One of the best things about organising a rental car in Cairns is that you're not limited to one particular area.

Exploring a new place is easy with a rental car, as it lets you visit a wide range of places on your own schedule and at your convenience. And, unlike a bus or other form of public transport, you can stop it whenever you like (within reason, of course).

If you drive past something that looks interesting, you don't have to just stare at it longingly out of the window. You can pull over, check it out and add to your knowledge of this part of Australia.

Dotted around central Cairns are some unique and beautiful places that you should really visit while you're in the neighbourhood. The following are just a couple!

Mareeba

As fun to visit as it is to say, Mareeba is about an hour's drive away from Cairns. This region is a veritable melting pot of different cultures and is widely regarded as Mecca by food lovers around the country. Amazing fruit farms, wineries and coffee plantations sit side-by-side in Mareeba's fertile plains – so make the most of them!

We hear there's a Mareeba Market on the second and fifth Saturday of every month, so if you're driving around Cairns in the weekend, you may want to take a quick detour! Other big attractions include the Mareeba Rodeo and Festival, which is normally held in July each year, as well as the Mareeba Multicultural Festival.

This latter event will be held on August 24 this year, and offers a full day of non-stop entertainment. In addition to food and craft stalls, there will be performances by people from all over the world, including Aboriginal, Torres Strait, Italian, Spanish, Albanian, Greek and, of course, Australian entertainers. About 6,000 people attended last year – so you know it's going to be good!

If you're not going to be around in August, some permanent attractions include the Mareeba Heritage Museum, Emerald Creek Falls (where there are fabulous walking tracks and everything you need to have a good old-fashioned family picnic), and even hot air ballooning.

Atherton

Known as the capital of the Tropical Tablelands, Atherton is another popular destination that is just a short car trip away from central Cairns (approximately one and a half hours).

If, however, you decide to hire a car at the Brisbane airport instead, you're looking at a comfortable 20-hour drive with many pit stops along the way. We suggest you make a road-trip out of it, stopping in as many of the exciting destinations between Brisbane and Atherton as you can wrangle.

When you've reached Atherton, you'll be greeted by gorgeous lakes and waterfalls, as well as plenty of rainforest to feast your eyes on. The temperature can be a bit cooler here, so make sure you've got a jacket or two packed away in your rental car.

You should go to Mareeba if you love food; however, if Mother Nature has a special place in your heart, Atherton is the perfect destination for you. Stunning rock formations, the famous Millaa Millaa Waterfalls and crater lakes are all here, waiting for you to drive past and praise them.

You also need to stop by the Curtain Fig Tree, which is one of the largest in Tropical North Queensland, and take a photo or two!

And these are just two of the amazing areas around Cairns that a rental car can and will unlock for you. So, forget the bus and make some memories in your very own vehicle!