October 13, 2020

Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef with colourful fish and coral off of Cairns

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Cairns truly is a tropical paradise of a destination and the number of things to do in Cairns Australia is simply endless.

The city is large enough that you can get everything you need. And yet, tropical rainforests, coral cays, turquoise blue waters, cool swimming holes amidst the ancient Daintree Rainforest and the spectacular marine life of the Great Barrier Reef are on your doorstep, just waiting to be explored. 

I visited Cairns, Queensland many times before committing to the sea change and moving here almost 7 years ago.

I often pinch myself at just how fortunate I’ve been to experience a lot of what the region has to offer. I’ve also met thousands of incredible people visiting the region who have given me feedback on their experience – what they loved, what they didn’t and what they wish they’d done!  

To help you narrow down what to do when visiting Cairns, I’ve decided to collate the top ten things to do in Cairns Australia.  These recommendations are based not only on my own experience, but also the feedback I’ve received from others.

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Top 10 Things to do in Cairns Australia

1. Scenic Flights

Helicopter Flights

Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest from above is a truly unique and memorable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. 

There are a few different ways of experiencing a scenic flight over this remarkable region, ranging from quite affordable to absolutely extravagant. 

Jump on board an air-conditioned helicopter from Cairns for anywhere between 30 minutes, 40 minutes and 60 minutes, and visiting either the Great Barrier Reef, the Rainforest or a combination of the both.

Helicopter view of sand cay at reef off of Cairns
Helicopter scenic flight over sand cay in Great Barrier Reef off of Cairns

If you’re wanting to go the extra mile in terms of scenic flights on the reef, you can even charter a helicopter to take you to private castaway beach or secluded sand cay where you can snorkel in your private slice in heaven and enjoy a picnic with a loved one! 

Fly-Cruise / Cruise-Fly

It’s possible to bundle up a scenic flight with your day at the Great Barrier Reef. 

By flying out to the boats or the pontoons, you can cut your travel time down, and you’ll only need to spend one-way on the boat trip out there (which is typically around 90 minutes). 

You’ll experience roughly 25 minutes of scenic helicopter flight between Cairns City and the Outer Barrier Reef.

Read more about it out here.

The Best Scenic Flight & Outer Barrier Reef Package

If you’re the adventurous type and love a serious bang for your buck, I recommend this package.

It includes not only a 10 minute scenic helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef, but you’ll also get 5 hours of snorkeling over two locations, an Aussie BBQ lunch, and a Scuba Dive (even if you don’t have a licence!.. Providing you have no medical conditions that would prevent you from going)! 

The cruise boat for this tour is one of the newest on the reef in Cairns and is built with luxury in mind. It’s a large catamaran making it stable on the water. This makes a huge difference for those who tend to get motion sickness on the water.

Down Under Evolution Luxury Snorkeling and Dive boat docked at Cairns Harbour
Luxury Snorkel and Dive Boat in Cairns with great helicopter package

Small Plane Scenic Flights

Small plane scenic flights are a lot more affordable than helicopter flights, and yet you still have an incredible view of the Great Barrier Reef and surrounds and you’re guaranteed a window seat! 

insight the light aircraft GSL aviation over the great barrier reef
Enjoying the Great Barrier Reef views from GSL aviation scenic flights

If you’re wanting a glimpse of the incredible Barrier Reef from above, but can’t come at spending the money on helicopter flights, this 40 minute flight over Green Island and Palm Cove is incredibly good value and you’ll see so much! 

If you want to step it up a notch, you can do the 60 minute scenic flight which takes you over Green Island, all the way up to Port Douglas over the reef, and back down along the coastal rainforest. 

I did this version of the flight a few years ago and I can 100% attest for the views you get on this tour and really knowledgeable guides.

Preparing to go on a GSL Aviation flight in Cairns Australia
GSL scenic flights over Great Barrier Reef and Daintree

Hot Air Balloons

Hot Air Ballooning from Cairns is highly popular and rightfully earns its place as one of the best activities to do in Cairns Australia that are going to leave you with lasting memories!

An early 4am(ish) start from Cairns gives you time to get up to the tablelands where you can jump in a hot air balloon and watch a magical sunrise over pastures near Mareeba.

Cairns Hot Air Balloon Flight over Mareeba pastures
View from Cairns Hot Air Balloon Flight over Mareeba Pastures

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to gently sail above the fields below as the sun’s rays beam through the clouds.

If your visit to Cairns is to celebrate a memorable occasion – an anniversary, birthday, etc. A hot air balloon flight could just be the perfect experience.

2. Reef Pontoons

One of the most versatile ways of visiting the Great Barrier Reef while in Cairns is to visit one of the reef pontoons that are permanently moored. 

You’ll jump on board of the reef boat from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal and you’ll cruise out to Outer Barrier Reef where the pontoon awaits your arrival. 

Arriving at a Reef Pontoon in Cairns
Pontoon permanently moored at reef off of Cairns for snorkeling, diving and other activites

This trip takes around 90 minutes in total. 

Reef pontoons have so many different activities that you can enjoy throughout the day, regardless if you’re a swimmer or a non-swimmer. 

You can experience some truly incredible things on the reef pontoons, whether it’s a helmet dive Sea Walker, scuba diving, semi submersible vessels, underwater scooters, glass bottom boats, or even your first time snorkeling.

For families with older (teenaged) kids, I recommend checking out this reef pontoon which leaves from Cairns that has a corkscrew slide that shoots you into the Great Barrier Reef below! 

It’s a massive hit with anyone who goes on the tour, especially for families that have kids 7-8yrs and up. My granddad even gave it a go and he’s in his 70s! 

There are also tours to reef pontoons where you can enjoy a couple of hours on either Fitzroy Island or Green Island on the way to the outer reef too. 

3. Tropical Islands Near Cairns

Green Island, Fitzroy Island and Frankland Islands can all be found off the coast of Cairns and are visited frequently by reef boats, each with their own unique experiences.

Green Island

Green Island is the most well-known of the islands off of Cairns. You can visit Green Island as either a full day or a half day, and there are a few different ways to experience it. 

Arriving at Green Island Queensland Australia
Arriving at Green Island Australia on the ferry from Cairns

The most common way to experience Green Island is by catching a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns city. 

Alternatively, you can enjoy a very personal reef experience on a Sailboat which takes you to a private mooring on ‘Pinnacle Reef’ where you can enjoy around 4 ½ hours on the Great Barrier Reef. 

This sailboat only takes a maximum of 25 guests and has 4 staff members who are extremely attentive, with complimentary snorkel tours and awesome food.  After lunch, you’ll take a tender boat to Green Island and enjoy some beach time before heading back to Cairns. 

There are plenty of things to do on Green Island, regardless if you’re a swimmer or a non-swimmer. There’s also a resort on the island if you’re looking for a high end stay in a memorable location.

RELATED POST: Green Island Or Fitzroy Island For Snorkelling?

Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is one of my favourite places in the entire region. 

It’s lesser known than Green Island, but I believe it has better snorkeling, that it has a broader variety of marine life and there’s just so much to do! Fitzroy Island is only a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns and can be done in either a half day or a full day. 

aerial view of Fitzroy Island
Boat heading back to Cairns from Fitzroy Island Queensland Australia

Like Green Island, there is also a tour which allows you to stop off at the island before heading out to the outer reef for the day. 

If one day just isn’t enough for you, why not stay the night?

The resort on the Island is the perfect place to kick back after all the day visitors leave and enjoy unforgettable and romantic sunsets, sip drinks at the swim up bar, and even a movie at their private cinema!

Frankland Islands

Frankland Islands are probably the least known islands off the coast of Cairns, but they are by no way the least beautiful. 

If you’re looking for a truly untouched paradise island experience, Frankland Islands is your perfect choice. 

There’s only one company that charters out to Frankland Islands, and the tour takes a full day. The boat will carry a maximum of 30 passengers, so you can be sure that your trip feels personal and intimate. 

Start your day by boarding the boat, which then meanders its way through the rivers giving you a unique glimpse at the tropical waterways and esterys. 

You’ll emerge from the mouth of the river and cross to Frankland Islands where you’ll spend the day snorkeling in pristine, turquoise waters and exploring rock pools. 

snorkeling at the Frankland Islands
Snorkelling at Frankland Islands Queensland Australia

Lunch, morning and afternoon tea are included and you’ll be invited along on a guided snorkel tour. 

There are a bunch of optional activities that you can do on the island too, including scuba diving, guided island discovery tour and stand up paddleboarding… 

But my favourite activity on Frankland Islands is the sea kayaking because they have those completely clear glass sea kayaks so that you can see straight through into the ocean below you! It is one of the very few places around cairns you can experience a glass kayak. 

4. Dive & Snorkel Boats on The Outer Barrier Reef

Dive and Snorkel Boats are different from the reef pontoons I mentioned earlier because they don’t make their way to a permanently moored location on the reef. 

They don’t have the extra activities that you could do on a reef pontoon, like the Sea Walker helmet dive, underwater scooter, etc. but they focus mostly on getting you the best possible experience when snorkeling or diving. 

Because of this, dive and snorkel boats are more suited to people who are keen to spend the day exploring the captivating reef below by snorkeling and/or scuba diving. 

Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef with colourful fish and coral off of Cairns
Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef off of Cairns

The boats typically have a few different mooring sites on the reef. Depending on the weather, they’re able to choose the absolute best location of the day to give you the best experience. 

There are a number of different dive boats that leave from Cairns, some as a single day trip, others are multi-day dive trips. Some are budget, others focus on luxury. 

Here are my recommendations…

Budget Single Day Dive Tour

If you’re new to scuba diving or you want to keep cost to a minimum, this tour is going to give you the best bang for your buck.  It’s suited to both certified and uncertified (intro) dives, and visits two locations, giving you 6 full hours of an incredible underwater experience. 

The boat is a little bit older, but the staff have always been unbelievably helpful and approachable any time I’ve been out to the reef with them. 

The standard price includes unlimited snorkeling, one dive, glass bottom boat tour, free pickup/drop off from city accommodation, marine biology presentation, breakfast and lunch.

Scuba Diving next to reef site
Scuba Diving at the reef off of Cairns

Mid-Range Dive & Snorkel Boat

This boat is newer and is kitted out for comfort. If you wanting a little more comfort heading out to the Great Barrier Reef, this one is your go-to. 

You’ll also visit two beautiful outer reef sites on the day.  The company has 16 mooring sites on the reef to choose from so they really can be selective in getting you the best outcome. 

As with the budget option, you’ll be provided with morning and afternoon tea, as well as lunch, but breakfast and accommodation transfers are not included. The standard price does not include a scuba dive, just snorkeling equipment and a guided snorkel tour included. 

snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns
Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns Australia

If you want to scuba dive (either as a certified scuba diver, or even an intro dive for your first ever scuba experience), you’ll need to book a dive with the staff on the boat.

Luxury Snorkel & Dive Boat

This boat was built with luxury in mind. The large catamaran reduces the movement of the water. The boat is part of the Quicksilver group, and has access to many sites on the reef.

During the day, you’ll visit 3 different sites, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore different types of coral and marine life throughout the day.

Learn To Dive Course in Cairns

Did you know you can actually do your scuba diving open water certification in Cairns? If you’re mad-keen on having an extensive scuba experience while visiting the region, check out this 5 day learn-to-dive course! 

The first 2 days are classroom and purpose-built heated pool based at the dive training centre in the city. 

But… day 3 to 5 are all systems go! You’ll enjoy 3 days and 2 nights on a premium liveaboard dive boat where you’ll visit exclusive spots on the Outer Barrier Reef that day tourists do not get to visit! 

Preparing to go for a scuba dive
Preparing to dive off the liveaboard boat in Cairns

You’ll complete four more training dives on the beautiful Outer Barrier Reef locations, and then have five additional dives for you to enjoy recreationally while solidifying your new skills and building more confidence. 

But, what most people pin as the most memorable experience of their trip, is being able to go for a night dive!

Live-Aboard Diving Trip In Cairns

There are also a number of other liveaboard boats where you can enjoy up to a week on the Great Barrier Reef to snorkel and dive some incredibly exclusive and memorable locations. 

If this is of interest to you, make sure you check out this company, they have some incredible packages available.

Hot Tip: Outer Reef & Island On The Same Day

The Great Barrier Reef is a bucket list destination you simply don’t want to miss! Imagine gliding over colorful coral alongside a large green sea turtle.

Duck dive into the tempid waters and watch as a school of tropical fish cruising past you!

Feel the thrill of a black tip reef shark cruising over the reef…

For a lot of people, choosing between visiting the Outer Great Barrier Reef and a day at one of Cairns jaw-dropping islands. This often stems from not having enough time in Cairns to dedicate an entire day to both, or the cost of going to both starts to get too high, especially if travelling as a family. 

This tour takes care of having to decide between the outer reef and and island because it actually takes you to both on the same day! 

The boat will leave from the Reef Fleet Terminal in the morning and take the short 45 minute cruise to Green Island where you get to enjoy 2 magical hours exploring the island, snorkeling in the crystal clear waters while keeping an eye out for Green Sea Turtles.

Snorkeling equipment is included. 

You’ll then jump back on the boat where they cruise for around 45 minutes more.  You’ll pull up on a pontoon that has been permanently moored at the reef.  

The pontoon has so many different activities you can enjoy, regardless of your age, or even if you’re a non-swimmer. 

It has a shaded cover so you can escape the sun at any point during the day.  

You have free reign to explore the Great Barrier Reef surrounding the pontoon.  

Alternatively,  you can jump on the semi-submersible vessel, glass bottom boat, or make your way to the underwater observatory where you can get up close and personal with some bright, tropical fish without even touching the water! 

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can scuba dive, jump on a scenic helicopter, or even take an underwater scooter for a spin! 

Lunch, tea and coffee are all included in your day out. 

For those wanting the absolute most out of their day on the reef, this tour has everything! 

5. Rainforest

The rainforest around Cairns (including the Daintree Rainforest), has rich Aborigial Cultural significance, and is such a calming and relaxing experience. 

The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world, and is home to thousands of species, many of which are either rare or endangered. 

You simply cannot come to Cairns and not experience the utter beauty of the rainforest.

Lush Green Cairns Rainforest with small clear creek and narrow walking track
Rainforest walk and stream in Cairns, Australia

Recommended Self-Drive Option

If you have your own car and want to explore the region, I recommend making your way up to Mossman Gorge (approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from Cairns). 

This National Park is well established in helping you experience the beautiful tropical Daintree Rainforest, with a network of walking tracks, suspension bridges and swimming holes for you to explore. 

Information sign boards are scattered throughout the park for you to learn about the flora, fauna and history of the rainforest.

Cultural Day Trip

For a cultural swing to your rainforest visit, you can enjoy this full day tour which picks you up from Cairns or Port Douglas, and takes you for a two hour coastal and cultural walk with a local Aboriginal man. 

You’ll learn and experience traditional fishing and gathering techniques while collecting food along your way. 

display of aboriginal culture in cairns
Aboriginal shelter, and cultural hunting and gathering equipment on display

Learn about hunting, traditions and dreamtime stories from the region, before enjoying some rustic damper alongside whatever you’ve managed to catch during your coastal walk.

You’ll then be taken to Mossman Gorge Centre where you’ll be greeted by Aboriginal people who have a specialised cultural knowledge of the region, and you’ll enjoy a delicious lunch which features many local flavors of the region. 

Your guide will then take you for a walk through the Mossman Gorge along boardwalks, tracks and bridges and you’ll learn about the rich display of flora and fauna while taking in the magnificent views of crystal clear river systems, waterfalls and mountain ranges.

Adventurous Day Trip

Imagine flying between trees as if you’re George of the Jungle! If this makes you smile, now is your time to shine! 

Take in spectacular views from a different perspective, as you zipline between platforms suspended high into the rainforest canopy. 

This tour is actually suitable for anyone aged between 3 and 103 and is an experience you’re never going to forget! 

If you love the feeling of adrenaline pumping through your body, then don’t go past Jungle Surfing in the Daintree!

Cape Tribulation, Daintree and Mossman Gorge Day Trip

Cape Tribulation is on the bucket list for a lot of people visiting the region… and for good reason… It’s BEAUTIFUL and usually secluded.

Cape Tribulation Beach north of Cairns Queensland
Cape Tribulation Beach Queensland Australia

If you’re wanting to visit Mossman Gorge, the Daintree and Cape Tribulation all in one day, it can be done, but it’s going to be a long day.

There are a few different companies that will take you on this itinerary, but I like to recommend this one, because they maintain small group sizes, meaning you spend less time for people that are slow to get back on the bus, and more time enjoying the sights. 

You can read more about the tour here.

Regardless of which tour operator you decide to travel with, all tours will leave Cairns at around 6.30am-7am, and return around 6.30pm… So expect to sleep well that night. 

If you’re after a more budget version of this tour, I recommend this one.

6. Wildlife and Attractions

Tropical North Queensland has an abundance of wildlife to enjoy, and there are plenty of different ways to experience it.

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure park has to be one of my favourite wildlife parks in the region. It’s so well run, and there’s just so much to see. 

It’s located 45 minutes north of Cairns (20 minutes south of Port Douglas). 

If you have your own car you can enjoy the day as a self-drive option.

Alternatively, if you don’t have your own car you can book transfers to pick you up and drop you off back to your accommodation.

Because of its location, phone signal at the park is very limited and taxis can be far between.

So, if you decide not to take a transfer, make sure you have a solid plan for how to get home. 

What To See And Do At Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Hartley’s has so many different things to check out, including a boat cruise through croc-infested waters, a croc show where you’ll learn about crocodiles and watch a death roll! 

You can even join a tour of the crocodile farm, hold a baby croc, feed a big one yourself, or enjoy a crocodile ceasar salad… no joke… you can do that!

Hartley’s is more than just crocodiles though. They have a big range of other animals at the park.

Get up close and personal with a range of wildlife including kangaroos, koalas, snakes, cassowaries, monkeys and more! 

If you want the most out of your time at Hartley’s Crocodile, join in on the Zootastic 5 one hour tour.  Tour group sizes are limited to just six people so you really do get an intimate experience while

  • Feeding the koalas (and get a cuddling photo)
  • Wombat Feeding
  • Feeding Cassowaries 
  • Holding a snake or a lizard
  • Feeding native birds (eating out of your hand!)

The Zootastic 5 tour must be booked in advance – they cannot be booked on the day and is only suitable for children aged 10 years or older.

These tour options are available for either the morning or the afternoon.

Kuranda Wildlife Parks

There are a few different parks in Kuranda that you can visit where you can get an up close experience with the wildlife.

Koala Gardens

Koala Gardens is located in the heart of Kuranda.

You’ll get the opportunity to get up close to resident koalas.

Cuddling a Koala at Koala Gardens in Kuranda, Cairns Australia
Cuddling a Koala at Koala Gardens in Kuranda

You’ll also see a number of other wildlife in the park including lizards, monitors, snakes, wombats, crocodiles, kangaroos, wallabies and more!

Birdworld Kuranda

Birdworld at Kuranda is home to over 75 species of birds, and is a lively aviary where you can hand-feed many different varieties of Australian birds.

You’l also find birds from exotic locations like the Amazon!

It is officially Australia’s largest collection of flying birds, clocking up over 400!

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is home to over 2000 tropical butterflies and is officially Australia’s largest butterfly exhibit.

You can go behind the scenes and explore the breeding program, and the fascinating lifecycle from caterpillar, all the way through to butterfly. 

Butterflies and Caterpillars from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda
Butterflies and Caterpillars at Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Cairns

If you’re wanting to visit the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, I recommend wearing brightly coloured clothing. 

The butterflies are attracted to bright colours. You’ll have more hanging around (and most likely) landing on you! It’s an incredibly magical experience!

Save Money On Entry

If you are wanting to visit both Koala Gardens and Birdworld, you can get a combo rate which is cheaper.

If you’re wanting to visit all three parks (Koala Gardens, Birdworld and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary), then this combo is the best price.

Kuranda Wildlife Koala Butterfly and Bird
Kuranda Wildlife Combo Package – Koala Gardens, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Birdworld

Rainforestation Nature Park

Rainforest Nature Park is located just outside of the Kuranda township. It’s a truly unique combination of experience, including a wildlife park where you can see cassowaries, koalas, crocodiles and more. 

You can also take part in an Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience, or jump on board an amphibious World War II Army Duck and tour through the rainforest and waterways. 

Rainforestation Army Duck and wildlife in Rainforestation nature park Kuranda Kuranda Queensland
Rainforestation Park in Kuranda Cairns Australia

If you have your own car, you can self-drive to Rainforestation Nature Park.

If you don’t have your own transport, you can either get transfers from your accommodation in Cairns.

Alternatively you can package it up with the Kuranda Heritage Rail and Skyrail experience.

7. Visit Local Markets

Cairns and the surrounding region is well known for its markets.

There are many different markets running on different days of the week or month.

If you’re here over the weekend, I highly recommend you check out Rusty’s Markets for some fresh, local produce.

It’s the perfect place to grab some lunch, pick up a souvenir and find some quirky tropical fruits or vegetables you’ve never tried before!

If you love markets, you’re going to have a field day at one (or a few) of the many markets that run in and around Cairns.

8. Adventure

Cairns is an adventure capital!. There are so many activities you can do here that will get the blood pumping.  I’m only going to touch on my absolute favourites in this blog post because I could be here for days if you let me!

White Water Rafting

Cairns has a few different white water rafting tracks for different levels. Beginners or first timers who are a bit nervous can experience white water rafting on the Barron River in just a half day.

This gives you the ability to fill the rest of your day with other activities and things to do in Cairns Australia. I’ve seen people in their 70s join in on this tour, even people who can’t swim! 

The instructors are incredible, and it’s truly a memorable experience! 

White Water Rafting Barron River in Cairns Half Day tour
Barron River White Water Rafting in Cairns

For those looking for a bigger day on the water, you can also raft the ‘Russel River’. This is a full day tour from Cairns, and you’ll get up to 4 grade rapids. Keep in mind that the availability of this tour is seasonal due to needing enough rainfall… So it’s a great option if you’re looking for things to do in Cairns when it’s raining.

Quad Biking

There are a few quad biking tours in Cairns, but this one is my favourite. It’s incredible fun in the wet weather, providing you don’t mind getting muddy! 

Riding ATV Quad Bikes on a Tour in Cairns Australia
ATV Quad Biking Tour in Cairns Australia

The other company that does the quad biking tours is a little more reserved, so if you’re nervous, aren’t keen on getting quite so muddy, then this is a better option for you.

Sky Diving

There are a couple of different options for skydiving in Cairns. You can skydive over the outskirts of Cairns and get incredible views over the reef and rainforest, with options of either 10,000ft or 14,000ft.

Alternatively, you can choose to enjoy a beach landing at Mission Beach where you can choose heights of 7500ft or 15000ft.

Just be aware that Mission Beach is located about an hour and a half from Cairns, so consider the transit time when planning your activities.


If you’ve never been canyoning before, but love the adrenaline, I highly recommend this tour. Try your hand at abseiling, ziplining, rock scrambling, and rock jumping! 

You’ll experience the rainforest in a truly unique way and you’ll be telling your friends stories for years to come! 

The walk to the start of the canyoning is quite steep.  When you reach the top, it’s all systems go! 

Abseilling and Zip Lining during Cairns Canyoning Tour
Canyoning Tour in Cairns Australia

I went on this tour having never done any of these skills before.  I found it challenging but and absolute thrill! 

You can choose either Crystal Cascades (this is the one I did), Spillway Canyon or Behana Gorge for your canyoning adventure.

Babinda Creek Kayaking

Babinda Creek Kayaking is a gentle day, but such an incredible experience! 

Make your own way to the reception at the top of the Babinda creek, before being given your kayak for the day. If you prefer, you can choose a stand up paddleboard instead. 

There are no crocodiles in this part of the river system, so you can confidently meander down the creek without concern at your own pace. 

Enjoy the shallow, crystal clear water, stopping on the river banks for a snack, or simply to take in the magnificent views. 

This tour is suitable to take kids from 2 years old and they absolutely love the adventure! 

It’s also pet friendly, allowing you to bring man’s best friend with you! 

When you reach the bottom of the creek, you’ll can give the company a call, and they’ll promptly come to pick you up and bring you back to your car. 

This is one of my favourite tours in the region and I highly recommend it to fill a half day with a gentle, and picturesque experience!

9. Cairns Night Time Activities

Cairns has a very relaxed and hustling night life. You can forget having to wear laced shoes and collars, even the casino will let you in with flip flops and boardshorts. 

But if you’re looking for something to do as a family, or even just something a little more low key, I have a couple of recommendations for you.

Aboriginal Cultural Dinner and Performance

This indoor/outdoor dining experience is held in a state-of-the art, purpose built building. 

During the day Tjapukai runs Aboriginal cultural tours, but by night it transforms into a truly unique dining experience. 

As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by delicious, high end canapes, and have the opportunity to have ocre painted onto your face if you choose. 

When it’s ready for the performance, you’ll be ushered out to a small, intimate ampitheatre.

Performers will teach you about different tools, weapons, instruments and dances as you’re walked through a dreamtime story. 

aborigital men starting a fire with sticks in Cairns
Cultural show at Tjapukai Aboriginal Park

After the performance there’ll be one more treat for you to enjoy (I won’t spoil it for you) before you make your way back to the restaurant for dinner. 

The food on this tour is second to none. They leverage local ingredients to give you flavours in your restaurant meals that you’d struggle to find anywhere else.

Sunset Dinner Cruise

I’ve been on this dinner cruise a few times since moving to Cairns. It’s the perfect dinner for catching up with friends or family, or for celebrating an occasion. 

The sailboat departs Cairns just before sundown.

Just picture yourself sailing along the coast, sipping your glass of bubbles as you enjoy the views as the sun sets over Cairns City and the mountains behind as you listen to live music. 

view from the Spirit of Cairns Dinner Cruise
Views from the Spirit of Cairns Dinner Cruise

Dinner used to be a buffet style which included seafood options. But, because of covid, it’s now been changed to a set menu. 

I haven’t been on the cruise since the menu change, but the new menu also looks delicious.

10. Visit Kuranda

Kuranda is one of the most popular destinations to visit when staying in Cairns and proudly earns it spot as one of the top ten things to do in Cairns Australia.

It’s famously known for the Historial Railway and Scenic Skyrail tour which gives you two unique perspectives of the rainforest. 

Many people opt to take the train one way to Kuranda and the Skyrail the other way.

kuranda train and skyrail day tour
Kuranda Train and Skyrail from Cairns

If you’re wanting to experience both the train and the skyrail, I recommend taking the train in the morning. 

It’s an older heritage style train and it does not have air-conditioning, so it can get a bit warm in the afternoons. 

There are a few different options for getting to and from Kuranda

Kuranda Markets

Kuranda is full of markets selling almost anything you could think of. 

The entire town has a very laid back, relaxed vibe. 

Make sure you check out the Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets which are located between Therwine & Thoree Streets. It’s just a stone throw from Birdworld and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.

You’ll discover some true gems scattered throughout vibrant and whimsical winding pathways of the original markets in Kuranda. 

Head on over to the Japanese Tea House for a delicious matcha latte, or the Petit Cafe, for delicously light, fluffy crepes. 

It seems that every turn you take leads you to a magical destination.

If you’re keen for a bit of fun, why not try their mini golf course set amongst lush tropical rainforest!?

The Kuranda Markets extend down another couple of streets.

You’ll find everything from fine art, Aboriginal Art, handmade candies, artisan fudges, and more!

Wildlife at Kuranda

Kuranda is not just known for its markets, it’s also known for its wildlife sanctuaries. 

If you fancy cuddling a koala, hand feeding birds or being immersed amongst thousands of butterflies, make sure you check them out.

  • Kuranda Koala Gardens
  • Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
  • Kuranda Bird World

River Boat at Kuranda

As you arrive into Kuranda, either by train or skyrail, you’ll find the entrance to the Kuranda Riverboat.

The boat tour takes you for a gentle cruise along the Barron River, explaining about the surrounding environment and wildlife.

Barron Falls

If you’re travelling to Kuranda by either Train or Skyrail, you’ll have a stop off to see the mighty Barron Falls and have an opportunity for photos. 

During the dry season, the Barron Falls are quite minimal, but during the wet season the falls are absolutely booming.

It truly is a sight to see!

Barron Falls outside Kuranda, Cairns Australia during wet season
Barron Falls During Wet Season in Cairns

If it happens to rain while you’re in Cairns, try to make the effort to get up to see the Barron Falls. 

If you have driven to Kuranda, you’ll be able to drive out to the Barron Falls lookout, where you’ll be able to park and walk the short boardwalk. 

If you do not have transport, it is possible to walk to the Barron Falls Lookout, but allow around an hour each way. 

The Top Ten Things To Do In Cairns Australia

So there you have it, the top ten things to do in Cairns Australia. 

  1. Scenic Flights
  2. Reef Pontoons
  3. Visit the Islands
  4. Dive and Snorkel Boats
  5. Rainforest
  6. Wildlife Attractions
  7. Visit The Markets
  8. Adventure
  9. Night Time Activities
  10. Visit Kuranda

Whether you’re here for relaxing on the beach surrounded by clear turquoise waters, diving with colourful tropical fish and green sea turtles, or exploring the world oldest rainforest, there are endless things to do in Cairns Australia.

If you found this list helpful, remember to save this pin to your Cairns Australia board on Pinterest so you can refer back to it at any point!

Top 10 things to do in Cairns Australia

About the author 

Kate Mannion

Hi, I'm Kate! Mum of 2, and Cairns local for the last 7 years. I love taking photos (although I still have a lot to learn) and taking the drone up to see this beautiful region from a different perspective. I hope to help you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience while visiting the region! 

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