The 20 Best Things To Do In Cairns
With the Great Barrier Reef on one side, and the World Heritage Rainforest on the other, Cairns and the surrounded areas have an abundance of natural beauty waiting to be explored.
Lush emerald rainforest, tumbling fairy tale waterfalls, adorable wildlife interaction and a vibrant city scene make Cairns
Here’s our ultimate list of the 20 best things to do in Cairns.
1. Atherton Tablelands Waterfall Circuit
If you could imagine a waterfall from a fairy tale, it will undoubtedly be Millaa Millaa. This stunning plunge waterfall is against a dreamy rainforest backdrop and is actually the most photographed waterfall in Australia.
Millaa Millaa Falls is part of a waterfall circuit, which begins near the township of Millaa Millaa. The circuit also includes Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls, both of which are certainly worth a visit in their own right.
2. Kuranda Village
Although it may only be 30 kilometres away from Cairns, Kuranda Village is a whole world away.
This “village in the rainforest” is home to quirky markets, adorable wildlife attractions, rainforest walks and more.
We recommend heading to the Original Rainforest Markets, which is pretty much like taking a trip back to the 1970s. Rainbow wall murals, tie dye and colourful locals make this a great place to browse quirky gifts, fashion and more.
After shopping, head to Falafelicious for the best vegan falafel you will ever taste. Then spend the afternoon being mesmerised by 1500 free-flying tropical butterflies in the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
3. Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and there’s a good reason for that; it offers a myriad of Great Barrier Reef adventures, from snorkelling off a stable pontoon, to helicopter rides, to sleeping on the Great Barrier Reef.
We recommend making the best of your time in Cairns and saving some money with a rainforest and Great Barrier Reef package.
4. Daintree Rainforest
Fancy a bit of time travel? Head north to the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest continually surviving rainforest on the planet. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated to be 180 million years old.
Imagine layers upon layers of green rainforest canopy, an abundance of fan palm forests and prehistoric tree ferns. The plant life is not dissimilar to what the dinosaurs would have viewed millions and millions of years ago.
We recommend exploring the Daintree Rainforest on Tropic Wings’s Daintree & Cape Tribulation tours, which combine the best of the area. The tours include a guided, educational rainforest walk and a crocodile spotting cruise on the Daintree River.
5. Cairns Esplanade
You will find many free things to do in Cairns City on the Esplanade, which is undoubtedly the icon of Cairns.
The Esplanade Lagoon is a free swimming pool, complete with a man-made beach, which is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy some safe swimming.
The Esplanade is also home to numerous free fitness classes, including zumba, beach volleyball and yoga.
Browse the Esplanade markets every Saturday from 8am to 4pm, which features work by local craftspeople and artisans.
6. Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome
Ever wanted to zipline over a crocodile? Well, we bet you do now! Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome lets you do this and so much more.
The attraction is the world’s first high ropes course within a wildlife park and is located on the roof of the Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns City.
Animal lovers can get their wildlife fix without even leaving Cairns and can meet an abundance of snakes, cockatoos, bettongs, koalas and more. We recommend sticking around for the 3pm Crocodile Feeding Presentation, in which they feel the 4.5 metre Estaurine Crocodile, Goliath.
Speaking of Goliath, you can zipline over him on the Hi-ZOOM course. The Mid and Hi ZOOM courses consist of high ropes crossings and challenges, up to 12m above ground level.
You can also enjoy some of the best views in Cairns from the Dome Climb, which is a walk around the outside of the Dome roof. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix on the Power Jump, a 13m free-fall jump.
7. Port Douglas
Travel along the scenic Great Barrier Reef Drive to Port Douglas, a laid-back resort town.
Head to Macrossan Street and browse a number of stylish boutiques offering clothing, gifts, home wares and more. Enjoy brunch at one of the chic cafes, before heading to the divine Four Mile Beach.
Rent a bicycle and ride the length of the beach or relax at one of the bars at the marina.
8. Babinda Boulders
Babinda Boulders is an array of azure pools and sculptural rock formations set in the lush rainforest.
The larger pools with no currents are perfect for cooling off from the tropical heat.
Babinda Boulders is also home to the Devil’s Pools (photographed above), which have torrents that make them too dangerous for swimming.
Although they may be beautiful, the Devil’s Pools are home to an eerie Indigenous legend about love and death.
Enjoy a visit to Babinda Boulders as part of Wooroonooran Safaris rainforest and nature tour.
9. Fitzroy Island
Located just twenty nine kilometres off Cairns City, Fitzroy Island is a picture-perfect haven dotted with coral beaches, tumbling boulders and beautiful rainforest.
The island is even home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, Nudey Beach. Don’t worry, this gem may be Nudey by name, but it certainly isn’t nudey by nature!
Take a day trip from Cairns and enjoy an abundance of relaxing activities in Welcome Bay, including stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkelling.
Visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on a guided tour and learn more about how we can help these stunning creatures.
If you are feeling in more of a chilled mood, hit up Foxy’s Bar for some cheeky cocktails and a spot of lunch, than walk the short rainforest trail to Nudey Beach for the ultimate relaxed weekend.
10. Eat and Drink your way around the city
Forget Melbourne, Cairns really steps up to the mark when it comes to dining! From fresh seafood on the back of a docked boat, to funky Asian fusions, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste buds.
If you’re in the mood for something fancy, head to the Pier and the Wharf, where a number of fine dining options await you. Enjoy modern Australian delicacies at Ochre, Cairns’ best steak at Waterfront Bar and Grill or a myriad of options to suit all of the family at Dundee’s.
If you fancy a meal at sea, indulge in a Spirit of Cairns Dinner Cruise and enjoy a buffet dinner whilst cruising down the Trinity Inlet. If you’d prefer to stay docked, Prawn Star offers fresh seafood which you can eat on the boat.
Cairns has recently upped it’s bar game and guests can enjoy a tipple or two in a range of stylish bars. The Three Wolves is a quaint lane-way bar specialising in unique cocktails. If you’re a beer lover, head to Hemingway’s Brewery on the Cairns Wharf. Looking for a view? Head to Rocco, a rooftop bar situated on the top of Riley by Crystalbrook, which offers sweeping views of the city skyline.
11. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
The rainforest is inevitably one of the best things to do in Cairns and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is one of the most special ways to do it!
Board a gondola and journey over the ancient rainforest canopy between Cairns and Kuranda. Soar over an abundance of lush rainforest trees, the mighty Barron Falls and enjoy stunning views of Cairns city.
Hop off to explore the rainforest at ground level at Barron Falls and Red Peaks stations. You can even learn more about the flora on a ranger guided tour.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is included on many of Tropic Wings Kuranda Day Tours.
12. Mission Beach
Located an hour and 40 mins south of Cairns, Mission Beach is a day trip that isn’t too be missed!
This easy breezy seaside down has a wide, sandy beach and a range of adorable shops and restaurants.
Beach hop along the many beaches, including the deserted Lover’s Beach, which can only be accessed via an 8km walking track. Head to the jetty and spot Green Sea Turtles as they surface for air.
We recommend dedicating a few days to Mission Beach and heading over to the nearby Dunk Island for a real Castaway adventure.
13. Paronella Park
Paronella Park has to be one of the dreamiest spots around Cairns.
This Spanish castle was built in early 1930s by Jose Paronella, a Spanish immigrant. He used the magnificent waterfall to power North Queensland’s first hydro electric generator, so it was able to be lit up at night.
Today, guests can wander through this dreamy castle in the rainforest, which is home to two waterfalls, a giant walkway of trees, a series of winding paths and bridges, and, of course, the magnificent castle itself.
We recommend going in the late afternoon and doing both the day and night tours, so that you are able to see this attraction in all of its glory.
14. Josephine Falls
Josephine Falls is a stunning triple tiered waterfall that is located in Wooroonooran National Park, south of Cairns.
This rainforest gem can be reached via a short walk through World Heritage Rainforest.
The various levels of the falls can be viewed from viewing platforms and the pool at the bottom of the falls is perfect for swimming in.
You can visit Josephine Falls with Wooroonooran Safaris on their day tour.
15. Rainforestation Nature Park
Flanked by pristine World-Heritage Rainforest, the award-winning Rainforestation Nature Park offers adorable Australian wildlife, authentic Indigenous Culture and rainforest adventures. If the idea of hand-feeding Kangaroos isn’t enough to make you head to this award winning park, how about venturing through the rainforest on an authentic World War Two Army Duck?
Live out your innermost Jumanji dreams and learn about unique rainforest flora and fauna from this unique and rugged vehicle. Make a splash in the lake as this amphibious vehicle transforms into a boat.
Delve into the educational depths of the world’s oldest surviving culture on the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience. Praised for it’s authenticity and integrity, this experience recently took gold at the Queensland Tourism Awards for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Culture. Join a Dreamtime walk and see a demonstration of the mighty spear, then test your skills with another traditional Indigenous hunting tool; the boomerang. See a traditional dance performance surrounded by the sights and sounds of the rainforest and hear how various animals are mimicked through the iconic didgeridoo.
The Koala & Wildlife Park has oodles of iconic Australian animals and is a fantastic way to learn more about Aussie wildlife. Get up close to adorable free-roaming Wallabies and Kangaroos and watch as they eat out of the palm of your hand.
The park is a fantastic way to see endemic and endangered Queensland species that you are unlikely to see in the wild, such as the Southern Cassowary and Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo.
16. Palm Cove
Paradise on this earth truly does exist, and you can find it in Palm Cove.
Lined with gigantic Paperbark trees and breezy palms, this Northern Beaches village is an array of sumptuous food options, little boutiques and bars with dreamy views.
We recommend arriving at Palm Cove in the morning and heading for brunch at one of the many cute cafes. Or, if you really are a morning lark, head to this coastal spot for one of the prettiest sunrises in the area.
Spend your day relaxing on the beach, which is undoubtedly one of the best in the area. The beach is patrolled year round and is equipped with a large stinger net during the Green Season.
If you are looking for something more adventurous, head on on a guided kayak tour to the nearby Double Island and spot marine life such as rays, fish and turtles.
17. Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
There’s something pretty magical about being surrounded by hundreds of free-flying butterflies, and at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, this fairy tale is a reality. The Sanctuary, which is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, is home to 1,500 free-flying tropical butterflies.
Our pick? The vibrant green Cairns Birdwing.
Make sure to join a complimentary guided aviary and laboratory tour to learn more about the butterflies, their life cycle and what goes on behind the scenes in the breeding laboratory.
18. Cape Tribulation
Cairns is home to two World Heritage wonders; the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest. These two iconic landmarks come within metres of each other at Cape Tribulation, which nestled within the Daintree National Park.
With miles upon miles of Palm-fringed beaches and sparkling seas, Cape Tribulation is the perfect place to play castaway.
Although we don’t recommend swimming in the sea, there are a few dreamy swimming holes nearby that are perfect for cooling off in.
Make your experience extra epic by booking Cape Trib Horse Rides and trek through the ancient Daintree Rainforest, along stunning beaches and even into the ocean shallows.
Tropic Wings offer Daintree & Cape Tribulation day tours that include rainforest, beach and wildlife.
19. Nandroya Falls
Cairns and the Far North are home to many waterfalls, but none are quite as breathtaking as Nandroya Falls.
With a luscious, mossy backdrop and a large pool, this waterfall looks straight out of the Jurassic Times.
Nandroya Falls is located on the Palmerston Highway just north of Innisfail and can be reached via a 3km return walk.
20. Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Cairns with wildlife, Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas has you covered!
This unique wildlife park allows guests to interact with animals in spacious, recreated natural environments. Guests can explore five unique habitats: woodlands, rainforest, savannah, nocturnal and wetlands.
The park prides itself on “observation, appreciation, conservation” and is dedicated to managed breeding programs and caring for injured and orphaned wildlife through its on-site Tropical Animal Rehabilitation Centre.
Head to the Savannah Habitat and hand-feed and pet adorable Kangaroos and Wallabies. You may even be able to get up close to a cheeky emu!
The park is home to two resident cassowaries, which is the perfect option if you don’t see a wild one in the Daintree.
We recommend joining the guided wildlife presentations. Our number one pick? The Estaurine Crocodile feeding!