10 awesome things to do in Cairns

Nestled by the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics, Cairns acts as the ultimate gateway to Tropical North Queensland. A single look at the place will fill your road trip holiday itinerary to the brim with ideas, making it a destination you can return to time and time again to see something new.

Want some examples? These are 10 of our top things to do in and around Cairns.

Esplanade Boardwalk

Just over 2 kilometres of Cairns’ shorefront is taken up by the Esplanade, a gorgeous public area where you can walk, swim, play, gaze at beautiful art and maybe spot the odd pelican or two.

Local markets

The Cairns Night Markets feature over 70 different stalls, with glass blowing, opals and crocodile skins all featuring. There are many more markets happening around the city every week, too, so keep your eyes peeled and you may just go home with a bargain.

Botanic Gardens

For a quiet stroll through 4,000 different plant species, 170 bird species and countless colourful butterflies, visit the free-to-enter Cairns Botanic Gardens.

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

The famous Great Barrier Reef is just offshore, offering you a veritable underwater playground. Dive or snorkel to see the world’s largest collection of corals, as well as over 1,500 different species of fish.

Cruising above the Great Barrier Reef

There are numerous little islands around the reef that are like paradise on earth, including Green Island (a popular choice).


Not far north of Cairns is the ‘village in the rainforest’, Kuranda. This excellent little town is surrounded by numerous trails, adventure activities and animal experiences located within the Wet Tropics.

Daintree Rainforest

Further north you’ll find one of the oldest living rainforests on Earth, Daintree. If you’ve ever wanted to see what plants looked like millions of years ago, this is the place to visit.

Palm Cove

Just 30 minutes north of the Cairns CBD is one of Tropical North QLD’s premier beach and resort destinations, Palm Cove. Come for a pamper, and you won’t leave disappointed.

Port Douglas

Keep heading up the road and you’ll next get to Port Douglas, a tourism hot spot in its own right, and another great vantage point to access both Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef.

Gulf Savannah

Experience the classic Aussie Outback by popping inland from Cairns to visit the Gulf Savannah. Here you can wander through lava tubes, explore ancient Aboriginal culture, fossick for your own precious gems, see a raft of historic colonial sights and much, much more.