Things to Do in Cairns Queensland Australia
This post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you make purchases, at no extra cost to you.
Cairns Activities To Do
Cairns is full of unique and exciting opportunities for adventure seekers. From swimming with sea turtles to walking along ancient volcano trails, you'll find a wealth of activities in this stunning corner of northern Australia.
Cairns is situated in far North Queensland on the east coast of Australia.
- The Cruise
- Things to Do in Cairns
- Cairns Activities
- Activities to Do in Cairns
- Things to Do in Barron Gorge National Park
- Things to Do at the Great Barrier Reef
- Experience Tropical Paradise at Cairn's Beaches!
- Take a Stroll through the Cairns Botanic Gardens
- Visit Cairns Aquarium
- See and Photograph the Boats on Chinaman Creek Cairns
- Cairns in the far North of Queensland
I traveled on a cruise that departed from Brisbane, Queensland which sailed and stopped overnight at Cairns and Airlie Beach.
As we sailed into Cairns, the boats were docked at the Marina. Then, the cruise liner docked at the cruise terminal in Cairns. View the Cairns cruise terminal map ñ
On the other side of the ship is the view of Trinity Forest Reserve. We could view all the boats docked along the shoreline.
Sailing into Cairns on the Cruise
Things to Do in Cairns
Whilst we were docked at the terminal in Cairns, there was low cloud cover. And, Cairns was very hot and humid.
Up in Australia's Wet Tropics, I caught a ride in the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway through the tropical rainforest between Smithfield in Cairns to Kuranda.
I got off partway and walked to the Edge Lookout and saw Barron Falls.
Next, I climbed back on to finish the ride to Kuranda. At Kuranda Village, I bought some lunch at one of the cafes.
I visited the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
Then, I caught the train, Kuranda Scenic Railway, back down again through the rainforest in its vintage wooden carriage.
Activities to Do in Cairns
- See and Photograph the Boats on Chinaman Creek
- Go on a Cruise to Green Island
- Catch a Cruise to Fitzroy Island
- Ride the Skyrail through the Rainforest
- Take the Kuranda Train through the Rainforest
- Visit the Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda
- Go on a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef
- Spot the Bats hanging in the trees on the streets of Cairns
- See Barron Falls from the glass-bottomed boardwalk at the Edge Lookout
- See the Fields of Sugarcane
- Visit the Aquarium
- Visit the Kuranda Heritage Markets
- Hand feed birds at Birdword Kuranda
- Hug a koala at the Koala Encounter at Kuranda Village
- Swim in the warm waters and walk on the white sandy beaches
- Visit Cains Esplanade
- Stroll through Cairns Botanic Gardens
- Go on a walk or hike on a trail in Kuranda
- Unwind at the Lagoon
- Visit the Cairns Art Gallery
- Discover Cairns's history at Cairns Museum
- Catch a cruise on the Barron River
- Go white water rafting on the Barron River or Tully River
- Explore Daintree Rainforest
- Walk in the treetops at Mamu Tropical Skywalk
- Visit the gardens at Paronella Park
- Hike or Walk in the rainforest at Mt Whitford
- See the Volcanic Rock in Barron Gorge National Park
- Walk through the Rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park
- Ride the Skyrail when it's misty rain and walk in the rainforest
- Participate in an Indigenous experience
- See the scenic view of the Coral Sea from the Skyrail and the train
- Snorkel or dive at the Great Barrier Reef
- Visit The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum
**Make sure you learn Wildlife Safety especially due to jellyfish (stingers) and crocodiles when swimming and being in and near water in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland.**
Bats hanging in the Trees of Cairns
Sugarcane Field on the way to Smithfield
Cairns Holiday Activities
Things to Do in Barron Gorge National Park
Barren Gorge National Park
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Connecting Cairns to the tropical northern beaches, Skyrail’s award-winning 7.5 km cableway gives you amazing aerial views of Barron Gorge National Park and the Coral Sea. And, it's entirely Eco-certified and immersed in lush rainforest.
You can hop aboard at one of the two stations, Smithfield or Kuranda. I started my journey at Smithfield. And, lose yourself in nature's beauty as you gently glide high above tropical forests on a 1.5-hour journey to your destination. My destination was Kuranda.
Stop off along the way for scenic walks near historical sites such as Barron Falls and marvel at Red Peak station’s spectacular panorama views from above!
I stopped off and it was a short walk around to see Barron Falls. And, I thought it was amazing to see.
Since I've been there. In 2019, the Edge Lookout has been opened, with a glassed section on a large boardwalk with closer views of Barron Falls and Barron Gorge. That wants me to go back again and experience the ride again when it's misty rain, and the falls are flowing.
And, you'll find there's an app you can download.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Enjoy the Kuranda Scenic Railway, as it takes you deep into the heart of the world’s oldest rainforest, the Wet Tropics. Winding down the Barron Gorge, explore amazing glimpses of spectacular creeks, waterfalls, and gorges along the way!
As you chug down the mountain, enjoy listening to stories from your conductor tell about World War II history in Cairns. And, listen to the tales from centuries ago about Kuranda’s Aboriginal heritage. Snap stunning photos along this memorable train journey through the stunning beauty of Australia’s oldest rainforest!
Tip: Make sure you get a window seat, not one next to the walkway!
Me on the Vintage Train
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Kuranda Village and Kuranda Heritage Market
Kuranda Village is a quaint little town nestled in the picturesque rainforest surrounding Cairns. I took the gondola with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. And, I saw stunning aerial views of the Barron Gorge National Park on the way to this charming village.
Once there, I indulged in the local cuisine. At the Kuranda Heritage Market, I could browse handicrafts and souvenirs.
I visited the colourful butterflies. Nearby was Kuranda Birdworld. And, you can experience a koala encounter at Kuranda Koala Gardens.
In Kuranda, you can explore walking trails. You can pick from the Market Walk, Jungle Walk, Barron Falls Walk, River Walk, and Jumrum Walk.
On the way back to Cairns, I caught the train with the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
The lush landscape of Kuranda in the rainforest makes it a place not to miss when visiting Cairns. And, together with catching the Skyrail and the train to get there and back make it a unique experience.
Indigenous and Aboriginal Experiences in Cairns and Kuranda
The Rainforestation Nature Park is a unique attraction in Cairns that combines adventure, nature, and cultural experiences in one place. Take an army duck tour to explore the rainforest on both land and water while learning about the flora and fauna from knowledgeable guides.
You'll have a Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience. And, you gain insight into ancient Aboriginal culture through traditional dances, didgeridoo performances, spear throwing, and boomerang throwing.
At the Koala and Wildlife Park, you can meet Australia's native animals up close. Get your picture taken with cuddly koalas and see kangaroos and crocodiles at the nature park.
Cairns Extreme Activities
White Water Rafting in the Barron River or the Tully River
If you're an adventure seeker visiting Cairns, be sure to go white water rafting on the Barron River or Tully River. The Barron Gorge National Park has steep ravines in a rough rainforest mountain. And, the Tully River is known for its high-quality rapids and stunning rainforest scenery.
Choose from a range of tours, including half-day, full-day, or multi-day adventures that cater to all skill levels. Most companies will provide you with all the necessary gear and professional guides.
White Water Rafting is something I always wanted to do that I never got to do. It's not really something available where I live, And, now my ability is not up to standard.
You need to read the criteria for eligibility. So if you meet the criteria and it is an experience you want to do, then you want to do things while you can still do them!
Things to Do at the Great Barrier Reef
Can You Go to Great Barrier Reef from Cairns?
Yes, you can take a day cruise to one of the many spectacular sites on the Great Barrier Reef! This unique voyage takes you past some of the beautiful islands and shipwrecks that dot the ocean. You can take part in activities such as snorkeling, sailing, or going wild dolphin-spotting.
Bring your camera to capture the stunning visuals from above on a scenic helicopter ride. And, from underneath with an unforgettable glass bottom boat journey that explores the magical reef life beneath you. When I was in Cairns, I went to Green Island. And I went on a glass-bottomed boat to see the marine life.
I remember when I stayed at Great Keppel Island in 1980, I went on a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. And, I remember the squeaky white sandy beaches and clear warm seawater at GKI. Additionally, I went snorkeling, a sunset cruise, and participated in the boom nets.
Can you imagine, there are something like 800 known shipwrecks and plane wrecks in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park? And, in 1892 The "Zeus" shipwrecked near Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef when it was returning back to Cairns after a picnic.
Which Islands to Visit near Cairns?
Off the coast near Cairns are Green Island and Fitzroy Island. I went to Green Island for half a day.
And, you can go off the coast of Airlie Beach to Daydream Island. I went on a cruise excursion to Daydream Island, and you can see my experience.
From Cairns and from the islands, you can catch a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. And, you can snorkel around the reef to see the coral, fish, and sea creatures.
Fitzroy Island is a destination if you want to connect with nature. And, you can relax amidst a picturesque setting. It boasts crystal-clear turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and lush green rainforests.
You can hike through the lush tropical forest walking trails to explore hidden waterfalls, And, you can snorkel in the clear waters to witness a diverse range of marine life. With its tranquil setting and stunning scenery,
Fitzroy Island is an ideal spot for you to unwind and escape from the hustle-bustle of everyday life. If you want to soak up the sun on a beach or indulge in outdoor activities like kayaking or paddle-boarding, Fitzroy Island has these activities.
Green Island is located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This coral cay is surrounded by crystal-clear waters teeming with exotic marine life. To explore the colourful coral reefs without getting wet, take a glass-bottom boat trip. I took a ride in one of these boats to see the marine life when I visited Green Island.
If you're up for some adventure, snorkelling and scuba diving are great options to witness the beauty of marine life up close.
Besides water activities, Green Island offers other land-based activities such as exploring the island's rainforest on guided walks or simply lazing on the beach enjoying the tropical sunshine. After the glass-bottom boat trip, I explored the island.
Cruise to Fitzroy and Green Islands from Cairns
Experience Tropical Paradise at Cairn's Beaches!
Which Beaches to Visit in Cairns?
- The Esplanade Lagoon
- Nudey Beach Fitzroy Island
- Palm Cove
- Mission Beach
- Trinity Beach
- Ellis Beach
- Kewarra Beach
- Clifton Beach
For information, for instance, about beaches with nets for singers and locations of the beaches in Cairns.
For Beach Reports at the Surf Life Saving North Queensland for instance for when the beaches are open and patrolled.
The Esplanade Lagoon
The Esplanade Lagoon is the town beach. The Lagoon has crystal blue salt water and offers plenty of activities, from swimming and snorkelling to picnicking on the white sand. In the Lagoon, the artwork that you see is The Woven Fish.
And, you can participate in free fitness classes like aqua Zumba, beach volleyball, bouldering, Pilates, exercises, and Zumba. On the Esplanade, you’ll find shared paths, playgrounds, picnic and electric BBQ areas, workout stations, toilets, showers, parking, and buskers.
At sunset, you can go for a stroll along the Esplanade foreshore.
Nudey Beach Fitzroy Island
Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island is a beach with a secluded getaway. The crystal-clear water surrounded by the lush tropical rainforest creates an idyllic paradise for you to visit. You can take a dip in the calm waters, snorkel around the reef, or simply bask in the sun on the soft white sand and coral beach.
Wear sneakers because you need them to get to the beach. And, there are hiking trails that offer stunning views of the island and its natural beauty. Whether you're seeking adventure or relaxation, visit Nudey Beach when in Cairns.
Mission Beach boasts a unique combination of rainforest and reef. It’s located between Cairns and Townsville. You’ll find an unspoiled stretch of coastline that isn't overrun with tourist crowds.
On the beach, you’ll find plenty of shade so you can relax and unwind. Nearby on the coral reefs, you can snorkel or dive if you are feeling adventurous. Mission Beach is a tropical paradise destination in Cairns.
Trinity Beach has a wide stretch of golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and palm trees swaying in the breeze. The beach is ideal for swimming, and water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding.
Grab something to eat or drink at the cafes and restaurants on the esplanade and admire the scenery. Then go for a walk on the Earl Hill Walking Track to glimpse more views of Trinity Bay.
Located 30 minutes north of Cairns, Palm Cove is a picturesque village known for its pristine beach fringed with palm trees.
You’ll find calm waters and white sand. Relax and soak up the tropical vibe. And, you can find places to eat and drink in cafes, restaurants, and bars.
At the beach, you can do activities like paddleboarding, snorkelling, and kayaking. And, you can go whale watching and on turtle tours.
Ellis Beach has over a mile of pristine sandy beach along the Coral Sea. It's located 20 minutes north of Cairns and offers you breathtaking views of the coastline and lush rainforest.
It’s a spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnics with a grassy area equipped with barbecue facilities. And, you can take in the panoramic view of this stunning hidden gem in Cairns.
Kewarra Beach has a serene, secluded, and relaxing destination. Therefore, you’ll find its peaceful and an escape from the hustle and bustle of busy tourist spots. Enjoy the crystal-clear waters and swim, snorkel, or kayak,
You can discover marine wildlife. And, go on the walking tracks in the rainforest up to the lookout points that give you a glimpse of the coast. Plan your travel at low tide for the best experience!
Clifton Beach offers white sand beaches and calm, crystal-clear waters about 20 minutes north of Cairns. You can go swimming and snorkeling. The surrounding palm trees provide plenty of shade to relax in after soaking up the sun.
Additionally, you can play beach volleyball, have a picnic in the picnic areas, and play in the playgrounds. Unwind and soak up the sun with its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful scenery at this beach.
Take a Stroll through the Cairns Botanic Gardens
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Cairns Botanic Gardens is a must-visit attraction. You can explore the lush tropical gardens that are home to a wide variety of plants and wildlife species unique to this region.
The gardens offer different areas to discover. You'll find the Gondwana Heritage Garden featuring prehistoric plant collections. And, you can explore the Rainforest Boardwalk showcasing the beauty of the tropical rainforest, the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden, Bamboo Collection, Fitzalan Gardens, Flecker Garden, Freshwater Lake, Watkins Munro Martin Conservatory, Nature Playground, and Zhanjiang Friendship Garden.
Additionally, there are guided tours available providing you with insights into the history and ecological background of the gardens.
So take a break from city life and enjoy a peaceful stroll through this paradise of local flora and fauna right in the heart of Cairns, for free!
Visit Cairns Aquarium
You'll have the opportunity to see a variety of fish including reef fish, sharks, turtles, and crocodiles up close at the Cairns Aquarium, It offers you a chance to explore the marine wildlife found in the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding areas.
You can walk through the underwater tunnel, mangrove boardwalk, reptiles, coral sea, barrier reef, and freshwater displays.
The aquarium also provides information on conservation efforts to protect these species and their habitats. They have Turtle Rehabilitation Centre Tours. And, provide presentations on river monsters, sharks and rays, Denizens, and a marine touch tank.
Going to the aquarium is an excellent activity for learning about marine life.
And, you can dine in at Dundees.
Where is Cairns Aquarium? Cairns Aquarium is located at 5 Florence Street, Cairns City Queensland. View the Cairns Aquarium map ñ
Get price and general admission ticket click here
See and Photograph the Boats on Chinaman Creek Cairns
Sail into Cairns, Australia, on Chinaman Creek. It's the ideal location for the photography of boats.
As you can see from my pictures below, I found it was an ideal location for me to photograph the boats on Chinaman Creek. Then, I created art photography from my photographs.
1 Boat at the Marina
The boats sit at the marina. In the background stands Mt. Whitfield.
The boats travel up and down the river. They take tourists to Green Island, Fitzroy Island, and the Great Barrier Reef. Guess what is the colour of the water that surrounds Green Island! Yes, it is green.
You can spend the day on the islands viewing the reef and the sandy beaches. And, you can enjoy a day out by the reefs and snorkel.
2 Docked I
The boats are docked at the marina.
3 Docked II
In Docked II, it has alternative colors of the sky.
4 Gliding along the river
The boats travel up and down the river.
5 Floating Boats
You can see the view of the boats with the Trinity Forest Reserve in the background. The view is from the cruise terminal where we docked for two nights
BOAT PHOTOGRAPHY & ARTWORK © JENNIFER EMPEY
Green Island Daytrip from Cairns
This post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you make purchases, at no extra cost to you. See the Marine Life on the Great Barrier Reef on a Day Trip to Green Island from CairnsYou can take a day trip to Green Island from Cairns Queensland. Green...
Daydream Island To Do Activities
Daydream Island What To Do This post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you make purchases, at no extra cost to you. Can You Do a Day Trip to Daydream Island? Yes, you can go for the day. Daydream Island Day Trip You can tour for a day...
Great Keppel Island Resort Holiday
Yes, the sand was white, it really did squeak! Walked barefoot on the white squeaky sand on Great Keppel Island.This post contains affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you make purchases, at no extra cost to you. I Swam in the warm water. Snorkeled on the...
Cairns in the far North of Queensland
What things would you like to do in Cairns? Have you been to the Great Barrier Reef?
See the boats, would you take a boat or fly from Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef?
You can go to Green Island for a day trip.
From Airlie Beach which is lower down the coast of Northern Queensland than Cairns, you can visit Daydream Island.
Are you an adventurous type? Which activities are you interested in Cairns?
You are a gifted soul Jennifer. Beautiful work! Absolutely loved them. Following you to stay in touch.
Thank you Manisha
Beautiful photography! I’d love to visit Australia someday!
Thank you Cindy. Hope you do.
This is so beautiful!
Thank you Beatriz
Gorgeous work!! My favorite is the floating boats!
Thank you LIsa. Thanks, I appreciate knowing which is your fav
These are beautiful!! Great job.
Thank you TM
Really cool photos! Sounds awesome!
Thank you Michele
Australia is on my bucket list… now I REALLY want to go. Your pictures are gorgeous. I liked how the boats in the Docked photos seem to have a Pearl quality about them. Great Job!
Thank you Susan. Hope you get here one day
Amazing pictures! I love the Docked ones. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Shirley, I appreciate knowing which one you love.
These are gorgeous! For a minute I thought the last ones were paintings, you have some great editing skills there- thanks for sharing!
Thank you Robin. You’re welcome.
Wow, gorgeous pictures! I am a big fan of the one with the red sky and yellow boat.
Thank you Tara. Thanks, I appreciate knowing which one you like.
What beautiful photography! You do amazing work!
Thank you Trisha
I love your photos of the boats! Beautiful! I’d love to see Australia one day. This makes me want to go even more.
Thank you Stacey. Hope you get to visit one day.
Wow! Those are all gorgeous but Floating Boats is my favorite!
Thank you Katherine. Thanks I appreciate knowing which one is your favorite.
Those are beautiful pictures!
Thank you Melissa
What neat photography and editing! Love 3 Docked II
Thank you Christina. Thanks for your the one you love, I appreciate knowing.
The colors are amazing! My fave is the last one. I love the blues.
Thank you Tricia. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate knowing your fave.
Such beautiful pictures. The artist is really talented.
Thank you Vanessa
Love the 2 Dock and the Gliding Along The River. Beautiful!
Thank you Suzan. Thanks for sharing which ones you like, I appreciate knowing.
Wow these pictures are beautiful! So colorful and attractive. I love this! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Charlene. You’re welcome.
Thank you Amy
These are fascinating. I’m going to look more into how you create the effects. I like both “Docked II” because it’s so Turneresque, and “Floating Boats” because I love the near-symmetry of the sky and water. And I just love blue.
Thank you Beth. Thanks for sharing your comments. Love Turner. I went to a Monet exhibition last year and was surprised as it some Turner artwork, too.
Such beautiful photos! I love the colors. My favorite is Docked 3.
Thank you Heather. Thanks for sharing, I like knowing which is your favorite.
I would love to see the boats in cairns! That sounds magical.
Thank you Lisa. That’ll be cool.
Interesting technique, I like #5
Thank you Maria. Thanks for sharing, I like knowing which one you like.
Beautiful pictures! I always love to see art from around the world!
Thank you Holly
I love the colors in 3 docked II! That sky is beautiful!
Thank you Malia. Thanks for sharing, I like knowing which one you love.
The photos are amazing! I now want to take a cruise off the coast of Australia.
Thank you Lora. That’ll be cool.
They are all so beautiful, but I think my favorite is the 4th one. Gliding along the river.
Thank you Tonya. Thanks for sharing which one is your favorite, I appreciate knowing.
Those pictures are beautiful and very cool!
Thank you Sydney
The colors in the Boats in Marina is gorgeous
Thank you Angela
Cool pictures! Love the gliding down the river one. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Robin. Thanks for sharing which one you like. I find it interesting to know.