Top 10 things to do in and around Cairns

Cairns is the gateway to all the fun of Queensland’s top end. Hop in your car and work your way through this top 10 to explore the best of the region.
A pontoon anchored at a reef off Cairns.

1. Enjoy the Great Barrier Reef Drive

From Cairns to Cape Tribulation, the 140km Great Barrier Reef Drive winds its way along a picturesque coastline. On one side is tropical rainforest and the other is the blue water of the Coral Sea. Allow plenty of time to drive this winding road as you’ll want to pull over and take in the views. Rex Point is a popular lookout where you’ll sometimes see hang gliders taking advantage of the strong winds and coastal views.

2. Visit a crocodile farm

Curious about crocodiles? The safest place to get up close and personal with these predators is at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures on the Captain Cook Highway. You’ll see these fearsome creatures leap from the water to claim their prey along with plenty of other, cuter Australian wildlife. It’s a chance to cuddle a koala, see snakes and goannas, admire the tropical birds and see how cassowaries live.

3. Explore Mossman Gorge

Discover pristine rainforest and waterfalls in Mossman Gorge which is part of the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest. Considered the oldest continuously surviving rainforest on earth, Mossman Gorge is also part of the traditional lands of the Kuku Yalanji people. Take a guided Dreamtime Walk to discover the gorge’s secrets and take your swimmers for a refreshing dip in the cool waters.

4. Swim on the Great Barrier Reef

Experience the rich colour and diversity of the Great Barrier Reef with a Quicksilver Cruise to Agincourt Reef from Cairns. There are scuba dive and snorkelling options, but non-swimmers are still catered for with reef viewing from the spacious platforms. The underwater observatory and semi-sub will give you a great chance to observe marine life without getting wet.

5. Rusty’s Market

Want to see what grows around tropical Cairns? Rusty’s Market opens from Friday to Sunday in Grafton Street in the heart of Cairns. It is filled with more than 180 stalls selling all types of unusual fruits, freshly baked bread, local crafts and great coffee. Many of the stalls offer tastes of the produce and it is a great way to try exotic fruits that you won’t see elsewhere.

6. Go river drift snorkelling

The Mossman River is too cool for crocodiles, but it’s not too cool for river drift snorkelling with Back Country Bliss. Kitted out with a snorkel and river raft, visitors can drift with the current in the crystal-clear water and explore underwater life. You’ll see fish, turtles and maybe even enjoy a snack of wild passionfruit along the way. Depending on the strength of the water flow, this can be a great activity for children and the perfect way to cool off in the tropics.

7. Relax in Palm Cove

This beachside suburb of Cairns is named after the palm trees that dot the beach front but it’s the paperbark trees that line the street that demand more attention. Located 25 km north of Cairns, it is secluded getaway with calm water and a wide range of accommodation. There’s plenty of dining choice too but make sure to include acclaimed Nu Nu on your list. It’s beachfront location and focus on local produce make it a highly recommended dining spot.

8. Take a seat on scenic railway

Take a trip on the Kuranda Train from Cairns to Kuranda and come back on the longest rainforest cableway in the world with Skyrail. Spanning 7.5 km over the rainforest, the journey stops at two mid stations, so you can get out and walk the forest floor and boardwalks.

9. Check out some Australian art

Cairns Regional Gallery showcases art and artforms from a wide range of local artists as well as exhibitions from Australian and international collections.

10. Cairns Aquarium

You will be able to see animals from the rainforests and rivers through to the oceans of Tropical North Queensland with state of the art exhibitions at Cairns Aquarium.

Visit RACQ Travel to plan your Cairns holiday

Related topics

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.