things to do in cairns

If someone had told me that a single day could encapsulate snorkelling over the Great Barrier Reef and wandering through a lush rainforest, I would have been sceptical. But that’s exactly what Cairns, nestled in Queensland, Australia, offers.

My first morning in this vibrant city started with the gentle hum of the esplanade, where joggers weaved through sun-kissed paths, setting the perfect tone for outdoor activities. The tropical climate was a refreshing embrace as I prepared for an adventure, only a stone’s throw away from the dazzling attractions Cairns is famed for.

From the thriving local markets brimming with indigenous crafts to tranquil botanical gardens, Cairns’ charm lies in its seamless blend of natural and urban experiences. It’s a city where leisurely morning coffees evolve into thrilling reef dives, and quiet market strolls turn into evenings filled with lively cultural performances.

The welcome from the friendly community is as warm as the tropical sunshine, making every traveller feel immediately at home. With such a rich array of places to visit in Cairns, it’s no surprise that this destination is hailed as an unforgettable Australian adventure.

Things to Do in Cairns

1. Great Barrier Reef Adventure

The Great Barrier Reef, an iconic natural wonder, offers a thrilling marine life experience that is unparalleled globally. Situated off the coast of Queensland, Australia, Cairns serves as an ideal launchpad for snorkelling and diving adventures, providing opportunities to explore the majestic underwater world.

Great Barrier Reef tours

Snorkelling and Diving

Delve into the vibrant underwater realm with snorkelling in Cairns, where even novice adventurers can witness the reef’s incredible beauty. More experienced divers can opt for diving in Cairns, exploring deeper parts of the reef and encountering diverse marine life in Australia. Both activities offer unforgettable underwater adventures in Cairns, ensuring a memorable reef experience.

Reef Tours Options

Great Barrier Reef tours abound, ranging from half-day snorkelling trips to multi-day dive excursions. These tours cater to different preferences, from educational indigenous-led tours to adrenaline-pumping dive sessions. For a more relaxed experience, travellers can enjoy the vivid marine life from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat. Choose from various Cairns adventure activities that provide a comprehensive view of this natural marvel.

Marine Life Experience

The reef’s vivid coral structures and diverse aquatic fauna create an indelible impression on those who witness this marine ecosystem’s splendour firsthand. Great Barrier Reef tours immerse visitors into a dynamic environment teeming with life, offering a richly rewarding reef experience. Such excursions present unparalleled opportunities to observe and appreciate the diverse marine life in Australia up close.

Activity Highlights Suitable For
Snorkelling in Cairns Shallow reef exploration, vibrant corals Beginners, families
Diving in Cairns Deep-sea adventures, diverse marine species Experienced divers
Glass-bottom boat tours Relaxed reef viewing, educational insights All ages

2. Exploring Kuranda Village

Kuranda Village, nestled amidst the lush rainforest, is one of the top attractions in Cairns, offering visitors a mix of cultural intrigue and natural beauty. Renowned for its unique access via two iconic routes, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and the Kuranda Scenic Railway, this hinterland gem promises an unforgettable Cairns sightseeing experience.

Kuranda Village

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway provides a breathtaking journey above the canopy of Australia’s Wet Tropics. This world-renowned attraction offers unparalleled panoramic views, allowing travellers to soar over the ancient rainforest and witness the spectacular natural scenery below. Spanning 7.5 km, the Skyrail enhances the connection between Kuranda Village and the Cairns region, making it a must-do for nature enthusiasts.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Kuranda Scenic Railway offers another captivating route to the village. This historical railway journey dates back to the late 19th century and navigates through verdant landscapes, deep gorges, and impressive waterfalls. The train ride provides a nostalgic and picturesque way to reach Kuranda, further enriching the experience of top attractions in Cairns.

Kuranda Markets

Once in Kuranda Village, visitors can explore the vibrant Kuranda markets, a highlight of Cairns sightseeing. Here, you can find an array of bohemian shops selling local crafts, unique souvenirs, and exquisite jewellery. The markets also feature a variety of eateries offering delicious local cuisine, reflecting the village’s diverse cultural heritage. Additionally, attractions like the Rainforestation Nature Park and the Butterfly Sanctuary add to the charm and allure of Kuranda Village, ensuring a fulfilling visit for all.

3. Discover the Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest presents an enchanting experience for those eager to engage with one of the world’s oldest ecosystems. At the heart of this adventure lies the Daintree Discovery Centre and a variety of guided tours, providing in-depth knowledge and exhilarating exploration opportunities.

Daintree Rainforest exploration

Daintree Discovery Centre

The Daintree Discovery Centre offers an immersive introduction to the rainforest. With elevated boardwalks, canopy towers, and engaging interpretive displays, visitors can delve into the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage that defines this lush landscape.

Guided Tours and Bushwalks

For a more intimate experience, consider the guided tours in Daintree. These tours, paired with serene bushwalks in Cairns, offer a chance to explore hidden trails and observe the rainforest’s unique flora and fauna. Knowledgeable guides reveal the ecological and historical significance of the area, making each walk an enriching journey.

Crocodile Spotting

An unmissable highlight of the Daintree Rainforest exploration is the crocodile spotting tours. These river cruises provide a rare glimpse into the world of these ancient reptiles, enhancing the adventure with an element of thrilling wildlife observation. As one of the famous Cairns tourist spots, these tours combine education with excitement, making them a must-do for nature enthusiasts.

Top Attractions in Cairns

Cairns, nestled in the heart of tropical North Queensland, offers a plethora of activities catering to every traveller. For art lovers, the Cairns Art Gallery presents an enlightening excursion into both contemporary and historical works, capturing the essence of the region’s rich and diverse heritage.

Nature enthusiasts will delight in the Cairns Botanic Gardens, a tranquil haven showcasing an impressive range of flora, including some rare species found only in this part of the world. The gardens provide an immersive experience into Cairns outdoor experiences, making it a top attraction for botany aficionados.

When the sun sets, the vibrant Cairns Night Markets come alive, offering a dynamic blend of stalls and food options. This hub of Cairns entertainment attracts visitors with its buzzing atmosphere and diverse array of local crafts and culinary delights.

Food lovers will find solace in the myriad of local cafes and seafood restaurants. These establishments present the finest offerings, from fresh prawns to exotic tropical fruits, satiating every palate with local flavours and cuisine.

Type of Activity Highlight Location
Art and Culture Cairns Art Gallery Cairns City
Nature Exploration Cairns Botanic Gardens Edge Hill
Market Shopping Cairns Night Markets Cairns City
Dining Local Cafes and Seafood Restaurants Cairns City

Whether strolling along the picturesque Cairns Esplanade or engaging in thrilling water sports, Cairns activities cater to both relaxation and adventure. The city stands out as a multifaceted destination, promising an unforgettable journey filled with Cairns outdoor experiences and adventures.

4. Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon

The Cairns Esplanade is a beloved attraction, seamlessly blending leisure and fitness amidst stunning scenic views of the Coral Sea. Stretching over 2.5 kilometres, the Esplanade features parklands, playgrounds, and art installations that make it a vibrant public space.

Visitors can delight in an array of fitness activities while enjoying the area’s natural beauty.

Cairns Esplanade

Walking and Cycling Trails

The walking trails in Cairns wind through lush landscapes, providing excellent opportunities for a leisurely stroll or an energetic hike. The Cairns Esplanade also offers dedicated paths for cycling in Cairns, catering to both casual riders and serious cyclists. These trails are an ideal way to explore the area’s picturesque environments.

Swimming at Cairns Lagoon

The Cairns Lagoon, situated adjacent to the Esplanade, is a man-made saltwater haven that attracts both locals and tourists. This safe, clear swimming area is perfect for cooling off in the tropical climate and offers a relaxing environment for all ages. The lagoon’s design ensures a delightful day of swimming, supported by lifeguards and facilities.

Outdoor Fitness Activities

Aspiring to foster an active lifestyle, the Esplanade is equipped for a variety of fitness activities. From free fitness classes to volleyball courts, the area is a hub for health and wellness. Visitors can participate in yoga sessions, pilates, or join a boot camp along the Cairns Esplanade. For more solitary pursuits, the expansive spaces provide a perfect backdrop for jogging and stretching by the waterfront.

When considering things to see in Cairns, the lively atmosphere of the Cairns Esplanade and the refreshing Cairns Lagoon ensure a perfect blend of activities for every visitor.

5. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Immerse yourself in the rich traditions and heritage of the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, an essential destination for those seeking authentic Cairns cultural experiences. This park offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to delve into the unique customs and stories of the Tjapukai people.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Cultural Performances

Experience spellbinding Indigenous performances in Cairns, brought to life through storytelling, dance, and music. These cultural performances offer an intimate glimpse into the rituals and traditions that have been passed down through generations, captivating audiences with their depth and beauty.

Interactive Activities

Engage in interactive activities in Cairns that provide a hands-on appreciation of Aboriginal culture. Visitors can try their hand at boomerang and spear-throwing, learn the art of playing the didgeridoo, and participate in various cultural workshops. These activities foster a deeper connection and understanding of the Indigenous lifestyle.

Educational Displays

Educational displays in Cairns at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park offer informative insights into the history and cultural significance of the Tjapukai people. Through detailed exhibits, visitors can explore the profound heritage and traditions that form the cornerstone of this vibrant community, making it a compelling educational experience.

Experience Description
Cultural Performances Storytelling, dance, and music that showcase Tjapukai traditions.
Interactive Activities Hands-on workshops and activities such as boomerang and spear-throwing and didgeridoo playing.
Educational Displays Informative exhibits that illustrate the history and cultural significance of the Tjapukai people.

6. Adventure Activities in Cairns

Cairns stands as Queensland’s ultimate destination for thrill-seekers and adventure enthusiasts. Offering a wide array of heart-pounding experiences, this city is perfect for those looking to embrace their adventurous side.


Cairns skydiving is an unparalleled experience, granting you the chance to leap from a plane with the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef as your backdrop. Imagine free-falling from thousands of feet, capturing the entirety of the picturesque landscapes beneath you. This adventure activity in Cairns combines the thrill of the fall with the serene beauty of the coastline, making it a must-try for every adrenaline junkie.

White Water Rafting

For those who thrive on water-based challenges, white water rafting in Cairns offers an exhilarating ride through some of the region’s most rugged terrains. Navigate the fast-flowing rivers and tackle the rapids, all while surrounded by the lush tropical scenery. This adventure activity promises both a refreshing escapade and a rigorous test of your courage.

Bungy Jumping

Bungy jumping in Cairns is a legendary activity with several iconic sites like AJ Hackett providing the backdrop of the verdant rainforest. Offering varying heights and unique jump styles, this experience undoubtedly tests your limits. Cairns adventure tours ensure that safety standards are met, allowing you to fully embrace the thrill of this daring leap.

Engage in these adrenaline-filled Cairns adventure tours to make the most of your stay in this vibrant city. With each activity serving up unique experiences, embracing the challenges and beauty of the natural world around you has never been more exciting.

7. Natural Wonders of the Atherton Tablelands

Nestled in the heart of tropical North Queensland, the Atherton Tablelands present a stunning landscape adorned with cascading waterfalls, serene lakes, and lush rainforest. This area offers both adventure and tranquillity, making it an ideal destination for those looking to explore nature’s finest.

Waterfall Circuit

The Atherton Tablelands’ renowned waterfall circuit Cairns features a trio of magnificent falls: Millaa Millaa, Zillie, and Ellinjaa. These waterfalls are set against the backdrop of verdant rainforest, providing perfect spots for swimming, photography, and nature walks. A visit to these natural wonders truly showcases the scenic beauty that Cairns has to offer.

Pristine Lakes

Among the notable features of the Atherton Tablelands are its pristine lakes in Australia, such as Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. These ancient crater lakes offer ideal settings for swimming, kayaking, and picnicking. With crystal-clear waters surrounded by lush vegetation, they promise a peaceful retreat for nature enthusiasts and families alike.

Food and Wine Trails

For those with a penchant for culinary delights, the Cairns food and wine trails in the Atherton Tablelands are a must-visit. These trails guide visitors through a series of local farms, wineries, and markets, offering a taste of the region’s gourmet produce and wines. Sampling locally-sourced delicacies amid the scenic landscapes adds to the allure of this remarkable destination.

Highlight Description
Waterfall Circuit Experience the beauty of Millaa Millaa, Zillie, and Ellinjaa Falls amidst rainforest surroundings.
Pristine Lakes Enjoy the serene waters of Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham perfect for swimming and picnics.
Food and Wine Trails Indulge in gourmet delights and wines sourced from local farms and markets.


Visiting Cairns is akin to stepping into a world where natural beauty and cultural depth converge harmoniously. This travel guide has endeavoured to encapsulate the myriad of experiences awaiting visitors, from the serenity of the Cairns Botanic Gardens to the exhilarating adventures like bungy jumping over the lush rainforests. Whether you are a thrill-seeker or someone who delights in leisurely explorations, Cairns offers an abundance of activities that cater to every inclination.

Embarking on Cairns tours ushers in a delightful discovery of the city’s vibrant points of interest. The Great Barrier Reef stands as a majestic marine spectacle while the indigenous cultural heritage showcased at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park provides an invaluable glimpse into Australia’s rich history. Exploring Cairns also involves culinary delights at local markets and fine dining establishments, ensuring that every culinary enthusiast finds something to pique their taste buds.

This Cairns travel guide underscores the city’s multifaceted appeal — from adventure-packed activities like white water rafting to tranquil escapades such as strolling through the esplanade. Cairns sightseeing is a journey that promises unforgettable memories, whether you’re marvelling at the marine life or indulging in the peaceful landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands. With its diverse offerings, Cairns confidently stands as a prime destination, inviting you to visit and explore its many splendours.


What are the top things to do in Cairns, Australia?

Cairns offers a myriad of activities, including exploring the Great Barrier Reef, visiting Kuranda Village, discovering the Daintree Rainforest, strolling along the Cairns Esplanade, and enjoying cultural experiences at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.

Which Great Barrier Reef tours should I consider?

Tour options include snorkelling and diving excursions, glass-bottom boat tours, and educational indigenous-led tours. Half-day and multi-day trips are available, catering to different preferences.

How can I experience Kuranda Village?

You can reach Kuranda Village via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Once there, visit the markets, shops, and cultural attractions like the Butterfly Sanctuary.

What activities can I do in the Daintree Rainforest?

Explore the Daintree Discovery Centre, enjoy guided tours and bushwalks, and partake in crocodile spotting on river cruises.

What makes the Cairns Esplanade unique?

The Cairns Esplanade features walking and cycling trails, the man-made Cairns Lagoon for swimming, and various outdoor fitness activities, all set against stunning coastal views.

What can I experience at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park?

Visitors can enjoy cultural performances, participate in interactive activities like boomerang and spear-throwing, and learn from educational displays about Aboriginal culture.

What adventure activities are available in Cairns?

Cairns is known for its adventure activities, including skydiving over the Great Barrier Reef, white water rafting, and bungy jumping at venues like AJ Hackett.

What natural wonders can I see in the Atherton Tablelands?

The Atherton Tablelands boasts the Waterfall Circuit, including Millaa Millaa, Zillie, and Ellinjaa Falls, as well as pristine lakes like Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. Food and wine trails offer gourmet delights amidst scenic landscapes.

What are the best Cairns activities for nature lovers?

Nature lovers should visit the Cairns Botanic Gardens, explore the Daintree Rainforest, and take trips to the Atherton Tablelands for waterfalls and lakes.

Where can I find entertainment in Cairns city?

The Cairns Night Markets, local cafes and seafood restaurants, the Cairns Art Gallery, and various events along the Cairns Esplanade provide ample entertainment options in the city.