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.
Top 5 free things to do with kids in Cairns
Cairns is all fun and sun and perfect for a family holiday. If you want to get a heap of travel bang for absolutely no bucks, check out these free, family-friendly travel ideas.
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Things to do
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 opens in new window 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.
It takes a village
Discover the coastal villages of Palm Cove opens in new window and Port Douglas opens in new window. 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.
Journey into the past
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 opens in new window is an absolute highlight.
Leap of faith
AJ Hackett Bungy opens in new window 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.
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 $4.40 airport surcharge), and take about 10 minutes to reach the city centre.
Shuttle The Sun Palm opens in new window shuttle bus meets all flights, and costs AUD $15 to Cairns, from AUD $27 to the northern beaches and Port Douglas (the trip to Port Douglas takes around 1.5 hours). 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.Back to top
The main taxi rank is located on Lake Street in the city centre. Local Translink opens in new window 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