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Tourist activities around Cairns

Cairns is considered the gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Once a sleepy sugar-milling town, it's now a destination for sailing, diving and snorkelling.

Things to do that are free:

Cairns Esplanade, lined in bars and restaurants, has a saltwater swimming lagoon. 

Explore the Waterfalls and hikes around Cairns, We're really lucky that there are some beautiful waterfalls very close to us. For example Barron Falls and the Crystal Cascades (don't forget to bring towels) are both very nearby. If you don't fancy hiring a car then get the bus to a lot of places. There are also incredible waterfalls in the tablelands and all around the area. Be sure to check out our world famous waterfall circuit including Milla Milla.

Cairns Art Galleries, Cairns has a surprising number of art galleries. When you're thinking of Cairns it's not the towns art and culture that first pops into your mind, but surprisingly there is quite a lot to see. The Art Galleries are free to get in because they want you to buy something and you'll see some spectacular images of Cairns, The Great Barrier Reef and also images of some of the places you'll have visited during your time in Australia. Because there are quite a few art galleries, ranging from indigenous art to contemporary art there's pretty much something to suit everyones tastes. 

Check out the markets, Like many towns in Australia, there are some great markets in Cairns, my favourite being the night markets in the city.  For cheap fruit and veg make sure you visit Rustys Markets - it's cheap, smells amazing and there's enough fruit samples to easily provide a healthy and free breakfast! Port Douglas Markets are popular with Cairns tourists who can find a wide variety of items from vendors located throughout Far North Queensland. Open only on Sunday mornings, visitors can find everything from handcrafted jewellery to fresh coffee. Located near the Coral Sea, the Port Douglas market is well worth scheduling into a Cairns vacation.

Kuranda, a beautiful village hidden by tropical rainforest, gives you a chance to delve into an arty Queensland community. Fig trees line the main street while colourful parrots and butterflies flock among ferns and orchids. You’ll find galleries, market stalls and boutiques to occupy your time. Make sure to say hello to some of the Israelis who work in the markets! Five minute drive from the markets is the beautiful DIN DIN lookout of the Baron River waterfalls and a small walk. Just follow the signs to get there.

Mossman Gorge, Around 90-minutes north of the city is the Mossman Gorge Centre, an eco-tourism development that allows visitors to explore the gorge while learning about the local Kuku Yalanji culture. Its right near Port Douglas so you can plan your day around visiting Port Douglas.

Check out the Rainforests, If you want to check out our beautiful rainforest there are some excellent options. Explore Australia’s largest continuous area of tropical rainforest, the Daintree. Hidden in the diverse range of lush vegetation you’ll see a wide variety of rare creatures, like the tree-dwelling kangaroo and the endangered cassowary. Gentle cruises down the Daintree River are a great way to relax, especially if you’d like to go crocodile spotting.

Beautiful Lookouts When family and friends come the first place we take them to is the incredible lookouts on the side of the road. Some of our favourites are; the road leading to Copperlode Dam, the road leading to Port Douglas and the road leading to kuranda. The Great Barrier Reef Road is meant to mimic the Great Ocean Road in Vic. Along the way there are lots of cute spots to stop and enjoy the Coast and the Rainforest. You might be lucky and even see a crocodile at the lookout just before Hartleys.

Check out the beaches Cairns city is the main hub of activities but it does not have the nice beaches for that you need to go to the suburbs called the Northern Beaches where you will find great beaches A chain of relaxed seaside villages lay just north of Cairns, each boasting their own unique features. Each of Cairns’ beaches has its own personality and flavour which will tickle your fancy.

The Botanical Gardens in the city is the quick and easy version of a rainforest or even better, near to the Botanical Gardens is the entry to the 'Red Arrow', which is a small nature walk (there are other arrow walks you can do too). The Red Arrow walk takes only about 30 minutes to complete and will take you through the gorgeous rainforest to a spectacular lookout at the top, make sure to take your camera. A good thing to know; the entry is free.  

Things to do cheaply:

The Great Barrier Reef, No visit to Australia is complete without a visit to the world famous and world heritage site of The Great Barrier Reef and Cairns is an excellent place to be to get on a boat and see it for yourself. But how on earth can a visit to The Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns be considered a free or cheap thing to do in Cairns?

The first option depends on what your definition of cheap is, but you can book yourself on a day trip to The Great Barrier Reef from as little as $99AUD. The outer reef can be accessed by some budget tour groups like Compass Tours but the ride is often a lot more queesy even for those who do not usually get boat/sea sick because of the older crafts they have. If budgeting is an issue the best way to see the reef would the inner reefs such as Fitzroy Island and Green Island

Kayaking to the nearby islands Palm Cove watersports has a great kayak tours of the islands nearby. There are different price ranges and time schedules. You can swim with turtles, check out the abandoned hotel island and the tiny scout hat island that was used for shooting practice during WW2.

Visit Cairns Museum, Why not try and learn something about Cairns and the surrounding area of Northern Queensland? For around $5AUD you can visit Cairns Museum and inject a bit of culture into your trip. 

Visit the Daintree Forrest and Cape Tribulation, for $26 you can take the ferry which will take you to the most beautiful Rainforest with beautiful coastal roads, sugarcane fields and rainforest covered mountains. Starting with Mossman Gorge you can explore ancient rainforest and pristine coral gardens.


Activities that cost:

The Great Barrier Reef 

No visit to Australia is complete without a visit to the world famous and world heritage site of The Great Barrier Reef and Far North QLD is an excellent place to be to get on a boat and see it for yourself.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tells the stories of the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with music and dance.   

The  Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you high above the rainforest canopy for 90 minutes, allowing 360-degree views as you soar over 500 metres (1640 feet) above sea level.

On your way back to Cairns, you can travel on the equally impressive 
Kuranda Scenic Railway, to complete your experience of these iconic attractions. This historic two-hour train journey, operating for over a century, takes you through the lush region, taking in dramatic mountainous scenery and teeming waterfalls. 

Extreme sports, Find some of the best white-water rafting rapidsin Australia on the Tully River and Barron River, or try a half-day of tubing on the Mulgrave River. Tandem skydives are available for the true adrenaline seekers — with the aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef an obvious draw — as is bungy jumping at AJ Hackett’s (where you can also ride their Minjin Jungle Swing). Other activities in the area include quad biking, horse riding and hang-gliding as well. Make sure to say hi to our friends Yuvi and Ori at Cairns' only Wakeboarding park.

Island hopping, Island Exploring Discover some of the reef’s unspoilt islands. Jump on the Fitzroy Fast Cat in Cairns for 45 minutes and you’ll reach Fitzroy Island. Here, you can explore the bush walking tracks or learn about the dedicated work of the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre – helping sick and injured turtles recover enough to be realised back into the wild. Make the crossing to Green Island, a coral cay less than 30km off the shore, for snorkelling and diving all year round, as well as helmet diving that lets you walk along the sea floor. For an ‘off the grid’ adventure, visit Hinchinbrook Island, Australia’s largest national park island. Largely uninhabited, you can cruise through mangrove everglades or find isolated beaches (there are 11 of them around the island). 

The Cairns Zoom, 

Visit us at Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome, the world’s first challenge ropes course in a wildlife park. You’ll find us in the heart of the Cairns CBD on top of The Reef Hotel Casino. Whether you are looking for a full day or half day tour, Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome has you covered. Cuddle a koala, enjoy interactive Australian wildlife presentations and experience adventure on the Mid-ZOOM and Hi-ZOOM courses with three ziplines – one of which takes participants directly over Goliath, our 4 metre saltwater crocodile!

The Aquarium Tropical North Queensland might be full of big nature experiences but seeing all of its diverse eco-systems is damn near impossible unless your holiday has no discernible end date. When you go to the Aquarium you get a chance to see all the different spicies that are out there all around Cairns.

Chillagoe Caves and Outback Day Trip from Cairns. Ride in a rugged 4WD vehicle from Cairns to attractions including Chillagoe Caves and Granite Gorge, and cross the McAllister Ranges and the Great Dividing Range en route. Look for kangaroos and other native Australian wildlife, see historic mining towns

Hartleys is almost at Port Douglas so it's quite far from the city but it a great full day activity. Guests can participate in a wide range of activities such as seeing the Australian natural wildlife and then relax on a cruise on Hartley’s Lagoon to explore the natural habitat of the legendary Saltwater Crocodile.


- Start the day with a hike up the Red Arrow walking track, located in the suburb of Edge Hill. The track is a short but steep climb, and offers panoramic views of Cairns and the Coral Sea.
- After your hike, head to the Cairns Botanic Gardens. The gardens feature a diverse range of tropical plants and flowers, and offer several walking paths to explore.

- Take a stroll along the Cairns Esplanade, a beautiful waterfront promenade lined with palm trees and parklands. You can also take a dip in the lagoon, a man-made swimming area with lifeguards on duty.
- For lunch, pack a picnic and head to the Centenary Lakes. The lakes are surrounded by parklands and offer several picnic areas and BBQ facilities.
- After lunch, visit the Cairns Regional Gallery. The gallery is free to enter and features a diverse range of contemporary and traditional art from both local and international artists.

- Finish the day with a sunset at the Cairns Esplanade. There are several BBQ facilities available, so you can cook up a dinner while enjoying the views.
- After sunset, head to the Night Markets, located in the heart of Cairns. The markets feature a range of food stalls, souvenirs, and handmade crafts.


Day 1: Cairns City Tour
- Take a self-guided walking tour of the Cairns city center. Some highlights include the Cairns Esplanade, The Aquarium, and the Cairns Museum.

Day 2: Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
- Take the scenic railway to Kuranda, a charming mountain village surrounded by rainforest. Enjoy the town's markets, cafes, and walking trails. On the way back to Cairns, take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for stunning views of the surrounding rainforest.

Day 3: Atherton Tablelands
- Take a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands, a beautiful region known for its waterfalls, rainforests, and wildlife. Some highlights include the Millaa Millaa Falls, the Curtain Fig Tree, and the Mareeba Wetlands. See platypus' in Yungaburra, strawberry picking, coffe and chocolate tours and other great tourist activities in the tablelands.

Day 4: Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
- Take a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world. Explore the Mossman Gorge Centre and take a refreshing swim in the waterhole. Continue on to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.

Day 5: Northern Beaches
- Take a scenic drive to Palm Cove, a picturesque beach town north of Cairns. Enjoy the town's beaches, cafes, and boutiques. Afterwards, head to Ellis Beach for a relaxing afternoon of swimming and sunbathing.

Day 6: Cairns Botanic Gardens
- Spend the day at the Cairns Botanic Gardens, a lush tropical garden with several walking paths to explore. Don't miss the Gondwanan Heritage Garden, which showcases plants from ancient rainforests.

Day 7: Crystal Cascades and Copperlode Dam
- Take a scenic drive to Crystal Cascades, a beautiful swimming hole surrounded by rainforest. After your swim, continue on to Copperlode Dam, which offers panoramic views of Cairns and the surrounding mountains.


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