Add dates
Things to do in

Cairns

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

Our most recommended things to do in Cairns

Cairns: Self-Guided Kuranda Day Trip, Scenic Rail & Skyrail

1. Cairns: Self-Guided Kuranda Day Trip, Scenic Rail & 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.

Cairns: Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Trib Tour & Cruise

2. Cairns: Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Trib Tour & Cruise

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. Cross the mighty Daintree River and head to the beach for lunch. Experience waterfront dining and enjoy the sand between your toes. After lunch, 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. 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: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

3. From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

Depart from Cairns Marina and visit Fitzroy Island, a national park covered in lush tropical rainforest and boasting granite outcrops, open woodlands, mangroves, coral beaches. Walk to the lighthouse, dine at the restaurant, or relax at the famous Nudey Beach, voted the best beach in Australia. With up to 6 hours of free time, you will be able to explore the island through self-guided rainforest walks. Soak in the magic of the Great Barrier Reef by snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. At Fitzroy Island, you can snorkel the fringing reef only meters from 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, snorkel hire, dive, and activities center - all available on the island at an extra cost.

Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket

4. Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket

Cairns Aquarium is Australia’s newest and most spectacular aquarium. It is the only aquarium in the world to exclusively showcase the stunning aquatic wildlife from tropical North Queensland’s two World Heritage-listed areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest. Experience the spectacular diversity of the region without the need to get wet or even leave the city. Travel through ten amazing North Queensland ecosystems from the world’s most ancient rainforest to the world’s largest coral reef to discover 71 different exhibits showcasing the extremely rare and incredibly unique species of this region. See a panorama of wildlife and marine fish that create an underwater world filled with a kaleidoscope of colour. Enjoy daily talks and presentations by knowledgeable and entertaining educators, marvel at the animal feeding sessions and get a hands-on experience at the marine and reptile touch tanks. Complete your day at Cairns Aquarium with breakfast, lunch or dinner at Aqualuna restaurant.

Cairns: Skyrail Cableway to Kuranda and Rail tickets

5. Cairns: Skyrail Cableway to Kuranda and Rail tickets

Drive to the Skyrail Smithfield Terminal, where a representative will check you in and issue you with the Kuranda Boarding Pass. This includes a detailed itinerary with a time schedule, as well as your Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Cableway tickets. Board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and enjoy an unforgettable journey through the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest, stopping along the way to explore. Once you arrive in Kuranda, you'll have free time to see this unique village. Use the discount vouchers on your Kuranda Boarding Pass, or visit the heritage markets. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can purchase refreshments.  Return to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Admire the views as the train winds its way from Kuranda to Freshwater Station, passing spectacular waterfalls and through Barron Gorge. Disembark at Freshwater Station to board the bus back to your car at the Skyrail terminal.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

6. 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 a free 10-minute 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: Shared Airport Transfer to/from City and Beaches

7. Cairns: Shared Airport Transfer to/from City and Beaches

Arrive at Cairns Airport and be greeted by a friendly uniformed airport concierge or driver. Be guided to your waiting transport, where your driver will check your name and destination. Enjoy a welcome onboard and receive helpful information from your driver. Sit back and relax as you enjoy your journey to your hotel. Expect a journey time of 20 minutes to Cairns CBD and 25 minutes for Palm Cove hotels. For Port Douglas, drive for 1 hour and 15 minutes along the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Drive. At the end of your stay, take a transfer from your hotel to the airport. Feel calm and relaxed in the knowledge that you will arrive on time to meet your departing flight from Cairns International Airport.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

8. 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.

Cairns: Outer Edges of The Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight

9. 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.

Tully River: Guided Rafting Trip with Gear & Lunch or Dinner

10. Tully River: Guided Rafting Trip with Gear & Lunch or Dinner

Prepare for a wild ride on this guided white water rafting tour down the Tully River. Receive all rafting training and equipment needed before venturing into the water and taking on grade 3-4 rapids. End your experience with lunch or dinner. Begin your adventure with pickup or choose to self-drive to the starting point. Once here, meet your river guide and fellow paddlers and get fitted with your life jacket, helmet, and rafting shoes (if you choose to rent a pair).  Once out on the water, spend up to 4 hours white water rafting on grade 3 and 4 rapids. Paddle hard as you carve your way through the spectacular gorge surrounded by pristine rainforest that’s been listed as a World Heritage Site and was home to the 2019 World Rafting Championships. Rest assured that no experience is necessary for this rafting experience. You’ll receive a comprehensive safety briefing and paddling instructions from your guide who will be there to help throughout your experience.  After your time on the water, replenish your energy with a Riverside BBQ burger lunch or dinner at the Feluga Hotel, depending on the time of your trip. Look over photos of the day and choose to purchase some as souvenirs.

Frequently asked questions about Cairns

What top attractions are a must-see in Cairns?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Cairns?

The best day trips and excursions from Cairns are:

Port Douglas

What are the best inexpensive things to do in Cairns?

What are the most popular museums and exhibitions in Cairns?

Other Sightseeing Options in Cairns

Want to discover all there is to do in Cairns? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Cairns

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 7,226 reviews

An amazing day! Would have loved another hour in Kuranda but still great. Take your time on the skyrail and enjoy the breathtaking views and the AR app on your phone. The butterfly garden is for sure worth adding to your trip but we found the Duck Tour to be not worth the time as you just circle around a small lagoon. I definitely recommned upgrading the rail pass to the Gold Class on the train. The rail staff were awesome!

This is a great day out to the wonderful village of Kuranda! The train trip on the way up was wonderful but the trip back on the Skyrail was even better. Plenty of restaurants, shops and markets in Kuranda so take your time and enjoy them.

So amazing!!! Loved every minute. We had a little bad weather but even that didn’t put a damper on the day. Swimming with the fish over coral on the reef and the extra activity of the seawalker was incredible

Our driver Brian met our plane despite it being late arriving. He helped us with our luggage and we had a comfortable, pleasant drive to Palm Cove. I would highly recommend Exemplar.

Exemplar provided an efficient, friendly and on time pickup/transfer service. We will happily use again