Offering everything from adventurous days on the reef to relaxing evenings at a brewery, Cairns has it all. Here are the top things you should do on your Cairns getaway (all linked activities are non-sponsored).
1. Visit the Great Barrier Reef
This is a MUST when you are in Cairns, even if you’re only there for a day. There are numerous excursions that cater to a variety of interests. You can snorkel, scuba dive, or take a glass-bottom boat to explore one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. My family and I went snorkeling and had the time of our lives. Our tour company offered scuba diving as well as glass-bottom boat rides so everyone had something to do. If you get seasick at all, take a motion sickness pill ahead of time to make sure you enjoy your tour. Pro-tip if you don’t snorkel often, don’t overdo it in the water when you’re swimming. Try to go slow so you don’t start breathing too heavily through your snorkel. You won’t get enough air and you might start to panic as not everyone is used to breathing through their mouth. But if you do a relaxing swim, and maintain steady breathing, you should have no problem.
Here are a few places that offer tours of the Great Barrier Reef:
2. Visit the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world and truly an incredible sight. There are a variety of tour companies that take you up there and offer CBD pickup. You’ll get a scenic drive up the coast and through the gorgeous world heritage listed national park. Most tours include stops at Mossman Gorge, Port Douglas, and Cape Tribulation as well. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the elusive cassowary. If you’re visiting during Australia’s winter, I highly suggest going with a tour that takes you on the Daintree River so you get to see some of Cairn’s iconic crocodiles in their natural habitat.
Companies that offer tours of the Daintree:
3. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
If you’re looking for something more than a simple drive through the rainforest, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is the way to go. This gondola ride will give you the perfect bird’s eye view of the expansive Daintree. Catch the indescribable views as you ascend over Barron Falls and take a guided tour at your first stop, Red Peak. The entrance terminal isn’t too far outside Cairns and you can pay a little extra to be picked up and dropped off from your accommodation.
4. Go Whale Watching
Cairns’ warm waters are the hot migration destination for thousands of whales each year. Between the limited months of July and September, you can witness the iconic Humpback Whales or Dwarf Minke Whales vault from their newfound warm waters just off the Cairns’ coast. If you’re lucky, you may even spot Cairn’s iconic white Humpback whale, Migaloo. While tour boats can’t get too close to these protected species, it truly is a sight to behold. Even with the slim window for peak season, it is definitely something you don’t want to miss.
Whale watching tours:
5. Green Island
With half-day trips or three-night adventures, Green Island is a popular destination just a short ferry ride away from Cairns. Take the Green Island Ferry out for snorkeling, scuba diving, helicopter flights, or to relax on the gorgeous sandy beaches. You’ll get the unique opportunity to both explore the outer barrier reef and get a taste of island life.
6. Fitzroy Island
If you have limited time in Cairns and are looking to experience both the Great Barrier Reef and see the Rainforest, Fitzroy Island is the place to go. It’s only a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns and offers a variety of activities. You can scuba dive, hike, ocean kayak, or jump on an ocean trampoline. This Island offers a one-of-a-kind experience in an unbelievable location.
7. Cairns Aquarium
While nothing is as incredible as witnessing the ocean life of the Great Barrier Reef first-hand, the Cairns Aquarium comes in a close second. They are solely dedicated to the species and ecosystems found in North Queensland. This includes not only life on the Great Barrier Reef, but the Gulf Savannah, Wet Tropics, and Cape York Regions as well. North Queensland is home to some of the world’s most fascinating creatures and you’ll get to see most of them up close and personal at Cairns Aquarium.
8. Cairns Esplanade Lagoon
Looking for something more relaxing, and free? This is the place to be. With crocodiles being a strong presence in Cairns’ waters, this lagoon is a safe, fun alternative. Grab a beach towel, some sunscreen, and a good book and claim your spot at this Cairns’ hotspot.
9. Take a Walk on the Boardwalk
Just off the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is a 2.5km boardwalk with gorgeous seaside views. Best of all– it’s free! With so many exciting, and sometimes expensive, things to do in Cairns, a free stroll down the coast is a great option.
10. Visit a Brewery
If you’ve done it all, or just want a day of relaxation, visiting a brewery is the perfect way to unwind. Check out Hemingway’s Brewery Cairns Wharf for a large beer selection, good food, and a great view. The staff is friendly and helpful if you are unsure of what to get and there’s a $5 happy hour from 5-6. If you’re looking for more tropic flavors, check out Coral Sea Brewery just down the road for unique beers like their tropic lager or tropic IPA. Either way, if you’re drinking delicious beer in a city as great as Cairns, you can’t go wrong.