Hides Hotel Cairns: A Historic Landmark Since 1885


Hides Hotel, nestled in the heart of Cairns, has stood as a cornerstone of this vibrant tropical town for over 135 years. Offering affordable accommodation in Cairns with top-notch service, it ranks among the best hotels in the city centre.

Whether you’re seeking hotel accommodation for business or leisure, this local gem showcases two distinct structures on Lake Street – the heritage-listed 1928 building and the modern addition from 1968. Both buildings, highlighting innovative and intricate design and architectural features of their periods, have stood the test of time and help cement Hides Hotel’s reputation as one of the best places to stay in Cairns.


Established in 1885

Hides Hotel played a pivotal role in developing this tropical town. Publicans George Parker Hides and Duncan McColl originally owned the heritage-listed building and constructed it in 1885 on a leased site. The building started as a two-story timber structure with 20 bedrooms and double front verandas.

In 1885, Cairns went through a booming period! Gaining official recognition as the Borough of Cairns, the town chose it as the destination for the inland goldfield rail network. The hotel expanded through renovations in 1891, accommodating 32 bedrooms with the addition of a new wing by 1899.

Quickly, it became an integral part of public life in Cairns, catering to both business travellers and locals. On May 13, 1886, the Cairns Chamber of Commerce held their inaugural meeting there, solidifying the hotel’s connection to the local community.

By 1888, George Parker Hides took over the hotel’s license. After his passing, his widow Elizabeth assumed the license and eventually bought the site in 1899. Elizabeth also bought the adjacent land at the corner of Lake and Shields Streets, where the Hotel now proudly stands with its distinctive Hides Corner. Hides Hotel soon became a favourite spot for the social elite, hosting pukkah fans, billiard tables, and glamorous garden parties. It was truly the place to be!

Cairns in the 20th Century

Cairns experienced a construction boom in the 1920s, with soldiers settling inland and cyclone repairs happening in the CBD. In 1923, Cairns achieved the official designation as a city.

On 16 May 1928, Denis O’Hara laid the foundation stone for the new Hides Cairns Hotel. The construction over the old hotel garden cost tens of thousands of pounds. Local architect Sydenham Stanley Oxenham designed it, and Queensland contractor Michael Thomas Garvey constructed it using locally sourced timber. The new Hides Hotel stood as one of only two three-story buildings in the city, alongside Bolands Centre, and it emerged as one of Cairns’ largest structures. They later added shops at the ground level along Shields Street.

During the 1940s, American Five-Star General MacArthur often visited Hides Hotel from his Brisbane War Office. People now know the room in the top corner as The MacArthur Suite.

Until the 1950s, poor road conditions and slow trains necessitated overnight stays for those travelling to Cairns from the Tablelands for business or recreation. Even though more than a century has passed since the hotel’s original construction, it still draws locals and travellers. The O’Hara family owned the property until 1946, then transferred it to Burns Phillip & Co, who held it for the next 30 years.

Recognised for Its Heritage and Excellence

As cited on the Queensland Heritage Register, the building was added to the register in October 1992 having successfuly based on the following criteria being successfully met:

It demonstrates Queensland’s historical evolution. Hides Hotel, constructed from 1928 to around 1936, signifies Cairns’ growth during the interwar years and its rise as the principal city of Far North Queensland.

The hotel exemplifies the characteristics of a significant cultural place. As a remarkable three-story interwar masonry hotel in Cairns, Hides Hotel showcases its architectural integrity and has served as a hotel for over seven decades.

The Cairns community recognises its aesthetic significance. The building’s siting, scale, form, and material enhance the charm of Lake and Shields streets’ streetscapes and the overall Cairns townscape. Its well-preserved original interior finishes, including plasterwork, and the wide timber verandahs increase its appeal.

Hides Hotel has embedded itself as an integral part of Cairns’ social fabric since 1885, fostering a special association with the local community.

Staying at Hides Hotel offers more than just a hotel reservation. It opens doors to a historical legacy, exceptional Cairns hospitality, and affordable and comfortable accommodation. Immerse yourself in the magic of Hides Hotel, where history and warm hospitality interweave. Here, you’re not just a guest; you join our story.

This information has been interpreted from the Queensland Heritage Register.