Australia Oceania

9 of the best things to do around Cairns

Are you looking for the best things to do in and around Cairns? I have put together a list of all of my favourite things to do in Cairns. I hope you have as much fun as we did.

I want to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands mentioned in this post and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. The Gimuy-walubarra yidi people are the traditional owners of the Cairns and surrounding district. The traditional owners of the coastal country between Cairns and Port Douglas are the Yirrganydji people. The Djabugay people are the traditional owners of Kuranda. Please see my post about the Atherton Tablelands for the list of traditional owners in that area.

Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef

One of the top diving locations in the world is the Great Barrier Reef. Tons of fish can be seen swimming up and down Australia’s east cost of Queensland, where there is also stunning and vibrant coral. While I was in Cairns, I was keep to give diving the Great Barrier Reef a go. Unfortunately I struggled during the beginner dive, so I didn’t get very far. But it was still an amazing experience all the same.

Turtle on the Great Barrier Reef

On our recent trip to the Great Barrier Reef we decided to visit the Sunlovers Pontoon and had such a great day. This one is great for families and kids with a slide, bufffet lunch and all of your equipment provided.

Sky Diving in Cairns

A skydiving in Cairns can be the perfect activity for you if visiting The Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest is not on your itinerary and you’re looking for something that will make your heart race.

This was my third tandem skydive and I did this with Skydive Cairns also known as 1300skydive. The drop zone is located near Innesfail, which is roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes from Cairns. There are a couple of skydiving companies to choose from, I really enjoyed jumping with Skydive Cairns.

@serendipitous_wanderlust I remember when I jumped out of a perfectly good plane. #cairns #cairnsskydive #travel #throwback #travelmemories #travelbucketlist #travellife #traveltiktok #fyp #follow #traveltiktok #skydive #freefall #tandem #tandemskydive ♬ I bet Ava saw this – nataliejanesings

Take a Mini Roadtrips

Cairns is a great base to stay in Tropical North Queensland. From there, you can complete multiple mini road trips.

1. Cairns to Port Douglas (Captain Cook Highway)

The drive from Cairns to Port Douglas is one of the most picturesque in the world, with the Wet Tropics Rainforest on one side and the dazzling coral sea on the other.

Even though the Great Barrier Reef Drive is only short, it winds around plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery, such as Rex Lookout for its perspective over Trinity Inlet and back to Cairns or Ellis Beach for a brief period of pristine beach exploring.

2. Port Douglas to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

Driving through the Daintree Rainforest, the most well-known area of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, for two hours is worth it even if you never leave the luxury of your car.

In spite of this, I highly recommend you hope out of the car and enjoy the fresh are as soon as you reach the Daintree River to enter a 180 million year old wonderland.

3. Cairns to Etty Bay

A road trip from Cairns to the Cassowary Coast takes a little under 90 minutes, but it’s a route that merits a full day of exploration if you have the time. When you have some of Mother Nature’s most beautiful water falls and gorges to look at, you will want to take your time.

Bring your swimmings so you can enjoy the Babinda Boulders’ emerald-green water or Josephine Falls’ slick rockslide. Alternately, if you’re up for a longer trip, stop at Behana Gorge along the route and stroll for 45 minutes to the breathtaking Clamshell Falls.

4. Cairns to Paronella Park

Although they are not far apart, Cairns and Paronella Park seem like completely different places.
When you enter Paronella Park, you immediately enter the wonderland that Jose Paronella envisioned for his wife when he built a castle and five hectares of gardens there in the 1930s. A roaring waterfall and a thick jungle surround the ruins of the castle.

5. Cairns to Yungaburra and Lake Eacham

Get ready for some spectacular driving; the Gillies Range it the best route to drive through a winding 800m elevation.

After your drive through to Gillies Range, you’ll find yourself in Yungaburra, the main point of your trip in the Tablelands, a historic town with a young heart.

From Yungaburra visit the Curtain Fig Free first. This strangler fig has been working hard for 500 years to strangle its host and build an amazing maze of vines resembling a scene from Pochahontas.

From there, visit the volcanic crater lakes Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. The park and the lakes it is connected to were supposedly formed more than 12,000 years ago by a volcanic eruptions. Walk around the 3 km round-trip Lake Eacham circuit track, or take a refreshing swim in the lake. Visit the Lake Barrin teahouse or take a leisurely boat ride on Lake Barrin, then go to the twin Kauris trees, which are thought to be over a thousand years old.

@serendipitous_wanderlust This is one of the most scenic drives I’ve taken in Australia. Captain Cook Highway. Have you done this amazing roadtrip? Where should we go next? #travelmemories #roadtrip #captaincookhighway #northqueensland #cairnstocapetribulation #beach #beachviews #roadtripmemories #Queensland #tropicalnorthqld #qld #greatbarrierreef #traveltiktok #travel #traveling #travelbucketlist #pleasefollow #fyp #traveltok ♬ original sound – 𝐝𝐪

Visit Palm Cove

My wife and I love Palm Cove. It is our go to destination when we visit Cairns.

Palm Cove is stunning. It is the most upscale beach north of Cairns, and it shows, although not in an overly pricey or developed sense. While not feeling like you are in a tourist hotspot like Port Douglas, there is a nice strip with a few restaurants and shops to provide you options.

Visit Port Douglas

The drive between Cairns and Port Douglas is always one of our favourite road trips. Port Douglas makes for a great base for the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

Travel the Kuranda Skyrail

Kuranda Skyrail from Cairns

Gliding above the canopy of the oldest tropical rainforest on the Skyrail Cairns is a really memorable experience. This is one of the greatest ways to explore the extraordinarily diverse and rich rainforest that surrounds Cairns and Kuranda, and in my opinion, it’s an essential ecotour for anyone travelling to Cairns.

Barron Falls near Cairns
Barron Falls

There are two stops along the way. Firstly at Red Peak and secondly at Barron Falls. These falls are 410 feet tall and create the picture-perfect backdrop.

Take the Kuranda Scenic Train

This 125-year-old Railway travels over challenging terrain. The Kuranda Scenic train takes around two hours to travel the 37 kilometre rail route, which provides sweeping views of the countryside. Take in the lush surroundings of the Barron Gorge National Park, Freshwater train station, and numerous cascading falls from your window seat in the traditional bus. The best part by far is the 10-minute stop at Barron Falls!

Experience the Daintree Rainforest

One of the oldest rainforests in the world, the Daintree Rainforest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is thought to be 130 million years old.

The Daintree has a thick canopy and is covered in ferns and greenery. With an area of 1,200 square kilometres, the forest is also Australia’s largest tropical rainforest.

Check out my post on all the amazing things there are to do in the Daintree Rainforest.

Explore the Atherton Tablelands

Check out my detailed post on all the best things to do in the Atherton Tablelands.

1. Mareeba

2. Lake Eacham

3. Lake Barrin Tea House

4. The Crystal Cave, Atherton

5. Curtain Fig Tree National Park

6. Yungaburra Hotel

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  • Reply
    November 30, 2023 at 7:36 am

    What a fun trip! I love the sound of the scuba and the sky-diving – it’s years since I did either of them!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2023 at 11:15 am

    Wow! I can’t wait to visit Cairns especially Daintree Rainforest!

  • Reply
    Travelling Tam
    November 30, 2023 at 5:47 pm

    I love Cairns for it being such a gateway to tropical Queensland. I was based in Port Douglas for a while and loved visiting the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation! You’ve highlighted some cool things to do!

  • Reply
    December 1, 2023 at 11:13 am

    What an exquisite place! I’d love to see the Great Barrier Reef. The Daintree Rainforest too

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