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You really couldn’t ask for more out of a destination when it comes to things to do in Cairns, Australia. The gateway to Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef as well as the massive 110-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest, Cairns overflows with incredible beaches, abundant rare wildlife, picturesque secluded islands, caves, and much, much, more. Cairns Australia points of interest. 

Enjoying a tropical climate in far North Queensland, the region showcases some of the best natural attractions Australia has to offer. So why not travel beyond the major metropolitan cities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to embark on a true Aussie adventure in Cairns.

Once you arrive, there is definitely no shortage of epic day trips at your disposal, all within reach of Cairns’ best hotels. When planning your Cairns itinerary, we highly recommend adding the following day trips in the surrounds.

Looking for Things to Do in Cairns? Take These Incredible Day Trips!

Daintree Rainforest

At 1,200 square kilometres, Cairns sightseeing doesn’t get better than Daintree National Park; Australia’s largest tropical rainforest. It is home to some of Australia’s most notable animals as well as rarities found nowhere else on the continent.

You would think you were in the middle of the Amazon with the sheer diversity of life here. Massive Southern Cassowary birds roam like prehistoric dinosaurs, and saltwater crocodiles lurk in the Daintree River. Spot platypus, echidnas, tree kangaroos, vibrant Ulysses butterflies, snakes, and plants straight out of Jurassic Park. Things to do around Cairns. 

It’s hard to believe just how accessible this pure wilderness area is and you will get lost in another world as you hike along one of numerous trails available.

Your complete guide to an unplugged vacation in Olympic National Park.

Southern Cassowary

Kuranda: The Village in the Rainforest

Kuranda is a town which is literally in the middle of lush tropical rainforest, and a day trip here offers great walks to enjoy its rich wildlife. Get your photo taken with a koala at the Koala Gardens, witness an Aboriginal cultural performance, or shop for souvenirs and crafts at the world famous Kuranda Heritage Markets. Self drive day trips from Cairns. 

Cover yourself in over 1500 vibrant tropical butterflies at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary where you can also sneak a peek at their breeding facility to learn and witness their magical transformation from caterpillar to winged wonder. What to do in Cairns Australia. 

You’re sure to see a wealth of birds in Daintree, but a visit to Birdworld Kuranda will allow you a more up close and personal experience with over 80 species of tropical birds from not only Australia but across the world. You’re sure to walk away with some incredible photos. Cairns tourist attractions. 

Travel to this beautiful village via the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns, or the Skyrail Cableway for a true adventure day trip. Cairns to do. 

Kuranda Bird Sanctuary

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway & Kuranda Scenic Railway

A two hour journey aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway is the perfect way to travel to the Kuranda Village. Beginning in Cairns, the rail line cuts through Barron Gorge National Park where you will witness several waterfalls along your journey. Cairns Australia points of interest. 

This 120 year old railway is an incredible feat in engineering, and you will pass through numerous tunnels and bridges. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway was once the longest gondola cableway in the world. Cairns attractions. 

Spanning 7.5km long, this multi award winning attraction travels between Smithfield and Kuranda giving you a whole different view to the world’s oldest living rainforest. The gondolas accommodate six people and two station stops allow you to stretch your legs along the one and a half hour trip (2.5 hour return). What to do in Cairns. 

Skyrail Cable Car Cairns

Skyrail Cable Car Cairns

Fitzroy Island

A 45 minute high speed ferry takes you from Cairns to one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most pristine natural islands. The island is largely protected by National Park status with only a single resort available for visitors wishing for an extended visit. Trips around Cairns. 

Enjoy activities like snorkelling, glass bottom boats, or simply hike the numerous trails through the National Park. The island is also home to one of Australia’s top 5 beaches, Nudey Beach. Despite its name, nudity is not allowed, as there are no legal nude beaches within the state. Cairns day trips. 

Fitzroy Island

Atherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tablelands, located to the southwest of Cairns, is home to the Tinaroo Dam and Lake. The lake offers 200km of shoreline and is great for water skiing, house boating, sailing, and fishing. Massive barramundi can be caught from the lake where they enjoy a life free from predators.

Hiking trails provide access into the surrounding National Park along with geological wonders including lava tubes, volcanoes, craters, and crystal caves. A further drive west allows you to explore the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National ParkOne of the best things to do in Cairns Australia. 

Cape Tribulation

This off the beaten track destination is located within Daintree National Park, and is roughly a three hour drive from Cairns. Take the Dubuji Boardwalk to Myall Beach or enjoy one of many other hikes in the area.

Part of the adventure of driving to Cape Tribulation is the Daintree River Ferry crossing which takes passengers and up to 30 vehicles at a time into a wilderness with very spotty cell service and no internet.

The area is popular with backpackers and offers a wide array of outdoor recreational activities including horseback riding, 4WD tours, and cruising for crocodiles. Roadtrips from Cairns. 

Cape Tribulation

The majestic saltwater Crocodile.

Mossman Gorge

Located within the southern area of Daintree, Mossman Gorge offers wonderful trails from which to experience the rainforest. The Mossman Gorge Centre offers visitors authentic North Queensland Aboriginal experiences from the traditional landowners of the region, the Kuku Yalanji people.

Hike the rainforest circuit track for the chance to see Boyd’s forest dragons and tree kangaroos. The Gorge can be accessed via a shuttle bus which runs every 15 minutes from the Mossman Gorge Centre or you can choose to walk the 2km from the centre’s parking lot. Cairns sightseeing. 

Port Douglas

Half the fun and excitement of Port Douglas is in getting there. Located along one of Australia’s most beautiful drives, The Tropical Drive, Port Douglas is situated in-between surf and jungle. Home to many luxury hotels, golf courses, and restaurants, Port Douglas is a true oasis in the middle of the rainforest.

The beautiful Four Mile Beach is popular with kite surfers who enjoy an aerial view over Port Douglas via Flagstaff Hill. Port Douglas also has no shortage of tour companies running snorkel and scuba trips to the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns attractions. 

Make a stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures along the way where you can feed massive crocs and explore the eco-sanctuary’s 2100m of boardwalks and pathways; home to an abundance of other native Australian wildlife.

Essential Travel Info

👍 When to Visit:

Tropical North Queensland experiences two seasons – the wet season (October to March) and the dry season (April and September). 

August is generally the best time to visit in dry season to avoid school holiday crowds, and enjoy slightly cooler temperatures and minimal rainfall. 

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Southern Cassowary by cuatrok77. Kuranda Bird Sanctuary by craigles75. Australian butterfly sanctuary by Carolien Coenen. Skyrail Cable Car Cairns by Matthew and Heather. View from the Cable Car by Lenny K Photography. Fitzroy Island by PaulSchliebs. Cape Tribulation forest by nina_tiffany. Saltwater crocodile by Jon Connell.

    24 Comments

  1. Such gorgeous pictures!That colourful bird and the water around Fitzroy island is so calm!

    • Thanks Jade! It’s such a gorgeous area – Fitzroy Island is a true paradise!

  2. I am so fascinated by the Daintree Rainforest and the village Kuranda Meg, and my other favorite is Atherton Tablelands! Cairns has such interesting things to do in its vicinity…

    • Sounds like you would love Cairns Siddhartha! There’s literally so much to explore – I swear you could spend weeks in Daintree itself and not get bored!

  3. I would love to go to Kuranda village just for the butterflies. Presence of butterflies suggests that the bio-diversity here must be very good. It is always a challenge to photograph butterflies, but with so many of them around, it would be a great opportunity to click them.

    • The butterflies are stunning aren’t they! Yes, Cairns has an incredible rich biodiversity – there are so many different plants and animals, and it’s one of the most accessible parts of Australia to access the tropics :)

  4. I had no idea that there are so many amazing day trips from Cairns. I actually just booked my first ticket to Australia and we’re trying to decide what we can squeeze into 14 days. It’s quite daunting. I would love to go to Kuranda because I’d love to see a cassowary – from a safe distance. I’ve heard they can be mean! Also, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway looks epic. What a view!

    • 14 days for Australia can definitely be daunting – I would just recommend not trying to pack too much in, but doing the destinations you have planned properly, and alloting a decent amount of days for each. Otherwise it’s too rushed and action packed and you don’t get to take advantage of what each region is famous for :)

      Cairns is definitely a spot which won’t disappoint though, and you could easily spend your whole two weeks just here!!

      Cassowary from a safe distance is a good plan – they can be quite vicious if you get too close!!

      Hope you have an amazing trip to Aus, feel free to shoot me a note if you have any questions in the lead up :)

  5. Haha, Meg, I literally snorted with laugher at the Nudey Beach comments. Shame it isn’t a naturist haven! I remember seeing Cassowarys at Wellington Zoo and they always seemed grumpy – but so beautiful! I can’t believe how long the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is – 7.5km is just immense. I think I would have to give my husband a sleeping pill in order to get him on it, as he isn’t great with heights. I must admit, I didn’t consider visiting Cairns on our last trip to Australia, but maybe I should add it to my next trip!

    • Haha glad we could make you laugh :D Cassowarys are a crazy creature – Youtube Cassowary attack lol and there’s some pretty feisty footage! Beautiful bird, but pretty crazy!!

      The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway really is immense – such an awesome way to get a birds eye view of the region. Maybe just tell your husband not to look down though lol :D

      Can definitely recommend Cairns on your next Australia trip!

  6. There’s a rainforest in Australia?! I thought it was all desert there. [silly American] It’s so beautiful, and the colors are amazing. I would do a tour of Fitzroy Island in a heartbeat, especially since I heard that the Great Barrier Reef was dying/dead. The other locations look just as great. Is there a lot of hiking at Mossman Gorge? I’m sure I could spend weeks exploring there.

    • Haha Australia is one of the most diverse land masses on the planet – we have an incredibly rich biodiversity, and yes, some of the oldest rainforests in the world. The tropical north is an incredible region.

      Glad we could change your perception! So much hiking at Mossman Gorge – you’ll love it!

  7. Tropical rainforests really have an allure to it. The rich wildlife and the diversity makes you feel like you are really part of something bigger. I am pretty sure that the view was amazing from that cable car! Amazing photos and keep these posts coming!

    • Totally agree! You can easily get “lost” (not literally, but metaphorically) when you’re hiking through a rainforest – it’s one of those timeless landscapes where the rest of the world just fades away. Makes you realize how small a role you play in this big wide world of ours too!

      So glad you enjoyed the post – you would love Cairns!

  8. We visited Cairns for my birthday last year and went with local friends to the Tablelands. I loved all the expanses of rainforest there, and I enjoyed Zellie Falls. Would love to go back and check out another spot – maybe Fitzroy Island? The snorkelling sounds divine, and I would love to see the look on my friends’ faces when I say I went to Nudey Beach.

    • What an awesome birthday trip Rhonda! Aren’t the Tablelands incredible!

      Fitzroy Island is a great choice for a trip back – maybe you could make Queensland an annual birthday thing :D

  9. Yes, Cairns rain forest does look like home to some diverse flora and fauna. I am reminded of the time when we planned to go on a road trip to Cairns from Sydney but eventually found that we did not have enough time and went up to Brisbane and returned. :) Now I have a whole lot of things to do in Australia including Sydney again , as I think it would have changed a lot in all these years.

    • Absolutely Nisha – but yes, Cairns from Sydney is a long road trip! Would be amazing though if you have enough time – maybe on your next Aus trip. If you’ve already done the stretch to Brisbane, maybe you could fly into Brisbane next time, and pick up a car to do Bris – Cairns.

      That’s the one thing I love about Australia – such great country for a road trip!

  10. Wow! Saltwater crocs, echidnas, cassowaries and platypus – this sounds like a serious Australian safari in the Daintree rainforest!

    We had a few quick stop overs in Sydney and Brisbane on our way in and out of New Zealand a few years back, but unfortunately we didn’t really have the opportunity to get out of the cities and experience the bush! (See how much Australian lingo I picked up on my last visit.) I would love to see some of your weird and wonderful species in the wild.

    In fact all of these trips sounds like splendid adventures – searching for forest dragons in Mossman Gorge, braving the ferry crossing at Cape Tribulation, or soaring over the rain forest on the Skyway Cableway. I would say ‘Yes!’ to any of these. Even sunbathing on Nudey Beach – too bad that the name is just a tease (though it never seems like there is anyone on a nude beach that you would actually want to see in the buff!)

    • Definitely the spot for an Aus safari!! Glad you enjoyed the time you did have in Australia, even if it was brief. Hopefully it gave you enough of a taste to want to come back :D

      Can highly recommend Cairns for your Aus itinerary – sounds like you would love all of it’s activities!! Haha yes, calling a beach “Nudey” is a bit of a tease!! But I’m with you – we visited a nudist beach in Hawaii, the first time I had walked through one, and it wasn’t that appealing haha

  11. Australia was the first of our overseas trips and we have wonderful memories of the country. I loved Cairns and specially the trip to Kuranda Rainforest. The amphibian boat ride, the cable car, the boardwalk and the richness of the landscape…can never forget any of that. Would love to go back again and do it all over again (adding several suggestions from this post)

    • So glad you had a fabulous time in Cairns Punita! It’s definitely one of those destinations you can revisit time and time again. Glad we could offer some more suggestions of what to add for your next trip :)

      Happy travels!

  12. A few of my friends are currently in/have just returned from #Cairns and it sounds amazing!

    • We’re hoping to get back again this January, haven’t been in wet season yet!

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