Even though Cairns is a smaller Australian city (number 14 on the list by population), the tropical climate and access to an outdoors culture year round make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Many people find the quaint beach vibe of the actual city appealing, but the main draw is the easy access to dozens of unique attractions in the region, most made possible by the nearby Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. Below we’ve listed some of the top things to do in Cairns.
Snorkel or Dive the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a large structure made by living organisms that can actually be seen from space. The reef houses 1,500 species of fish, 6 species of sea turtles, and 5,000 species of mollusc, along with other endemic, endangered or vulnerable life. Taking the trip to snorkel or dive in this colorful underwater world off the coast can be booked daily with several different tour options.
Hike in the Daintree Rainforest
Lush, tropical rainforest fills the area north of Cairns (about 1,000 square miles of land) and is known as the Daintree Rainforest. The Mossman Gorge section is a popular place for tourists to hike or even take a dip in the water and much of the region is protected in the Daintree National Park.
Visit Kuranda and Take the Scenic Route
Kuranda, a rainforest village to the west of Cairns, makes for a perfect day trip for visitors wishing to explore local Aboriginal culture, visit a butterfly farm and just relax in the surrounds of tropical rainforest. The fun part is getting there and back, which can be done from Cairns by taking either the Kuranda Scenic Railway (winding through the hills) or the Cairns Skyrail (high above the treetops).
Skydive or Bungy Jump
Skydiving, because of the natural beauty of Australia, is very popular, especially up around Cairns. One company boasts the highest tandem skydive near Cairns with scenic views of the reef, while others promote skydiving onto the beach down south at Mission Beach. Bungy jumping is possible for the adrenaline seeker that likes to have a safety line attached in Cairns city.
Visit a Crocodile Farm
In the tropical area of Australia’s north, crocodiles leave a slight sense of fear for anyone near a body of water. If you want to see one of these monsters up close, visiting a crocodile farm, like Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, near Cairns is the best and safest option.
Cruise the Daintree River
The Daintree River, a 2 hour drive to the north, is riddled with crocodiles and it is a specialty of the boat drivers to do some crocodile spotting in the mangroves. Cruises usually last about an hour and provide several photo opportunities of local birds and wildlife.
Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Atherton Tablelands
It takes just under 1.5 hours to get to this fertile region to the west of Cairns. It’s a great place to explore if planning to stop at some of the great road-side food attractions for a taste of locally grown nuts and coffee, but it is an even better location to take your first hot air balloon ride.