The gateway to Queensland's tropical north
Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region are exciting and exotic, offering visitors the chance to explore two World Heritage sites. Snorkel or dive the waters of the Great Barrier Reef to see spectacular corals and marine life. Then explore Daintree National Park – the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest.
Brave a bungee tower jump in cosmopolitan Cairns or relax in the coastal townships of Mission Beach, Palm Cove or Port Douglas. While you’re at it, head over to the Tropical Tablelands, venture across the Savannah Way or learn about the history and traditions of the area’s original inhabitants at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. You can also trek to the tip of Australia’s northernmost point, the Cape York Peninsula.
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From birdsong-filled sunrise to evening beach stroll, days are idyllic in the town where the rainforest meets the reef.
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Hike, helicopter, boat, jungle surf (or even sleep) your way to true discovery in a rainforest more ancient than the Amazon.
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Things to do
AJ Hackett Bungy offers 16 different jump styles including the Minjin Jungle Swing – a user-controlled contraption that allows for three people to jump and swing through the jungle, travelling 45 metres every 3.5 seconds at a speed of up to 120km per hour. There’s a bar and viewing deck for those who’d prefer to sit this one out.
Great Barrier Reef
Dive, snorkel, take a personal submarine or cruise in a glass-bottomed boat. Whatever your preferred discovery mode, you’ll soon see why the spectacular Great Barrier Reef is considered one of the world’s seven natural wonders. Seaplane joyrides, diving with minke whales, parasailing off remote island beaches, viewing baby turtles make their first dash into the Coral Sea – you’ll find adventure at every turn. Tour operators depart daily from Cairns, Mission Beach and Port Douglas, offering introductory scuba and snorkelling courses, glass-bottomed cruises, motorised underwater scooters and more.
Tropical North Queensland is home to Australia’s ancient evergreen rainforests steeped in Indigenous heritage and mystery. The cascading waterfalls and giant Kauri pines are part of the surroundings known as “home” to one-quarter of the country’s frog population, one-third of mammals and freshwater fish and nearly half of the nation’s birdlife. A must-see and do on any would-be Northern Queensland traveller’s list, Mossman Gorge is an absolute highlight.
Palm Cove and Port Douglas
Discover the coastal villages of Palm Cove and Port Douglas. Palm Cove is quiet and relaxing with ancient paperbark (Melaleuca trees) lining its esplanade, a tropical getaway in serene yet sophisticated surrounds. Port Douglas is a tropical oasis, an hour north of Cairns, offering worldly comforts with a disarming friendly village atmosphere. It’s a place of transformation, where people come to refresh, restore and revitalise in the aquamarine waters of the Coral Sea, the crystal creeks of Mossman Gorge and the palm-fringed golden sands of Four Mile Beach.
The sky’s the limit
Venture deep into the forest onboard the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway opens in new window. A world first in environmental tourism, the cable-operated gondolas will have you suspended for either a 90-minute (one way) or 2.5-hour (return trip) tour above Australia’s World Heritage-listed rainforest. Choose to begin or conclude your journey at the Caravonica or Kuranda. Better still, the Skyrail can be combined with other attractions (including the Kuranda Scenic Railway) for the ultimate half- or full-day regional tour.
Distance to city centre 7km
Taxi A taxi will cost around AUD $20 (plus a AUD $4.40 airport surcharge), and take about 10 minutes to reach the city centre.
Shuttle Excellence Coaches opens in new window runs a local shuttle from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas, via the northern beaches, Cairns CBD and Palm Cove. Book ahead.
Bus Sun Palm also run a regular shuttle bus from the airport to the Sheridan Street bus station to link up with the local Translink bus services; the fare is AUD $4.Back to top
When to go
Cairns is best described as having two seasons: wet and dry. The wet or 'green' summer season begins in December and runs through to February or March. The cool, dry winter season arrives in April or May and generally lasts until September. October and November, which are regarded as 'in-between' months, are the peak period for diving as the conditions are typically ideal.
Water temperatures on the reef range from 22°C (winter) to 29°C (summer) so there’s really no bad time to go. The same holds true for the rainforest, which is never more lovely than when it’s in full bloom. July and August offer the chance to see minke and humpback whales as they migrate up the coast and November marks the annual coral spawning, a spectacular sight.
Ready to go? Find cheap flights to Cairns opens in new windowBack to top
The main taxi rank is located on Lake Street in the city centre. Local Translink buses cover the suburbs, northern beaches and Palm Cove, with additional services to the smaller towns of Atherton Tablelands, Cooktown, Kuranda, Mission Beach and Port Douglas.Back to top