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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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.

Cairns Aquarium General Admission Ticket

3. 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.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

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

Hope 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 by the onboard chef. 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: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

5. From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

Climb aboard the modern, air-conditioned, 35-meter catamaran and sail towards the Green Island, a hidden gem in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Take in magnificent views of the ocean throughout your journey. After you arrive, you can go on a 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.

Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Pontoon with Activities

6. Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Pontoon with Activities

Sit back and relax on a catamaran cruise from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef, where you enjoy a raft of water activities from Moore Reef's pontoon. Encounter an outstanding landscape of marine life, enjoy a choice of activities including snorkeling, including a visit to the underwater observatory. Prior to departure from the marina, sip on some complimentary tea and coffee. Depart from Cairns’ Marlin Marina at 9:30 AM and enjoy a cruise out of the harbor. Witness the stunning landscape before the catamaran makes its way out to open seas. Sail in air-conditioned comfort onboard the catamaran to the state-of-the-art activity pontoon at Moore Reef. Moore Reef is a prime location on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, abundant with soft corals and marine life. Learn about the reef and its diverse ecosystems on the outward journey with presentations given by resident marine experts. Upon arrival at the pontoon at 11:30 AM, choose from an array of activities suitable for both swimmers and non-swimmers alike. Make use of the inclusive snorkeling equipment, with wetsuits and lycra also available at an additional charge. Alternatively, watch the daily fish feeding presentations, or take a trip on the glass bottom boat or semi-submersible tour with marine experts providing commentary. Soak up the rays on a spacious sun deck, or make a splash on a theme park-style waterslide. See the reef without getting wet in the underwater observatory, and get up close and personal with marine creatures like sea cucumbers and starfish.

Cairns: Full-Day Glass Bottom Boat or Snorkel Tour

7. Cairns: Full-Day Glass Bottom Boat or Snorkel Tour

Discover the lush rainforest of Green Island on this full-day tour and encounter some of the many marine animals that call the island home. Climb aboard the modern, air-conditioned catamaran "Reef Rocket" to cruise over to this idyllic part of the Great Barrier Reef, and enjoy a full-day reef tour just 45-minutes from Cairns. Snorkel and dive among the reef fish and coral gardens, or stay dry on a spectacular semi-submersible submarine or glass-bottom boat to discover the underwater life in comfort. Alternatively, simply laze on the white sandy beach and soak up the sun.

Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Full-Day Tour with Lunch

8. Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Full-Day Tour with Lunch

Tour the Outer Great Barrier Reef by boat with time to snorkel and explore this world-famous National Park. Complement your experience with a gourmet buffet lunch, glass of wine, and a light snack. Board your high-speed vessel, and visit some of the most beautiful spots in the Outer Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy a seamless experience with knowledgeable staff to ensure a safe and fun-filled tour. Stop at 2 spectacular Outer Great Barrier Reef destinations and snorkel with equipment and lessons provided. Feel free to jump in the water and explore this natural wonder up close. Later, sit down for a delicious barbecue lunch with salad before taking off for the second half of the tour.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

9. 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. This return catamaran transfer gives you 6 hours to explore paradise at your own pace. During your time on the island, you will be able to explore with self-guided rainforest walks to the summit, lighthouse, secret garden, and Nudey Beach or, soak in the magic of the island by snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. With up to 6 hours of free time, you will be able to explore the island through self-guided rainforest walks to the summit, lighthouse, secret garden, and Nudey Beach or, 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. Depart Fitzroy Island at 4:15 PM for the leisurely, relaxing cruise home. By 5:30 PM, arrive back at Cairns Marina. 

Cairns: Skyrail, Kuranda and Rail Tour with Hotel Transfer

10. Cairns: Skyrail, Kuranda and Rail Tour with Hotel Transfer

Explore the Cairns World Heritage Rainforest on this tour with hotel pickup and drop-off in Cairns. Expereince the beauty of the rainforest from above on a ride to the town of Kuranda on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Spend free time in Kuranda before returning on the Kuranda Scenic Rail train. Be picked up from the comfort of your cairns accommodation in the morning. Relax on the drive to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Board Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and glide silently over the rainforest on your journey to Kuranda. Stop at two stations on the cableway where you can go for a walk in the rainforest to spectacular lookouts or visit the CSIRO Interpretive Center. Once you arrive in Kuranda. Have free time to explore the many and varied shops, as well as the Heritage Markets which operate daily. Board the famous Kuranda Scenic Rail train for ride over one of the world's most scenic rail routes. Cruise through hand-hewn tunnels and over bridges spanning stunning gorges. Catch your coach back to your accommodation in Cairns.

Frequently asked questions about Cairns

What top attractions are a must-see in Cairns?

Planning Your Visit

  • What should I wear?

    Owing to its near-equatorial location, Northern Australia is very hot all year round. Make sure to wear cool, cotton clothing, stay hydrated, and definitely layer up on sunscreen and a hat.

  • Are there any health and safety tips I should be aware of?

    Before your trip, consult your doctor about injections you may need to get. If you are walking around in the rainforest, be sure to bring mosquito repellent - ideally purchased locally, as creams from back home may not be suitable for the climate.

  • Do I need insurance for outdoor activities?

    For extreme sports like white water rafting, it's essential. There can also be an age limit, so if you happen to be under 18, do check in advance if you need to have a parent or guardian with you.

Good to know

  • Language
    English
  • Currency
    AUD ($)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (+10:00)
  • Country Code
    61
  • Best time to visit
    August is the best month to visit, when the weather is warm and sunny, with low humidity, and the peak season is ending.

Other Sightseeing Options in Cairns

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What people are saying about Cairns

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 5,916 reviews

Overall this experience was great. The snorkeling was breathtaking and an experience I will cherish for many years to come. The staff were really nice and welcoming making the experience more comfortable. A downside was inside the vessel as the air conditioning was set way too cold and was an unpleasant experience inside.

Fantastic experience, guide very knowledgeable re freshwater fish, to salt water and the reef. Dinner was beautiful, glass of wine, I had barramundi, with a “ spliced potato, broccolini, the flavour of the meal was unforgettable! Loved it.

It was a great trip! Dave was a brilliant guide, full of knowledge. The day is well spaced out and you get to see plenty of activity

It was a wonderful experience that we've wanted to do for years.

Highly recommend, punctual, friendly service with a smile.