Top Tourist Destinations in Cairns

Great Barrier Reef, QLD © David Miller, Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree

See the Great Barrier Reef

No trip to Cairns is complete without visiting the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system. It's made up of 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays. Book a day cruise with operators such as Passions of Paradise or Quicksilver Cruises to snorkel and dive among vivid coral gardens and colourful fish. Options are available to suit a range of budgets. For a longer stay, you can book a three-day liveaboard dive and snorkelling cruise with ProDive Cairns. Book a scenic flight to get an eagle's-eye view of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Raw Prawn, Cairns, QLD © Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Get your foodie fix

Cairns has a thriving café scene, with many trendy cafés dotted along Grafton and Spence streets. Start the day with breakfast at Caffiend, a laneway café plating up dishes such as chilli eggs and French toast, with cold drip coffee and coconut lattes. Sing Sing Espresso is another popular haunt for coffee and tasty vegan treats. Tuck into wholesome salads at Silk Caffe and then indulge on its Nutella ice coffee. Take advantage of Cairns’ balmy weather and dine alfresco on The Esplanade, with rustic Greek dishes from Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and modern Asian fusion from The Raw Prawn. Mingle with the locals at Rusty's Markets (Friday to Sunday), where you can stock up on fresh local produce, including exotic fruits, dairy and seafood, from more than 180 stalls.

The Bama Way, Walker Family Tours, Bloomfield Falls, Daintree National Park, QLD. © James Fisher, Tourism Australia

Learn about Aboriginal culture

Explore the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture — dating back more than 40,000 years — at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Just 20 minutes outside Cairns, the centre gives guests the opportunity to experience authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through theatre, guided bush walks and didgeridoo shows. About 90 minutes north of Cairns is the Mossman Gorge Centre, an indigenous eco-tourism development that allows visitors to explore the gorge while learning about the local Kuku Yalanji culture and traditions. Travel the Bama Way, an Aboriginal journey from Cairns to north of Cooktown, and experience Queensland from a traditional perspective, from learning to throw a spear to hunting and gathering bush tucker in the mangroves.

Coopers Creek, Daintree Rainforest, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

Trek through tropical rainforest...

The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is about two hours drive north of Cairns and can be seen on a day trip from the city or over the course of two days, staying overnight in one of its wilderness lodges. The tropical rainforest is home to the most diverse range of plants and animals on earth, including the rare tree-dwelling kangaroo and the endangered cassowary. Start your day at the Daintree Discovery Centre where you can walk along the 125 metre (410 foot) long Aerial Walkway through the mid-level rainforest or take a self-guided rainforest tour. Join a gentle cruise down the Daintree River to spot wildlife in its natural habitat, including saltwater crocodiles. On foot you'll find that rainforest meets reef at Cape Tribulation, where you can easily lose hours walking through tropical lowland forest or along stretches of white sand.

Kuranda Scenic Railway at Stoney Creek Falls Bridge, Barron Gorge National Park, QLD. © Tourism Australia

...then experience it from above the canopy

The mountain village of Kuranda is tucked within the tropical rainforest, and is known for its vibrant arts community. Local markets are open daily, selling a range of jewellery, leather goods and Aboriginal art, while bookshops, galleries and boutiques line the village streets. The journey to and from Kuranda is arguably the highlight. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides above the rainforest canopy then descends deep into its heart. The 90 minute experience allows time at two rainforest stations, Red Peak and Barron Falls, where you can walk among lush palm and giant ferns. On your way back to Cairns, you can travel on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. The two hour train journey traverses dense rainforest, winding past rugged mountains, tumbling waterfalls and the stunning Barron Gorge.

Catamaran off Fitzroy Island, Great Barrier Reef, QLD © Tourism and Events Queensland

Go island hopping

Discover some of the reef's unspoiled islands from Cairns. Jump on the 45 minute high-speed ferry to reach picturesque Fitzroy Island. Here you can explore rainforest walking tracks, snorkel straight off the beach at Welcome Bay and Nudey Beach and see the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef by sea kayak. Book a day tour to Green Island, a coral cay surrounded by sugar-white beaches and sapphire waters, just 30 kilometres (19 miles) off the Cairns shore. Go off the grid at Hinchinbrook Island, Australia's largest national park island, and discover a landscape of mangrove forests, isolated beaches and sheltered bays. For a truly exclusive experience, book accommodation at reef-fringed Bedarra or Lizard islands

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Best Season:All Year Round
Popular Location: Cairns

Explore Cairns

    Green Island Tour

    1 Day

    Explore the Great Barrier Reef and a lush island rain forest on this full-day catamaran tour to Green Island from Cairns. Create your own perfect day on this protected coral cay with a variety of activities including snorkeling, scuba diving,…

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      Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour from Cairns

      8 Hrs

      Enjoy the natural delights of the Great Barrier Reef on an activity cruise from Cairns that gives you several ways to experience this renowned underwater world. After traveling by catamaran to a pontoon moored on the reef, you can observe…

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        Great Barrier Reef Helicopter Tour from Cairns

        8 Hours

        Customize your visit to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns with your selection from three travel options with a choice of snorkeling, scuba diving and a one-way or round-trip scenic helicopter tour. Admire views of the Great Barrier Reef from…

        0
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          Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

          1 Day

          Explore the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef on a full-day tour to Fitzroy Island. After arriving from Cairns on a fast ferry, have free time to do what you choose: snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, lounge on…

          5
          Based on 2 Reviews