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Things to do in Cairns & the Tropical North

Things to do in  Cairns & the Tropical North

Welcome to Cairns & the Tropical North

Nestled on the Queensland coast, Cairns attracts visitors from around the world as the gateway to Australia’s Tropical North and the Great Barrier Reef. Set 1,499 miles (2,413 kilometers) north of Sydney, the city of Cairns is the perfect home base for adventure lovers, and boasts tropical climes, nearly endless diving possibilities, and a vibrant food and drink scene. Biking, Segway, and walking tours hit attractions such as the Cairns Historical Society Museum and Cairns Regional Gallery. Outside the city, popular day-trip destinations include the ecotourism destination Cape Tribulation in Daintree National Park, the Cape York Peninsula, and Cooktown.

Top 15 attractions in Cairns & the Tropical North

Great Barrier Reef

Encompassing roughly 3,000 individual reefs and dotted with almost 900 islands and coral cays (small sandy isles), Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most unforgettable natural treasures. Snorkelers and certified divers flock here to see the unparalleled array of marine life.More

Mossman Gorge

Marking the southern border of Daintree National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mossman Gorge is one of the most popular places to experience the world’s oldest rain forest. Dating back more than 130 million years, the dense forest and scenic river gorge harbor a rich biodiversity and provide a stunning backdrop for hikers and swimmers.More

Green Island

Marooned off the coast of Cairns in north Queensland, Green Island is a tropical paradise of lush rainforest, white sandy beaches, and crystalline waters. The idyllic island is part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef National Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and harbors an extraordinary variety of coral reefs, exotic fish, and marine life.More

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures introduces visitors to Australia’s most famous reptiles (and other native species) through an informative and educational day out. Visitors can observe crocs on a cruise through a lagoon mimicking the creatures’ natural habitat and learn how crocodiles are sustainably farmed.More

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Winding its way through the ancient rainforests, dramatic gorges, and UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscapes of Queensland’s tropical north, the Kuranda Scenic Railway is one of Australia’s most spectacular train journeys. Running 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Cairns in the south to Kuranda in the north, the route is a thrilling one. As it passes through an impressive 15 tunnels and across 37 bridges, the railway affords panoramic views of the Barron Gorge National Park.More

Barron Gorge National Park

Queensland’s Barron Gorge National Park extends from the town of Lake Placid, and the surrounding lowlands, all the way to the high Atherton Tableland. The area—which is full of beautiful forests, waterfalls, gorges, and wildlife—is easily accessible from the city of Cairns and is one of the most popular outdoor areas in the region.More

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Soaring through the treetops of Barron Gorge National Park, the 4.7-mile-long (7.5-kilometer) Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offers an unforgettable outdoor experience. Glide over North Queensland’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed tropical rain forest and enjoy unbeatable aerial views over its forests, gorges, and waterfalls.More

Atherton Tablelands

Offering welcome relief from the sweltering temperatures of Queensland’s tropical north, the sweeping plateaus of the Atherton Tablelands lie within easy day-trip distance of Cairns. Covering an area of 20,000 square miles (32,000 square kilometers), the lush landscapes also provide scenic terrain for bush walking and bird-watching.More

Daintree Rainforest

From the dramatic jungle-clad gorges, wild rivers, and tumbling waterfalls of Daintree National Park to the deserted coast of Cape Tribulation along the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest is Australia’s largest stretch of rain forest, covering 460 square miles (1,200 square kilometers). A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hiker’s paradise, the rainforest is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity.More

Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is a small forest-covered island fringed by white-sand beaches that lies in the sheltered Great Barrier Reef. Easily accessible from Cairns, it’s a popular day-trip destination and you can also stay there overnight at the resort or campground. Most of the island is protected as part of the Fitzroy Island National Park.More

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

From the electric blue Ulysses to the vibrant Cairns Birdwing, more than 2,000 tropical butterflies call the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary home. Located in Kuranda village, the aviary–which opened in 1987–teaches visitors about the fluttery critters through immersive exhibits and a breeding lab where you can watch scientists at work.More

RainForeStation Nature Park

The RainForeStation Nature Park is 100 acres of pristine World Heritage rainforest situated just half an hour’s drive from Cairns.Here, visitors can get involved with nature by taking a ride through the tropical rainforest on an Army Duck Rainforest Tour, where an experienced guide will explain about the tropical plants and wildlife in the park. Elsewhere, the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience will provide an insight into Aboriginal culture, with demonstrations in traditional-style dwellings.Visitors can also get up close to native Australian animals within the Koala and Wildlife Park, where trained and enthusiastic wildlife keepers will lead their guests along boardwalks that enable close-up encounters of crocodiles, dingoes, wombats, snakes, kangaroos, and wallabies.More

Kuranda Koala Gardens

Located in the village of Kuranda, this compact wildlife park gives you the chance to have close encounters with native Australian wildlife. Free-range enclosures are surrounded by lush rainforest and play host to kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and koalas, while freshwater crocodiles glide through a tropical lagoon.More

Birdworld Kuranda

Queensland's lush, tropical north is alive with colorful bird life, and you can experience the festive cacophony of chirps on a visit to Birdworld Kuranda. Over 60 different species of birds make their home in this enclave of forest and waterfalls, and the landscape is built to mimic the surroundings the birds would find in the wild. When walking the open-air aviary, there’s the chance a bird could simply fly up and land on your shoulder, or a curious parrot might cock its head sideways and inspect you while sitting on a tree branch. Visitors also have the chance to hand-feed birds under the supervision of the aviary staff. Keep an eye out to spot Amazonian macaws, kingfishers, and Australian black swans.More

Paronella Park

Queensland’s Paronella Park is the result of Jose Paronella’s dream of building a Spanish-style castle. The spacious grounds beside the Mena Creek Falls include the castle building as well as lush tropical rainforest, a suspension bridge, tennis courts, a tunnel, and bridges. Opened to the public in 1935, Paronella Park is a local favorite and has won multiple awards—including eco-tourism awards.More

Top activities in Cairns & the Tropical North

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns
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Silverswift Outer Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns
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Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns
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Green Island + Snorkel Equipment AND Glass Bottom Boat, from Cairns
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Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns
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Full Day Reef Cruise Including 10 Minute Heli Scenic Flight: Get High Package
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Barron Gorge National Park Half-Day White Water Rafting from Cairns or Port Douglas
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Green Island Day Trip from Cairns

Green Island Day Trip from Cairns

Rainforest River Tubing from Cairns
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Rainforest River Tubing from Cairns

Seastar Luxury Outer Great Barrier Reef Island and Reef Tour from Cairns
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Great Barrier Reef Adventure from Cairns Inc Snorkel from Activity Platform
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Recent reviews from experiences in Cairns & the Tropical North

Value for money
TURIN_P, Dec. 2022
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures Day Trip from Cairns
It's a great place to visit.
Great trip for all!
Shelby_F, Nov. 2022
Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns
Great way to see a lot of amazing parts of cairns !
Highly recommend MAN for Cairns private transfer..
Ernie_M, Oct. 2022
Cairns Airport luxury private transfer Airport to City Hotel
He was prompt, friendly and informed me about the different interesting places to visit in Cairns.
Outback get away
Carl_W, Oct. 2022
Chillagoe Caves and Outback Day Trip from Cairns
While there is a lot of travel involved, we got to see parts of the country we would not normally see.
Cairns at night.
Alison_M, Oct. 2022
Cairns Sunset Cruise
Still fabulous to see Cairns from the water, especially at night.
Fast and fun!
Miles_A, Oct. 2022
Cairns Jet Boat Ride
A really fun way to see the Cairns waterfront and waterways with more than a few 360 spins thrown in for some added excitement!
Teresa_F, Aug. 2022
Kuranda tour via Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Rail - small group tour
The perfect way to see cairns and the beautiful rainforest
Worth every penny I paid for this tour
Shohan_K, Jan. 2023
Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns
Tbh when I first came to the pier I was a bit disappointed to see the boat was somewhat smaller than some of the big boys in the pier.
The Best Option and the Best Pilots!!!!!!
lide_C, Jan. 2023
40-Minute Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns
Greg gave us good tips about what to do in Cairns like visiting the Botanic Gardens, which we did and we loved it.
Amazing tour
anabel_c, Jan. 2023
The Original Day Tour to Paronella Park, Lake Barrine and Millaa Millaa Falls
Head down to Paronella Park, millaa millaa falls and babbinda boulders is a must see scenery when in cairns, absolutely beautiful and worth the money.
Perfect day trip!
Lauren_G, Jan. 2023
Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns by Luxury Catamaran
This catamaran is the best way to see the reefs, and it leaves a smaller environmental carbon footprint (not to mention this is the last family owned tour from Cairns—support small businesses!
Great 3 day bundle but be warned about scuba diving with medication
Olivia_S, Jan. 2023
3-Day Best of Cairns Combo: The Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, and Kuranda
She took us to one of her favourite spots too and that was amazing as we got to see this incredible part of the rainforest with her.
Amazing tour and experience.
Andrew_B, Dec. 2022
Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Premium Day Tour
A green tree snake, 3 green frogs, a skink and another beautiful lizard, some bush Turkey things and while we didn't get it on camera a cassowary which was amazing to see in the wild, he was almost bush Tucker!
Best tour if you would like to see a lot!
Carlo_T, Dec. 2022
Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Day Trip from Cairns or Port Douglas
This is one of the best tours if you don't have much time in Cairns and would like to see a lot.
Excellent Tour, Recommended
Karen_C, Nov. 2022
Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Day Trip from Cairns or Port Douglas
Highly recommended if you're short on time in a Cairns trip and want to see as much as you can in a day.
This trip greatly...
Darrell_S, Nov. 2022
Cape Tribulation Day Tour from Cairns
It was a long day packed with numerous stops and activities.
The one the locals trust
Rebekah_G, Oct. 2022
Full-Day Cruise Tour to Frankland Islands Great Barrier Reef
The glass bottom boat was epic with the children and we were lucky enough to see two turtle in the safari and one beneath the boat.
Fantastic experience
Chris_A, Sep. 2022
Ocean Free Green Island & Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise, Cairns 25 guests
The crew were helpful and made sure that you got to see everything you’d hoped to by pointing you in the right direction.
Had an amazing train ride...
Katherine_T, Jul. 2022
Kuranda tour via Kuranda Scenic Rail and Skyrail - small group tour
Great explanations on bus to and from tours about local Cairns attractions.
Highly recommended
Jack_C, Jul. 2022
Atherton Tablelands Rain Forest by Night from Cairns
It was a real eye opener to see some of our precious Australian wildlife in their natural habitat.
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All about Cairns & the Tropical North

When to visit

The mercury is always high in tropical Cairns, but the drier winter months (June through October) offer the most pleasant temperatures for hiking and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. Those willing to brave the summer rain, which brings with it better underwater visibility and lusher rain forest, can also find great deals and thinner crowds.

Cairns & the Tropical North information

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