Travel Australia: Visit Cairns
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
or 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 . Book a
to get an eagle’s-eye view of the Great Barrier Reef.
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, a laneway café plating up dishes such as chilli eggs and French toast, with cold drip coffee and coconut lattes. is another popular haunt for coffee and tasty vegan treats. Tuck into wholesome salads at 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 and modern Asian fusion from . Mingle with the locals at
(Friday to Sunday), where you can stock up on fresh local produce, including exotic fruits, dairy and seafood, from more than 180 stalls.
Where else can you play castaway on a bare-bones camping adventure on a coral cay with a 3,000 acre ocean lagoon on your doorstep? Here's looking at you #LadyMusgraveIsland! 💦 Located off the coast of the Town of 1770 (@gladstoneregion), this protected pocket of water is like swimming in an ocean aquarium, and its calm waters are perfect for families and swimmers of all abilities to snorkel and explore the colourful reef! 🐢 If you choose to daytrip instead, you can view the reef by glass bottom boat, go diving, snorkelling, take island walks and discover the amazing and pristine reef habitat many marine and land animals call home. 🐠 #thisisqueensland by @melissafindley of @haylsa #southerngreatbarrierreef
Learn about Aboriginal culture
Explore the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture — dating back more than 40,000 years — at the. 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 , an indigenous eco-tourism development that allows visitors to explore the gorge while learning about the local Kuku Yalanji culture and traditions. Travel the
, 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.
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. 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 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
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.
…then experience it from above the canopy
The mountain village of 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 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. The two hour train journey traverses dense rainforest, winding past rugged mountains, tumbling waterfalls and the stunning Barron Gorge.
In Cairns you’ll find plenty of activities to get your heart racing. Find some of the best rapids in Australia on the Tully and Barron rivers or a half day of on the Mulgrave River. Tandem skydives are available for true adrenaline seekers – with aerial views of the Great Barrier Reef an obvious draw – as is bungy jumping at (where you can also ride the Minjin Jungle Swing). Or discover the beauty of Behana Gorge on a that will have you trekking, abseiling, cliff jumping and swimming through crystal-clear tropical waters and under the gorgeous waterfalls. Other activities in the area include quad biking, horseriding and hang-gliding.
Go island hopping
Discover some of the reef’s unspoiled islands from Cairns. Jump on the 45 minute high-speed 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 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 or islands.
How to get there
International flights arrive at Cairns Airport, a 10 to 15 minute drive from the city centre.