things to do in cairns cbdDecember 15, 2021
Cairns is known for its abundant marine life, and if you enjoy dolphin and whale watching, you’ve come to the right place.
The pristine white sand beaches, verdant rainforest and crystal blue waters make it a perfect spot for relaxing and enjoying Australian beach life.
Once you’ve enjoyed relaxing in the peace and quiet of places like Green Island and the Tablelands, you might be in the mood for some city fun, and Cairns’ markets are just the place for it.
7. Learn about indigenous culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
Cairns is hugely popular with young backpacking tourists from around the world, and a great nightlife scene has popped up to cater to them; of the various great venues around, Lyquid is considered the best nightclub in town.
From Four Mile Beach, you can take a very scenic walk past the Port Douglas Lighthouse and up to the top of Flagstaff Hill for a stunning view.
It’s very luxe inside, with a gorgeous water swirl-themed entrance, and it’s a great way to meet and mingle with energetic visitors from all over the world.
The Great Barrier Reef forms a breeding sanctuary for cetaceans (whales and dolphins), with 35% of the world’s total living whale and dolphin species calling the Reef home.
Cairns is a thriving tourist hotspot in Tropical North Queensland, hugely popular with tourists from all over the world. The city boasts mild winters, gorgeous beaches, stunning scenery, great nightlife and plenty of fun things to see and do. If you’re visiting Queensland, Cairns is a must!
This award-winning cultural park is operated by the original custodians of the land, and tells their creation myth using a combination of actors and hi-tech holograms.
The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a 7.5km cableway running above the stunning, UNESCO World Heritage-listed verdant rainforest in the Barron Gorge National Park.
10. Green Island.
Various tour companies operate cruise tours, and you’ll find a wide range of species here depending on the time of your visit.
The Cairns Night Markets are open 365 days per year, with the shops opening from 5pm to 11pm and the food court opening from 10am to 11pm.
Rusty’s Market opens at 5am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; this farmer’s market has been a hub of the Cairns foodie scene for generations, and it’s worth getting up early to enjoy the tastiest produce that Tropical North Queensland has to offer.
Various cableway gondolas are available, including glass-bottom gondolas where you can see the rainforest go by underneath your feet.
There are only 23 countries with lava tubes, and the tubes at Undara are believed to be the longest in the world.
11. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Night Markets or Rusty’s Market.
There’s a vast array of souvenirs, delicious food stalls, and the works of local artisans and designers.
It’s a very educational and entertaining experience.
If you prefer to keep dry, there’s still lots of activities to enjoy at the Reef, such as the underwater observatory and the semi-sub, and you can even send a postcard from the only Australia Post postbox on the Reef!
Port Douglas is a seaside town just north of Cairns, with a lovely atmosphere.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
Palm Cove is a charming seaside village, and the home of a beach that’s considered to be Cairns’ best.
Thala Lodge is an award-winning eco-resort and it would actually be a great spot to stay for a night or two with lots of attractions in the area to explore.
Included in the trip are all of the gear and an epic buffet lunch and … A HELICOPTER RIDE! The pontoon experience cost about $350 AUD with Sunlover including the 10-minute scenic helicopter ride over the reef. 10 minutes might seem short but it is more than enough to get a good perspective of how vast and incredible the reef is from the air. This is one of the must-do activities in Cairns!
Check rates and availability: Thala Lodge.
One of the most remarkable things about Tropical North Queensland is that even when you aren’t at the beach you can be on the beach. What I mean by this is that when you sit down along the banks and look up at the epic Josephine Falls you can sit on the sand. These sandy banks are found all throughout the rainforest and add an element of the oasis to the region.
Even after considering all of the epic things to do in Cairns, the Babinda Boulders is right up there for me as one of the highlights of the trip. Surrounded by lush rainforest, the Babinda Boulders is a popular swimming hole for tourists and locals alike. The water was crystal clear and inviting. I swam to the other side of the pool and explored the rainforest, stumbling across a small family of turtles resting on a log.
Jungle Surfing Zipline in Daintree Rainforest.
The second spot we snorkeled at was equally as amazing. I was once again joined by a turtle friend and hung out with him for the entire hour as he went about eating some sea-grass as I let him do his thing while shooting a few photos.
Ocean Safari Tours took me out on what was definitely the highlight of my snorkeling in Queensland. The snorkel trip only uses a Zodiac-style boat, built for speed and transport. From Cape Tribulation, the boat zips you and 20 others out to a small caye/island. We didn’t enter the island as it is a great spot for birds to hang out so better them than us!
If you prefer to watch than read I put together a few highlights from each activity into this video:
I’m a big fan of the Skyrail system. We hopped into a small cabin with a glass bottom floor, which made it easy for us to see the rainforest below. There were multiple stops along the way where we could hop off and enjoy the tree-canopy boardwalks to get a mid-level look at the rainforest. This is a really immersive experience giving you an insight into all levels of the forest with minimal work for those hike aversive adventurers.
While you are up in Cape Tribulation there is an epic little activity great for the whole family. Jungle Surfing as they call it up there is a zip-lining adventure through the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest. A slow-paced adventure which provides a little bit of adrenaline but not too much for those chickens of the group. Full harnesses and safety equipment make this a good introduction to adventure activities for kids and grandparents alike!Ask the crew about where you can eat a sour green ant butt! (They won’t look at you weird I promise!)
You can’t visit Cairns without experiencing the Great Barrier Reef! It’s literally a must when considering the things to do in Cairns! There are many ways to get out and explore the reef but one of the most popular is to take a tour with Sunlover who send you out on ferry out to a huge pontoon that is loaded with all of the gear and activities. The ferry took us about 1.5 hours to reach the pontoon from Cairns. Once we were there we could choose activities such as:
Halfway between Townsville and Cairns is the stunning Mission Beach. Four beach villages are linked together by 14 kilometers of golden sands. This coastline is a sunrise special, facing directly to the east and lined with palm trees need I say more. We woke up early and watched as the sun slowly rose over the ocean and finally breaking through some low cloud cover. Once the sunrise was in full swing, the palm trees shone along the coast.
This short trip with Ocean Safari is a great way to snorkel the reef without the crowds of Cairns. Much more chill much more relaxing. The Ocean Safari half-day tour costs $145, which is far less than in Cairns and doesn’t require the long ferry in and out.
There are plenty of things to do in Cairns or in the surrounding towns like Mission Beach, which is only a short drive away. You can even go on a full-day snorkeling & scuba adventure to the Great Barrier Reef. I’ll link that tour below so you can check it out and it’s one of the most popular day-tours in Cairns, so definitely worth a look.
You can check out the tour below, which includes Josephin Falls and Babinda Boulders, Millaa Millaa falls, the Volcanic Crater of Lake Eacham, Babinda Boulders, Henrietta Creek or Malanda Falls and a Tea Plantation in one day so you can get a great taste of Cairns with one action-packed tour.
White Water Rafting on Tully River.
Book a tour: Daintree day trip from Cairns (Includes Zipline, Wildlife Habitat & Crocodile River Cruise)
The beauty of the overnight stay is it’s just you and a few mates on a pontoon built for 100-200 people. There are no crowds or busy tourists looking for their kids. It’s totally chill and you can really enjoy the reef experience at a much slower pace. I’m so stoked I got the opportunity to be out there with our chill little crew, snorkeling at our leisure at one of the most unique Cairns attractions. It was one of my favorite things to do in Cairns that’s for sure!
This is a place you want to hang out at for at least half a day. Bring down a lunch or a picnic and really explore this gem of a spot. Make sure to beware of the current. It was so strong I had to enter at the top of the pool just to make it across in time and I am a decent swimmer! I sent the drone up just to show you guys how transparent this pool really is! Make sure you walk around the corner to check out Devil’s Pool, which is next on the list below!
Book your tour: Cairns White Water Rafting Tour (Tully River)
Book your tour: Cairns Full-Day Tour (includes Babinda Boulders)
I redeemed myself by spotting the only snake of the trip before eagle eyes Ian had spotted it. He begrudgingly joked if I was trying to take his job. Ian makes this cruise one of the most memorable experiences of the trip for me. He embodies what Australia is all about and genuinely enjoys each trip. His motto was something he repeated often. Smiling from behind his wheel ’30 years and never a bad trip, never a bad trip yet.’ Tickets are $ 60 AUD per person for this beautiful sunset cruise experience with Daintree River Wild Watch.
Luxury in Cairns City – Pacific Hotel Cairns: This 4-star hotel is an amazing spot to base yourself for a few days in Cairns and surprisingly it comes in at under $150 a night, which is a steal!
Cape Tribulation Great Barrier Reef Snorkel.
Cairns is a small town of fewer than 170,000 people in the North of Queensland. Along with the Uluru in the red center of Australia, Cairns has become the quintessential location for visitors looking for that mind-blowing natural Aussie experience. Most tourists use Cairns as a base for their Great Barrier Reef and Daintree adventures. You guys know me by now, I’m adventurous and I find out the epic spots you need to see. These are my top things to do in Cairns, Australia!
Explore the beaches of Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest truly meets the Beach. It is the only place in the world where two world heritage sites meet head to head. The Great Barrier Reef runs right up to the Daintree Rainforest. It’s a truly magical place and also a great place to base yourself for a few days of adventures such as snorkel trips and Jungle Surfing. Cape Tribulation is a must visit region when considering the best things to do in Cairns.
The boat dropped us just off the caye and off we went snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Within seconds I was joined by a turtle and he didn’t leave me for the next 40 epic minutes. The reef looked in great shape and our guides explained to us that yes there had been coral bleaching due to higher water temperatures but the majority of the reef is in good shape and it definitely looked awesome!
The world heritage listed Daintree Rainforest is so big and so beautiful, there are never enough ways to explore this natural gem. Cruising on a stand-up paddleboard through the rainforest on the crystal clear waters has to be high up on the list. The challenging current kept us alert as we navigated our way upstream, inspecting every sandbank and Avatar tree along the route. Cruising through this beautiful scenery was one of the most relaxing things to do in Cairns!
Book your tour: Cairns Full-Day Tour (includes Josephine Falls)
The rainforests of north Queensland are the oldest rainforests in the world and subsequently are on the World Heritage List. This incredibly diverse ecosystem is so large it’s hard to grasp while walking through the forest. The solution? The Rainforest Skyrail.
Once 3 pm rolls around all of the pontoon guests get back on the ferry and head back to Cairns. That is except of course, for those who are sleeping on the pontoon! That’s right you can sleep on the Great Barrier Reef. The stars were off the charts when I woke up at 3 am and looked up to the sky. More stars than black. It pays to be away from those city lights.
Book your Skyrail ticket: Kuranda Skyrail Ticket.