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Turn It Up: Best live music venues in Cairns

If music runs through your veins like wildfire, a good weekend out most probably includes a wide selection of tunes – local acts, spinning vinyls, soulful vocals and live bands with wicked horn sections that make you dance like everyone’s watching. 

Here in Cairns, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to live music, with venues jam-packed with jazz, acoustic, rock, the danceable, the cocktail-sipping listen-able and the late-night sing-along-able (yeah, you – we saw you at Sing Song Karaoke…). So, while you’re in town, put on your dancing shoes and loosen up those vocal cords. We’ve found the best live music venues in Cairns to curb your musical cravings.

We’ve found the best live music venues in Cairns to curb your musical cravings.

Boardwalk Social

Boardwalk Social at Crystalbrook Flynn is the natural first stop on your live music tour of Cairns. A hive of activity with a prime spot on Cairns Esplanade, this sports bar meets gastro pub meets live music venue brings the vibes each weekend with a variety of live music, local performances and touring DJs. Order a round of cocktails or craft beers, dig into a tasty menu of sourdough pizzas, cheeseburgers and barbeque chicken, and settle in for a festive Friday night or live music-fuelled Sunday session in Cairns.


A favourite among locals, Salthouse is an epic joint that always brings something a little new while keeping one thing the same, Cairns live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5pm. Kick start your evening with fantastic local and travelling interstate musicians on the deck. Known for their gourmet dishes, extravagant cocktail menu and a view over Cairns inlet making you sigh ‘you little beauty,’ the guys at Salthouse host a mixed bag of artists every Sunday, too.

Tanks Arts Centre

It would be remiss to talk about live music in Cairns without mentioning the Tanks Arts Centre. This iconic venue, located in the Cairns Botanic Gardens inside three converted World War II naval oil storage tanks, hosts some of the most popular gigs in town each month across the full spectrum - Aussie and international, talented local performers and big-ticket names doing tours and festival sideshows. If it’s free you’re looking for, The Tanks has that too with their Tank 4 Up Late gallery gigs, which are either cheap or gratis. These run regularly and have more of an intimate feel, with artist exhibitions running concurrently.

A Group Of People Sitting On A Bench In Front Of A Crowd
Image credit Tourism and Events Queensland

McGinty’s Irish Bar

McGinty’s Irish Bar is a church where Cairns live music is the religion, and the doors are open to any and all who seek its comfort. Far from the fundamentalist worship of Trad Irish, McGinty’s plays host to a staggering variety of local, national and international live music acts of every flavour from folk to funk. Pull a stool up to the bar if you’re in the mood to make new acquaintances – the atmosphere is always warm and convivial. There's no place in Cairns like McGinty's Irish bar (at least not North of Malin Head, East of Wicklow, South of Mizen Head or West of the Dingle Peninsula).

Bar 36

Just inside the entrance of the Reef Hotel Casino is a naked brick-backed stage loaded with a backline begging to be used. Stumbling in for a frothy espresso martini could mean you are just as likely to witness a fragile singer-songwriter set as you are to find yourself in a jubilant sardine can of punters enjoying a loud electronic set. Keep your eyes peeled on that stage to see who’s coming up next, or just check their Facebook page like an organised person. Up to you.

Heard some sweet tunes? Let us know who you’d like to hear on the rooftop at Rocco?

Top image courtesy of Tanks Art Centre