Cairns or the place that is now called Cairns, was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770. He came upon it by chance, but did not settle in the region. He discovered many geographical features and named the Endeavour River after his boat because it was where he fixed it after it got wrecked on the coral reefs.
100 years later Cairns was first settled. For Cairns to go from a ragged little town to a large city so quickly was incredible, considering that they had competition from a quite large town called Port Douglas. The thing that really got them going was a gold rush(1876) just outside Cairns, it started to bring a lot of people to the town.