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4 Best Things to Do in Cairns, Australia

Discover the best things to do in Cairns, Australia, from exploring the Great Barrier Reef to enjoying the vibrant local culture and nature.

Cairns was the last stop on my tour of Australia’s East Coast. I started my journey in Melbourne and then continued to Sydney, Brisbane, and Airlie Beach to do a cruise to the Whitsundays.

Cairns is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and is also known as the adventure capital of Australia.

You can dive in the world’s largest coral reef, sunbathe at the Esplanade lagoon, or engage in adventurous activities like skydiving.

I compiled this list with my favorite activities in Cairns to help you plan your trip.

What to do in Cairns

1. Skydive Cairns

Jumping out of a plane might seem crazy to some, but it’s exactly my kind of activity!

In fact, I did my very first skydive in Cairns, and it’s an experience that’s hard to describe in words. My instructor had already done over 7,000 dives, and I completely understand why!

Cairns is probably one of the best places to skydive in Australia. If you dare to keep your eyes open, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef and the lush rainforests surrounding Cairns.

Before heading to the airport, we received a comprehensive safety briefing, and our personal instructors repeated the key points.

I felt very secure throughout the entire activity. Everyone was highly professional, and I could feel they had much experience. They created a relaxed and cool atmosphere.

Read here more about Skydiving in Cairns. I recommend GetYourGuide to check availability and book your Skydive.

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2. Skyrail Cairns

Another cool activity I did in Cairns was a tour of the Skyrail Cairns. This cable car takes you over Australia’s World Heritage-listed tropical rainforest in the Barron Gorge National Park.

I opted for the Diamond View upgrade, which features a glass-bottom gondola offering incredible views of the rainforest below.

You can make a stop at Red Peak Station and join a free guided boardwalk tour to learn more about the rainforest.

The second stop was easily my favorite part of the tour. From the Barron Falls Station, you can walk to a lookout with breathtaking views of the Barron Gorge and the incredible Barron Falls.

Click here to read more about Skyrail Cairns. I recommend GetYourGuide to check availability and book your tickets.

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3. Sunbath at the Esplanade Lagoon Cairns

The Esplanade Lagoon in Cairns is a huge artificial swimming pool with a beach and expansive grass areas where you can sunbathe.

Due to stingers and crocodiles, it is not possible to swim safely at most spots in the sea, so the lagoon is a great alternative for hot summer days.

The lagoon is located right on the waterfront and has amenities like showers, bathrooms, and barbecues.

I really enjoyed relaxing here after my day tours in Cairns.

4. Things to do in Cairns – Visit the Cairns Night Market

The night market is open every day from 4:30 PM to 11:00 PM and is located in the heart of the city, next to the Esplanade lagoon.

It has a lively atmosphere and about 70 different stalls selling local crafts, souvenirs, and an extensive variety of Asian handicrafts.

The food court offers local and international cuisine, like Japanese sushi, Chinese dumplings, and Indian curries. Pro tip: After 9:00 PM, many food stalls offer discounts to sell off their remaining food before closing.

My Cairns Hotel Recommendation

1. Budget-Friendly: YHA Cairns Central

If you plan to visit Cairns and look for a budget-friendly accommodation option, YHA Cairns Central is an excellent choice.

I booked a private room with a shared bathroom, but you can also choose a private room with an ensuite bathroom or shared dormitories.

It is centrally located, just a 20-minute walk from the Esplanade lagoon, and close to the city’s vibrant bars, restaurants, and bustling night market.

YHA Cairns Central has a huge communal kitchen, a large dining area, and social spaces to meet other travelers. The highlight is for sure the outdoor pool in the center of the accommodation.

Click here to check prices and availability.

Frequently Asked Questions about the best things to do in Cairns

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What are the best day trips from Cairns?

A day trip to Fitzroy Island or Green Island provides beautiful beaches and snorkeling opportunities just a short boat ride from Cairns. Another popular day trip from Cairns is to Kuranda, accessible via the scenic railway or Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, where you can visit the local markets and rainforest habitats.

What is the best place to go shopping in Cairns?

Cairns Central Shopping Centre and the Cairns Night Markets are the go-to places for shopping. You’ll find everything from high-end brands to local crafts and souvenirs. The Esplanade also features many boutique shops.

Can I visit the Great Barrier Reef without being an experienced diver?

Yes, numerous tours cater to all levels of experience, including beginners. Many operators offer introductory diving sessions and snorkeling options, allowing you to explore the reef’s beauty without diving experience.

Are there activities for adventure seekers in Cairns?

Absolutely. Cairns is known as the adventure capital of Australia. You can go bungee jumping, skydiving, white-water rafting on the Tully River, or even take a jungle surfing tour through the Daintree Rainforest.

What cultural experiences can I find in Cairns?

Cairns is a great place to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. The Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park offers interactive experiences, including didgeridoo playing, spear-throwing, and traditional dance performances. There are also art galleries showcasing Indigenous art.

How can I explore the Daintree Rainforest?

There are several ways to explore the Daintree Rainforest, including guided walking tours, river cruises to see crocodiles, and the scenic Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Consider a canopy tour that takes you above the rainforest floor for a unique perspective.

Are there any free activities in Cairns?

Yes, free activities are walking along the Cairns Esplanade, swimming in the Lagoon, hiking in the nearby national parks, and visiting some of the city’s markets.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at YHA Cairns Central. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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