Things to do in
Cairns

Tropical rainforests and pristine waters await you at the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

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Top sights in Cairns

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Our most recommended things to do in Cairns

Cairns: Outer Edges of The Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight

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.

From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

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: Kuranda Day Trip with Kuranda Train and Skyrail

From Cairns: Kuranda Day Trip with Kuranda Train and Skyrail

In this period we cant operation this tour Only Skyrail up and Skyrail down available. Please book from From Cairns: Kuranda Day Trip with Return Kuranda Cableway https://www.getyourguide.com/cairns-l298/from-cairns-kuranda-day-trip-w-kuranda-skyrail-return-t586351/ 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 1:45PM 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 3:15 PM to be brought back to the hotel.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

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.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Ferry, Snorkelling, & Boat Tour

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Ferry, Snorkelling, & 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 on our air conditioned catamaran. This tour package includes snorkelling equipment hire, glass bottom boat tour. You can also explore the island's walking tracks or relax at the famous Nudey Beach, voted the best beach in Australia. Commencing July 1st 2024 You also have the option to pre-book premium buffet lunch (available to Sunlover Cruises passengers only), Extra activities to build your day include Snorkel Safari, Guided Kayak Tour, Turtle Rehabilitation Centre visit, Nature & Rainforest Walks. Available to pre-book with Sunlover Cruises or on the day of travel subject to availability. *Look for the "Best of Island" combo on Get Your Guide.

Cairns: Daintree and Mossman Gorge Tour with Cruise Option

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. It is then time to explore the ancient rainforest environment on an interesting guided tour of the Mossman Gorge - Daintree Rainforest. Highly trained guides will give expert rainforest interpretation, which will inform and impress. Also, enjoy a refreshing swim in the cascading waters. Next we stop for lunch in the Daintree Village. After lunch you will join a Wildlife River Cruise and cross the mighty Daintree River. During the cruise, you may see a crocodile, while learning about the fragile ecosystem of this impressive serpent-like river system. (If you have booked this option). 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. Visit the only place on Earth where two UNESCO World Heritage sites meet: The Daintree Rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef. Next we drive to the Daintree Ice Cream Co were you can choose to taste locally made ice cream, at your own cost, 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.

Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling or Dive Tour and Lunch

Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling or Dive Tour and Lunch

Experience the Great Barrier Reef on a magical day trip from Cairns, with Divers Den. Spend 5 hours discovering the marine wonderland of the outer Great Barrier Reef visiting two stunning dive sites. These are expertly chosen from our exclusive moorings to bring you the best quality conditions and diverse marine life, from colourful corals to inquisitive Nemos, turtles, stingrays and giant Māori Wrasse. During your Great Barrier Reef Day trip, enjoy our large sun decks, air-conditioned indoor spaces and hot freshwater showers. After a morning spent exploring the reef, enjoy a generous buffet lunch with a range of hot and cold foods, salads, rolls and tropical fruit to refuel for the afternoon.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

Discover Fitzroy Island on a day tour from Cairns. Enjoy a scenic ferry ride and explore the many hiking trails. Admire the marine life native to the coral reef as you snorkel or observe from a glass-bottom boat. Choose from a range of packages, including transfers for you to explore on your own, or a package including snorkel or glass-bottom boat activities. Explore the Island's 339 hectares of lush rainforest that covers 94 percent of the island and is protected and managed as a National Park. Walking trails are suitable for all levels of fitness, allowing you to explore areas of the island at your leisure. The fast catamaran departs from the Marlin Marina, with check-in directly on the vessel. Cruise south along the calm waters of the coastline to reach Fitzroy Island in just 45 minutes, giving you up to 7 hours to explore the tropical island.

From Cairns: Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation 4WD Tour

From Cairns: Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation 4WD Tour

Explore Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Ride a 4WD vehicle as you spot wildlife, catch incredible views, and try regional food along the way. After being picked up in a 4WD, make your way north along the Captain Cook Highway. Stop first at the Daintree Cruise Centre for a quick tea, coffee, and biscuits before setting out to explore the Daintree River on a 1-hour guided cruise. During your cruise, you may spot estuarine crocodiles, from youngsters to massive 4-meter adults. Learn about the birds and wildlife that make this area their home. Then, make your way to the Alexandra Range Lookout, located in the heart of the rainforest, to enjoy spectacular views of the rainforest, the ocean, its surrounding reefs, and the majestic Daintree River. At the Jindalba boardwalk, you'll go on an informative 45-minute guided tour to experience the Park's beauty up close. See ancient 900-year-old palms, and keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Boyd’s Forest Dragon. After exploring all morning, you'll be ready for lunch. Enjoy lunch with your fellow travellers in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, mere steps away from Cape Tribulation Beach. Your journey continues, heading further north along the Bloomfield Track to Emmagen Creek. Cool off with a refreshing swim in this amazing freshwater swimming spot. Head to Cape Tribulation Beach for a stroll along the beach to admire the views. Those feeling a little more energetic can take the short botanical boardwalk to the Cape Tribulation beach lookout. After Cape Tribulation beach, if there's time, stop at Daintree’s hidden secret, the Daintree ice creamery. Your taste buds will be tantalized with exotic tropical fruit homemade ice cream. A signature scoop of ice cream is included. As the day comes to an end after taking the ferry back across, head back toward Port Douglas and Cairns, where you'll be dropped off at your accommodation.

Cairns: Outer and Coral Cay Snorkel and Dive Cruise

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.

Frequently asked questions about Cairns

What top attractions are a must-see in Cairns?

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What are the best day trips and excursions from Cairns?

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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.

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What people are saying about Cairns

Overall rating

4.7
(9,483 reviews)

Tour ran very smoothly. Joined an interesting smoke ceremony, went for a walk in Mosman Gorge, stopped at Thornton Beach and Port Douglas for a beautiful view. Also did a river tour where we saw crocs and tried out Daintree ice cream. Our tour guide was informative but gave us enough free time for those that wanted to spent more time by themselves. Free lunch which, however, didn't really tasted good. We had the chicken burger and the steak, I'd say the best part were the french fries out of that. More time and longer walks in the rainforest would have been nice. You do spend quite some time on the bus.

Paige and Spencer were awesome tour guides and made everyone feel safe and confident with their abilities. We got lucky with a smaller group and were able to do all the cliff jumps, slides, and floating. Best tour I’ve done in my month tour of Australia.

Great experience. Pick up and drop off no issues what’s so ever. Lovely ride on the train and the sky rail. The view of the waterfall on the way down was incredible would highly recommend taking the sky rail down and getting off at both stops.

Tour guide was extremely knowledgeable on the species in the aquarium not only the fish, the land animals and semi aquatic. He was open to questions but only a few were asked as he explained everything.

The whole experience was amazing! Olivia was absolutely fantastic and super calming aswell! Definitely would recommend!