eléme Day Spa is excellent.

The excellent Eléme Day Spa on the ground floor offers a fabulous range of treatments.

All accommodations have a stylish layout.

All rooms and suites feature stylish décor, often with an unusual layout where the bed is in the middle.

All accommodations in the glass tower offer great views.

All accommodations in the glass tower have full-length windows with superb views of the city streets and distant mountains.

Views from the glass tower and expansive

From the blueish windows in the glass tower at the Riley, some views also extend down the Esplanade, further from the main tourist district.

Some suites have separate living areas.

Some suites feature separate living areas.

A 3km-long walking and cycling path stretches by the water.

Extending in both directions, the boardwalk and cycling path are the best ways to reach the main tourist district (less than 1km from the hotel).

There are often pelicans in front of the hotel.

In front of the hotel, where the boardwalk meets a sandy area, pelicans often gather.

A wide park is in front of the hotel.

Also in front of the hotel is a particularly wide and shady section of the Esplanade and parks.

Muddy's Playground is great for kids.

An unexpected bonus, especially for those with children, is the extensive, shady, and safe Muddy’s Playground.

Bicycles are terrific to explore Cairns.

A terrific way to explore Cairns, especially along the seaside path and boardwalk, is on 2 wheels. Guests can rent bikes from the hotel.

Bagus Café specializes in Indonesian food.

There isn’t a great choice within a short walk of the hotel, except the cheap and cheerful Bagus Café that specializes in Indonesian food.

Muddy’s Café is within the park.

Particularly appealing is Muddy’s Café within a park and playground facing the sea, only 200m from the hotel.

Outback Jacks is known for its grilled meats.

Only 500m from the Riley, Outback Jacks is renowned for its grilled meats and cold beers.

CC’s Bar and Grill is world class.

About 400m away is the sister hotel, Bailey. Inside is the exceptional steakhouse, CC’s Bar and Grill.

Dundee’s is attached to the aquarium.

A minute or two on foot from the Riley is Dundee’s restaurant. Attached to the Cairns Aquarium, patrons can also sit alongside a remarkable aquarium wall inside.

Cairns RSL Club faces the esplanade.

Facing the Esplanade, the Cairns RSL Club is a casual and well-priced place for a meal and drink.

Lagoon swimming pool is free for all.

There is no beach in Cairns, so the council operates a free public swimming pool called the Lagoon near the hotel.

Shields Street is an attractive vehicle-free street.

Walking and cycling around Cairns is a pleasure because of the square layout and flat streets, including Shields Street where vehicles are banned.

Cairns Central shopping center is nearby.

About 1km away, the Cairns Central shopping center is home to a huge number of places to shop and eat.

Cairns Night Markets has several souvenir stalls.

There are plenty of souvenir stalls at the Cairns Night Markets, a few minutes along Abbott Street.

Rusty’s Markets is vibrant and Asian-style.

The Asian-style Rusty’s Markets, about 1km from the Riley, is vibrant and fascinating.

Cairns Aquarium has thousands of marine creatures.

The excellent Cairns Aquarium is home to thousands of marine creatures, mostly from the magnificent reef nearby.

Boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef depart from the Reef Fleet Terminal.

From the Reef Fleet Terminal about 1km away, boats leave regularly for trips around the UNESCO-protected Great Barrier Reef.

Palm Cove is about an hour away.

Within an hour by bus from downtown Cairns are several classic tropical beaches, including the gorgeous Palm Cove. Check rates and availability: Riley Hotel

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