Things to Do in Cairns City

Great Barrier Reef MichaelCairns is considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders. From the city itself, you can pick up a cruise to take you out on to the calm lagoon of the ocean and spot mesmerising marine life and tropical island scenery.

But it’s not just the Great Barrier Reef that draws visitors in. In fact, Cairns city has plenty to offer tourists, from delectable restaurants and cosy cafes, to an array of boutique stores and fun activities.

Here are some of the best things to do in and around Cairns City.

1.    The Great Barrier Reef
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the main draw of the region, sprawling all along the tropical Queensland coastline. Here, you can dive, snorkel, or swim amongst the magical underwater world and learn more about this unique, biodiverse area.

2.    Cairns Esplanade
In the city itself, you can get a different view of the water. At the Cairns Esplanade, Boardwalk, and Lagoon, you can kick back and relax with stunning views and take a dip in the man-made pool to cool off in the warm Australian sun. cairnsboardwalk

3.    Experience Aboriginal Culture
The Aboriginal history surrounding Cairns is fascinating, diving back centuries and weaving together a rich tapestry of stories, myths, and legends. At the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park (set just 15 minutes outside of Cairns), you can learn all about Indigenous experiences in the region through performances, storytelling, and eye-catching exhibits.


4.    Flecker Botanic Gardens
For a natural encounter with Cairns City, head to the Flecker Botanic Gardens, where you can wander through lush greenery and soak up the delicious smells. Check out the selection of rainforest plants on display, and learn more about Aboriginal plant usage in the dedicated Indigenous section.

5.    Rusty’s Marketbotanic garden
Cairns city is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two at the many markets that open their doors on the weekend. At Rusty’s, you can stroll around stalls piled high with handmade goods and delicious treats whilst getting an insight into local life.

6.    Rainforest Treks
Cairns’ close proximity to the rainforest makes it ideal for a hike through lush undergrowth. In the nearby Daintree Rainforest, you can spot exotic plants and native animals, while doing once-in-a-lifetime activities, like gently cruising down the picturesque Daintree River and crocodile spotting.

Cairns is a great place to soak up the different sides of Australia – from the gorgeous ocean, to the lush surrounding rainforests and bustling city life.

Things to Do on Green Island

Green Island GBR helicopters 634Green Island is set just 45-minutes off the coast of Cairns, and is easily reachable by catamaran or boat. Made up of a 6,000-year-old coral cay, it forms a popular part of the incredible Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which remains one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world. 

Today, the island is home to more than 120 native plant species and a plethora of bird and animal life, plus there are plenty of things to see and do during your time in the area.

The History of Green Island

The history of Green Island is a fascinating one, as it was an important part of Tropical North Queensland’s past. On the island, you can visit the Interpretive Boardwalk which displays the rich European and Aboriginal histories of the island as well as the values that have persevered there for centuries.


Things to Do on Green Island

There are plenty of things to do on Green Island, whether you’re looking to discover the incredible marine life that characterises this part of the world or simply want to kick back, relax, and enjoy the stunning scenery on offer.

Snorkelling

Snorkelling is one of the most popular activities on the island, giving you the chance to get up close and personal with the vibrant marine life, including colourful fishes, ancient sea turtles,green island and eye-catching corals.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour

If you don’t fancy getting wet, you can discover everything the island has to offer from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat.

Relax at the Beach

The white sands of Green Island are perfect for lazing away the day on. Read your favourite book, take a dip in the warm shallows, or simply enjoy the sea views that seem to sprawl on forever.

Marineland Melanesia

See the largest croc in captivity at Marineland Melanesia and learn more about the marine life that surrounds Green Island. Spot rescued Green Sea Turtles and discover the unique behaviour, feeding habits, and breeding patterns of some of Australia’s best-loved sea creatures.

Go Shopping

There are numerous resort shops on Green Island, where you can pick up a souvenir or two to remember your time in the area.

CanoeingGreen island canoeing

For a more leisurely sea-based activity, hop aboard a canoe and cruise around the coastline, spotting unique wildlife and soaking up the incredible views as you go.

The beauty of Green Island is second to none, and exploring everything it has to offer gives you the chance to really get to know the Great Barrier Reef.

Things to Do at Josephine Falls

josephine falls mickIn the regions surrounding Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, you can find some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, including Josephine Falls. The cascading water in this region plummets into crystal clear waters that is edged by sandy beaches and flanked by lush rainforest.

Josephine Falls provides visitors with the perfect spot to kick back and relax, and is characterised by a peaceful swimming hole and picturesque scenery.

Things to Do at Josephine Falls

You can spend as long as you like at Josephine Falls, as there is plenty to do regardless of the kind of experience you’re looking for.

Barbecues and Picnics

There is a designated area set up for barbecues and picnics amongst the vibrant green scenery of the surrounding rainforest. The facilities mean you can spend a day eating, drinking, and relaxing.

Bushwalking

There are several walks that weave their way through the landscape and, whether you’re a keen hiker or simply want to enjoy the scenery on a leisurely stroll, there’s a route for you. There’s a 1.2 kilometre walk to the top waterfalls or a 10 kilometre hike up to Broken Nose for something a little longer.

The Falls themselves are surrounded by spectacular natural wonders, including granite rock slides and crystal clear rock pools filled with fascinating creatures.

Local Wildlife josephine falls 3 mick

Like much of Tropical Queensland, Josephine Falls is home to some of Australia’s most unique wildlife. Keep an eye out for snakes while you’re walking along the designated routes, as well as colourful butterflies, native species of birds, and fish that bask in the rock pools.

The plant life in the surrounding rainforest is worth a look in, too, with a vibrant collection of wild flowers and ancient trees forming a beautiful backdrop.

How to Get to Josephine Falls josephine falls 2 mick

If you’re ready to explore everything Josephine Falls has to offer, you just need to travel an hour and 15 minutes from the bustling city of Cairns. From the city, drive out onto the Bruce Highway and travel along it for around 75 kilometres until you reach the charming town of Miriwinni. From there, you can take the turnoff at Mount Bartle Frere, where you’ll start to see signposts for Josephine Falls from there.

The waterfalls found around Cairns are beautiful spots to explore, and Josephine Falls should be top of the list. With excellent picnic facilities, an eclectic collection of wildlife, and stunning scenery, it’s well worth a visit.

Exploring the Boardwalk at Cairns Mangroves

Cairns MangrovesMangroves are an important ecosystem that help protect the land from the sea and vice versa, providing a home for many young reef fish in the area. The Cairns mangroves are a classic example of mangrove life, where the trees themselves have evolved over time to thrive permanently in a mixture of salt and freshwater that is forever changing.

Playing host to a huge collection of creatures that each have their own special place in the ecosystem – expect to see quirky species like fish that can live outside of the water, fighting crabs, and baby sharks.

At the heart of the mangrove system in Cairns, you’ll find the Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk, where you can learn all about the unique, tropical mangroves and saltmarshes of Australia.

Cairns Mangroves IAs you move along the boardwalk, you can learn all about the incredible abundance of wildlife that lives in the region and discover what the purpose of the mangroves and other tidal wetland systems are.

Split into two parts, the boardwalk heads north or south into closed-off mangrove forests that sprawl out in every direction from the carpark. If you head north, you can make your way to Little Barron Creek, where there are plenty of viewing platforms at the edge of the creek which promise stunning views across the surrounding landscape.

Cairns Mangroves IIHalfway along this stretch of the boardwalk, you’ll come across a canopy tower that looks out across the lush velvet carpet of treetops. This section of the boardwalk is a circular route, and takes you from the carpark through the mangrove forests and back to the carpark, with signs along the way that give extra information on the plants and animals that have adapted over thousands of years to live in this unique environment.

If you head along the southern part of the boardwalk, you’ll have a slightly different experience, where you’ll get to see a few different kinds of mangrove forest. Unlike the northern part of the boardwalk, this part isn’t a circular route and instead terminates at a canopy tower near to the mouth of Swampy Creek. As you explore this part of the region, helpful signs will let you in on the productivity of mangrove forests and other fascinating facts.

If you’re looking to explore a different side of Australia’s unique wildlife, the mangroves are the perfect place to go. Not only will you learn about this unique ecosystem, but you can catch a glimpse of some of the more unusual species in the country.

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The Elusive Tree Kangaroos of Queensland

tree kangaroo atherton tablelandsIn the heart of Cairns, there’s an animal that you’ve probably never heard of, let alone seen. Tree Kangaroos are mostly found in the tropical rainforest region of Queensland, where the lush canopies provide the perfect habitat for these nocturnal creatures. You’re likely to find these smaller native Australian marsupials in the Atherton Tablelands, where they are simply known by their Aboriginal name, Mabi.

Tree Kangaroos live high up in the tree tops, hopping like normal kangaroos along larger branches they encounter. Their diet consists of leaves and shrubs that can be found in the rainforest region. For most of the day, they perch up in their trees resting, only coming out at night to eat and explore, but even then, they don’t go far. In fact, only 10% of their time is spent moving around. For the other 90%, they rest and chill out.

When it comes to mating, tree kangaroos produce one joey at a time who remains in the mother’s marsupial pouch for around 230 days before venturing out into the world on its own.

There are two common types of tree kangaroo in Queensland – Bennett’s and Lumholtz’s. Both breeds boast a similar colouring, which is a deep copper shade. The best way to tell them apart is by their size – the Lumholtz’s are smaller and weigh just 7 kilos, while the Bennetts weigh a little more at 16 kilos. Despite their larger size, the Bennett kangaroos are considerably more agile, and can jump from tree branches that are 9 metres down.

To balance, they use their big bushy tails to wrap around branches.

tree kangaroo and joey atherton tablelandsQueensland’s tree kangaroos are weird and wonderful creatures. Though they are very different to their land-based counterparts, they still retain many of the unique features of kangaroos, with their long tails, the ability to hop high in the air, and their means for mating and bringing up their young.

What’s more, these creatures are only found in a very small part of Australia, making a sighting of them that much more exciting. When you’re in and around Cairns, wandering through the rainforest, and exploring the Atherton Tablelands, keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of these cute critters who spend most of their time hidden away up tall, mighty trees.

The best time to see them is at night with the help of a torch, as this is the time when they’re most active.

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Millaa Millaa Falls Then and Now

Millaa MillaaSituated on the outskirts of Cairns, Millaa Milaa Falls is an impressive plunge waterfall that can be found on the side of Theresa Creek Road. The site is now heritage listed after it was added to the register in 2005.


The region surrounding Cairns is packed full of magical waterfalls, and Millaa Millaa Falls is no different. Making up part of the expansive Atherton Tableland, the site was named after the Aboriginal phrase for the rainforest vine that appears in the area. Today, visitors flock to the area to marvel at the 18.3-metre-high waterfall and to swim in the refreshing pool at its base.


The History of Millaa Millaa Falls
The falls were thought to be discovered during the expansive exploration of the regions around the Herberton mining fields. It was originally thought that Millaa Millaa meant “water fall”, but that has since been overthrown after the findings that it is in fact an Aboriginal word.


Millaa 1Inspector Alexander Douglas and Christie Palmerston hiked through the rainforest close to the falls in 1882, carving tracks as they went. Palmerston also mapped another, easier route in 1884 which is now known as the Palmerston track and can still be explored by visitors.


Around the Millaa Millaa Falls, there is a clearing that was once used as a rest stop for travellers that were passing through with horses and mule packs. They were exploring the Palmerston track and travelling to the nearby Herberton mining field. The clearing was also put to use as a camp for workers who spent their time putting up and maintaining the railway line that travelled between Malanda and the Millaa Millaa township in the early 1900s.


Millaa 2Millaa Millaa Falls Today
The Falls remains an iconic part of Australia, bringing in thousands of visitors every year who want to see its impressive cascading water and enjoy the cool pool at its base. The falls has a lot of cultural relevance, too, having been featured in a number of movies, documentaries, and television ads.


Throughout the year, Millaa Millaa Falls is the site of many community events, celebrating its natural surroundings and the vast, rich history that imbues the area.


Today, you can take a hike along the Palmerston track, explore the base of the waterfall, and dip into the pool to cool off in the Australian sun. If you find yourself in Cairns, be sure to make a pitstop at this fascinating and beautiful spot.

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How to Explore the Coral Reef Around Green Island

Green Island CoralSet just off the coast of Cairns, you can reach Green Island in about 45 minutes on a fast catamaran. To get there, you cross the majestic Coral Sea, which is filled to the brim with exciting marine life and beautiful coral cays.

Green Island itself is thought to be around 6,000 years old and makes up part of the impressive Great Barrier Reef – one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world. On the island, you can spot more than 120 species of native Australian plant, as well as hundreds of species of bird and wild animals. But the real reason visitors hotfoot it to Green Island is for the mesmerising display of underwater life.

Here, the waters surrounding the sandy shores are a painting of colourful fish, centuries-old corals, and other sea life. In fact, Green Island’s coral cay is the only one in the Great Barrier Reef that has its own rainforest growing on it – pretty impressive!

Scientists suggest the island and its surrounding coral cays was formed in the time between the last Ice Age, which was around 8,000 years ago, and now. Before then, the low sea levels destroyed all the previously existing sand cays.

Green Island Coral IIThe Habitats in the Coral Reef Surrounding Green Island

The reefs around Green Island are a plethora of incredible sights and boast two key habitats that a huge range of tropical marine life calls home.

Firstly, there are the seagrass beds that languish in the shallows. Here, you can find smaller fish and creatures that prefer to stay closer to the shoreline, like crabs and other shellfish.

Green Island Coral IIIFurther out towards the ocean, there is another reef that is home to larger sea creatures, like ancient turtles, larger fish, and majestic rays.

How to Experience the Coral Cay Around Green Island

There are numerous different ways you can get to know the coral cays and marine life surrounding Green Island. You can snorkel and dive, getting up close and personal with the various different creatures, or you can take a glass-bottom boat trip to explore the scenery from above.

With so much to see (over 190 different types of hard corals and more than 100 types of soft corals for starters), you’ll be kept busy all day long on an adventure around this beautiful island.

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What to Do at the Atherton Tablelands

Paronella ParkLocated near Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands offer a great year-round destination for anyone looking to explore the natural beauty of Australia and its fascinating cultural history. To avoid the crowds, head there between December and April, when tourism is at its lowest and the temperature is very pleasant.

While there, you can get stuck into a huge number of activities that dot the landscape, including self-drive tours across the plains, and a number of galleries and historic landmarks to explore. Antiques and the arts are big in this region, so you’ll find plenty of craft shops, studios, and galleries in the cute collection of towns, while the natural scenery has some incredible gems, like the Crystal Caves and Mount Mulligan Escarpment.

The Tablelands themselves stretch out for miles, encompassing ancient rainforests, volcanic lakes, waterfalls, wetlands, and national parks that are packed full of native flora and fauna and provide the perfect backdrop to any activity. Here are some of the main attractions in the area.

Paronella Park

These pretty heritage gardens sprawl out over 13 acres of rainforest beside Mena Creek Falls. Founded back in the 1930s by Jose Paronella, they are filled with flowers and ruins.

Gallo Dairy LandTarzali Lakes Aquaculture Centre

The Tarzali Lakes Aquaculture Centre is the best fishing park in the Atherton Tablelands. Here, you’re almost guaranteed a catch if you fancy throwing your own line in. Alternatively, you can sit and watch others fishing.

Gallo Dairyland

This family-run dairy farm sits on the lush banks of the Barron River. Dating back to the late 1930s, it provides visitors with an insight into local farming life as well as a delicious taste of the local flavours – expect to tuck into handcrafted chocolates, gourmet cheeses, and mouth-watering yoghurt.

Rainforestation Nature Park

Set on 100 acres of World Heritage rainforest, this park is packed full of Indigenous cultural sites, native Australian wildlife, and stunning scenery for you to explore on foot.

Chinese Temple AthertonHou Wang Miau Chinese Temple

Adding a splash of international culture to the proceedings, the Hou Wang Miau Chinese Temple is the last surviving structure left on what used to be Cedar Camp – Atherton’s Chinatown that was founded back in the 1880s.

Tableland Express

This beautiful and historic steam train ride takes you through the Atherton Tableland’s wetlands, climbing Queensland’s steepest line and exposing you to incredible panoramic views as you chug your way to the old town of Herberton.

Malanda Environmental Park in the Green Season

Malanda Environmental Park1The Malanda Environmental Park can be found along the Malanda-Atherton Road just outside of Queensland. It sits on the verdant sprawl of the Atherton Tableland, protecting a small but mighty tropical rainforest filled to the brim with colourful plant life and animals.


This unusual speck on the landscape is tucked between ancient crater lakes and mesmerising waterfalls, providing the perfect place to discover the tropical scenery of North Queensland.


The Green Season at Malanda Environmental Park
The Green Season begins at the start of January, bringing with it a burst of colourful life into the rainforest. This is when the plants begin fruiting and the animals start breeding, making it a fantastic time to visit the park.


During this time, you can expect to see cassowaries with their chicks, tree kangaroos on the move as they look for the growth from new trees to tuck into, and a whole host of different bird species that flock to the landscape at this time of year.


Malanda Environmental Park3What’s more, the Green Season brings tropical rain with it, bringing the smells and sounds of the rainforest to life. It’s the perfect place to escape the hot summer temperatures of Australia, as the Atherton Tablelands promise a natural air conditioning away from the heat and humidity of the coast.


Things to do in the Malanda Environmental Park


The Malanda Mosaics
Check out the maps of the Malanda Mosaics along a marked trail, spotting intricate artworks as you go and learning more about the culture and history of the region.


The Majestic Theatre
This heritage-listed building is thought to be the oldest remaining operating cinema in the country. It gives you the chance to step back in time to the 20s with its canvas-backed seating and historic charm.


malanda Environmental Park2Malanda Dairy Centre
The dairy industry in the Tablelands is huge, and you can discover more about it at the Malanda Dairy Centre. Here, you can wander through the museum, take a tour of the Malanda Milk Factory, and stop for a treat in the café which serves farm fresh dishes.


Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine
For a more natural experience, head to these two ancient crater lakes. The clear deep waters are surrounded by lush, tropical rainforest, providing a beautiful backdrop for walks and picnics.


Bromfield Swamp
To explore the animal life of Malanda, head to the Bromfield Swamp, where you can see numerous colourful species of birds that call this part of the park home.

Snorkelling Tips for Beginners

snorkeling1Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the best snorkeling and underwater destinations in the world. Thousands of travellers head here every year to dip below the water’s surface and explore the vibrant world that waits for them underneath.


Snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef isn’t just for the pros, though. People with no experience at all can hit the water and get up close and personal with the region’s fascinating marine life, with most snorkeling companies providing all the proper equipment and safety briefings. Basically, anyone who can swim can snorkel – it’s as simple as that – but to ease your mind, here are some top tips for beginners.


snorkelling at green islandGet Comfortable
First thing first, you need to get comfortable in the water. This means splashing about in the shallows and getting used to using the snorkel equipment before you head out into deeper water. It’s just like swimming, but you float on top of the water with your face down, breathing through the snorkel.


If you get water in your mask (which shouldn’t happen often as they are fitted snugly around your face), you simply have to lift it away from your face and drain the water out of it. If water gets into your snorkel, or the breathing tube, blow into it to push the water out the other end.


Fitness and Safety
Although anyone who can swim can snorkel, it’s advised that you have fairly good fitness levels especially if you plan on exploring the deeper waters. Staying afloat can be tiresome, though many tour companies will give you floatation devices to help you out.


The Great Barrier Reef is set in a tropical location, which means temperatures can get seriously high. In order to stay safe in the sunshine, be sure to wear protective, waterproof sun cream and drink plenty of fluids.


snorkelling2When it comes to marine life, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse and vibrant spots in the world, but this also means there are some creatures that are best avoided. Marine stingers – better known as jellyfish – make themselves at home here, two of which are poisonous to humans. They tend to hang around between November and May, but to avoid any pain or discomfort, wear one of the lycra suits the tour companies offer.


Finally, Have Fun!
Snorkelling is an incredible opportunity, especially in this part of the world, and you want to make the most of it. Take a friend, stay safe, and discover fascinating sea creatures and majestic underwater landscapes.

The Sea life of Green Island

green island dugongGreen Island sits about 45 minutes from Cairns across the stunning expanse of the Coral Sea, which forms part of the Great Barrier Reef. The Island boasts a 6,000-year-old coral cay that’s home to hundreds of colourful and fascinating marine species. Here, visitors can snorkel and dive to explore the underwater world, or take a boat trip to see the sights from above water level.

The reefs that surround Green Island provide the perfect habitat for a number of tropical marine life. Seagrass beds are home to a range of species, including young fish that use the long grass to hide from predators, large, ancient sea turtles, and prehistoric-looking dugong that feed on the grass. Here, there are more than 190 different types of hard corals and over 100 types of soft corals, all of which house different species and underwater life.

There are two main habitats that surround Green Island. First of all, there are the seagrass beds which languish in the shallows, and then there is the reef, that begins in the shallows and continues out into the depths of the ocean.

If you’re exploring the underwater world of Green Island, you can expect to see numerous different types of creature.

green island clown fishTropical Fish

A huge selection of colourful fish glide beneath the surface of the Coral Sea in this part of Australia. All of them boast vibrant patterns, including the popular clownfish which can be found in abundance in this part of the ocean.

Ancient Sea Turtles

The ancient sea turtles provide a glimpse into the Great Barrier Reef’s lengthy and rich history. These prehistoric creatures glide effortlessly through the waters, coming back to the Green Island reef to feed and breed.

green island green turtleDugong

Dugongs are strange looking but fascinating creatures. You can find them in the seagrass habitats around Green Island, where they feed off the long reeds and relax in the warm shallows.

Corals

The coral cays make up a huge part of the marine life of Green Island. These ancient backdrops provide most of the food and homes of the many creatures that live in the area. Amongst the hard and soft corals, you’ll find molluscs, small fish, and another mesmerising creatures hiding, feeding, and resting.

Taking a trip to Green Island means immersing yourself in the amazing underwater world that surrounds it. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the cool waters of the Great Barrier Reef or want to learn more about the marine life, this is the perfect place to do it.