Top 10 Things To Do In Cairns, Australia

Top 10 Things To Do In Cairns, Australia
| 4 min read

Australia’s city of Cairns is considered to be the gateway to the popular and famous Great Barrier Reef. Situated in the tropical state of Queensland, Cairns was previously a relatively quiet town. Today, however, you’ll find a lively place with an abundance of activities, including snorkeling, sailing, and diving. Rich in aboriginal history and culture, Cairns is a fantastically diverse place and an absolute must for anyone spending time in this area of the country.

Some top things to do in Cairns include:

1. Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kuranda Scenic Railway 05
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user garyt70 used under CC BY 2.0

If you wish to enjoy the scenic and breathtaking views of the rainforest in a different way, hop on Kuranda Scenic Railway and enjoy the glorious beauty that nature has to offer. Onboard services are excellent, and a trip is highly recommended for a completely unique experience when in Cairns. You can choose from varied day-tour packages, and seating is available in different classes to cater to different budget requirements.

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2. Snorkel or dive at the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef
Source: Pixabay

The Great Barrier Reef is among the most awesome natural wonders in the entire world. The world’s biggest coral reef system, it is made up of thousands of reefs and stretches for around 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles). Home to an array of wildlife, creatures that live around the Great Barrier Reef include several species of fish, molluscs, sharks, dolphins, and turtles, to name just a few. Environmental factors are damaging the corals, so visit before they get more destroyed! Volunteering opportunities are available to help with conservation efforts. Enjoy snorkeling, diving, and exploring the amazing natural treasures that this wondrous area reveals.

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3. Trinity Beach, Cairns

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rehali2001 used under CC0

Trinity Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Cairns, loved by both locals and tourists. Easy to get to, it is a mere 15 minutes from the airport. Palm trees provide plenty of shade along the beach, making it a lovely place to chill out. Trinity Beach is an ideally located Northern Beach in Cairns. You can also find some great eateries, even some pasta and pizza in a restaurant on the water! It is always a relaxing thing to stroll down the beach in the evenings.

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4. Daintree Rainforest, Cairns

Daintree National Park
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Diliff used under CC BY-SA 2.5

The tropical Daintree Rainforest is located on the north-eastern coast of Queensland, north of Cairns and Mossman. The oldest surviving rainforest across the globe, it is home to an extensive and diverse array of flora and fauna. The area includes a national park, some areas of State Forest, and also some private land. Feel extremely close to nature, glimpse formidable crocodiles in their natural habitat, and take a guided boat tour for an enhanced experience. The place is a lot quieter than many other beaches in Cairns and preferred by families.

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5. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway-2-Cairns, Queensland, Australia-20050131
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Amayagan used under CC0

The 7.5-kilometer-long (4.7-mile-long) cableway offers scenic views above Barron Gorge National Park in the Wet Tropics of Queensland’s World Heritage Area. Just north of Cairns, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is open every day from 9 am to 5.15 pm. This area is sometimes said to be one of the most botanically fascinating and diverse places on the planet. A return trip on the skyrail costs 75 AUD per person (approximately 57 USD). Various combination packages are available, which could save you money if you’re planning to do several activities around Cairns. One such package includes the Kurunda Railway Pass. Check details on the official website.

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6. Barron Falls

Barron Falls 2 - Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rob and Stephanie... used under CC BY 2.0

Barron Falls is a steep, tiered waterfall on the Barron River. You can see the pretty falls when you are on the Skyrail Cableway and also from the Kurunda Scenic Railway. The falls are located inside Barron Gorge National Park. Impressive and popular, the longest drop is about 260 meters (853 feet)! The Falls are much more inviting and seem adventurous during the wet season, as with any other falls of this kind.

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7. Russell Island

Russell island1 PJM
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zatoichi26 used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Park of the Frankland Islands, Russell Island is located in North Queensland and south-east of Cairns. The Frankland Islands boast lots of marine life, including migratory species as well as permanent residents. The green sea turtle nests on Russell Island and is a favorite sight for visitors. See the mangroves, peer at the lighthouse, go camping, explore the small patches of rainforest, relax on the beaches, and more!

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8. Tjapukai Cultural Park

AUS kuranda 2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bgabel used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A visit to Cairns is incomplete without experiencing the aboriginal culture of Australia. While there are several tours and attractions in Cairns that provide this opportunity, the Tjapukai Cultural Park is the most popular. It is recommended for anyone who would like to learn more about aboriginal life and culture. Varied authentic activities are available.

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9. White water rafting

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Autentico Adventu... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

White water rafting is a popular activity along the Tully and Barron Rivers. Both are equally as challenging and offer pure adrenaline-inducing excitement! Different packages are available, including Extreme Rafting, Tully Rafting, or Barron Rafting. Prices start from 133 AUD (approximately 101.50 USD). There are specific age limits and criteria to be satisfied before you can embark on this adventure, so do check in advance with your chosen operator before you confirm your plans.

Tip from Content Creator

Rafting on Tully River Rafting on Tully River Rafting on Tully River

If you're a thrill-seeker, rafting on the wild rapids of Tully River is an absolute must. From heart-pounding drops to breathtaking scenery, this offers an unforgettable adventure and will leave you speechless. Here's what you should bring for this activity:

- Swimsuit of quick-dry clothes: For the rafting itself, wear a swimsuit or quick-dry clothes, and avoid cotton as it holds moisture. When I embarked on this adventure, I wore a swimsuit with a long-sleeved rash guard. This was perfect because I could get wet, but I also had maximum protection from the sun – my porcelain skin would have never survived!

- Sturdy shoes that can get wet: A sturdy pair of water shoes is a must to protect your feet from rocks. Most tour companies will provide or require lace-up shoes. As I have mentioned before, these will get very wet! I decided to wear my Chacos: they can get wet, are very secure, and have a tough sole to push off rocks and other river debris.

- Sun protection: Don’t forget sunscreen and maybe a hat to shield yourself from the Australian sun. You are on a river with minimal shade after all! If you wear sunglasses or normal glasses, be sure to bring a strap to keep them secure during your adventure.

- Change of clothes: After your adventurous rafting shenanigans, a change of clothes for the end of the day and a towel to dry off are essential. Plus, if you come from a major city such as Cairns, the last thing you want is to sit on a bus in wet, dirty clothes for over two hours!

- Waterproof bag: Lastly, pack a waterproof bag or case to keep your essentials such as phone, wallet, and keys dry. Personally, this is always a gamble. I have never had issues with dry bags but I have had backpacking friends ruin passports and phones this way. If you do choose to take your belongings with you, I would suggest double bagging in waterproof bags just to be safe. For example, when I go paddle boarding, I will put my valuables in a waterproof dive box and then put that box into a dry bag.

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10. Saturday Esplanade Market

Cairns Central
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Fosnez used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

There are shopping malls, shopping centres, and night markets in Cairns, perfect for devoted shopaholics! Indeed, many tourists come to Queensland in part because of the terrific shopping opportunities. Night markets have varied stalls, and usually a food court as well. The markets were started as a way to promote local handmade products. The Saturday Esplanade Market is one of the best places to shop for handmade products and local gifts and souvenirs.

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Sun, sand, and coral

With the best of nature’s treasures in Cairns, what is stopping you from booking your trip and exploring some of the splendid natural wonders of the world? A trip to the Great Barrier Reef especially is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and it is often said to be a trip that has to be done at least once in a lifetime. Add to that the other fabulous attractions and activities in and around Cairns and you are sure to have a vacation to remember!

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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