Australia is home to many amazing destinations, but perhaps no other place in the country can match the variety of things to do in Cairns. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventurer, or a family looking for a great vacation, you’ll find plenty of activities and attractions here to satisfy you.
Located on the northern side of Australia, Cairns is most famous for its tropical weather and amazing natural attractions. Some of Australia’s most fascinating sites can be found in this region, whether in the city itself or its surrounding areas. This naturally makes it one of the country’s most popular destinations, consistently drawing local and international tourists alike.
If you’re planning a trip here, it’s always best to plan your itinerary ahead of time. That’s because you’ll find a wide variety things to do in Cairns, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of choices you’ll have. No matter what you choose to do here, however, one thing’s for sure: your stay here will likely be unforgettable.
To help plan your trip, here’s a list of some of the most wonderful and interesting things to do in Cairns:
GREAT BARRIER REEF
As one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef needs no introduction. It’s the largest coral reef in the world and home to an extraordinary variety of marine life. Unsurprisingly, this makes it one of the most famous tourist destinations not just in Australia, but the world as well.
Fortunately for tourists and travellers here, the port in Cairns is one of the best places to embark from to explore this world-famous attraction. You’ll find several Great Barrier Reef tours and services here, ranging from simple day trips to multi-day cruises and adventures in the sea. Popular activities in the Great Barrier Reef include snorkelling, scuba diving, boat tours, aircraft and helicopter tours, and boat cruises.
Due to its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is also the place most people think of first when planning a trip to this magnificent natural wonder. This effectively makes it one of the most visited sites in Australia and a consistent top attraction for both local and international tourists.
One of the most popular landmarks in Cairns, the Esplanade is a wonderful place for taking leisurely walks or relaxing with some light outdoor activities. This iconic attraction is a stretch of foreshore spanning around 2.5 kilometres, with a variety of recreational and leisure facilities strewn throughout the area.
Its main attractions include the Lagoon, the Esplanade Boardwalk, a parklands area, and playgrounds. Families and groups will love its relaxing atmosphere, which provides the perfect setting for a variety of outdoor activities. From biking and running to swimming and picnicking, the Esplanade is one of the best places in Cairns to enjoy some fun under the sun.
DAINTREE DISCOVERY CENTRE
To many visitors and travellers, a trip to Cairns isn’t complete without experiencing the wonders of the world-famous Daintree Rainforest. This world-heritage listed rainforest is truly a sight to behold, featuring an incredible diversity of plant and animal life that any true nature enthusiast will love. The Daintree Rainforest is also recognised as the world’s oldest rainforest, making a trip here truly worthwhile.
If you’d like a one-of-a-kind experience of this amazing rainforest, The Daintree Discovery Centre should definitely be one of your top choices. Our discovery centre is perfect for those who want an intimate experience of the Daintree rainforest, with a collection of facilities and exhibitions that bring you up close with its many wonders.
The Canopy Tower is one of the most popular attractions, standing 23 metres above ground and featuring five viewing platforms for guests of all ages. These platforms offer spectacular views of the surrounding forest, allowing guests to experience the Daintree Rainforest in ways that they may never have done before.
The Aerial Walkway, on the other hand, provides a mid-canopy stroll that brings you across in the midst of trees and the mid-level rainforest.
The Daintree Discovery Centre also offer over 900 metres of rainforest boardwalks, guided tours, and a variety of displays and exhibitions that give a glimpse of what life in the Daintree Rainforest is like.
KURANDA SCENIC RAILWAY
This historic railway brings you across some of the region’s most beautiful natural environments, passing through the Wet Tropics of Queensland and other scenic sights. This train provides a unique experience of the rainforest, immersing you in its enchanting atmosphere as you wind through from one station to the next. See all types of plants and wildlife, and experience the different smells and sounds of the surrounding rainforest.
The Cairns station is conveniently a terminal station for the Kuranda Scenic Railway, allowing visitors to easily book a tour here and hop on this special train. The station itself is located near the CBD area and right beside the Cairns Shopping Centre, so you always have easy access to it whenever you’re in the city.
CAIRNS BOTANIC GARDENS
The Cairns Botanic Gardens is one the most extraordinary plant exhibitions in Australia, showcasing a wide variety of tropical plants found both in the Daintree Rainforest and the surrounding regions.
It features a number of gardens and botanic spaces that provide guests an in-depth look of the region’s amazing plant life. Main attractions include the Flecker Garden, the Gondwanan Heritage Garden, two centenary lakes, and the Mount Whitfield Conservation Park.
Even if you’re not much of a flower or plant enthusiast, you’ll still find plenty to see and appreciate at the Cairns Botanic Gardens. And with no admission fee, a visit here is easily one of the best things to do in Cairns for free.
CAIRNS TROPICAL ZOO
For a comprehensive look of Australia’s most interesting wildlife, head to the award-winning Cairns Tropical Zoo. This zoo has the largest collection of wildlife in Tropical North Queensland, exhibiting an extensive range of reptiles, birds, and mammals throughout its 6 hectares of land. Here, you’ll also be able to see native Australian animals like Koalas, Kangaroos, Wombats, Wallabies, Dingoes, and Echidnas. It’s a truly excellent way to see wild local creatures up close, whether it’s your first time to see them or not.
Aside from its displays, the Cairns Tropical Zoo also provides several wildlife presentations that showcase how fascinating these creatures really are. Daily presentations include flight bird exhibitions, cuddle-a-koala sessions, pelican feedings, and crocodile shows.
Whether you visit the Cairns Tropical Zoo with family, friends, or even just by yourself, you can be sure that there’ll always be something interesting and worthwhile to see here.
CAIRNS NIGHT ZOO
If you’re up for a different zoo experience in Cairns, the Cairns Night Zoo should provide plenty of wonders and thrills. This unique zoo experience combines traditional wildlife experiences with great food and company. More importantly, the Cairns Night Zoo holds these tours at night, providing guests intimate glimpses of nocturnal animals in their natural habitats. It’s the only zoo of its kind in Cairns, making it a must-visit attraction for animal lovers who want an extraordinary experience Australian wildlife.
The Cairns Night Zoo is also popular for its Aussie BBQ sessions, where guests can enjoy steak, sausages, seafood, and other choices served with traditional Aussie hospitality. With its unique wildlife experience, lively BBQ sessions, and even a licensed bar with live entertainment, the Cairns Night Zoo promises an enjoyable night out for families and groups alike.
There are many weekend and night markets in Cairns and nearby Port Douglas, but the most famous of these is the long-running Rusty’s Markets. This weekend market has been around for almost 40 years, starting in 1975 and still going strong today. With its rich history and wide collection of interesting finds, Rusty’s Markets is undoubtedly one of Cairn’s most beloved cultural icons.
Here, you’ll find over 180 stalls that sell all kinds of food and items, spanning everything from different varieties of fruits and vegetables to clothing, jewellery, and accessories. Through the years, however, it’s gained a reputation as a place that does more than just sell items – it’s also become a veritable entertainment and cultural hub in the city.
If you’d like to immerse yourself in the heart of Cairn’s local culture, then there’s hardly a better place to do it than Rusty’s Markets. You’ll find it between Grafton Street and Sheridan Street in the CBD, from Friday to Sunday. The markets open at 5:00 AM each day and close at 6:00 PM (3:00 PM on Sunday).
If you are driving up to Cairns from down south and you have a sweet tooth, make sure you stop in at Charley’s Chocolate Factory at the foot of Mt Edna just outside Mission Beach. Taste some delicious local chocolate and learn all about how chocolate is made by joining one of Charley’s Chocolate tours. A great Aussie farm lunch is also included in the admission price when you take part in a Charley’s Chocolate Tour. The chocolate lover in you will enjoy this sweet chocolate stop.
As you can see, you’ll have several choices for adventures and things to do in Cairns. The Far North Queensland is one of the most captivating regions in the country, and it’s hard not to see why. From nature excursions and amazing wildlife to a variety of cultural and historical experiences, Cairns will enchant you from beginning to end.