Cairns, Far North Queensland

As a tropical tourist paradise, you can’t go past Cairns in Far North Queensland for excitement and jaw-dropping awe.

Cairns is vibrant, with lots of cafes, restaurants and incredible choices for exploring the surrounding regions. This city is known worldwide as the gateway to the famous Great Barrier Reef, but there’s a lot more to do here than snorkel away the hours hovering mesmerised over the beautiful corals and watching the coloured fish through the lens of a snorkel.

If that was all there was to do here it would certainly be enough, but there are so many more things you can treat yourself to, and so many wonders and excitement in this lush green corner of Australian heaven that you might not know where to start.  

You can skydive, try a ride in a hot air balloon, swim, scuba dive, go caving, tour the rainforest, fly over the region on a heli tour or get down and dirty in a 4WD and camp on a safari and experience a cup of billy tea, plus more.

This region of Tropical North Queensland has two distinct seasons – the wet and the dry.  The Summer wet monsoonal season starts in December, peaks in January and continues to March.  January rainfall averages 396 mm and daytime temperatures range from 23 to 31 degrees Celsius. Most would say Cairns is great all year round but others prefer to visit from June to August.

If you’re travelling to Cairns from overseas or from other parts of Australia, one of the beauties of this tropical heaven on earth is that there are no extra vaccinations needed here or anywhere in Australia. Don’t handle bats though, because of the risk of lyssaviruses (rabies) and Hendra virus, even though instances of infection are rare. There are mosquitoes, of course, so do use repellent to protect against the mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue and Ross River Fever and the like. And it you plan on swimming in coastal waters, marine stingers are something to be aware of – choose a netted and patrolled beach. Check with your travel doctor or clinic about these.

So, with that out of the way, let’s see what you can do on your Cairns holiday…

 Atherton Tablelands lookout with
Barefoot Tours Full Day Tours

 About the Author:

Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Travelvax.

Kym Wallis from Higher Ranking

Kym Wallis from Higher Ranking

1. Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree/Cape Tribulation area is world heritage, older than the Amazon and a huge amount of endemic wildlife you will never see anywhere else in the world. This is one wonder of Cairns you simply cannot miss. Our rainforests so much more than wonderful places to see. They’re drenched in birdsong, and a chorus of frogs; they’re away from the madness of cities, clothed in mist and dewy rain and they’re the very living, beating, breathing heart of our planet. The Daintree is etched into the heart and history of Australia as a vibrant archive of evolution and it’s the homeland of the Kuku Yalanji Indigenous people who are its custodians. This place is a nursery of awesome animal and plant life living in its very own ecosystem which originated when this country was still part of Gondwanaland. You only have to see a cassowary for evidence that dinosaurs roamed the planet (and still do).

2. The Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s greatest gift to the world – the reef – is usually the first thing people want to see and experience and there are so many things to see and do you might wonder where to start? How about a 45-minute heli flight to put the whole thing into perspective? Skim above the reef for breathlessly beautiful sights, over Baron Falls, and the timeless Daintree National Park spanning mountainous rainforest, stunning gorges and beaches. The rainforest is World Heritage-listed, so it’s a must-see. See the Reef by boat, scuba dive or if you’re a non-swimmer, there are many options including glass-bottom boat, semi-submersible submarine tours, helmet diving and more.

3. Atherton Tablelands

The Atherton Tablelands has to be one of Cairns’ hidden gems and the next Big Thing with regard to tourism in the area. There’s so much to do – with a variety of popular camping, and hiking spots and an abundance of waterholes to swim in. It’s great all year round as well, and it’s still a bit off the beaten track with so many routes as options that you’re not like to bump into any tour groups. You can catch a tour with Barefoot Tours where you can choose which waterfalls you want to visit. There are about 10 different water holes to choose from and generally Barefoot visits up to five a day. The lovely scenery is a vista of farmlands, mountains, and waterholes, and there’s the possibility of a typical Australian ‘Outback’ experience, which is a perfect retreat.

4. The Night Markets and Rusty’s Farmer’s Market

A trip to Cairns wouldn’t be complete without visiting the night markets to pick up some traditional souvenirs and market fare. You can wind down with a massage – yes – and they’re only $15 for 40 minutes. There’s also Rusty’s Farmer’s Market which has become a bit of a legend among tourists as one the least expensive farmers’ markets around Australia. Say hello to avocados for 50 cents for instance. It’s a great way to buy veg and fruit if you’re self-catering in a holiday apartment. The prices are slashed just before it closes at 2pm so it’s a good time for a bargain.

5. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

A really popular activity around Cairns is to ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway up to the rainforest town of Kuranda Mountain Village. This incredible place is like an exciting hippie market town, with butterfly gardens, venom zoos, koala zoos, and also some fantastic eateries with amazing food. Glide 7.5km over pristine rainforest and see the breathtaking views out to Cairns and the Tableland Valley. From Kuranda hop on the Scenic Railway back down as it winds over the McDonald ranges to Cairns for an hour and 45 minutes. The historic railway was built in 1891 with dynamite and hand tools and has  93 curves and 15 tunnels.

6. Aboriginal Culture

Watch traditional dance and music at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and hear the stories of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The park is the largest employer of indigenous Australians in the country. It’s now located in Smithfield at the base of the Skyrail cableway. The entertainment is compelling, educational, combining the latest in technology and theatre. Take an interactive tour and learn authentic traditional culture and customs. Learn about bush medicine and food, how to throw boomerangs and spears and play the didgeridoo, watch dancing, and make fire with sticks.

7. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Speaking of crocs, why not visit Hartley’s, which is just 40 minutes north of Cairns to see some wonderous Australian wildlife in their natural setting? There’s entertainment and you can learn a lot about crocodiles, koalas,  cassowaries, snakes, and see some stunningly beautiful tropical insects and birds.