Travel Guides

Popular Things to do in and Near Cairns

Cairns tour is a must at this tropical destination. With easy connections for both domestic and international travellers and unsurpassed natural beauty, add in fine dining and a laid back tropical lifestyle and it is easy to see why tourist are including it on their Australian holiday.

For visitors short on time the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage Rainforest can both be visited on the same day, although those with more time should immerse themselves in the area. Port Douglas, Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and Kuranda are all easily accessible on day trips.

If it is adventure you are seeking then Tropical North Queensland has you covered with skydiving, bungy jumping, parasailing, rafting and now sea-bobbing and fly -boarding.

Young or old Cairns has your holiday needs covered.

Where is it?

 
 

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef, its tropical islands, coral cays and abundant marine life are just a short boat ride from Cairns and there are so many options you will want to spend more than one day at the reef. For a truly amazing experience nothing beats an outer reef day trip from either Cairns or Port Douglas, you can take a ride on one of the smaller boats or for more facilities head out on one of the larger boats and spend the day on a reef pontoon. When you get there you can take an introductory dive or snorkel, and to see the reef without getting your feet wet try the glass bottom boat.

For the ultimate dive experience take a multi day cruise. You will get to dive at a variety of locations and at different times of the day so you can see the reef in all its splendor.

If your sea legs aren't as good, or you just want to laze on a tropical island then maybe a trip to Green, Low, Fitzroy or Frankland Islands will be more your style. The reef is still spectacular, the coral sands are amazing and you can even find a secluded spot on the island to call your own. The kids can spend their day finding Nemo or playing on the beach while you watch from under a shady palm tree, it doesn't get more idyllic.

For a very different perspective on the reef take a helicopter ride while you are there, or if you are short of time, skip the boat and fly to the reef.

If you want to find out more we have articles on The Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island and how to choose between a Island, Boat or Pontoon Based reef trip.

Top

looking out from the reef back towards Green island

 Our Staff Reef Trip Picks

exposed reef and dive boat

Michaelmas Cay & Hastings Reef

In just over one hours cruising you will arrive at Michaelmas Cay on the edge of the outer reef. Spend your time diving, snorkelling or go across to the sand cay. Later you head to Hastings Reef for a totally different reef experience.

  • 2 and a half hours at each location
  • Introductory dives available
  • Small Group (max 35)
  • Lunch, morning and afternoon tea

Couple snorkelling off Green Island

Green Island - Full Day

Spend a day on a tropical island just a short trip from Cairns, where the reef is just a short swim from the beach. Snorkel out to the reef or take a glass bottom boat, or for a few dollars more do both. Take a walk through the rainforest or walk around the island.

  • 5 Hours on Green Island
  • Choice of Snorkel or Glass Bottom Boat
  • Island Paradise
  • Ideal family day.

cruise Boat and Pontoon at Norman reef

Outer Reef Adventure

See the real beauty of the outer reef on this full day trip to Norman reef. After a leisurely start (9.45am check in) you will cruise to the pontoon where you can spend your day snorkelling, diving (optional) or in the underwater observatory. Helicopter flight recommended!

  • Buffet Lunch
  • Snorkelling equipment provided
  • Reef Education Presentation
  • Semi Submersible tour

A Giant Clam - Outer Barrier Reef

Open Water Course - 4 Day

Learn the skills to be able to dive anywhere in the world. Start with time in the classroom learning your theory, move to the pool for the practical training,  then spend a night on the reef while taking 5 separate dives over two different days.

  • CBD Pick ups
  • Multilingual Instructors
  • 5 Dives
  • Lunch all days and all meals while on the reef

Cape Tribulation beach, Queensland

 

 

Daintree and Cape Tribulation

The Daintree Rainforest is the largest continuous rainforest area in Australia at over 1,200 square kilometers. The significance of this area has been recognised with the listing of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and a plan by the government to buy back tracts of privately owned land. The natural beauty of the area will surprise you and in places the rainforest grows right down to the beach. It is truly an area that needs preservation. There is an abundance of wildlife including the elusive cassowary, a large flightless bird that despite it size can easily vanish before you get a chance to take out your camera. A Daintree River cruise is an ideal way to see both the flora and fauna and to go crocodile spotting, winter is the best time for this as the crocs come up onto the banks of the river to sun themselves.

Cape Tribulation is accessible by a sealed road after crossing on the Daintree River ferry. This restricted ferry access has limited development in this area and adds a unique touch to visiting Cape Trib. A unique feature of this area is it is the only place in the world where two world heritage areas, the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef, are side by side. The traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, understood this area, its seasonality and food sources and lived successfully in the area. The area was name by Captain Cook as the point where all his troubles began, but now it is a place where you can leave all your troubles behind and relax as one with nature.

Top

Visit Daintree, Cape Tribulation.

Overlooking the mouth of the Daintree river

Cape Trib 4WD

This truly Aussie experience sees you enjoying the Daintree with a Daintree River cruise, a guided national park walk, scenery from a number of beautiful lookouts and a traditional Aussie BBQ plus damper and Billy Tea while hand feeding a kangaroo.

  • Daintree river cruise
  • Cape Tribulation
  • Bloomfield 4WD track
  • Swim at Emmagen Creek

Cape tribulation beach where the reef meets the rainforest

Cape Trib & Daintree

Enjoy a drive along one of the most scenic roads to start your full day tour. Spend time in Port Douglas where the rich & famous holiday, walk in Mossman Gorge before crossing the Daintree River to Cape Trib. Includes a Daintree River cruise on your way home.

  • Mossman gorge
  • Port Douglas
  • Daintree river cruise
  • Alexandria lookout

Sandy walk to get to Cape Trib beach

Cape Trib 2 nights

If you really want to experience Cape Tribulation this tour gives you ample time to enjoy the area. Includes a Daintree river cruise and entry to Wildlife Habitat at Port Douglas as well as accommodation right on the beach at Cape Tribulation.

  • Wildlife Habitat
  • Beachfront resort
  • Daintree River cruise
  • Dormitory Accommodation

daintree River vehicle ferry

2 Day Cape Trib

First stop is Mossman gorge where you can take a swim in the pristine river. Then cross the Daintree river on the ferry on the way to Cape Tribulation. Includes a guided rainforest boardwalk and a Daintree river cruise, maybe you will see a croc in the wild!

  • Mossman Gorge
  • Daintree river cruise
  • Rainforest Boardwalk
  • Daintree Ice-cream co.

Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

If you want to experience the Wet Tropics World Heritage listed rainforest then the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail make the perfect combination. The railway was build to supply miners on the Atherton Tablelands and was completed in 1891, comprising of 15 tunnels and more than a dozen bridges all built by hand. The rail line is now a major tourist attraction providing a unique perspective on Cairns and the surrounding rainforest.  The rail line curves around  Stoney Creek Falls and Glacier Rock and stops at the magnificent Barron Falls before arriving in the quaint village of Kuranda.

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides you just above the canopy allowing you to look down through this ecosystem. Stopping at two intermediate stations, Red Peak and Barron Falls gives you the opportunity to view the area at your own pace. There are rangers on hand to answer your questions and guided walks available.

Both trips can be done as return journeys, although it is recommended to travel one way on each.

If you want more information on this popular activity then read our tour review here, or our booking guide here.

Top

Kuranda Scenic train passing Stoney Ck falls

 

Skyrail Gondala over the Barron River

Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Tours

kuranda Scenic Rail passing Robb's monument

Scenic Rail Return

Join the train at either the Cairns Central or Freshwater Station for this return train ride to Kuranda. Travel through 15 tunnels, see Stoney Creek and Barron Falls on the historic train. Have over 3 hours to leisurely explore Kuranda, before returning on the train.

  • Return Train ride
  • Over 3 Hours in Kuranda
  • Stoney Creek Falls
  • Robb's Monument

Kuranda Train passing Barron Falls

Rainforest Experience

Join the train at Cairns Central for your journey to Kuranda. Includes transfers and entry to Rainforestation for an Army Duck tour and Aborigonal Cultural Show. Return to Cairns via the Skyrail Cablecar with transfers back to your accommodation.

  • Kuranda Scenic railway
  • Skyrail cablecar
  • Rainforestation tour with Army duck ride
  • One way transfers

Skyrail cable car overlooking Barron Falls in flood

Skyrail return

Self drive to the Caravonica Skyrail station for a 9am or 11am departure, glide over the rainforest canopy and stop at the two mid stations before arriving at Kuranda. Allow at least two and a half hours for the full Skyrail return experience, plus time in Kuranda

  • Self Drive
  • Skyrail Caravonica to Kuranda
  • Skyrail return
  • Upgrades available

Tjapukai aborigonal dancers

Dreamtime Experience

An amazing Cairns experience! Take the train Kuranda, through the tunnels and bridges that make up this amazing railway. Return on Skyrail, taking your time at the two intermediate stations, then meet the traditional owners at Tjapukai cultural park.

  • Scenic train to Kuranda
  • Skyrail return
  • Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
  • Transfer to Cairns

Cairns Events

What's on in Cairns

Port Douglas Carnivale

26th to 28th May, 2017

A Taste of Paradise in Port Douglas. But it isn’t all about the food, there is a street parade, sporting events, arts, comedy and music, as well as the family beach day with a kite festival and Sandcastle and sculpting competitions.

More information: Carnivale

2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns

11th June, 2017

An ocean swim, a bike leg on one of the most scenic coastal roads in Australia and a run around the Cairns esplanade, sounds idyllic but this is an IRONMAN event so the only ones enjoying the view are the spectators.

More information: IRONMAN 70.3

2017 Mareeba Rodeo

15th and 16th July, 2017

A proper country rodeo just one hours drive west of Cairns. Get up close to the bull riding, calf roping or wood chopping. The rodeo festival runs for two weeks and culminates in two days of rodeo action.

More information: Mareeba Rodeo

2017 Cairns Show

19th and 21st July, 2017

Three days of exhibitions, displays, sideshow rides and show bags, this is the regional show not to miss. Peoples day is on the Friday so the crowds will be larger, but the centrally located showgrounds handles this with ease.

More information: Cairns Show

2017 UCI World MTB Championships

5th to 10st September, 2017 (pre Calendar)

The world’s best cross country and downhill riders descend on Cairns for the UCI World MTB Championships. More details available closer to the event.

More information: UCI MTB World Championship

Cairns Festival

25th August to 3rd September, 2017

A series of events to celebrate life in tropical north Queensland. There is a street parade, fireworks, music and arts. The events are scattered throughout the city with the focus on the tourist hub of the Cairns Esplanade.

More information: Cairns Festival

Cairns Amateurs

1st and 2nd September, 2017

September is the perfect time of the year to visit Cairns and Amateurs is the perfect event. Whether you want to get immerses in the horse racing or the fashion in the field or the social events surround the track action this is North Queensland’s social calendar highlight.

More information: Amateurs

Crocodile Trophy

16th to 23rd September, 2017

Claimed to be the hardest, longest and most adventurous Mountain bike races in the world the Croc trophy is a multi-stage ride staged over 1,000 klm in Far North Queensland. The gruelling event has been running for over 20 years and is the longest running MTB stage event.

More information: Crocodile Trophy

New Year's Eve on the Esplanade

31st December, 2017

There is a family friendly firework time (9pm) and a carnival, followed by the midnight fireworks and celebrations on the esplanade.

View the 2016 Fireworks Finale: Tourstogo YouTube

Chinese New Year's Eve Celebration

17th January to 3rd February, 2017

Starting with an Art Exhibition and ending with a Street Festival Cairns says good bye to the year of the Monkey and welcomes in the year of the Rooster. On 27th January join the celebrations at the Esplanade lagoon.

More information: Chinese New Year 2017

Top

 

Cairns Tours Reviews and Itineraries

 Our Cairns Articles

Aerial shot of Vlasoff cay6 Tropical Islands near Cairns

I often say to people that winter in Tropical North Queensland is very similar to some of the best summers I’ve experienced around the world. Blue sky days, perfect temperatures and no shortage of fun things to do. The islands and coral cays on the great Barrier Reef just off Cairns are ........

Read more »

Potato CodFour unique things to do in Cairns

Cairns is not only the gateway to tropical wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and Port Douglas, but it’s also a spectacular holiday destination in its own right. Experience some of these unique Cairns tours and attractions this summer and see the best this stunning city has to offer.

Read more »

A Bungy jumper 'Flying' with the sun behind themTop Ten Things to Do in Cairns

When people attempt to list the locations that encapsulate the beauty of Australia’s landscape, a few places always make the list. The Far North Queensland city of Cairns is one of those places!

Read more »

Shot from bach level at Four mile Beach Port DouglasPort Douglas

Port Douglas is considered the gateway to the only area of the world where two World Heritage listed sites meet, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree National Park. Picture the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest rainforest separated only by beautiful beaches and you’ll get an idea of what tropical paradise in North Queensland is all about.

Read more »

rockpool at Mossman GorgeBeaches, Views and a Gorgeous Gorge

A perfect way to spend a North Queensland winters day. Breakfast at Palm Cove, Mossman Gorge Visitors Centre and then Port Douglas, even spotted a croc in the wild!

Read more »

Nudey beach Fitzroy Island, Rocks showing through the clear blue watersFitzroy Island

Just 45 minutes by ferry from Cairns, in mostly protected waters is Fitzroy Island. This continental island offers snorkelling, crystal clear waters, coral and sand beaches and for the more active excellent views from the summit lookout.

Read more »

Sign on carraige for Kuranda Scenic RailwayKuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

One of Cairns' most popular tours is to visit Kuranda by travelling on the Kuranda Scenic Train and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. We took the journey and rediscovered why it is so popular.

Read more »

Cairns Skyral and view to Green IslandKuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Booking Guide

With so many Skyrail and Train options available we have produced this guide that simplifies your choices for you.

Read more »

Double Island near Palm Cove Cairns - Through the Palm TreesA long weekend in Cairns - an itinerary

With so much to do in Cairns it is hard to decide what to do when you are only there for a long weekend. We have put together our suggestions for the perfect itinerary.

Read more »

Tourism coming off a Quicksilver Cat after a day at the reefOuter Barrier Reef - Tour review

Having just spent a day at the Outer Great Barrier Reef with my family I can highly recommend it for tourists and locals alike. The reef is amazing and the crew were fantastic.

Read more »

Top

 

Cairns Information

Public Transport

Cairns public transport network is the Sunbus service which services the main business district and Northern beaches areas (http://www.sunbus.com.au/cairns/).

Weather in Cairns

What's the Cairns Weather like?

Summer (Dec - Feb): Min 22°C Max 31°C
Avg monthly rainfall 340mm Avg rain days per month 17

Autumn (Mar - May): Min 20°C Max 30°C
Avg monthly rainfall 236mm Avg rain days per month 17

Winter (Jun - Aug): Min 17°C Max 26°C
Avg monthly rainfall 35mm Avg rain days per month 9

Spring (Sep - Nov): Min 19°C Max 31°C
Avg monthly rainfall 58mm Avg rain days per month 9

Top

 

Cairns Activities

Activities to do in Cairns

Top

Cairns Airport

Cairns Airport (CNS) is Queensland’s only other international airport north of Brisbane with international flights to the Asia Pacific Region and domestic flights to most Australian key destinations. The airport is situated 7 klm north of the CBD although walking to the airport is not recommended. (Cairns Airport)

Airport Connect – Public Transport Link

Public transport buses do not stop at the Cairns Airport, the alternative is an Airport connect bus that links to the local public bus service. Connections to the Airport must be pre-booked and it is recommended to pre-book the service from the airport although tickets can be purchased at the terminal. (Airport Connect)

Shuttle Buses and Limousines

There are a variety of shuttle bus and limousine services operating from the Cairns terminal. These services must be pre-booked and can travel to local accommodation, northern Beaches or Port Douglas. On booking you will be advised where to meet the driver. (Airport Transfers)

Taxi

This is a convenient way to get to and from the airport directly connecting with your destination. The Taxi ranks are located at the front of both the international and domestic terminal. Pre-booked taxis are advised if you have special needs. In most parts of Australia, including Cairns dialling 131008 will put you in touch with the local taxi service.  

Car Rental

Most of the major car rental companies have outlets located at Cairns Airport, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Thrifty and Redspot. (Vroom Vroom Vroom) There are rental car counters in the arrivals area at each terminal.

Travellers Autobarn Campervans Australia

Hire a campervan, campers or station wagons or buy one with a guaranteed buyback from 6 Australia wide locations: Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Perth and Melbourne. Travellers Autobarn (est. 1993) is a ‘one stop shop’ for the backpackers and budget travellers planning their self drive trip around Australia or simply up the coast in a campervan. (Travellers Autobarn)

Terminal Transfers

There is a covered walkway between the domestic and international terminals. The walk takes less than five minutes.

 Parking

For both Domestic and International terminals the public car park is directly opposite the terminal. At the domestic terminal there is an undercover option available, for an additional cost. There is no specific long term parking station. There is an on-line booking option that offers additional discounts for long term parking. (Airport Parking)

Top

 Accommodation in Cairns and Surrounds

As part of this guide, we will continue to expand the information to help you in planning your holiday to Cairns. As we discover interesting, unique or suitable accommodation options we will place them here so you can also research them and decide if they are suitable for you.

Atherton Tablelands

Outside of the Curtain Fig MotelCurtain Fig Motel

Yungaburra is the perfect base to explore the Atherton Tablelands and the Curtain Fig is the perfect place to stay. Cosy, quiet, well equipped rooms and a friendly atmosphere with off street parking and just a short walk to the heart of Yungaburra.

For a cool change. See website

 
Cairns

Bed & Breakfast and Farm Stay Association

The Bed & Breakfast and Farm Stay Association of Far North Queensland offers a wide range of accommodation options throughout Far North Queensland. From Traditional B'n'Bs and farm stays to self contained cottages and outback stations. Wherever you are staying in the Cairns area, and whatever the type of accommodation you require BNBNQ can help you.

See website

 
Kuranda

beautiful Gardens at the Honey Bee HouseHoneybee House

Two bedroom house set on 5 acres with a seasonal creek, this is the perfect getaway for up to six guests. Only 10 minutes from Kuranda and 30 minutes from Cairns surrounded by rainforest and a beautiful garden.

A Family friendly holiday home. See website

A Hammock on the verandah of Cedar Park ResortCedar Park Rainforest Resort

An award winning wild life retreat situated in the rainforest along a spring fed creek. There are only six suites on the property that boarders a national park so finding your own private space is assured.

Retreat to Nature. See website

Swimming Pool and deck at Ronday-Voo B'n'B KurandaRonday-voo Bed & Breakfast

Relax by the pool, play tennis or use as a base to explore Cairns and Kuranda. Ronday-voo is just 30 minutes from the Cairns Airport and even closer to Kuranda and Skyrail.

Country hospitality and living. See website

 
Port Douglas

garden reflected in a pool at Four mile Beach B'n'BPort Douglas B'n'B Four Mile Beach

With only two double rooms, each en suite, and across the road from the beach you can wake up to a healthy breakfast in the courtyard and with the help of the local birdlife, plan your next adventure or just relax in the garden.

This is tropical living. See website

 
Cairns Beaches

Blue lit boardwalk at Coral Sands trinity BeachCoral Sands - Beachfront Resort - Trinity Beach

Located directly opposite Trinity Beach, with its own lagoon pool, this 4.5 star apartment accommodation is one of Cairns' most well appointed resorts.

This is tropical living. See website

Palm trees over the roof of South Pacific BnB Clifton BeachSouth Pacific BnB - Clifton Beach

There is so much to do here, or choose to do so little..... Just 50m from Clifton Beach in your exclusive cottage with private access. Relax on the deck or in the tropical gardens. Stay one night or stay a week.

Entrance driveway to Shanee Prana resortShanee Prana - Kewerra Beach

For your own piece of luxury in paradise it is hard to look past Shanee Prana, 5 bedrooms, an acre of manicured gardens, a swimming pool, tennis court and easy access to everything Cairns and the Northern Beaches has to offer.

It's time to enjoy a little luxury. See website