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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

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

1. 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.

Cairns: Daintree and Mossman Gorge Tour with Cruise Option

2. 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 Great Barrier Reef Full-Day Tour with Lunch

3. 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

4. From Cairns: Full-Day Green Island Cruise

Climb aboard the modern, air-conditioned, 35-meter catamaran and sail towards the Green Island, a hidden gem in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Take in magnificent views of the ocean throughout your journey. After you arrive, you can go on a 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.

Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Pontoon with Activities

5. Cairns: Outer Great Barrier Reef Pontoon with Activities

Sit back and relax on a catamaran cruise from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef, where you enjoy a raft of water activities from Moore Reef's pontoon. Encounter an outstanding landscape of marine life, enjoy a choice of activities including snorkeling, including a visit to the underwater observatory. Prior to departure from the marina, sip on some complimentary tea and coffee. Depart from Cairns’ Marlin Marina at 9:30 AM and enjoy a cruise out of the harbor. Witness the stunning landscape before the catamaran makes its way out to open seas. Sail in air-conditioned comfort onboard the catamaran to the state-of-the-art activity pontoon at Moore Reef. Moore Reef is a prime location on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, abundant with soft corals and marine life. Learn about the reef and its diverse ecosystems on the outward journey with presentations given by resident marine experts. Upon arrival at the pontoon at 11:30 AM, choose from an array of activities suitable for both swimmers and non-swimmers alike. Make use of the inclusive snorkeling equipment, with wetsuits and lycra also available at an additional charge. Alternatively, watch the daily fish feeding presentations, or take a trip on the glass bottom boat or semi-submersible tour with marine experts providing commentary. Soak up the rays on a spacious sun deck, or make a splash on a theme park-style waterslide. See the reef without getting wet in the underwater observatory, and get up close and personal with marine creatures like sea cucumbers and starfish.

From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Tour

6. From Cairns: Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Tour

Explore the stunning biodiversity of the outer Great Barrier Reef on this diving and snorkeling tour from Cairns. Sail on s boat 3 sun decks, 2 air-conditioned indoor saloons, a spacious dive deck, and a sunken platform for easy water access. Have drinks and a packed lunch. Depart Cairns in the morning for the outer reef on this 8-hour tour. Whether you are a snorkeler, first-time SCUBA diver, or already certified diver, join a once in a lifetime adventure aboard a luxury day trip to the great barrier reef. Enjoy a light morning tea and a delicious pre-packed picnic lunch. Complimentary tea, coffee, and chilled water are served throughout the day (snacks, soft and alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase). Discover the Great Barrier Reef in the easiest way possible: with a snorkel - it is as simple as breathing. If you have never snorkeled before, don't worry, a briefing is held on board, explaining how to put and use the snorkeling gear. The private reef locations are approximately 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) offshore, these unique sites offer superb coral formations and an abundance of coral and marine life including inquisitive Nemos, Turtles, Stingrays and Wally the friendly Maori Wrasse. Visit 2 different reef locations daily, these are chosen en-route considering weather and sea conditions to ensure the best in-water experience. Visit either Normank, Saxon or Hastings Reef.

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: Great Barrier Reef Cruise by Premium Catamaran

8. 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.

From Cairns: Fitzroy Island Return Catamaran Transfer

9. 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.

From Cairns: Green Island Eco Adventure

10. From Cairns: Green Island Eco Adventure

Boasting a lush rainforest that is home to over 120 native plant species and colorful bird life, Green Island is surrounded by coral gardens and abundant marine life. The tropical island, just 45 minutes from Cairns offers the unique opportunity for a combined reef and rainforest tour. And with the choice of 2 daily departures, the Green Island eco adventure is perfect for a half or full-day experience with up to 7 hours on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef island. Your cruise includes the choice of an informative glass bottom boat coral viewing tour, or use of snorkeling equipment to snorkel directly off the sandy white beaches. Whether you’re up for adventurous activities or island relaxation, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You can explore the island’s lush rainforest with a leisurely self guided walk, see the reef from the glass bottom boat coral viewing tour, snorkel from the beach, or take a refreshing dip in the island swimming pool. With an abundance of optional activities, you can scuba dive, take an offshore snorkel excursion, walk underwater with Seawalker helmet diving, kayak, or even take to the sky in a scenic helicopter flight. There's even the Marineland Melanesia crocodile habitat on the island! The island’s well appointed day visitor facilities include a pool bar, dive shop, plus restaurant and food outlets, where a delicious range of lunch, snacks and refreshments can be purchased.

Frequently asked questions about Cairns

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What are the best day trips and excursions from Cairns?

The best day trips and excursions from Cairns are:

Palm Cove

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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

Really cool tour! We started with the Skyrail over the rainforest which was amazing, you dont feel as high up as you actually are given the height of the trees but the views are spectacular. The Skyrail finishes in Kuranda which is a lovely small town in the middle of the rainforest, the food there is very nice and it is nice to see the town. We travelled back to Freshwater Station by the train which was very cool, the views were incredible. The only downfall was that your seats are assigned and you could get stuck next to kids who were quite rude but all in all an amazing tour. Our driver Chris was nothing short if fantastic! He was on time, we weren’t rushed, he was entertaining and his knowledge of the area and rainforest was brilliant.

It is really difficult to find a decent trip but this one was truly a great experience! Very knowledgeable and friendly guide Sebastian will make sure you really make the most of this trip. He really made it special. We stopped at all the good palces and had enough time to explore and enjoy the nature. The lunch wasn't so great but I guess it's difficult to find something decent in rural area and I guess they just want you to have that experience in this very outback Pub, situated in 100 years old, timber building. So over all I will definitely recommend buying this trip.

Skydive Cairns team are awesome! From the moment you walk in the ground team at reception are welcoming and keep you informed as to what’s happening when. Instructors are brilliant and make you feel so safe. Made me feel like one of the team and really took interest in my previous jumps. Would recommend the Skydive Cairns team to anyone!

The boat man funny, happy. But the pictures not so great.

Thoroughly enjoyable day trip, very well organised