Cairns tours & activities

people Stand-up Paddleboarding at one of the beaches around Cairns

Stand-up Paddleboarding is popular on the beaches around Cairns. Photo: Tourism Australia

  • Cairns is the perfect place to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Book a boat trip out to the underwater world and snorkel or dive with the colourful fish in the crystal clear waters. Another option is to stay on board and cruise through the reefs. Otherwise, fly overhead in a seaplane or helicopter to see this magical marine wonderland. 

  • Take a cruise to Green Island, which is not far from Cairns and is part of the Great Barrier Reef. Go snorkelling, swimming or take a glass-bottom boat tour around the Reef. To get an even closer view of the Great Barrier Reef, take a semi-submarine, which takes you underwater to see the marine life. Include the Marineland Croc park and aquarium when you visit Green Island. This is home to over 50 crocodiles including Cassis, who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crocodile in captivity. 

people enjoying a snorkelling tour off the pontoon boat on the Great Barrier Reef

Go snorkelling around the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Tourism & Events QLD

  • Visit Cairns Botanical Gardens which has one of Australia's largest collections of tropical trees and plants. Take one of the free plant and heritage tours or book a segway tour where your guide will take you on a journey from the Cairns Esplanade, and past creeks, mangrove swamps, Centenary Lakes wetlands, and weave through the Botanic Gardens. While you're in the Botanic Gardens, be sure to check out the old WWII naval oil storage tanks that have been restored to accommodate the Gardens Tanks Art Centre. This iconic contemporary arts facility has a regular lineup of music, art and theatre. 

  • Cairns Aquarium brings you face-to-face with more than 15,000 marine and land animals that live among the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest.

  • Visit the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary where you will be surrounded by hundreds of beautiful butterflies! Enjoy more than 1,500 beautiful butterflies floating around you as you walk through the aviary and gardens. Be sure to look out for the magnificent electric blue Ulysses butterfly, or the fluorescent green and yellow Cairns birdwing. Now this is the stuff that kids dream about.

a colourful butterfly at the Cairns Butterfly Sanctuary.

Magic happens in the Cairns Butterfly Sanctuary. Tourism QLD

  • Take a Cairns harbour cruise or a crocodile tour. Glide through mangroves and waterways, and spot the occasional saltwater crocodile from the safety of your boat. The crew will entertain you with an informative commentary, and you’ll get off the boat knowing a little bit more about Cairns and crocodiles. Crocodile tours are a great way to see these massive prehistorical man-eaters in their natural habitat. 

  • Another way to come face to face with crocodiles is by visiting Hartleys Crocodile Adventures (which is 40 minutes north of Cairns on the way to Port Douglas). They have live crocodile shows and a boat tour through crocodile-infested waters, which really will blow your mind. There is also lots of other wildlife including koalas for you to get up close and personal with.

a crocodile jumping for food at Hartleys crocodile park.

Take a crocodile adventure and see these prehistoric creatures in action. Photo: Tourism & Events QLD

  • A short drive north of Cairns is Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park which provides visitors with a taste of the rich culture and history of the Aboriginal people. Learn how to make a boomerang, indulge in traditional food, and be enthralled with the fun night-time shows. Another great way to experience the local Aboriginal culture is by booking a tour with the fun, friendly and knowledgeable Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours. 

  • Do the Water Fall Circuit which is a full-day trip from Cairns. The monsoonal summer rain means you get to see quite a few gushing waterfalls in the area. You can book a tour or hire a car and go at your own pace. Include a visit to Lake Eacham & Crater Lake, Curtain Fig and the boutique township of Yungburra (which has funky shops and cafes. It also has a platypus platform on the edge of town where you just may see one of the cute aquatic Aussie critters. The best opportunities to sight a platypus is morning or dusk.

an Aboriginal man throwing a spear at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Learn, love and be entertained at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Photo: Tourism & Events QLD

  • Imagine ziplining through the world’s oldest rainforest - the Daintree Rainforest. After being strapped in and harnessed, you'll jungle surf 20 metres above the forest canopy. Your guide will take you from platform to platform and explain the flora and fauna around and beneath you. This is a must for adventure seekers.

  • Go white water rafting on the Barron River. Don’t worry, you’ll have an experienced guide on board, and be wearing a life jacket, helmet and spray jacket, so you can focus on the spectacular scenery as you ride through The Barron Gorge National Park.

  • Visit the nearby is the town of Tully which is the perfect spot for river cruises, bird spotting, 4WD safaris and exploring secluded beaches. There's also plenty of game fishing options, and crabbing and fish tours.

  • If you're still chasing adrenaline thrills, book a bungee jump, or the world’s only BMX jump bungee with AJ Hackett at Smithfield.  

  • Go mountain biking in the tropics. Trails and parks include Smithfield mountain bike trails, Atherton Forest mountain bike park, Port Douglas bump track, and Davies Creek mountain bike park. 

a woman Ziplining through the Daintree rainforest

Zipline through the Daintree rainforest. Photo: Tourism & Events QLD

  • Wander along Cairns Esplanade which has a swimming lagoon, waterfront boardwalks, BBQ areas, a children’s water park, a marina, shops and more than 100 restaurants and cafes. If you feel like you want a bit of exercise, join one of the free activities provided by the Council which is part of the Active Living classes along the Esplanade. Just some of the group activities offered include zumba, aqua aerobics, volleyball and bouldering.

  • Enjoy the white sandy beaches that are a 10-20 minute drive outside the city. These include the popular Trinity Beach and Palm Cove where locals and visitors can be found on the palm-fringed beaches, restaurants, resorts and beach shacks.

  • Tobruk Memorial Pool is a public aquatic centre and the ideal place to cool down. There's a variety of pools and therapy pools, plus the fun flow rider for the adventurous kids.

  • See how lucky you are at the Reef Hotel Casino. There's entertainment, food, gambling, and free weekly movies.

 the Cairns esplanade

There's always something happening on the Cairns esplanade. Photo: Tourism & Events QLD

Visit Port Douglas

a resort in Port Douglas

Book a stay at one of the ritzy Port Douglas resorts. Photo: Tourism Australia 

Getting there: Port Douglas is an hour's drive north of Cairns. In contrast to the adventure-filled Cairns, Port Douglas is where you go for a laid-back holiday.

  • Port Douglas has luxurious tropical resorts, award-winning restaurants, galleries and shopping. Enjoy a swim or take a walk along Four Mile Beach, or head to the Village Markets which are on every Sunday. Port Douglas is another access point to the world-heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Book a diving tour with Quicksilver Dive, ABC Snorkel Charters and Blue Dive.

  • For something different - toad racing is a sport that is unique to Cairns and is a lot of fun to watch if you get the chance. You’ll be in stitches laughing as you watch racers catch, kiss and release an iconic Queensland cane toad, and then do their best to coax them over the finish line. One place to see all the toad action is at the Iron Bar in Port Douglas.