Things to Do in Cairns

Cairns 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 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.

  • 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. It is estimated to be 20 million years old and is listed as the largest living thing in existence, being so large it is visible from space! Here, you can dive, snorkel, or swim amongst the magical underwater world and learn more about this unique, biodiverse area. Even if you aren’t a confident swimmer, the reef offers other activities such as glass bottom boat tours or boom netting. Despite its popularity, it is never very crowded, as the entire reef stretches out 348, 000 square kilometres, offering plenty of space for visitors. The rich region is home of some of the greatest marine wildlife ever known, with thousands of different corals, fish, plants, mammals, and even birds.

  • 2. Green Island

    Green Island

    Off the shore of Cairns, lies the tropical Green Island. This national park is an ancient coral cay and is the only one existing on the Great Barrier reef that has a rainforest on top of it. The island is bursting with incredible wildlife, including 120 different plant species, rainforest animals, and the underwater utopia of coral gardens and colourful fishes. You can fill your day with endless snorkelling, trekking through the ancient rainforest, or just lie in the sand and soak up the sun rays. Being only a credit card’s throw of the mainland, it is perfect for day trip adventure.

  • 3. Atherton Tablelands

    Atherton Tablelands

    An area jam-packed with green mountains, rainforests aplenty, and outstanding waterfalls. This unspoilt land holds amazing attractions such as the famous Millaa Millaa Falls (seen in Peter Andre’s ‘mysterious girl’ music video,) the Cathedral Fig Tree, as well as the Volcanic Crater Lake Barrine. Hike up to the waterfalls, the journey into the caves, swim in the lakes, and marvel at the wildlife, Atherton Tablelands has it all. An unforgettable day full of natural wonders for the whole family.

  • 4. Cairns Esplanade

    Cairns Esplanade

    In the Cairns City, you can get a different view of the water, while cooling down from the sweltering Aussie heat. 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. It is a favourite among the local city dwellers, with the area packed with families, couples, and young folk. Either talk a walk around the boardwalk, sunbake in the soft sands, or soak up the stunning sapphire waters of the lagoon.

  • 5. 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.

  • 6. Flecker Botanic Gardens

    For a natural encounter with Cairns, 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.

    Flecker Botanic Gardens

  • 7. Rusty’s Marketbotanic garden

    Cairns 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. With the area sure to melt away all your troubles as you wander through the greenery.

  • 8. 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. The Daintree is one of the oldest rainforests still existing, so look out for the ancient plants and rare animals that are found no where else in the entire world.

  • 9. Fish Charters

    Spend the day out on the sea, but instead of diving down below, stay afloat and fish the deep ocean to catch your dinner for the night. There’s no need in bringing anything but your day pack, as the boats provide all the fishing equipment for you. Just sit back and relax as you wait for that line to tug.

  • 10. Port Douglas

    The resort town of the north, Port Douglas is located right along the coast and is only a short drive from Cairns. Wander down the local shopping strip to snag yourself a souvenir or visit the seaside markets on a Sunday morning. Visit one of the many spas scattered within the area and have your troubles melt away. Or if you are in a lazy mood, just enjoy a beach day. Pack your bathers and sunscreen and head down, grabbing an ice-cream from the local shop on your way.

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.

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