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

On this 7-hour excursion, visit Kuranda village in 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. Rising from sea level to 328 meters, pass waterfalls into the Barron Gorge. 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.

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Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Trib Tour with Cruise & Lunch

2. Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Trib Tour with Cruise & Lunch

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.

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From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

3. From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

Fitzroy Island was once part of mainland Australia, before being separated by rising waters. Over time a fringing coral reef surrounded the island, providing a sheltered home to a variety of fish and coral species. Explore this marine wonderland on a day tour from Cairns, crossing by ferry to enjoy wilderness hiking trails and snorkeling adventures. 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.

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From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

4. 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. 

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Cairns: Full-Day Glass Bottom Boat Snorkel Tour

5. Cairns: Full-Day Glass Bottom Boat Snorkel Tour

Discover the lush rainforest of Green Island on this full-day snorkel 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.

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From Cairns: Green Island Eco Adventure

6. From Cairns: Green Island Eco Adventure

Boasting a lush rainforest that is home to over 120 native plant species and colorful bird life, Green Island is surrounded by coral gardens and abundant marine life. The tropical island, just 45 minutes from Cairns offers the unique opportunity for a combined reef and rainforest tour. And with the choice of 3 daily departures, the Green Island eco adventure is perfect for a half or full-day experience with up to 7 hours on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef island. Your cruise includes the choice of an informative glass bottom boat coral viewing tour, or use of snorkeling equipment to snorkel directly off the sandy white beaches. Whether you’re up for adventurous activities or island relaxation, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You can explore the island’s lush rainforest with a leisurely self guided walk, see the reef from the glass bottom boat coral viewing tour, snorkel from the beach, or take a refreshing dip in the island swimming pool. With an abundance of optional activities, you can scuba dive, take an offshore snorkel excursion, walk underwater with Seawalker helmet diving, kayak, or even take to the sky in a scenic helicopter flight. There's even the Marineland Melanesia crocodile habitat on the island! The island’s well appointed day visitor facilities include a pool bar, dive shop, plus restaurant and food outlets, where a delicious range of lunch, snacks and refreshments can be purchased.

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Kuranda, Skyrail and Scenic Rail Experience

7. Kuranda, Skyrail and Scenic Rail Experience

The itinerary is as follows: Hotel pickups commence from Cairns Beaches at 8:30 AM, 9:45 AM from Palm Cove, and Cairns at 10:00 AM. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Transfer to Caravonica Lakes to board Skyrail Rainforest Cableway  for your journey to Kuranda. Once aboard you will be amazed as you glide silently over the rainforest. There are 2 stations en route where you can alight and enjoy a walk through the rain forest to spectacular lookouts or visit the CSIRO Interpretive Center. Arrive in Kuranda. You have approximately 3 hours free time to explore the many and varied shops, as well as the Heritage Markets which operate daily. 2:00 PM: Kuranda Scenic Rail. Board the famous train for an amazing journey, as you travel one of the world's most scenic rail routes, through hand-hewn tunnels and over bridges spanning spectacular gorges. Please note: if Gold Class requested, Kuranda Scenic Rail will be 3.30 PM not  2.00 PM, and return transfer will depart at 5.00 PM not 3.30 PM. 3:30 PM: Coach departs for Cairns and Cairns Beaches.

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Self-Drive Kuranda Experience: Skyrail and Scenic Rail

8. Self-Drive Kuranda Experience: Skyrail and Scenic Rail

Getting around by car? The Kuranda Self Drive trip is a great option for you. Drive yourself 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 tickets, allowing you to proceed straight to the boarding area.  Board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at 10:45 AM 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 from Kuranda to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, one of the most unique rail journeys in Australia. Choose either the Standard service that retuns at 2 PM, or the Gold Class service with comfortable lounge seats, a dedicated host, and refreshments included, retuning at 3:30 PM. Admire the views as the train winds its way from Kuranda to Freshwater Station, passing spectacular waterfalls and through the beautiful Barron Gorge. Disembark at Freshwater Station to board the shuttle bus back to your car at the Skyrail terminal.

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From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

9. 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.

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Kuranda: 1-Hour Rainforest ATV Tour

10. Kuranda: 1-Hour Rainforest ATV Tour

Explore a secluded estate atop the majestic Barron Falls on a personalized ATV tour with a friendly local tour guide. The estate, owned by a local family since 1969, is surrounded by a UNESCO World Heritage Rainforest and is home to the elusive cassowary and other Australian wildlife. You’ll feel secure and prepared after receiving a training session at the beginning of the tour. Confidently ride through the rainforest and take in the atmosphere of this vibrant flora. Follow the ancient timber logger tracks and discover unique trees. As you venture through the forest, your tour guide will share amazing facts and stories from the history of the pioneers. Get your blood pumping as you ride through the water of a permanent creek crossing. Bite into a piece of fresh fruit straight from the tree. The property houses a gorgeous orchard of 600+ trees. If you're lucky, you may be able to spot a cassowary. This blue-headed flightless bird is related to ostriches and emus and makes its home in these rain forests. Although it’s incredibly rare to see these elusive birds in the wild, several cassowaries make their home on the estate, and many visitors have had the chance to lay eyes on this rare and beautiful bird.

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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 5,729 reviews

Fabulous day. Very organised, all the staff were super friendly. Great food and plenty of it. Plenty of time on the reef . We had a magical day. We saw several turtles and a reef shark too! Thank you to ocean freedom. So glad we chose your boat .

Professional staff with a good sense of humour. Lots of fun and laughs while flying high above the cloud topped mountains. Beautiful!

Great travel time to/from the Island & snorkelling straight off the beach is perfect for families with young kids

Have morning coffee before you hop in. It’s a great trip but bring lots of snacks.

The crocodile attack show was amazing. A must go to place when in Cairns.