Our most recommended things to do in Cairns

From Cairns: Kuranda Day Trip w/ Kuranda Train and Skyrail

1. From Cairns: Kuranda Day Trip w/ Kuranda Train and Skyrail

Explore the village of Kuranda in a pristine World Heritage-listed rainforest. Be picked up from your hotel and travel to the train station. Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway and marvel at mountains on the way. Soar over waterfalls and over Barron Gorge on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Explore the markets, shops, and walking trails, or take a river cruise (seasonal) for 2.5 hours. Discover the food stalls and cafés, or dine with the water dragons at Frog’s Restaurant famous for its sauces and dressings. Take the famous Skyrail down, spanning 7.5km over the rainforest canopy. Spot native wildlife, including the cassowary, the world's 3rd-largest flightless bird. Next, take the 2:00 PM Skyrail back to the bottom (Skyrail Smithfield station). Embark on a fascinating journey of discovery over and deep into the world’s oldest, continually-surviving tropical rainforest. The iconic Skyrail experience is a must-do Cairns attraction of Australia’s World-Heritage listed tropical rainforest, immersing you in one of the most botanically fascinating areas on earth. At the end of your Skyrail experience, be picked up again by bus at 3:30 PM to be brought back to the hotel.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

2. From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

Hop aboard a catamaran for a day trip to remember to the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel, dive, or swim in the water, enjoy a delicious buffet lunch, and take in the marine wildlife. Meet your crew at the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, pay the reef levy, and hop aboard the luxury catamaran. The crew will select reef locations depending on the day's conditions from Flynn and Milne reef or further north at Norman and Hastings reefs. All offer diverse reef structures teeming with exotic marine life. Feel the wind in your hair as you set sail for the outer Great Barrier Reef. Relax with morning tea on the way, get to know the crew and learn all about the marine eco-system from a marine expert. Review snorkeling techniques with the crew during the journey. Arrive at the first outer reef location, where you can snorkel, dive or swim in the water. You may also choose to sunbathe, or chill on the boat on the upper sun deck or the netted deck trampoline at the bow of the boat. You can avail complimentary guided tours from the staff. A dedicated dive tender is available for experienced certified divers who want to explore deeper waters. All certified divers receive a complimentary dive guide. First-time divers will receive clear and concise scuba instruction in the water from qualified PADI professionals. Savor a fresh tropical buffet lunch prepared onboard. Treat yourself to a selection of hot and cold dishes including buffet meats, salads, and tropical fruit. Travel to the second outer reef location for the day for your choice of activity. Look out for corals, exotic marine life such as parrotfish, reef turtles and 'nemo' fish. End the day as the captain hoists the sails, and cruise back to Cairns. Enjoy a cold drink from the bar (own expense) and relax on the boom netting. Alternatively, watch presentations about the marine life from the passionate eco-certified staff.

Cairns: Outer Edges of The Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight

3. Cairns: Outer Edges of The Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight

Take in the full spectacle of the Great Barrier Reef from the sky during a scenic flight from Cairns. Onboard a fixed-wing plane, see up to 140 kilometers of the Outer Barrier as well as many inner islands, reefs, and sand isles. Within 10 minutes of departing Cairns, the real adventure begins, as you get wonderful photo opportunities over Green Island, Oyster Reef, Vlasoff Cay, Upolo Reef, Pixie Reef, and Arlington Reef. Sit back in air-conditioned comfort as you glide through the sky. Take in the spectacular hues of green and blue from your window seat while listening to the pilot's informative commentary about the sights below. Get a chance to spot marine life with manta rays, green turtles, dugongs, sharks, and, if in season, whales, in clear view from the aircraft. Once your journey comes to an end, fly right back to Cairns.

Cairns: Daintree and Mossman Gorge Tour with Cruise Option

4. Cairns: Daintree and Mossman Gorge Tour with Cruise Option

Embark on a day trip where the rainforest meets the reef. See natural sights including the Great Barrier Reef, experience a wildlife cruise, and participate in a smoke ceremony as you go. Start your adventure with a scenic coastal drive from Cairns to Port Douglas, the far north’s very own great ocean road with panoramic views of the sparkling Coral Sea. The first stop is Mossman Gorge, which is in the southern sector of the world-famous Daintree National Park. The gorge has been carved out by the cold mountain waters of the Mossman River, which winds through large granite boulders, bordered by lush green rainforest. It’s a magical place and you’ll be welcomed by the traditional owners, the Kuku Yalanji people, who will also cleanse you of evil spirits during a smoke ceremony. Also, enjoy a refreshing swim in the cascading waters. After crossing the mighty Daintree River and a lunch break, it’s time to explore the ancient rainforest environment on an interesting guided tour of the Marrdja Botanical Boardwalk. Highly trained guides will give expert rainforest interpretation, which will inform and impress. Be amazed at the huge diversity you will encounter, you will discover everything from low-lying ferns and shrubs, to the massive rainforest canopy and even mangrove ecosystems - all in one short easy walk. You can choose to taste locally made ice cream, at your own cost, and prepare for a photo opportunity at the Alexandra Range Lookout, which provides sweeping views over the Daintree River, its rainforest delta, and out to the Coral Sea. In the afternoon, experience a wildlife cruise on the river (if option selected). During the cruise, you may see a crocodile, while learning about the fragile ecosystem of this impressive serpent-like river system. On the return journey to Cairns, drive through Port Douglas, a picturesque beachside village with a laid-back vibe and loads of bars and cafes.

From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

5. From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

Climb aboard a modern catamaran to sail into Green Island National Park on a beach and snorkeling cruise from Cairns. Discover a hidden gem in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and explore its coral reefs with snorkeling gear. Choose to enjoy a buffet lunch and go on a semi-submarine tour. Make your way to the harbor to meet your friendly crew for the day and climb onto your catamaran. Relax in the sun as you set sail towards the Great Barrier Reef. Experience picturesque views of the ocean as you arrive at Green Island National Park. Stroll around the island and explore its tranquil beaches. Find a stop to relax and go for a dip in the ocean. Get access to snorkeling gear and take a peek into the region's thriving marine life. You can also opt to go on a semi-submarine or a glass-bottom boat tour to discover the colorful coral reef and fish in comfort.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling Tour with Lunch

6. From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling Tour with Lunch

Explore the stunning biodiversity of the outer Great Barrier Reef on this snorkelling tour from Cairns. 3 sun decks, 2 air-conditioned indoor saloons, a spacious dive deck, and a sunken platform for easy water access. Have drinks and a packed lunch. Depart Cairns in the morning for the outer reef on this 8-hour tour. Join a once in a lifetime adventure aboard a luxury day trip to the great barrier reef. Enjoy a light morning tea and a delicious pre-packed picnic lunch. Complimentary tea, coffee, and chilled water are served throughout the day (snacks, soft and alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase). Discover the Great Barrier Reef in the easiest way possible: with a snorkel - it is as simple as breathing. If you have never snorkelled before, don't worry, a briefing is held on board, explaining how to put and use the snorkelling gear. The private reef locations are approximately 70 kilometres (about 43 miles) offshore, these unique sites offer superb coral formations and an abundance of coral and marine life including inquisitive Nemo's, Turtles, Stingrays and Wally the friendly Maori Wrasse. Visit 2 different reef locations daily, these are chosen en-route considering weather and sea conditions to ensure the best in-water experience. Visit either Norman, Saxon or Hastings Reef.

Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise & Scenic Helicopter Flight

7. Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise & Scenic Helicopter Flight

Join this fast, comfortable cruise to visit two spectacular Outer Great Barrier Reef destinations. Travel on 'Evolution'- a brand new, purpose-built, state of the art, 35-meter (120ft) superyacht, providing a superior ride in all weather conditions. Visit exclusive, protected locations on the pristine Outer Great Barrier Reef with superior reef quality. Professional, friendly and attentive staff ensure a safe and enjoyable fun-filled experience. This vessel is the most stylish and luxurious reef vessel available in Cairns. Depart the marina and travel to the true outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey. Choose from an abundance of seating inside air-conditioned, modern lounges or outside on full-length sundecks for sunbathing. Spend time snorkeling and spotting diverse marine wildlife, coral gardens, and much more below the surface. For lunch, enjoy a delicious Aussie BBQ including steak, fish, prawns, and tropical salads (vegetarians are catered for.) At the second reef site, take to the skies for your 10-minute Scenic Helicopter Flight to and from the exclusive Heli-Pontoon. Have your camera ready as you lift off from the helipad for an incredible scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef. Appreciate from the air, the sheer size of the reef system as you search for marine life in their natural habitat. Be amazed at the colours and beauty of the coral gardens before touching back down to re-join the crew onboard the vessel. A complimentary glass of wine and a light snack is served on the return journey back to Cairns.

Cairns: Fitzroy Island Ferry with Snorkeling and Boat Tour

8. Cairns: Fitzroy Island Ferry with Snorkeling and Boat Tour

Enjoy a fun-filled day of activities on visit Fitzroy Island, a national park with lush tropical rainforests, granite outcrops, open woodlands, mangroves, and coral beaches. Set sail to Fitzroy Island with return boat transfers, snorkeling equipment, and a glass-bottom boat tour. Walk to the lighthouse, dine at the restaurant, or relax at the famous Nudey Beach, voted the best beach in Australia. Explore the island's rainforest walks and snorkel at the beach. You also have the option to bring a picnic lunch or purchase a casual lunch from the Fitzroy Island cafe. Extra activities include Foxy's Bar & Café, Pacific Island Store, dive, and activities center - all available on the island at an extra cost.

Cairns: Outer and Coral Cay Snorkel and Dive Cruise

9. Cairns: Outer and Coral Cay Snorkel and Dive Cruise

Step foot on a super-fast, luxury 20m CAT, feeling welcomed and pampered, and embark on an ocean-filled journey of discovery. After your early boarding from Marlin Marina, breathe in the morning ocean breeze as you sail to one of two snorkel and dive destinations. From there, explore the ocean's brilliant fish and coral reefs. At the stunning Upolu Coral Cay Reef, learn about graceful blue-spotted stingrays, tenacious green sea turtles, bright damsel fish, and other amazing creatures that call this reef their home, as you observe them from a glass bottom boat. You’ll then have the chance to see these inquisitive creatures up close, while snorkeling within the incredibly clear, turquoise water. The second snorkel and dive site is the fascinating ‘Wonder Wall’, located on the outer edge of Upolu Reef. Enjoy snorkeling on the top of the wall for easy viewing of all the marine life and coral. Sign-up for the optional, certified or introductory guided dive, encountering a huge variety of aquatic flora and fauna, including hard and soft corals, giant clams, fans, turtles and a vast assortment of colorful tropical fish as you descend and meander along the side of the wall .  In between visiting these two sites, enjoy a smorgasbord lunch fit for a king. Savor smoked salmon, prawns, three types of cold meat, a chicken platter, three fresh salads and a variety of breads. After a relaxed six hours of diving and snorkeling, spend the trip home indulging in even more delicious food, arriving back at Cairns at around 4:30 PM.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Round Trip Boat Transfers

10. From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Round Trip Boat Transfers

Leave Cairns for the day and explore the beauty of Fitzroy Island with a roundtrip transfer. Discover a national park covered in tropical rainforests and boasting granite outcrops, open woodlands, mangroves, and coral beaches. Explore at your own pace and travel back to Cairns at the end of the day. Depart from Cairns Marina on a spacious catamaran and admire spectacular views of the ocean. Once at the island, embark on a scenic rainforest walk, go snorkeling, visit the lighthouse, or relax at the famous Nudey Beach, voted the best beach in Australia. Choose from either a full day, morning, or afternoon schedule. Bring a picnic lunch or purchase a delicious meal or refreshing drink from a restaurant just meters off the beach. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around and make sure to visit Foxy's Bar & Café, the Pacific Island Store, and the activities center for extra things to do before the ride back.

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Frequently asked questions about Cairns

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The best day trips and excursions from Cairns are:

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Insider tips: Explore Cairns like a local

I’m Jackson, an Australian adventure traveler who has been on the road for eight years now. After graduating with a journalism degree, I set off to explore the world while creating adventure travel guides featuring hikes, waterfalls, beaches, and adrenaline activities. I hope my travels motivate you to set off on an epic adventure of your own. It’s been a wild ride.

What should I do on my first trip to Cairns?

Cairns is a vibrant city in Far North Queensland known for its stunning natural beauty. Two of the best outdoor activities in Cairns are exploring the Great Barrier Reef and hiking in the Daintree Rainforest. The Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of species of marine life and coral formations. Go snorkeling or diving to see it up close, or take a scenic boat tour for breathtaking views. The Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and home to countless animal and plant species. A guided tour of its trails is a great way to learn about its history and ecological significance.

What are some hidden gems to see in Cairns?

Cairns is full of unique activities; some are not on too many visitors’ radars. One of my favorites is spending a night on the Great Barrier Reef on a pontoon. You can watch the sunset over the stunning reef before stargazing and spending the night in a cozy cabin by the water. Another is visiting the Mossman Gorge, a tranquil area of the Daintree Rainforest. A guided walk through the forest is the best way to learn about the indigenous culture and history of the area. Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear Mossman River — it’s said to have healing properties.

How much time should I spend in Cairns?

To truly experience all that Cairns has to offer, spending at least a week in the city is recommended. This allows enough time to explore the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest and even take day trips to nearby locations like Port Douglas and Kuranda, which offer unique experiences and attractions too. You’ll also have time to discover Cairns’ vibrant nightlife and great restaurants. Overall, a week-long stay in Cairns gives you time to find a perfect balance of adventure, relaxation, and exploration, and even discover the city’s great nightlife and restaurant scene, It’s an ideal destination for travelers who love nature and culture equally.

What food is Cairns known for?

Cairns is known for its diverse food scene. Being a coastal city, seafood is prominent on most menus and always popular. Cairns also has a strong Asian influence, with many Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. Healthy eats, brunch spots, and traditional Australian dishes like meat pies, fish and chips, and grilled kangaroo are easy to find too.

What is the best way to get around Cairns?

Cairns has several transportation options for visitors, including taxis, public buses, and hop-on, hop-off tours, but you’ll have the most freedom by renting a car. A car will allow you to explore at your own pace and easily visit attractions that may not be easily accessible by public transportation. Popular destinations like Port Douglas and the Atherton Tablelands are within driving distance of Cairns and easily reached by car.

What are the best months to visit Cairns?

The best time of year to visit Cairns is between June and October when it's dry and comfortable, with clear blue skies and warm temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees. However, this is when most visitors come to Cairns, so accommodation and activity prices can be higher and it is best to book them well in advance. June to October is also the best time to experience the Great Barrier Reef, with excellent visibility and calm waters for snorkeling and diving.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Cairns?

Cairns has a vibrant local vibe, and the city is known for its friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Visitors can expect to find a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and cultures. The outdoor lifestyle is a big part of the local culture, with many residents enjoying activities like hiking, swimming, and snorkeling in the natural beauty surrounding Cairns.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Cairns has excellent restaurants throughout the city. Some of the best areas to eat in Cairns include the Esplanade, a mix of cafes and restaurants with stunning waterfront views, and the Cairns Night Markets, which offer a variety of street food and international cuisine. Cairns Marina is home to several high-end seafood restaurants that serve local catches. For those looking for a more relaxed dining experience, the suburbs of Edge Hill and Whitfield have several excellent cafes and bistros for delicious breakfasts, brunches, and lunches.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

One of the best places to shop in Cairns is the Cairns Central Shopping Centre, the largest shopping mall in the city with over 180 stores. The Cairns Night Markets are also a popular shopping destination, offering a variety of souvenirs, handicrafts, and local products. The Esplanade Markets are held every Saturday and feature handmade crafts, clothing, and jewelry. Rusty’s Market is a must-visit for foodies. It has a wide range of fresh produce, tropical fruits, and gourmet treats.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Cairns?

The Cairns CBD (Central Business District) is a great place for visitors to stay in Cairns. It’s close to the main attractions, such as the Cairns Esplanade, the Reef Fleet Terminal, and the Cairns Night Markets. You’ll find a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury hotels, making it easy to find a place to stay that fits your budget and preferences. The Cairns CBD has good transportation connections, with plenty of bus and train services to take you across the city and surrounding areas.

What is the best thing to do in Cairns for solo travelers?

One of the best activities for solo travelers in Cairns is taking a day trip to explore the Daintree Rainforest. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and offers a wide range of activities, from hiking and bird watching to swimming in freshwater streams and observing wildlife. Solo travelers can also visit the Mossman Gorge, known for its stunning waterfalls and swimming holes, and take a guided tour to learn about the area’s indigenous culture.

What is the best thing to do in Cairns for couples?

One of the best activities for couples in Cairns is taking a scenic helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef. This unique and romantic experience offers unparalleled views of the world’s most extensive coral reef system from above. Couples can take in the stunning blue waters, vibrant coral formations, and diverse marine life in a private and intimate setting. Several tour operators offer different tours and durations, so you can choose the one that best suits your interests and budget.

Other Sightseeing Options in Cairns

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What people are saying about Cairns

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 9,483 reviews

the staff were very helpful and the service was great. although we had high tide, and not the greatest condition for snorkeling, there were other activities like glass bottom boat, and they really tried to make our experience worth the money. definitely recommend deep dive for extra cost. it's worth it.

Excellent day of snorkelling and hiking. The glass bottom boat was a nice way to break up the day and we learned lots about the reef and marine life. Hiking to the summit is a challenge would only recommend if in decent physical Al shape. Great day

fitzroy island is beautiful. i saw a shark deep down in the ocean, at the snorkeling point near nudey beach. staff was helpful to let us know which snorkeling points are good to spot corals, turtles, etc. would love to go again

Freddie was amazing- we did the snorkel safari ran by her Freddie and she was so knowledgeable and fun! Thank you for making our day!

It worked nicely. Only thing we need to set the APN settings and activate Data Roaming