A piece of Cairns’ history

Hides Hotel has been an important part of Cairns life since 1885, and we continue to offer the same high-quality service and budget friendly accommodation that has benefited locals and travellers alike for over 135 years. 

The current hotel is made up of two adjoining buildings on Lake Street, one built in 1928 (now heritage listed) and the more modern hotel built in 1968. Both buildings boast the innovative and intricate design and architecture features of the periods, and stand the test of time, proving Hides Hotel to be one of the best places to stay in Cairns.

Established in 1885

Hides Hotel was crucial in the development of this tropical town. The heritage listed building, originally owned by publicans George Parker Hides and Duncan McColl, was constructed in 1885 on a leased site. The initial space was a 20 bedroom, two story timber building with double front verandas.

In 1885, Cairns was booming! That year it was officially cited as a municipality - the Borough of Cairns, and was also nominated as the destination for the inland goldfield rail network. The hotel was renovated in 1891, and by 1899 the accommodation had been expanded to include a new wing, which increased the hotel to 32 bedroom capacity.  

It soon became a major part of public life in Cairns, catering for business travellers as well as locals. Ever steeped in the local community, the Cairns Chamber of Commerce held their first ever meeting there, on May 13 1886.

By 1888, the license for the hotel was transferred to George Parker Hides. Less than a decade later, after his passing, his widow Elizabeth took over the license and eventually purchased the site in 1899.  Elizabeth also acquired the adjoining land, on the corner of Lake and Shields St, where the Hotel currently stands with its trademark Hides Corner. Hides became quite the location for the social elite, with pukkah fans, billiard tables, and garden parties. Quite the place to be!

Cairns in the 20th Century

Another boom in construction hit Cairns in the 1920's. The city was abuzz with the inland settlements of soldiers, repairs were underway on serious cyclone damage that had previously hit the CBD, and Cairns was formally named as a city in 1923.

The foundation stone of the new Hides Cairns Hotel was laid by Denis O'Hara on 16 May, 1928. The building was built over the old hotel garden, costing tens of thousands of pounds. Designed by local architect Sydenham Stanley Oxenham, the building was constructed by Queensland contractor Michael Thomas Garvey using locally sourced timber. The new Hides Hotel was breaking ground. It was one of only two three-story buildings in the city (Bolands Centre being the other), and was one of the largest buildings in all of Cairns. In the following decade, shops were added at ground level along Shields Street.

American Five-Star General MacArthur frequented the Hides Hotel, when he would travel from his Brisbane War Office in the 1940's. To this day, the room on the top corner is referred to as The MacArthur Suite.

Right up through the 1950's, the roads were so terrible and the trains so slow that overnight accommodation in Cairns was essential for those visiting Cairns from the Tablelands, either for business or recreation. It's safe to say that while over a century has passed since the building was originally constructed, it has always been a hot spot with locals and travellers alike. The O'Hara family maintained ownership of the property until 1946, before it was transferred to Burns Phillip & Co, who held the property for the next 30 years.

Heritage Listing

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:

The place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland's history. Hides Hotel, Cairns, constructed 1928 - c.1936, is important in demonstrating the evolution of Queensland's history, being associated with the third phase of Cairns' development: its growth as the principal city of far North Queensland in the interwar years. The place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places. It is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a substantial, first-class, three-storeyed, inter-war masonry hotel in Cairns, which retains a high degree of intactness and has functioned as a hotel for over 7 decades.

The place is important because of its aesthetic significance. The place exhibits a range of aesthetic characteristics valued by the Cairns community, in particular: the contribution of the building, through its siting, scale, form and material, to the streetscapes of Lake and Shields streets and to the Cairns townscape; the quality of surviving original interior finishes, including plaster work; and the wide timber verandahs.

The place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural, or spiritual reasons. It has a special association for the Cairns community, with Hides Hotel being part of the social fabric of Cairns since 1885.

This information has been interpreted from the Queensland Heritage Register.