Cairns Travel Guide: Things to Do in Cairns, Australia

Welcome to Cairns, a tropical paradise nestled along the northeastern coast of Australia. With its breathtaking natural beauty, vibrant marine life, and rich cultural heritage, Cairns offers an unforgettable experience for travelers. From exploring the Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage site, to venturing into lush rainforests and immersing yourself in Aboriginal culture, Cairns has something for everyone.

As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a dream destination for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. Dive into the crystal-clear waters teeming with colorful coral reefs and marine species, or take a leisurely boat trip to witness the wonders of this underwater world. The pristine beaches, such as Palm Cove and Trinity Beach, invite you to relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the laid-back coastal lifestyle.

Cairns is also surrounded by lush rainforests, including the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests on Earth. Explore its verdant landscapes, encounter unique wildlife, and marvel at cascading waterfalls, such as Mossman Gorge and Barron Falls. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a scenic journey on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or the Kuranda Scenic Railway for breathtaking views of the rainforest.

Immerse yourself in the rich Aboriginal culture of the region by visiting the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park or joining a guided tour to learn about their ancient traditions, art, and spirituality. Cairns also offers a vibrant culinary scene, where you can savor fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and local specialties while enjoying the warm hospitality of the locals.

Beyond its natural wonders, Cairns boasts a bustling city center with lively markets, shops, and restaurants. Discover the night markets, where you can find unique souvenirs, handicrafts, and indulge in international street food. Explore the Cairns Esplanade, a waterfront promenade dotted with parks, BBQ areas, and swimming lagoons, offering a perfect spot for relaxation and enjoying the stunning coastal views.

With its year-round tropical climate and a plethora of outdoor activities, Cairns is an adventurer’s paradise. Whether you’re seeking thrilling water sports, hiking through scenic trails, or embarking on wildlife encounters, Cairns provides an abundance of opportunities to satisfy your adventurous spirit.

Prepare to be captivated by the natural wonders, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality of Cairns. This travel guide will help you navigate the best attractions, activities, and experiences this tropical haven has to offer, ensuring a truly memorable journey into the heart of Australia’s natural wonders.

Cairns Travel Guide: Things to do in Cairns, Australia

Cairns City Guide: A Brief History Of Cairns, Australia

Cairns, located in the tropical region of Far North Queensland, Australia, has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. Here’s a brief overview of the history of Cairns for travelers:

Indigenous History: The Cairns region has been home to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for tens of thousands of years. The local Aboriginal groups include the Yirrganydji, Gimuy Walubara Yidinji, Djabugay, and Yidinji peoples, who have a deep connection to the land and sea.

European Settlement: The area where Cairns now stands was first explored by Europeans in the 1770s when Captain James Cook sailed along the coast. However, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Europeans began to settle in the region. In 1876, a government surveyor named William Wellington Cairns arrived in the area to establish a port to support the expanding mining industry.

Growth as a Port City: Cairns quickly grew as a port city, serving as a gateway to the rich mineral resources of the Atherton Tablelands and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The establishment of a railway connection to the Atherton Tablelands in 1887 further stimulated the city’s growth and development.

Sugar Industry: The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the rise of the sugar industry in Cairns. The fertile lands around Cairns were ideal for sugarcane cultivation, leading to the establishment of numerous sugar plantations. The sugar industry became a major economic driver for the region and attracted a diverse population of workers.

World War II: During World War II, Cairns played a significant role as a military base for Allied forces in the Pacific. The city’s strategic location made it an important supply and staging point for military operations in the region. Cairns became a bustling hub with the construction of military facilities and infrastructure.

Tourism Development: In the second half of the 20th century, Cairns underwent a transformation from an industrial town to a popular tourist destination. The city’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, tropical rainforests, and diverse wildlife attracted visitors from around the world. Tourism infrastructure, including hotels, resorts, and adventure activities, expanded to cater to the growing number of visitors.

Today, Cairns is a vibrant city known for its natural beauty, adventure tourism, and rich cultural heritage. It continues to be a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and serves as a starting point for exploring the region’s unique ecosystems and indigenous cultures. The city’s history is reflected in its diverse population, cultural events, and heritage sites, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the region’s past and present.

Cairns Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Australia

Considered by many to be the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the city of Cairns is a tourist hotspot located in Queensland’s tropical north. There is more to this place than snorkelling and diving, though – from Aboriginal culture to thick interior rainforests, there is much to see, do, and experience here.

Learn about how pioneers adapted to life in the tropics centuries ago by visiting the Cairns Museum. It wasn’t the all-inclusive experience most of us are used to in these modern times – the typical day of an average immigrant here was filled with sweat, mosquito bites, and encounters with malaria.

This institution’s interesting displays will show you what life was like during this region’s initial gold rush, how the First and Second World War impacted people here, and how the regrettable White Australia policy of the mid-20th century affected this community’s fabric.

Want to take home a creation of this region’s First Nations people? Doongal Aboriginal Art has a comprehensive collection of art pieces, crafts, and other objects of interest, all made by local artisans.

Its boomerangs, didgeridoos, and paintings are all available for sale, but even if you aren’t in the market for these pieces, you can still view this stunning collection of rainforest and desert aboriginal art pieces without shelling out a dime.

If you are interested in bringing home an exceptionally large item, the store can organize shipping on your behalf, so go ahead and buy whatever strikes your fancy.

Get a better idea how Aborigines lived in this tropical land for aeons by spending a day at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Here, you will learn about the traditions held by a people whose lineage is said to go back as far as 40,000 years into the past.

The best part about this park: the interactivity. You don’t just get to see how an Aborigine throws a boomerang or a spear – you’ll get to try it as well (with some expert coaching, of course). You’ll also get lessons on how to play the didgeridoo, and you’ll have a chance to get your face painted like a warrior. Don’t miss the dinner show, as the food is as brilliant as its performers.

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Cairns, Australia

If you spent the better part of a week making your way up the coast from Brisbane to Cairns, chances are you won’t be satisfied with your trip until you get a chance to dive or snorkel along the Great Barrier Reef.

As the world’s longest and largest coral reef system, there is no shortage of sites where you can check out a wide variety of colourful fish and sea turtles. Most cruises offer at least lunch – depending on how much you pay, it can get quite luxurious, so if you are looking for a peak experience while in Cairns, don’t miss out on this essential day trip.

There is more to do in the Cairns area than head out to the Great Barrier Reef. Inland, there are lush forests, which are home to plenty of amazing fauna and flora.

You’ll find the greatest concentration of these species within the protective boundaries of Daintree National Park. Located about 100 kilometres north of Cairns, it is where the rainforests of tropical Queensland meets the Great Barrier Reef.

While the wild beaches here look tempting, respect the signs and stay out of the rivers and the ocean, as they are infested with crocodiles. Instead, go on a hike through the rainforest, or board a river cruise, the latter of which will give you a chance to spot one of these toothy predators.

Want to cool off safely while in Cairns? Head down to the Esplanade Boardwalk. While it is a favoured place for the people of this city to go for a run or to hang out on a beautiful day, it is the purpose-built 4,800 square metre saltwater lagoon which draws most people down to this area.

With the lack of a suitable natural beach within city limits, and a high degree of danger from box jellyfish, sharks, and saltwater crocs at the ones out of town, this pool gives locals and tourists alike a place to cool off on hot days in this tropical city.

source: Expedia on YouTube

Top 20 Things To Do in Cairns, Australia For Visitors

  1. Explore the Great Barrier Reef: Embark on a snorkeling or diving adventure to witness the unparalleled beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders.
  2. Visit the Daintree Rainforest: Immerse yourself in the ancient and lush Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage site, and discover its unique flora and fauna on guided walks or river cruises.
  3. Take a Scenic Helicopter Flight: Get a bird’s-eye view of the stunning landscapes of Cairns, including the Great Barrier Reef, rainforests, and waterfalls, on an exhilarating helicopter flight.
  4. Discover Kuranda Village: Ride the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to the charming village of Kuranda. Explore its markets, art galleries, and wildlife parks.
  5. Explore Fitzroy Island: Hop on a ferry and spend a day at Fitzroy Island, where you can snorkel, kayak, or hike through rainforest trails to the island’s summit for breathtaking views.
  6. Swim in the Crystal Cascades: Cool off in the refreshing waters of the Crystal Cascades, a series of beautiful freshwater swimming holes surrounded by lush rainforest.
  7. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride: Experience the magic of floating over the picturesque Atherton Tablelands at sunrise on a scenic hot air balloon ride.
  8. Visit the Cairns Esplanade: Enjoy the waterfront promenade, lagoon swimming area, BBQ facilities, and vibrant atmosphere of the Cairns Esplanade.
  9. Explore the Cairns Botanic Gardens: Wander through the tranquil Cairns Botanic Gardens, home to a vast array of tropical plants, including orchids and exotic palms.
  10. Learn about Indigenous Culture: Engage in cultural experiences and learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage through guided tours, art galleries, and performances.
  11. Shop at the Cairns Night Markets: Discover a variety of local products, souvenirs, and street food at the Cairns Night Markets, open every night along the Esplanade.
  12. Take a River Cruise: Embark on a scenic river cruise along the Daintree or Barron River, and spot crocodiles, birdlife, and other wildlife in their natural habitats.
  13. Visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park: Learn about Aboriginal history, traditions, and art through interactive exhibits, dance performances, and guided tours at this cultural park.
  14. Discover the Cairns Aquarium: Explore the wonders of the underwater world at the Cairns Aquarium, which showcases a diverse range of marine life from the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding ecosystems.
  15. Experience White Water Rafting: Feel the adrenaline rush as you navigate the thrilling rapids of the Barron or Tully River on a white water rafting adventure.
  16. Enjoy Wildlife Encounters: Visit the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas or the Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome for up-close encounters with native Australian wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, and crocodiles.
  17. Experience the Cairns Night Sky: Take an evening stargazing tour or visit the Cairns Observatory to marvel at the brilliance of the southern night sky.
  18. Indulge in Tropical Fruits: Sample an array of tropical fruits at Rusty’s Markets, where you can taste unique flavors like jackfruit, durian, and rambutan.
  19. Visit the Cairns Art Gallery: Explore the vibrant arts scene of Cairns at the Cairns Art Gallery, showcasing contemporary and indigenous art from local and international artists.
  20. Enjoy the Cairns Festival: If you visit in August, join the Cairns Festival, a month-long celebration of arts, culture, music, and food, featuring parades and concerts.

Barramundi is a must try dish in Cairns, Australia

What To Eat and Drink in Cairns, Australia

Cairns offers a diverse culinary scene with a mix of international flavors and local specialties. Here are some must-try dishes and beverages to savor during your visit:

  1. Barramundi: Taste the iconic Australian fish, barramundi, known for its delicate flavor and tender texture. Enjoy it grilled, pan-fried, or as part of a seafood platter.
  2. Tropical Fruits: Cairns is surrounded by fertile lands, making it a paradise for tropical fruits. Indulge in fresh mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and lychees, either on their own or in refreshing fruit salads and smoothies.
  3. Mud Crabs: Delight in the sweet and succulent meat of mud crabs, a local delicacy. Try them steamed, stir-fried, or in a chili crab dish for a true taste of Cairns’ seafood bounty.
  4. Kangaroo: For the more adventurous foodies, sample kangaroo meat, which is lean, flavorful, and sustainably sourced. It can be enjoyed as steaks, burgers, or in creative dishes prepared by local chefs.
  5. Balinese Pork Satay: Cairns has a strong Asian influence, and the Balinese-style pork satay is a popular street food dish. Marinated pork skewers are grilled and served with a peanut sauce for a delicious and satisfying snack.
  6. Pacific Rim Cuisine: Cairns is known for its Pacific Rim cuisine, blending Asian and tropical flavors. Taste dishes inspired by Thai, Malaysian, and Vietnamese cuisine, featuring aromatic herbs, spices, and fresh seafood.
  7. Australian Bush Tucker: Experience the unique flavors of Australian bush tucker, incorporating indigenous ingredients like wattleseed, bush tomatoes, and lemon myrtle. These ingredients add a distinctive twist to dishes and desserts.
  8. Tim Tams: Indulge in the famous Australian chocolate biscuit, Tim Tams. These irresistible treats consist of two chocolate biscuits filled with a creamy center and covered in a layer of chocolate. Enjoy them with a hot cup of coffee or use them to create the popular “Tim Tam Slam.”
  9. Craft Beer: Cairns has a thriving craft beer scene, with local breweries producing a variety of flavors and styles. Sample a range of handcrafted beers, including pale ales, lagers, and refreshing fruit-infused brews.
  10. Tropical Cocktails: Quench your thirst with tropical-inspired cocktails that showcase the flavors of Cairns. Sip on a refreshing mango daiquiri, a passionfruit mojito, or a signature cocktail featuring local spirits and tropical fruits.
  11. Australian Wine: Australia is renowned for its wines, and Cairns offers an opportunity to sample some of the country’s finest. Enjoy a glass of Australian Shiraz, Chardonnay, or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to complement your meal.
  12. Macadamia Nuts: As you explore the local markets, be sure to taste and purchase some roasted or chocolate-coated macadamia nuts. These buttery and crunchy treats are a popular Australian snack.

Cairns’ culinary scene is vibrant and diverse, catering to a range of tastes and preferences. From fresh seafood to tropical fruits and unique Australian flavors, there’s something to satisfy every palate. Don’t miss the chance to explore the local markets, waterfront restaurants, and hidden gems to discover the best of Cairns’ food and drink offerings.

Top Restaurants In Cairns, Australia

Cairns is home to a vibrant culinary scene, offering a wide array of dining options that showcase local produce, international flavors, and creative culinary techniques. Here are some top restaurants in Cairns that are highly regarded for their quality cuisine and memorable dining experiences:

  1. Ochre Restaurant: Known for its innovative use of native Australian ingredients, Ochre Restaurant celebrates the flavors of the region with dishes like salt and native pepperleaf crocodile and wattleseed pavlova. The restaurant offers a unique dining experience with a focus on indigenous flavors.
  2. Waterbar & Grill Steakhouse: As the name suggests, Waterbar & Grill is renowned for its selection of high-quality steaks and seafood. The restaurant offers a relaxed waterfront dining experience, and their menu includes a range of succulent meats and fresh seafood cooked to perfection.
  3. Salt House: Located on the Cairns Marina, Salt House offers stunning waterfront views and a diverse menu featuring modern Australian cuisine. From fresh seafood to gourmet pizzas and Asian-inspired dishes, Salt House offers something for everyone, along with an extensive selection of cocktails and wines.
  4. Tamarind: Situated within the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Tamarind is an award-winning restaurant specializing in contemporary Asian cuisine. With an emphasis on Thai and Vietnamese flavors, Tamarind offers an exquisite dining experience with dishes like twice-cooked pork belly and coconut sago pudding.
  5. Dundee’s Restaurant on the Waterfront: This iconic waterfront restaurant is known for its stunning views and delicious seafood. Offering a relaxed atmosphere, Dundee’s serves up fresh seafood dishes, including barramundi, oysters, and prawns, alongside other Australian favorites.
  6. Perrotta’s at The Gallery: Located in the Cairns Regional Gallery, Perrotta’s offers a unique dining experience surrounded by artwork. The menu features a fusion of Mediterranean and Australian flavors, with dishes like slow-cooked lamb shoulder and seafood linguini.
  7. Nu Nu Restaurant: Nestled on the shores of Palm Cove, Nu Nu Restaurant showcases a fusion of Asian and Pacific Rim flavors. With a focus on fresh, local produce, the menu features dishes like miso-glazed salmon and crispy pork belly, served in a relaxed and stylish beachfront setting.
  8. Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum: For lovers of Japanese cuisine, Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is a must-visit. Specializing in ramen noodles, this bustling eatery offers a range of delicious noodle bowls with various toppings, along with other Japanese favorites like gyoza and donburi.
  9. Salsa Bar & Grill: Located in Port Douglas, just north of Cairns, Salsa Bar & Grill is a popular destination for its modern Australian cuisine. The menu features a mix of flavors from around the world, with an emphasis on fresh seafood, grilled meats, and creative desserts.
  10. Hemingway’s Brewery: If you’re a beer lover, Hemingway’s Brewery is a must-visit. Located at the Cairns Wharf, this waterfront brewery offers a range of handcrafted beers alongside a menu of delicious pub-style dishes, including burgers, pizzas, and seafood.

These are just a few of the top restaurants in Cairns that showcase the diverse culinary scene of the region. From fine dining to casual eateries, there’s something to suit every taste and occasion. Remember to make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure your spot at these popular dining establishments.

Tours For Visitors To Cairns, Australia

Cairns offers a wide range of tours and experiences that allow visitors to explore the region’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and adventure opportunities. Here are some popular tours for visitors to Cairns:

  1. Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving: Embark on a day trip or multi-day liveaboard tour to the Great Barrier Reef. Explore vibrant coral reefs, swim alongside tropical fish, and marvel at the incredible marine life through snorkeling or diving adventures.
  2. Daintree Rainforest Tours: Join a guided tour to the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests on Earth. Explore the diverse ecosystems, spot wildlife, take a river cruise, and learn about the ancient traditions and culture of the local Aboriginal people.
  3. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: Experience the beauty of the rainforest by taking a scenic railway journey from Cairns to the village of Kuranda. On the way back, soar above the treetops in a gondola on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, offering breathtaking views.
  4. Atherton Tablelands Tour: Discover the picturesque landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands on a guided tour. Visit waterfalls, swim in natural pools, explore ancient volcanic craters, and taste fresh local produce on this scenic and food-focused adventure.
  5. Hot Air Balloon Ride: Take an early morning hot air balloon ride over the Cairns region for a mesmerizing aerial view of the landscapes, including rainforests, farmlands, and coastal vistas. Watch the sunrise as you float peacefully through the sky.
  6. Indigenous Cultural Experiences: Engage in cultural tours and experiences led by local Aboriginal guides to learn about their rich heritage, storytelling, traditional arts, and bush tucker. Participate in activities like spear throwing, boomerang throwing, and didgeridoo playing.
  7. White Water Rafting: Challenge yourself with an adrenaline-pumping white water rafting adventure on the Barron or Tully River. Navigate through thrilling rapids, surrounded by pristine rainforest scenery.
  8. Wildlife Tours: Join a wildlife tour to spot iconic Australian animals in their natural habitats. Encounter koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species at wildlife parks, sanctuaries, and on river cruises.
  9. Cairns Sunset Cruises: Sail along the coast on a sunset cruise, enjoying breathtaking views of the Cairns skyline, mountains, and waterways. Indulge in a gourmet dinner, sip on drinks, and witness the vibrant colors of the setting sun.
  10. Adventure Activities: Cairns is a haven for adventure enthusiasts. Try activities like skydiving, bungee jumping, ATV rides, ziplining, and horseback riding for an adrenaline-filled experience in stunning surroundings.

These are just a few examples of the many tours and experiences available in Cairns. Whether you’re seeking underwater adventures, rainforest exploration, cultural immersion, or thrilling activities, Cairns offers a wide range of options to suit every interest and level of adventure.

Cairns Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Cairns, located in tropical North Queensland, offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Here’s a guide to help you find the perfect place to stay in Cairns:

  1. Luxury Resorts: Cairns is home to a range of luxury resorts that offer exceptional amenities, stunning views, and world-class service. These resorts often feature private beaches, swimming pools, spa facilities, and gourmet dining options. Examples include Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, Shangri-La Hotel Cairns, and Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort.
  2. Mid-Range Hotels: Cairns has a wide selection of mid-range hotels that provide comfortable accommodations and convenient amenities. These hotels are located both in the city center and along the waterfront, offering easy access to attractions, dining, and shopping. Some popular choices include Hilton Cairns, Pacific Hotel Cairns, and Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort.
  3. Budget Hotels and Motels: If you’re looking for affordable accommodation options, there are several budget hotels and motels in Cairns. These properties provide clean and comfortable rooms with essential amenities. Some options to consider are Cairns Plaza Hotel, Cairns Rainbow Resort, and Cairns City Palms.
  4. Self-Catering Apartments: For travelers seeking more space and flexibility, self-catering apartments are a great choice. These accommodations come with fully equipped kitchens, living areas, and often include laundry facilities. Coral Towers Holiday Suites, Mantra Trilogy, and The Lakes Cairns Resort & Spa are popular choices for self-catering apartments.
  5. Boutique Hotels: Cairns has a selection of charming boutique hotels that offer personalized service and unique character. These smaller properties often have stylish and individually designed rooms, creating a more intimate and boutique experience. Examples include Abbott Boutique Hotel, Il Palazzo Boutique Hotel, and The Balinese.
  6. Backpacker Hostels: Cairns is a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers, and there are numerous backpacker hostels available. These hostels provide affordable dormitory-style accommodation with communal facilities such as kitchens, lounges, and social areas. Some well-known hostels in Cairns are Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort, Nomads Cairns, and YHA Cairns Central.
  7. Bed and Breakfasts: For a cozy and homely experience, consider staying at a bed and breakfast in Cairns. These properties often offer comfortable rooms, home-cooked breakfast, and personalized service. Some options include Cairns City Bed & Breakfast, Lilybank Bed and Breakfast, and Koala Beach Resort Cairns.

When choosing accommodation in Cairns, consider factors such as location, proximity to attractions and transportation, amenities, and your budget. It’s also advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure the best rates and availability.

Day Trips From Cairns, Australia

Cairns serves as an ideal base for exploring the stunning natural wonders and cultural attractions that surround the region. Here are some popular day trips from Cairns:

  1. Great Barrier Reef: Embark on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. Explore vibrant coral reefs, snorkel or dive among colorful marine life, and witness the breathtaking beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
  2. Kuranda: Take a scenic journey on the Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to the village of Kuranda. Spend the day exploring the vibrant markets, art galleries, and wildlife parks. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Kuranda Koala Gardens and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
  3. Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation: Venture into the ancient Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world, on a guided day trip. Discover the lush vegetation, encounter unique wildlife, and cruise along the Daintree River to spot crocodiles. Continue to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the pristine beaches.
  4. Atherton Tablelands: Explore the picturesque landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands, known for its waterfalls, crater lakes, and lush farmlands. Visit attractions like the Millaa Millaa Falls, Lake Barrine, and the Curtain Fig Tree. Taste tropical fruits, visit local markets, and learn about the region’s rich agricultural heritage.
  5. Fitzroy Island: Escape to the idyllic Fitzroy Island, just a short boat ride from Cairns. Relax on the pristine beaches, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, or hike through the rainforest trails. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on the island.
  6. Paronella Park: Discover the enchanting Paronella Park, a heritage-listed attraction located south of Cairns. Explore the beautifully landscaped gardens, explore the Spanish Castle ruins, and learn about the fascinating history of this unique place.
  7. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park: Immerse yourself in the rich Aboriginal culture of the region at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Participate in interactive activities, watch traditional dance performances, and learn about the ancient customs, storytelling, and art of the local indigenous people.
  8. Mossman Gorge: Journey to Mossman Gorge, located in the Daintree Rainforest, and experience the tranquility of this natural oasis. Take a guided rainforest walk, swim in the clear waters of the Mossman River, and learn about the cultural significance of the area to the local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people.
  9. Josephine Falls and Babinda Boulders: Visit Josephine Falls, a stunning waterfall cascading into freshwater swimming holes. Enjoy a refreshing dip or slide down the natural rock slide. Continue to the Babinda Boulders, a series of granite rocks surrounded by lush rainforest, offering another beautiful swimming spot.
  10. Palm Cove: Spend a day relaxing in the charming beachside village of Palm Cove. Soak up the sun on the palm-fringed beach, enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants, and indulge in a spa treatment or beachside walk.

These day trips from Cairns offer a range of experiences, from exploring natural wonders to immersing yourself in indigenous culture. Each destination provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the region’s diverse landscapes, wildlife, and cultural heritage.

Cairns Transportation Guide

Cairns offers a range of transportation options to help you get around the city and explore the surrounding region. Here’s a transportation guide to help you navigate Cairns:

  1. Cairns Airport: If you’re arriving by air, you’ll land at Cairns Airport, located about 7 kilometers north of the city center. From the airport, you can take a taxi, hire a car, or use shuttle bus services to reach your accommodation in Cairns.
  2. Taxis and Rideshares: Taxis are readily available in Cairns and can be hailed from designated taxi ranks or booked in advance. You can also use rideshare services like Uber, which operate in the city.
  3. Public Bus: Cairns has an extensive public bus network operated by Sunbus. Buses connect major suburbs, tourist attractions, and outer regions. You can purchase tickets directly from the driver or use a prepaid Go Card for discounted fares.
  4. Cairns Central Station: The Cairns Central Station is the main railway station located in the city center. Queensland Rail operates services to and from Cairns, connecting to destinations like Brisbane, Townsville, and Kuranda on the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
  5. Car Rental: Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore Cairns and its surroundings at your own pace. Several car rental companies have offices at Cairns Airport and in the city center. Ensure you have a valid driver’s license and consider booking in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
  6. Bicycle Hire: Cairns has a bicycle-friendly network with dedicated bike lanes and paths. You can hire bicycles from various locations, including bike shops and rental services, to explore the city and coastal areas.
  7. Reef Fleet Terminal: The Reef Fleet Terminal is the departure point for boat tours and cruises to the Great Barrier Reef. It is located near the city center, and many tour operators provide transportation to and from the terminal.
  8. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: The Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway are popular transport options for visiting Kuranda. The Kuranda Scenic Railway departs from Cairns Central Station, while the Skyrail departs from Smithfield, just north of Cairns. Both offer stunning views of the rainforest and provide a unique way to access the village.
  9. Walking: Cairns city center is compact and easily walkable, allowing you to explore attractions, shops, and restaurants on foot. The Esplanade and waterfront areas are particularly pleasant for a leisurely stroll.
  10. Day Tours and Transfers: Many tour operators in Cairns offer day tours and transfers to popular attractions and destinations in the region. These tours often include transportation, making it convenient for visitors to explore places like the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, and Atherton Tablelands.

Remember to check schedules, fares, and availability for your chosen mode of transportation. Plan your journeys in advance, especially if you have specific tour or activity bookings, to ensure smooth and timely transportation throughout your time in Cairns.

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Cairns?

After your trip to Cairns, there are several fantastic destinations nearby that you can explore. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Port Douglas: Located approximately 70 kilometers north of Cairns, Port Douglas is a charming coastal town known for its beautiful beaches, luxury resorts, and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. Visit the iconic Four Mile Beach, explore the local markets, or embark on a snorkeling or diving adventure to the Outer Great Barrier Reef.
  2. Palm Cove: Situated just 25 kilometers north of Cairns, Palm Cove is a tranquil beachside village renowned for its palm-fringed beach, luxury resorts, and relaxed atmosphere. Enjoy a leisurely day at the beach, dine at waterfront restaurants, or pamper yourself with spa treatments at one of the luxurious resorts.
  3. Atherton Tablelands: Located inland from Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands is a region of lush farmlands, waterfalls, crater lakes, and charming country towns. Explore attractions such as the Curtain Fig Tree, Lake Barrine, and Millaa Millaa Falls. Taste tropical fruits, visit coffee and tea plantations, and discover the rich agricultural heritage of the region.
  4. Mission Beach: Journey approximately 140 kilometers south of Cairns to Mission Beach, a picturesque coastal town renowned for its long stretches of pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and access to the Family Islands National Park. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, or kayaking along the shoreline, or embark on a rainforest hike in the nearby Tully Gorge National Park.
  5. Fitzroy Island: Escape to Fitzroy Island, a tropical paradise located just off the coast from Cairns. This idyllic island offers white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a range of water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Explore walking trails through the rainforest and visit the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
  6. Kuranda: Extend your visit to Kuranda, a picturesque village nestled in the rainforest just northwest of Cairns. Take the scenic Kuranda Scenic Railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to reach Kuranda. Explore the vibrant markets, visit wildlife parks, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the surrounding rainforest.
  7. Daintree Rainforest: Venture north to the Daintree Rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests on the planet and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a guided tour to explore its ancient beauty, spot unique wildlife, and cruise along the Daintree River. Visit Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the pristine beaches of the Coral Sea.
  8. Magnetic Island: Located off the coast of Townsville, Magnetic Island is a tropical paradise known for its stunning beaches, hiking trails, and abundant wildlife. Explore the island’s national park, relax on secluded beaches, and spot koalas in their natural habitat.
  9. Whitsunday Islands: Head south to the Whitsunday Islands, a pristine archipelago known for its azure waters, white sandy beaches, and iconic landmarks like Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef. Take a sailing trip, go snorkeling or diving, and soak up the beauty of this renowned destination.
  10. Townsville: Located about 350 kilometers south of Cairns, Townsville is a vibrant city with a range of attractions. Visit the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, explore the Reef HQ Aquarium, take a stroll along The Strand waterfront promenade, or hike up Castle Hill for panoramic views.
  11. Cooktown: Journey to Cooktown, a historic town located approximately 330 kilometers north of Cairns. Explore the town’s rich heritage, visit the James Cook Museum, and take in the stunning views from Grassy Hill Lookout. Immerse yourself in the stories of Captain James Cook and the region’s Aboriginal culture.
  12. Lizard Island: If you’re looking for an exclusive island getaway, consider a trip to Lizard Island. Situated on the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, this luxury resort island offers pristine beaches, world-class snorkeling and diving, and the chance to explore the reef’s vibrant marine life.
  13. Mossman Gorge and Daintree Village: Just north of Port Douglas, visit Mossman Gorge for a refreshing swim in its crystal-clear waters and take a guided rainforest walk. Continue to Daintree Village, where you can go wildlife spotting, take river cruises, and experience the laid-back charm of this small community.
  14. Cape York Peninsula: For the ultimate adventure, head to Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost point of mainland Australia. Explore rugged landscapes, ancient Aboriginal rock art sites, and pristine beaches. Take a 4WD journey along the Cape York Peninsula Developmental Road and visit iconic places like The Tip, Thursday Island, and the remote wilderness of the Jardine River National Park.
  15. Undara Volcanic National Park: Discover the unique geological formations of Undara Volcanic National Park, home to the Undara Lava Tubes. Explore these ancient lava tubes, which formed over 190,000 years ago, and learn about the park’s rich volcanic history and unique wildlife.
  16. Hinchinbrook Island: Venture south to Hinchinbrook Island, a pristine national park that offers breathtaking landscapes and secluded beaches. Trek the Thorsborne Trail, a challenging multi-day hike through lush rainforests, and explore the island’s stunning coastline.
  17. Mount Bartle Frere: If you’re up for a challenging hike, tackle Mount Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest peak. Located in the Wooroonooran National Park, this hike offers stunning views, diverse vegetation, and a rewarding sense of accomplishment.
  18. Chillagoe Caves: Travel west to Chillagoe and explore its limestone caves, showcasing impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. Take a guided tour to learn about the region’s fascinating geological history and its importance to the local Aboriginal people.
  19. Dunk Island: Take a short ferry ride from the mainland to Dunk Island, a picturesque tropical paradise. Relax on the island’s pristine beaches, go snorkeling, or hike through the rainforest trails.

These destinations offer diverse landscapes, natural beauty, and unique experiences that complement your Cairns adventure. Whether you seek relaxation on the beaches, immersive nature encounters, or cultural discoveries, these nearby destinations will enhance your exploration of Far North Queensland.

Cairns city views from a distant vantage point showcasing the scenic beauty of Australia

Cairns Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Cairns, with its stunning natural surroundings and vibrant atmosphere, offers a memorable travel experience for visitors. From the world-famous Great Barrier Reef to the lush rainforests and cultural attractions, there’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise. Here are some final thoughts to help you make the most of your Cairns adventure:

  1. Embrace the Great Barrier Reef: Make sure to allocate enough time to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you choose to snorkel, dive, or take a scenic flight, this natural wonder is a must-see. Discover the vibrant coral gardens, swim alongside tropical fish, and marvel at the sheer beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
  2. Immerse Yourself in Indigenous Culture: Cairns offers opportunities to learn about and engage with the region’s rich Aboriginal heritage. Take part in cultural tours, visit indigenous art galleries, and witness traditional dance performances to gain a deeper understanding of the local culture.
  3. Explore the Rainforests: Don’t miss the chance to explore the Daintree Rainforest and the surrounding rainforest regions. Take guided walks, swim in freshwater streams, and spot unique wildlife in these ancient and lush landscapes.
  4. Experience Adventure: Cairns is an adventure lover’s paradise. Try thrilling activities such as white water rafting, skydiving, or bungee jumping. Explore the region’s hiking trails, go ziplining through the rainforest, or take a hot air balloon ride for a different perspective.
  5. Indulge in Local Cuisine: Cairns offers a diverse culinary scene, blending fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and indigenous ingredients. Sample barramundi, exotic fruits, and unique bush tucker flavors. Don’t forget to try the famous Tim Tam biscuits and enjoy a refreshing tropical cocktail.
  6. Connect with Wildlife: Cairns is home to unique wildlife and offers opportunities to encounter iconic Australian animals. Visit wildlife parks, take river cruises to spot crocodiles, and head to sanctuaries to get up close with koalas, kangaroos, and other native species.
  7. Take Advantage of Day Trips: Cairns serves as a gateway to many stunning destinations. Take day trips to explore the nearby islands, rainforests, waterfalls, and charming towns. Each destination offers a unique experience and adds depth to your Cairns adventure.

Remember to plan your activities in advance, especially for popular attractions and tours, to secure your preferred dates and times. Cairns is a popular tourist destination, so booking ahead ensures a smoother and more enjoyable experience.

As you explore Cairns, be respectful of the natural environment and follow sustainable tourism practices. Take care to preserve the coral reefs, rainforests, and wildlife for future generations to enjoy.

Enjoy your time in Cairns, soak up the tropical vibes, and create lifelong memories in this breathtaking part of Australia.

In Cairns, where the tropics meet the sea, A haven of beauty, where adventure runs free. With azure waters and sandy shores, A place where the soul truly soars.

Beneath the sun’s warm, embracing rays, The Great Barrier Reef in a vibrant haze. Snorkel, dive, and marvel at the sights, A world of color, an underwater delight.

In the Daintree’s ancient, lush domain, Rainforest treasures, a living refrain. Whispering leaves and calls of wildlife, Nature’s symphony, a harmonious life.

Indigenous culture weaves its tale, From Dreamtime stories to traditions unveiled. Learn from the ancestors, their wisdom profound, Their spirit dances in the sacred ground.

Adventures abound, thrilling and grand, White water rapids, an adrenaline demand. Zip through the rainforest, high above the ground, Feel the rush, let your spirit resound.

Tantalize your taste buds, indulge and savor, From seafood delights to flavors to savor. Bush tucker secrets and tropical cuisine, A gastronomic journey, a delectable scene.

Palm-fringed beaches, a tranquil retreat, Relax, unwind, let worries deplete. As the sun sets, painting the sky, Cairns’ beauty intensifies, a breathtaking sigh.

So, wanderers, explore this tropical place, Cairns’ allure, impossible to efface. Immerse in nature’s wonders, let your spirit ignite, Cairns, a destination that fills you with delight.

0 replies on “Cairns Travel Guide: Things to Do in Cairns, Australia”