Situated in Northern Queensland, Cairns is an Australian city that boasts incredible natural beauty, plenty of outdoor adventures and more than its fair share of cultural experiences. From its sparkling waters through to its lush areas of rainforest, Cairns is a destination packed with activities for everyone, from the extreme to a relaxing. Whether you’re backpacking or holidaying with the family in tow, 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 Northern Queensland escape!
See the Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is famed for being the home of the Great Barrier Reef, so you’ll find that a great range of snorkelling and diving tours are available to join on most days. Spanning from short introductory dips through to deep-sea diving for more advanced thrill seekers, there’s a variety of experiences to discover. There are also options for non-swimmers, with some tour companies offering underwater observation decks and other opportunities to view the diverse life found beneath the water’s surface without getting wet.
Spend Time at the Cairns Botanic Gardens
The Cairns Botanic Gardens are known for having beautiful exhibitions showcasing a wide range of tropical plants year-round. Relax amongst scenic surroundings and learn about the native and tropical flora of Australia. Divided into five areas, the gardens are made up of 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 contains three linked walking trails along the slopes of Mount Whitfield. The Gardens are open from 7.30am to 5.30pm on every day of the year and entry is free.
Visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Head to Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and experience the authentic cultures and 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 traditional values to visitors in an immersive and fun atmosphere. There are a range of interactive activities to take part in across the park, as well as its signature Night Fire events which take place after dark.
Check Out Some Art Galleries
Cairns is home to an eclectic arts scene that welcomes the works of artists from across the region, Australia and the world. One of the city’s most popular art destinations, Cairns Regional Gallery, which has been open to the public since 1995, now spans across 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 main tourist spots in the city. The Wildlife Dome is a sanctuary to a number of species including reptiles, amphibians, birds, marsupials and tropical fish, offering you the chance to get up close and personal with all manner of furry, feathered and scaled creatures. Within the complex, 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 extreme sport definitely isn’t for the faint hearted, AJ Hackett offer sixteen different kinds of bungy jump to cater to everyone from the first time jumper to the seasoned thrill seeker. If you can’t face the plunge there are also viewing platforms, sun chairs and a licensed bar located on-site.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Immerse yourself in Australia’s World Heritage listed tropical rainforest with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, one of the world’s best rainforest experiences. Glide just metres 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 or self-guided boardwalk tour. The Skyrail experience is a must do attraction that is perfect for sharing with family and friends.
Relax at 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 also home to a lagoon filled with salt water that offers year-long safe swimming. If you’re stopping by on a family trip or with friends, 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 created by Brian Robinson.
Get in Touch with Nature
Head out of the city centre and experience the natural beauty of Cairns firsthand with a bushwalk through its spectacular rainforests. Set out on foot along the Kauri Creek Rainforest Walk and enjoy the sights of Kauri Creek or tackle the Josephine Falls Walking Track. The Josephine Falls Walking Track leads adventurers to Josephine Falls, a tropical waterfall that overlooks Josephine Creek. There are platforms so you can savour the view, as well as an accessible pool that allows you to relax under a waterfall at the top of the falls.
Visit the Markets
Across Cairns, you’ll find a great selection of markets stocking everything from fresh food through to handmade crafts. The Esplanade Market is open 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.