The Miami-meets-the-tropics vibe and tasteful tropical design and décor at Riley are irresistible and make it instantly feel like you’re on holiday, especially when you look out and see the freeform 1,000 square metre pool with views of the Coral Sea. Riley takes service seriously but other things, not so much. We loved the official sign by the pool which read, “Free use of floating flamingos at all times.” We didn’t spot any floating flamingos but Riley does have a resident blow up unicorn which is a hit with guests of all ages. If you’re after stylish accommodation and fun in the sun in Cairns, this is the place.
On entering the hotel, we were met with a wave of cool tropical chic in the form of an open reception, soft lounge chairs, and a view of the ‘I want to jump in right now’ pool. The charming receptionist had us checked into our room in moments and also gave us a short overview of the 311 room hotel. Riley embraces new tourism industry enviro-friendly technology and practices with water refill stations around the resort and room keys made from recycled wood. The ground level is where you will find most of the amenities, with the pool area, two restaurants and bars and the day spa. The only other area is the Rocco rooftop bar and restaurant located in the hotel’s stand-alone tower with 270-degree views of Cairns.
We have stayed at Riley several times over the years in different types of rooms. On our first visit, our sea view room was located on the 7th floor in the main building and large for a standard room at 32 square metres, with a balcony and fantastic view of the Coral Sea. Our room had a soft king bed, lounge style chair with ottoman, a customised iPad in lieu of the hotel compendium, 55” HD Smart TV, mini bar, coffee machine, and free fast wifi. There was also a large bathroom with a rain shower and long basin-style sink and Indigenous-inspired bath products. We have also stayed in a resort view room which has a similar view to the photo below but is set back further and also overlooks the pool. If you would like a luxe room with sea views but are on a budget, a resort view room is an excellent choice.
On our most recent visit, we stayed in a Panoramic Sea View room in the tower for a romantic one night staycation. The view was fantastic and the floor to ceiling windows really made the most of it. These rooms are ideal for a special getaway and practically scream ‘romance’. The rooms in the tower don’t have balconies but if you want to sit outside, there are tables and chairs on several levels for guests staying in the tower. However, if you’re like us, you will be more than happy to enjoy the incredible view from the comfort of your room.
Riley offers a choice of three dining venues. Paper Crane is a modern Australian blend of fresh seafood mixed with Asian flavors, Greenfields is all things healthy like cold-pressed juices plus paleo-style meals (this was closed during our most recent visit) and Rocco, the rooftop bar and restaurant serving Mediterranean themed tapas.
We heard Rocco was also the spot for the best sunset views in Cairns, so we decided to investigate. It turned out there wasn’t much of a sunset as it started to rain but we can vouch for the impressive cocktails. Even through the rain, the view was still pretty good. Paper Crane, the main restaurant at Riley, is equally popular with locals and tourists. The compact menu is a fusion of seafood, Asian and modern Australian with standout dishes such as vodka flamed locally caught prawns and pad ka-prao wok-fried beef. We have eaten dinner here many times and really enjoy the food.
The beef is ethically farmed at the hotel group’s own farm, Crystalbrook Station. More than 80 percent of the produce at the restaurants, including the beef, is sourced within a three-hour drive of Cairns. Paper Crane overlooks the Esplanade and the hotel pool area, so it’s great for people watching and enjoying breakfast. The only thing to watch out for is it does get very sunny in the morning with bright (and toasty warm) sun flowing into the open air restaurant which offers indoor and outdoor seating.
If you would prefer a shady spot, these can be few and far between until later in the morning. Think of it as the perfect excuse for a sleep in. One thing not to miss is the excellent Eleme spa but don’t forget to book as it can get busy. If you can’t get an appointment at Riley’s spa, there is another Eleme spa at sister hotel Flynn. Crystalbrook’s spas use organic Australian Sodashi products and sometimes you’ll find spa discount vouchers in the room.
Overall Riley in Cairns is a standout for accommodation in this popular Tropical North Queensland tourist hotspot. Its chic tropical decor combined with a great location and excellent dining make it a top choice to stay and dine at in Cairns. If you like the sound of Riley, it’s also worth checking out Crystalbrook Collection’s other Cairns hotels – Bailey and Flynn – which offer a different but equally enjoyable stay.
Disclosure: The writers stayed as guests of Riley and have also stayed at this hotel several times at their own expense.
Looking for things to do while you’re in Cairns? Go white water rafting on the Barron River, take a day trip to Paronella Park and the Mamu Tropical Skywalk, ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail, check out Cairns’ thriving coffee scene, or head out of town and spend a few nights at the luxurious all inclusive Mt Mulligan Lodge . If the weather is good, a day trip to Fitzroy Island is a top choice if you don’t mind venturing slightly further afield.