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Things to do in Cairns & the Tropical North

Things to do in  Cairns & the Tropical North

Welcome to Cairns & the Tropical North

Nestled on the Queensland coast, Cairns attracts visitors from around the world as the gateway to Australia’s Tropical North and the Great Barrier Reef. Set 1,499 miles (2,413 kilometers) north of Sydney, the city of Cairns is the perfect home base for adventure lovers, and boasts tropical climes, nearly endless diving possibilities, and a vibrant food and drink scene. Biking, Segway, and walking tours hit attractions such as the Cairns Historical Society Museum and Cairns Regional Gallery. Outside the city, popular day-trip destinations include the ecotourism destination Cape Tribulation in Daintree National Park, the Cape York Peninsula, and Cooktown.

Top 10 attractions in Cairns & the Tropical North

#1
Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

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Encompassing roughly 3,000 individual reefs and dotted with almost 900 islands and coral cays (small sandy isles), Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most unforgettable natural treasures. Snorkelers and certified divers flock here to see the unparalleled array of marine life.More
#2
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

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Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures introduces visitors to Australia’s most famous reptiles (and other native species) through an informative and educational day out. Visitors can observe crocs on a cruise through a lagoon mimicking the creatures’ natural habitat and learn how crocodiles are sustainably farmed.More
#3
Paronella Park

Paronella Park

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Deep in the heart of the rainforest near Cairns lies a real Spanish castle. Paronella Park was the brainchild of José Paronella, who – with dreams of building a castle and leisure gardens for the community to enjoy – began building his castle in the 1930s.Paronella Park has undergone many constructions and reconstructions. Parts of the park have been destroyed by no less than three cyclones, a fire, and floods since José Paronella completed his park, but it has bounced back to relive its former glory. The park has won multiple awards for ecotourism, and is one of the most popular attractions around Cairns.Visiting Paronella Park today shows off the many original and restored features of José Paronella’s dream. Extensive tropical garden, picnic areas, tennis courts, a cinema, a ballroom and more are on show, including more modern additions such as a museum. There are over five hectares of gardens in which visitors can picnic, a café offering local produce and even camping grounds.More
#4
Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge

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Marking the southern border of Daintree National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mossman Gorge is one of the most popular places to experience the world’s oldest rain forest. Dating back more than 130 million years, the dense forest and scenic river gorge harbor a rich biodiversity and provide a stunning backdrop for hikers and swimmers.More
#5
Green Island

Green Island

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Marooned off the coast of Cairns in north Queensland, Green Island is a tropical paradise of lush rainforest, white sandy beaches, and crystalline waters. The idyllic island is part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef National Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and harbors an extraordinary variety of coral reefs, exotic fish, and marine life.More
#6
Daintree Rainforest

Daintree Rainforest

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From the dramatic jungle-clad gorges, wild rivers, and tumbling waterfalls of Daintree National Park to the deserted coast of Cape Tribulation along the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest is Australia’s largest stretch of rain forest, covering 460 square miles (1,200 square kilometers). A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and a hiker’s paradise, the rainforest is renowned for its extraordinary biodiversity.More
#7
Kuranda Scenic Railway

Kuranda Scenic Railway

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Winding its way through the ancient rainforests, dramatic gorges, and UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscapes of Queensland’s tropical north, the Kuranda Scenic Railway is one of Australia’s most spectacular train journeys. Running 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Cairns in the south to Kuranda in the north, the route is a thrilling one. As it passes through an impressive 15 tunnels and across 37 bridges, the railway affords panoramic views of the Barron Gorge National Park.More
#8
Barron Gorge National Park

Barron Gorge National Park

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Queensland’s Barron Gorge National Park extends from the town of Lake Placid, and the surrounding lowlands, all the way to the high Atherton Tableland. The area—which is full of beautiful forests, waterfalls, gorges, and wildlife—is easily accessible from the city of Cairns and is one of the most popular outdoor areas in the region.More
#9
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

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Soaring through the treetops of Barron Gorge National Park, the 4.7-mile-long (7.5-kilometer) Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offers an unforgettable outdoor experience. Glide over North Queensland’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed tropical rain forest and enjoy unbeatable aerial views over its forests, gorges, and waterfalls.More
#10
Atherton Tablelands

Atherton Tablelands

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Offering welcome relief from the sweltering temperatures of Queensland’s tropical north, the sweeping plateaus of the Atherton Tablelands lie within easy day-trip distance of Cairns. Covering an area of 20,000 square miles (32,000 square kilometers), the lush landscapes also provide scenic terrain for bush walking and bird-watching.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Cairns & the Tropical North

Recent reviews from experiences in Cairns & the Tropical North

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Great Day Out
DarrylG, Jul 2021
Cairns Estuary Fishing
It was a beautiful stretch of water and got to see a lot of the estuary system.
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One for the bucket list
Lilia_S, Jul 2021
Great Barrier Reef Scenic Helicopter Tour and Cruise from Cairns
Being able to snorkel to see a tiny bit of paradise that’s the Great Barrier Reef is an experience of a lifetime.
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North QLD Rainforest experience
Karen_H, Jun 2021
Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Premium Day Tour
If you want to see Cairns and get a feeling for North Queensland do this trip and the Paranella trip.
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The best Rainforest tour ever
Christina_D, Jun 2021
Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns
Fantastic day, 2 out of 3 kids rated this tour their favourite of everything we did in Cairns, our tour guide Carlos made the trip so much fun for all, waterfalls were beautiful, we seen platypus in the river, gorgeous views, slid down the rock face water slide, got behind the majestic waterfall, great lunch at the pub, and easy walks to water falls, Carlos made the bus rock, we all had a fantastic day and highly recommend doing this tour, the granddaughter rated this her favourite tour, even higher than swimming with a turtle and she loves turtles, it was so good Are ages ranged from 58 years down to 9 years, it had something for all of us.
star-5
Fantastic tour-Highly recommended
Travello, May 2021
Skyrail & Kuranda Train Day Trip from Cairns
Well worth while doing to experience the spectacular scenic wonderland above and within the rainforest on skyrail with great views of Barron Falls.
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BRILLIANT TOUR EXCEEDED ALL EXPECTATIONS
Travello, May 2021
The Original Day Tour to Paronella Park, Lake Barrine and Millaa Millaa Falls
We highly recommend this brilliant tour to everyone wanting to see and explore the beauty of the Atherton tablelands.
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Great trip and great value
charles_s, May 2021
Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns by Luxury Catamaran
The locations that this company picked were great: we saw plenty of live coral activities and heaps of different marine life.
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Unforgettable Experience
Robert, May 2021
Port Douglas Sunday Markets Day Tour
ample time was given for everyone to be able to see the stalls without rushing.
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Comfortable boat, relaxed crew, beautiful snorkelling
Alison_P, Feb 2021
Outer Reef Pontoon Experience from Cairns
It was also good not to have staff constantly upwelling activities.
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Wonderful Cairns Hinterland Experience.
Ken_S, Oct 2020
The Original Day Tour to Paronella Park, Lake Barrine and Millaa Millaa Falls
To combine that with a stop at Milla Milla Falls, a beautiful lunch at Innisfail and scones at Lake Barrine was a magical way to spend a day sightseeing around the Cairns hinterland.
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Paradise!
Neringa M, Aug 2019
Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns
If you visit Cairns, make sure to visit Fitzroy Island.
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Nice trip, well organized with the...
kincaid42, Sep 2017
Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns
Nice trip, well organized with the purchased included lunch and activities.
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Excellent tour. Anna was quite...
Andrew H, Mar 2018
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures Day Trip from Cairns
Anna was quite informative about both this tour as well as other activities to be found in Cairns.
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This is absolutely excellent value...
Dauphin, Jul 2016
Classic Kuranda by Skyrail and Scenic Railway Including Rainforestation, Koala and Wildlife Park and Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience
This is absolutely excellent value for money, it had breathtaking views and is a very fun filled packed day with lots of activities, the Duck Tour was very interesting and we fell in love with the Koalas, the Skyrail is unique....
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This was one of my highlights in...
Stefan M, May 2017
Atherton Tablelands Rain Forest by Night from Cairns
Even the sounds in the night are worth to visit the jungle after sunset.
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This trip was absolutely made by our...
Rob A, Aug 2016
Chillagoe Caves and Outback Day Trip from Cairns
The trip and the caves were interesting and it was good to see another side of Oz on our short trip to Cairns
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I was grateful that the tour company...
kedwards01, May 2016
Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
I was grateful that the tour company contacted us in advance enough so that we could rearrange our tours to make sure that we were able to visit Kuranda.
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It was a fantastic day for the...
Shelley W, Sep 2015
Green Island Day Trip from Cairns
Children loved snorkeling and the island is a fantastic place to visit.
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Excellent day out, great places to...
LEE H, Aug 2015
Daintree and Cape Tribulation Tour from Cairns
Excellent day out, great places to visit , good time levels out of the bus.
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Fantastic day. Well organized and...
Jennifer G, Apr 2013
Green Island Day Trip from Cairns
Food beautiful, activities well worth doing, glass bottom boat and submarine.

All about Cairns & the Tropical North

When to visit

The mercury is always high in tropical Cairns, but the drier winter months (June through October) offer the most pleasant temperatures for hiking and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. Those willing to brave the summer rain, which brings with it better underwater visibility and lusher rain forest, can also find great deals and thinner crowds.

Frequently Asked Questions
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