Things to do in Cairns Queensland

Cairns, along with Darwin, is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Queensland and an excellent gateway destination for exploring Australia’s Northern Territory.

If you are traveling to this city for the first time, Cairns Queensland is very touristy and has a feel to the French Riviera, with luxurious accommodations and expensive yachts.

However, what makes Cairns Queensland so popular is its wealth of natural attractions and outdoor opportunities such as hiking at one of the national parks or forest reserves.

If you are traveling to Australia consider the following places: Perth, Brisbane, Tasmania and Adelaide.

Things to do in Cairns Queensland: Fun Outdoor Activities

Hiking & Canoeing

If you are an outdoor enthusiast and are looking to enjoy the Queensland's natural scenery, Barron National Park is just a short drive from the city center (around 30 minutes by car).

Apart from great hiking trails at the park, you can kayak along Barron River and enjoy picnicking as well as a free tour of the Barron Gorge Hydro-Power Station.

Beware that camping is not allowed at the park but if you are looking to camp out, the nearby Speewah State Forest has campsites there.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Fitzroy Island

One of the best places for diving and snorkeling opportunities it’s Fitzroy Island, which is an easy forty minute ferry ride from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal to Marlin Marina.

Once you get to Fitzroy Island, you can hire diving and snorkeling gear, paddle boats and kayaks.

Don’t forget to book the popular glass bottom boat tour, which allows you to see colorful fish and marine plants.

Apart from water activities, the Fitzroy Island is home to a National Park home to many hiking trails that will allow you to explore all the areas of the Island.

Low Isles

The Low Isles are another hot-spot for snorkeling and diving as the waters are crystal clear and the coral is excellent.

To reach the Low Isles, head to Port Douglas where you can find many tour companies that will take out on the outer reef and the Low Isles for scuba diving and snorkeling trips.

Helicopter Tour

If you are not on a tight budget, a helicopter tour is another popular way to discover the area around Cairns from overhead.

A typical helicopter tour takes you around the rain forest and the Great Barrier Reef, allowing you to take unforgettable pictures.

Cable-way Ride

If you are visiting the town of Kuranda, another activity worth adding to your itinerary it’s a ride on the Skyrail Rain-forest Cableway, which runs between the towns of Kuranda and Caravonica (return trip takes around 3 hours)

During the ride you can get amazing views of the forest, the Barron River and the water falls.

Things to do in Cairns Queensland: Beaches

If you are looking to spend most of your vacation at the beach there are plenty of northern beaches to choose from.

Machans Beach and Holloways Beach are the nearest beaches to Cairns Queensland. You can reach these two beaches on Bus7, but if you are driving it’s around 20 minutes along Captain Cook highway.

Three of the most popular northern beaches are:

Trinity Beach

Trinity Beach is just 10 miles from Cairns and offers plenty of amenities such as restaurants, picnic tables, lodging and even shopping places.

Trinity Beach is a cool 20 minutes by car, and 50 minutes on the Bus2A.

Palm Cove

Palm Beach is one of the best international beach destinations in Cairns Queensland and features a sandy shoreline with beautiful palm trees reminiscent of Los Angeles and Miami beaches.

Palm Cove is just 30 minutes by car, and around 60 minutes on the Bus1X.

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach is a short walk from Port Douglas and it is another beautiful sandy beach where you can enjoy plenty of beach activities such as Kite surfing.

Things to do in Cairns Queensland: Day Trip


Kuranda town is located 15 miles northwest of Cairns’ city center. There are a couple of options for getting to Kuranda and these include public transit, car and railway.

If you are using car rental, take first the Captain Cook Highway towards Macalister Range then the Kennedy Highway (It takes around 30 minutes by car).

Having said this, one of the best ways to enjoy a trip to Kuranda town is with the Kuranda Scenic Railway.

The Kuranda railway line offers breathtaking mountain scenery views and an amazing vertical drop view as it passes through Stoney Creek Falls Bridge.

The Scenic line also cuts through the Barron Gorge National Park and stops at Barron Falls allowing you to catch a glimpse of these majestic waterfalls.

Once in Kuranda, you can check out a koala and butterfly sanctuary as well as the Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve.

Things to do in Cairns Queensland: Shopping

For retail shopping, the Cairns Central Shopping center (located on Spence Street, near Cairns Central Station) offers plenty of department stores to choose from as well as a food court.

Pier Market Place, adjacent Marlin Marina, is another popular shopping center that offers over 100 different department stores, cafes and a food court.

For souvenir shopping, the Chinese night market on Esplanade Street (along the waterfront) is one of the best places where you can find all kinds of handmade items.

Things to do in Cairns Queensland: Nightlife & Entertainment

The nightlife in Cairns Queensland consists of bars and a few nightclubs mostly located on the city center.

Along the waterfront on Esplanade Street you can find a few bars and cafes where you can enjoy a quite drink.

Bungalow district, along Spence Street, also features plenty of bars and nightclubs such as Tropos nightclub, which plays mainly hip-hop and R&B music.

Things to do in Cairns Queensland: Events & Festivals

Port Douglas Carnivale

The Port Douglas Carnivale, held in May in Port Douglas, is a popular event that features a different theme every year.

This year the event features a vintage era theme and you’ll be able to see vintage cars, beautiful street parades, amazing floats and plenty of live entertainment.

Go Troppo Arts Festival

The Go Troppo Arts Festival, held in October in Port Douglas, is one of the most popular cultural events in Australia. The festival is a community event, and brings together artists, performers and dancers from all over the region to share their passion for art.

Cairns Blues Festival

If you love Blues music, and are traveling in early May, you can catch the Cairns Blues Festival at Fogarty Park.

Cairns Show

The Cairns Show is a two day event that happens in July on Severin Street. The event features the best arts and craft in the northern territory, along with farming shows, and fun competitions such as wood chopping contests.

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