Most visitors wanting to head to the likes of the Daintree, Port Douglas or further north will likely pass through Cairns, a launching pad for discovering Tropical North Queensland. This city shouldn’t just be one that you use as a pitstop however, as it boasts incredible natural beauty, outdoor adventures and its fair share of cultural experiences. Cairns is a destination with something for everyone, whether its strolls along its gorgeous beaches, or adventures into the lush rainforest of the surrounding tropical rainforest. Whether you’re holidaying with the family and friends, staying for a day or enjoying an extended stay, you’ll find no shortage of great things to see and do across Cairns.
Check out our picks of the top 10 things to do in Cairns and start planning your own Tropical North Queensland escape!
See the Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is famed for being one of the gateways to the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, and a great range of snorkelling and diving tours are available to join no matter the time of year. These excursions span leisurely paddles along the sea surface, through to deep-sea diving for more experienced aquatics. There are also options for non-swimmers, with some tour companies offering underwater observation decks and glass-bottomed boats.
Spend time at the Cairns Botanic Gardens
The Cairns Botanic Gardens is known for its collections that house a wide range of tropical plants. Explore the diverse line-up as you stroll around the grounds and learn about some of Australia’s most native and tropical flora. The gardens are divided into five areas: the Flecker Gardens, Gondwana Heritage Garden, Watkins Munro Martin Conservatory, Freshwater and Saltwater Lakes, and the Zhanjiang Friendship Gardens. The gardens are also home to Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, which has three linked walking trails that navigate the slopes of Mount Whitfield. The Gardens are open from 7.30am to 5.30pm every day of the year and entry is free.
Visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Head to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and experience traditions of the Indigenous people of Australia, one of the oldest cultures in the world. Founded in 1987 by international theatre artists, Tjapukai aims to work alongside the local Djabugay people to showcase their culture to visitors.There are a range of interactive activities to take part in across the park, as well as its signature Night Fire events that take place after dark.
Check out art galleries
Cairns is home to an eclectic arts scene and is peppered with galleries that show the works of artists from across the region, Australia and the world. One of the city’s most popular art destinations is Cairns Regional Gallery, which has been open to the public since 1995. It now spans three floors of gallery space and exhibits a mix of Australian and international art. The gallery also aims to create conversations about the history and cultures of Far North Queensland. If contemporary art is more your thing, try KickArts Contemporary Art Gallery, which offers edgy visual arts from Queensland and overseas, and hosts regular events and workshops.
Enjoy a wildlife adventure
Located on top of the Reef Hotel Casino, Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome is one of the most popular things for tourists to do. The Wildlife Dome is a sanctuary for reptiles, amphibians, birds, marsupials and tropical fish, and offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with all manner of furry, feathered and scaled creatures. You’ll also find exciting adventure-style courses such as climbing wall, tunnels, cargo nets and swings. There are different levels of intensity suited to everyone, from beginners to the well-versed in adventure.
Go bungy jumping
Adrenaline junkies look no further! AJ Hackett Cairns’ bungy tower, the first purpose-built bungy jumping structure of its kind, is certainly well-worth adding to your Cairns must-do list. Although this leap of faith definitely isn’t for the faint hearted, AJ Hackett offer 16 different kinds of bungy jump that cater to anyone keen on testing their nerve. If you can’t face the plunge, there are also viewing platforms, sun chairs and a licensed bar located on-site.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Get a bird’s-eye look at Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed tropical rainforest with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, one of the world’s best rainforest experiences. Glide above the ancient rainforest canopy before descending to the rainforest stations at Red Peak and Barron Falls, where you can learn about one of the most botanically fascinating and diverse areas on earth from a ranger. Self-guided boardwalk tours are also available. The Skyrail experience is a must-do attraction that is perfect for a day out with friends or family.
Relax along the waterfront
Spend a day on the water’s edge with a visit to the popular Cairns Esplanade. As well as providing great views of the sea and sand, the Esplanade is home to a saltwater lagoon where visitors can safely swim year-round. There are playground facilities available and ample space for picnics and barbecues. Be sure to keep an eye out for the art installations that pepper the waterfront, including The Woven Fish by Brian Robinson.
Get in touch with nature
Head out of the city centre and experience more of the area around Cairns with a bushwalk through its spectacular surrounding rainforests. Set out on foot along the Kauri Creek Rainforest Walk and enjoy the sights of Kauri Creek. Another option is the Josephine Falls Walking Track, which leads adventurers to Josephine Falls, a tropical waterfall that overlooks Josephine Creek. There are platforms for you soak in those gorgeous views, plus you can cool off from the Queensland heat or humidity by wading into the pool located at the top of the falls.
Visit the markets
You’ll find a great selection of markets across Cairns, which promise everything from fresh food to handmade crafts. The Esplanade Market is happens every Saturday and is fantastic for souvenir shopping, with a consistently good range of quality local products on offer. Palm Cove Markets is also a good place to head for a stroll on a lazy Sunday. The market opens on the first Sunday of every month, with a focus on handmade products, such as jewellery, leather and pottery, vintage clothes, plants and food.
Excited to experience Cairns for yourself? Find great hotels across the city and start booking your trip to Tropical North Queensland with Webjet.