Cairns is a small city in tropical North Queensland. It’s bordered by two World Heritage-listed sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the 135-million-year-old rain forests of the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. The city itself has more than 150,000 residents and features parks and museums. Restaurants and cafés line white sand beaches, and a steady stream of backpackers brings a lively nightlife. Rent a car or book a tour and head out of town to explore the surrounding natural wonders. Buses also run between towns and major attractions.
Many visitors come to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef, which lies in the Coral Sea just off the city’s coast. It takes about two hours to get there by boat. Enjoy the marine life, colorful coral and year-round warm water through a snorkel or a glass-bottomed boat.
The Daintree Rainforest covers about 1,00 square miles (2,600 square kilometers) north of Cairns. Walk through untouched tropical rain forest that’s teeming with wildlife. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, a 4.6-mile (7.5-kilometer) journey above the canopy. During your Skyrail journey you can stop at Barron Gorge National Park, with its deep gorge and waterfalls, and the arty village of Kuranda.
Cairns is surrounded by beaches. Clifton Beach is a 20-minute drive north of the city. The sleepy town features a long, unspoilt beach that’s lined with palm trees and bordered by forest. Cairns Tropical Zoo is here, and features a range of native Australian animals.
The creeks and rivers around Cairns are home to crocodiles. Go to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, a reptile park 40 minutes north of Cairns, where you can get close enough to feed them.
Learn about local Aboriginal history and culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, a 20-minute drive from Cairns.
Much of the community activity in Cairns happens along the Esplanade. Locals gather in this waterfront parkland to make the most of year-round warm weather with outdoor barbecues and a lagoon for swimming. Finish the day with dinner and a drink at the bars and restaurants that line the boardwalk and look out over the ocean.