Things to do in Cairns
Cairns is the ideal location to get out and discover tropical North Queensland. Visitors are spoilt for choice with the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation headland and pristine beaches to explore and enjoy on foot, by boat, diving or snorkelling, driving or by unique tourist transportation.
While Cairns itself does not have a beach, the manmade lagoon right in the city centre is a popular spot to cool down with clear waters and grassy surrounds. Located on Trinity Harbour, the lagoon and Esplanade boardwalk attracts locals and visitors to swim, picnic, run, cycle, skate and even practise yoga moves. For sandy shores, head to the beaches north and south of Cairns where white sand and azure waters are framed by a backdrop of verdant mountains. To the north, Palm Cove is Cairn’s luxe locale studded with resorts, spas and award-winning restaurants, while Mission Beach in the south offers 14 kilometres of secluded sandy beaches and rainforest with convenient shopping, dining and entertainment in the nearby village.
Just off the coast you’ll find 12 Great Barrier Reef islands including the closest - Green Island and Fitzroy Island - plus the popular resort islands of Dunk and Bedarra off Mission Beach. Whether you’re after an idyllic island stay or a pristine marine playground for diving, snorkelling, fishing and cruising, there’s an isle for all budgets and experiences.
For another way to explore the area, jump in a car and take a trip through the scenic drives of the region. From Cairns to Kuranda, Kuranda Range Lookout offers vistas out to the islands, Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest on a clear day, while the ‘waterfall circuit’ to Malanda uncovers, you guessed it, the spectacular sights of Malanda Falls and Millaa Millaa Falls. Don’t miss the road back to Cairns along the Gillies Highway to see Lake Barrine, a crater lake formed by volcanic activity over 10,000 years ago. For more must-see sights around Cairns, read on.
The world’s biggest living organism, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef attracts five million visitors a year to enjoy its underwater world of tropical fish and colourful marine life. Cairns is the ideal launchpad to explore this natural wonder and reef islands.
With prehistoric trees and rare flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world, the Daintree is a stunning national park and part of the Wet Tropics UNESCO World Heritage site. The Daintree Rainforest National Park really comes alive in all its dripping verdant glory during the wet season.
For a birds’ eye view of the tropical rainforest around Cairns rain or shine, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a unique way to travel above the rainforest canopy from Cairns to Kuranda. With the opportunity to alight and explore at two mid-stations, it’s the ideal nature experience.
With crystal clear water, fringing coral reef and rainforest walks just 45 minutes boat ride from Cairns, Fitzroy Island National Park on the outer Great Barrier Reef is a mecca for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, daytrippers and overnight stays.
Paronella Park is a popular and curious ecotourism attraction 120 kilometres south of Cairns. Draped in moss and set in five hectares of tropical rainforest, the mystical castle ruins, heritage gardens and waterfalls of Paronella Park, hand-built in the 1930s, is a must-see.