Things to do in Cairns

Tropical rainforests and pristine waters await you at the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Our most recommended things to do in Cairns

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

1. From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Full-Day Adventure Tour

Discover Fitzroy Island on a day tour from Cairns. Enjoy a scenic ferry ride and explore the many hiking trails. Admire the marine life native to the coral reef as you snorkel or observe from a glass-bottom boat. Choose from a range of packages, including transfers for you to explore on your own, or a package including snorkel or glass-bottom boat activities. Explore the Island's 339 hectares of lush rainforest that covers 94 percent of the island and is protected and managed as a National Park. Walking trails are suitable for all levels of fitness, allowing you to explore areas of the island at your leisure. The fast catamaran departs from the Marlin Marina, with check-in directly on the vessel. Cruise south along the calm waters of the coastline to reach Fitzroy Island in just 45 minutes, giving you up to 7 hours to explore the tropical island.

Cairns: Self-Guided Kuranda Day Trip, Scenic Rail & Skyrail

2. Cairns: Self-Guided Kuranda Day Trip, Scenic Rail & Skyrail

Explore the village of Kuranda in a pristine World Heritage-listed rainforest. Be picked up from your hotel and travel to the train station. Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway and marvel at mountains on the way. Soar over waterfalls and over Barron Gorge on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Explore the markets, shops, and walking trails, or take a river cruise (seasonal) for 2.5 hours. Discover the food stalls and cafés, or dine with the water dragons at Frog’s Restaurant famous for its sauces and dressings. Take the famous Skyrail down, spanning 7.5km over the rainforest canopy. Spot native wildlife, including the cassowary, the world's 3rd-largest flightless bird. Next, take the 2:00 PM Skyrail back to the bottom (Skyrail Smithfield station). Embark on a fascinating journey of discovery over and deep into the world’s oldest, continually-surviving tropical rainforest. The iconic Skyrail experience is a must-do Cairns attraction of Australia’s World-Heritage listed tropical rainforest, immersing you in one of the most botanically fascinating areas on earth. At the end of your Skyrail experience, be picked up again by bus at 3:30 PM to be brought back to the hotel.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

3. From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

Hop aboard a catamaran for a day trip to remember to the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel, dive, or swim in the water, enjoy a delicious buffet lunch, and take in the marine wildlife. Meet your crew at the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, pay the reef levy, and hop aboard the luxury catamaran. The crew will select reef locations depending on the day's conditions from Flynn and Milne reef or further north at Norman and Hastings reefs. All offer diverse reef structures teeming with exotic marine life. Feel the wind in your hair as you set sail for the outer Great Barrier Reef. Relax with morning tea on the way, get to know the crew and learn all about the marine eco-system from a marine expert. Review snorkeling techniques with the crew during the journey. Arrive at the first outer reef location, where you can snorkel, dive or swim in the water. You may also choose to sunbathe, or chill on the boat on the upper sun deck or the netted deck trampoline at the bow of the boat. You can avail complimentary guided tours from the staff. A dedicated dive tender is available for experienced certified divers who want to explore deeper waters. All certified divers receive a complimentary dive guide. First-time divers will receive a free 10-minute scuba instruction in the water from qualified PADI professionals. Savor a fresh tropical buffet lunch prepared onboard. Treat yourself to a selection of hot and cold dishes including buffet meats, salads, and tropical fruit. Travel to the second outer reef location for the day for your choice of activity. Look out for corals, exotic marine life such as parrotfish, reef turtles and 'nemo' fish. End the day as the captain hoists the sails, and cruise back to Cairns. Enjoy a cold drink from the bar (own expense) and relax on the boom netting. Alternatively, watch presentations about the marine life from the passionate eco-certified staff.

Cairns: Skyrail, Kuranda and Rail Tour with Hotel Transfer

4. Cairns: Skyrail, Kuranda and Rail Tour with Hotel Transfer

Explore the Cairns World Heritage Rainforest on this tour with hotel pickup and drop-off in Cairns. Expereince the beauty of the rainforest from above on a ride to the town of Kuranda on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Spend free time in Kuranda before returning on the Kuranda Scenic Rail train. Be picked up from the comfort of your cairns accommodation in the morning. Relax on the drive to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Board Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and glide silently over the rainforest on your journey to Kuranda. Stop at two stations on the cableway where you can go for a walk in the rainforest to spectacular lookouts or visit the CSIRO Interpretive Center. Once you arrive in Kuranda. Have free time to explore the many and varied shops, as well as the Heritage Markets which operate daily. Board the famous Kuranda Scenic Rail train for ride over one of the world's most scenic rail routes. Cruise through hand-hewn tunnels and over bridges spanning stunning gorges. Catch your coach back to your accommodation in Cairns.

Cairns: Skyrail Cableway to Kuranda and Rail tickets

5. Cairns: Skyrail Cableway to Kuranda and Rail tickets

Drive to the Skyrail Smithfield Terminal, where a representative will check you in and issue you with the Kuranda Boarding Pass. This includes a detailed itinerary with a time schedule, as well as your Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Cableway tickets. Board the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and enjoy an unforgettable journey through the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest, stopping along the way to explore. Once you arrive in Kuranda, you'll have free time to see this unique village. Use the discount vouchers on your Kuranda Boarding Pass, or visit the heritage markets. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can purchase refreshments.  Return to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Admire the views as the train winds its way from Kuranda to Freshwater Station, passing spectacular waterfalls and through Barron Gorge. Disembark at Freshwater Station to board the bus back to your car at the Skyrail terminal.

Cairns: Daintree and Mossman Gorge Tour with Cruise Option

6. Cairns: Daintree and Mossman Gorge Tour with Cruise Option

Embark on a day trip where the rainforest meets the reef. See natural sights including the Great Barrier Reef, experience a wildlife cruise, and participate in a smoke ceremony as you go. Start your adventure with a scenic coastal drive from Cairns to Port Douglas, the far north’s very own great ocean road with panoramic views of the sparkling Coral Sea. The first stop is Mossman Gorge, which is in the southern sector of the world-famous Daintree National Park. The gorge has been carved out by the cold mountain waters of the Mossman River, which winds through large granite boulders, bordered by lush green rainforest. It’s a magical place and you’ll be welcomed by the traditional owners, the Kuku Yalanji people, who will also cleanse you of evil spirits during a smoke ceremony. Also, enjoy a refreshing swim in the cascading waters. After crossing the mighty Daintree River and a lunch break, it’s time to explore the ancient rainforest environment on an interesting guided tour of the Marrdja Botanical Boardwalk. Highly trained guides will give expert rainforest interpretation, which will inform and impress. Be amazed at the huge diversity you will encounter, you will discover everything from low-lying ferns and shrubs, to the massive rainforest canopy and even mangrove ecosystems - all in one short easy walk. You can choose to taste locally made ice cream, at your own cost, and prepare for a photo opportunity at the Alexandra Range Lookout, which provides sweeping views over the Daintree River, its rainforest delta, and out to the Coral Sea. In the afternoon, experience a wildlife cruise on the river (if option selected). During the cruise, you may see a crocodile, while learning about the fragile ecosystem of this impressive serpent-like river system. On the return journey to Cairns, drive through Port Douglas, a picturesque beachside village with a laid-back vibe and loads of bars and cafes.

Cairns: Outer and Coral Cay Snorkel and Dive Cruise

7. Cairns: Outer and Coral Cay Snorkel and Dive Cruise

Step foot on a super-fast, luxury 20m CAT, feeling welcomed and pampered, and embark on an ocean-filled journey of discovery. After your early boarding from Marlin Marina, breathe in the morning ocean breeze as you sail to one of two snorkel and dive destinations. From there, explore the ocean's brilliant fish and coral reefs. At the stunning Upolu Coral Cay Reef, learn about graceful blue-spotted stingrays, tenacious green sea turtles, bright damsel fish, and other amazing creatures that call this reef their home, as you observe them from a glass bottom boat. You’ll then have the chance to see these inquisitive creatures up close, while snorkeling within the incredibly clear, turquoise water. The second snorkel and dive site is the fascinating ‘Wonder Wall’, located on the outer edge of Upolu Reef. Enjoy snorkeling on the top of the wall for easy viewing of all the marine life and coral. Sign-up for the optional, certified or introductory guided dive, encountering a huge variety of aquatic flora and fauna, including hard and soft corals, giant clams, fans, turtles and a vast assortment of colorful tropical fish as you descend and meander along the side of the wall .  In between visiting these two sites, enjoy a smorgasbord lunch fit for a king. Savor smoked salmon, prawns, three types of cold meat, a chicken platter, three fresh salads and a variety of breads. After a relaxed six hours of diving and snorkeling, spend the trip home indulging in even more delicious food, arriving back at Cairns at around 4:30 PM.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

8. From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

Depart from Cairns Marina and visit Fitzroy Island, a national park covered in lush tropical rainforest and boasting granite outcrops, open woodlands, mangroves, coral beaches. Walk to the lighthouse, dine at the restaurant, or relax at the famous Nudey Beach, voted the best beach in Australia. With up to 6 hours of free time, you will be able to explore the island through self-guided rainforest walks. Soak in the magic of the Great Barrier Reef by snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. At Fitzroy Island, you can snorkel the fringing reef only meters from the beach. You also have the option to bring a picnic lunch or purchase a casual lunch from the Fitzroy Island cafe. Extra activities include Foxy's Bar & Café, Pacific Island Store, snorkel hire, dive, and activities center - all available on the island at an extra cost.

Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Full-Day Tour with Lunch

9. Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Full-Day Tour with Lunch

Tour the Outer Great Barrier Reef by boat with time to snorkel and explore this world-famous National Park. Complement your experience with a gourmet buffet lunch, glass of wine, and a light snack. Board your high-speed vessel, and visit some of the most beautiful spots in the Outer Great Barrier Reef. Enjoy a seamless experience with knowledgeable staff to ensure a safe and fun-filled tour. Stop at 2 spectacular Outer Great Barrier Reef destinations and snorkel with equipment and lessons provided. Feel free to jump in the water and explore this natural wonder up close. Later, sit down for a delicious barbecue lunch with salad before taking off for the second half of the tour.

From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

10. From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

Climb aboard a modern catamaran to sail into Green Island National Park on a beach and snorkeling cruise from Cairns. Discover a hidden gem in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and explore its coral reefs with snorkeling gear. Choose to enjoy a buffet lunch and go on a semi-submarine tour. Make your way to the harbor to meet your friendly crew for the day and climb onto your catamaran. Relax in the sun as you set sail towards the Great Barrier Reef. Experience picturesque views of the ocean as you arrive at Green Island National Park. Stroll around the island and explore its tranquil beaches. Find a stop to relax and go for a dip in the ocean. Get access to snorkeling gear and take a peek into the region's thriving marine life. You can also opt to go on a semi-submarine or a glass-bottom boat tour to discover the colorful coral reef and fish in comfort.

Frequently asked questions about Cairns

What top attractions are a must-see in Cairns?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Cairns?

The best day trips and excursions from Cairns are:

Port Douglas

What are the best inexpensive tours in Cairns?

Other Sightseeing Options in Cairns

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What people are saying about Cairns

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 7,999 reviews

It was fantastic! Very affordable for such an adventure of one of the worlds iconic treasures, The Great Barrier Reef. I highly recommend our tour guide.

Had an amazing time with Ocean Freedom! They let us spend hours snorkeling on 2 reef destinations. Crew are friendly and made sure everyone’s safe.

Great Tour. The Cairns aquarium is beautiliful. The guide was very informative and the meal at Dundee's did not disappoint.

Our trip was amazing. Was definitely worth upgrading to Gold Class on the train, exceptional service.

Lovely boat trip with amazing diving in the coral reef. The crew was 10/10