Cairns is a city known for being the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. But there’s more to the city than snorkelling. Here are 10 things to do in Cairns. (154)
Both at home and internationally, Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Many people take advantage of cheap flights to Brisbane and then to Cairns to explore the vast coastline of Queensland, and while the Barrier Reef is a huge drawcard all on its own, the people of Cairns want the world to know that their town has way more going for it than simply being the nearest stop to the UNESCO world heritage site. Here are 10 great things to do in Cairns beyond snorkelling and scuba diving.
The Crystal Cascades
Even the name sounds beautiful. The Cascades are a series of waterfalls around 14km out of town, offering stunning views and walking tracks. You have to work for it: the falls are a 1.2km walk through the rainforest from the parking area. Once there, you’ll be able to cool off in the secluded swimming holes – and no worries, there aren’t any crocodiles in sight.
Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park
The traditional custodians of this land manage the park, about 15km north of Cairns. Visitors learn about the Aboriginal Dreamtime (creation mythology) through holograms and performances. You can also watch boomerang and spear throwing demonstrations and go turtle-spotting in a canoe, learning about the history of the land and its people. If you would like to visit in the evening, you can have dinner and watch a traditional corroboree.
Close to the airport is a waterway you might not be so keen to swim in: the mangroves. The mouth of the river is a swampy salt/freshwater area where the trees grow right out of the water, with a boardwalk for visitors to explore. This is a not a trip for anyone who hates creepy crawlies: you’ll hear them slinking and scurrying about and read about them in the informative signs along the boardwalk. Don’t forget your insect repellent.
Cairns Esplanade and Boardwalk
For a rather more appealing body of water and boardwalk, check out the giant 4800m swimming pool – a spectacular artificial lagoon on the reclaimed waterfront. The boardwalk nearby features picnic spots with free barbecues and is popular for those wanting a bit of outdoor exercise, family fun or sun-tanning.
Kuranda, the Village in the Rainforest
With its butterfly sanctuary, art galleries, aviary, koala park, bustling community market and proximity to the rainforest, Kuranda is a must see for visitors to Cairns. There’s plenty to do, see, eat and drink in this laidback village – you’ll be relaxing in no time.
You can catch the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns, which winds its way through the forest and a number of smaller waterfalls before reaching Kuranda. Alternatively, the Skyrail also ends conveniently in the centre of the village.
While the reef offers tropical, colourful fish and corals, the inland waterways are home to some equally impressive – though rather more vicious – wildlife. Yes, we’re talking crocodiles. If you fancy seeing some in the wild, you can do so from the safety of the Crocodile Express Daintree river cruises.
Inland from the coast, you’ll find the stunning Tablelands – field and forest, mountain and waterfall – which are perfect for exploring. There are wineries and farm tours, cycle routes and walking trails aplenty. You can even camp overnight in a few spots. Just bring your sense of adventure and a hat!
Hot Air Balloon
A little known fact is that Tropical North Queensland is the ballooning capital of the world! If you’ve always wanted to float over the landscape in a balloon, now’s the perfect opportunity. You’ll get to see the tablelands and the coastline from a rare vantage point. Make sure your camera battery is fully charged!
Further up the coast, Cape Tribulation – named by Captain Cook when his ship the Endeavour ran aground on what is now known as Endeavour Reef – is a stunning remote part of the coast. Rent a car to reach its unbelievable beaches. If you’re staying overnight, book ahead – there are only a limited number of bed and breakfasts and backpacker hostels. While there, go on an exhilarating ‘Jungle Surf’ – aka zip lining through the rainforest.
Cairns Regional Gallery
Arts buffs will enjoy the combination of modern and ancient art in the gallery, which features local and indigenous artworks. The acclaimed gallery is set inside the heritage-listed State Government Insurance Building.