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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
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
#3
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
#4
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
#5
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
#6
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
#7
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
#8
Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island

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Fitzroy Island is a small forest-covered island fringed by white-sand beaches that lies in the sheltered Great Barrier Reef. Easily accessible from Cairns, it’s a popular day-trip destination and you can also stay there overnight at the resort or campground. Most of the island is protected as part of the Fitzroy Island National Park.More
#9
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
#10
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

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From the electric blue Ulysses to the vibrant Cairns Birdwing, more than 2,000 tropical butterflies call the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary home. Located in Kuranda village, the aviary–which opened in 1987–teaches visitors about the fluttery critters through immersive exhibits and a breeding lab where you can watch scientists at work.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Cairns & the Tropical North

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns
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Sunlover Reef Cruises Cairns Great Barrier Reef Experience
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Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip from Cairns
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Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls and Rainforest Day Tour Departing Cairns
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Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns
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Green Island Discovery Including Glass Bottom Boat Tour Departing Cairns
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Silverswift Outer Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns
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Grand Kuranda Incl Skyrail, Kuranda Scenic Railway and Rainforestation (CKBB)
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Things to do in Cairns & the Tropical North this...

Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Cairns & the Tropical North

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Highly recommended
Jack_C, Jul 2022
Atherton Tablelands Rain Forest by Night from Cairns
It was a real eye opener to see some of our precious Australian wildlife in their natural habitat.
star-5
A very pleasant way to spend an evening
Jannine_B, Jun 2022
Cairns Sunset Cruise
We chose this tour as a little time filler on our last night in Cairns and it turned out to be one of the best activities we did on our entire trip.
star-5
A must do activity!
Dianne_S, Jun 2022
1 Hour Rainforest Quad Bike Tour in Kuranda
We got to see Cassowary’s as well!
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Getting to see the Tree...
Sean_M, Jun 2022
Atherton Tablelands Rain Forest by Night from Cairns
Getting to see the Tree Kangaroo and platypus was really good also the countless other animals The host was very knowledgeable and friendly It was a very good way to spend a last night in Cairns
star-4
A night on the harbour
Corey_K, May 2022
Cairns Luxury Catamaran Harbor and Dinner Cruise
Nice to see Cairns at night.
star-5
A great place
Michael_D, Mar 2022
Cairns Aquarium and small group City Sightseeing Tour
Great place to see all the fish, sharks, rays and other species that are in the sea and reefs around Cairns
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The tubing trip was...
HongWen_H, Jan 2022
Rainforest River Tubing from Cairns
The tubing trip was enjoyable and well organised, all team staffs were funny and caring, we had a great time and highly recommend it if you are looking for activities to do in Cairns!
star-5
Amazing and total worth it!
Ray_C, Jun 2022
Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef Snorkel and Dive Cruise from Cairns by Luxury Catamaran
As a solo traveler, it was awesome meeting many new people and it was beyond my imagination to be able to see the reefs and all the aquatic life around them.
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Memorable experience with fantastic crew
Tecky_T, Jun 2022
Hot Air Ballooning Tour from Cairns
Further, he extended great hospitality in introducing places to visit enroute to my drop off point after the flight as it is my first time in Cairns.
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Epic day on the reef!
Sean_H, Jun 2022
Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns
We are qualified divers but we just did snorkelling and I managed to see reef sharks, turtles and plenty of sea life free diving.
star-4
Great Experience but Beware the Coach Pick Up/ Drop off Schedule
peterstafford, Mar 2022
Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
I recommend anyone doing this tour to check how long the coach pick up and drop off is before deciding what to do.
star-5
Great scenic views, wonderful experience!!.
Lealoosina_S, Feb 2022
Kuranda tour via Skyrail and Kuranda Scenic Rail - small group tour
A great day full of wonderful views of Barron falls and so much more.
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Great staff. Super friendly. Amazing experience!
Majed_B, Jan 2022
Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns
I really recommend this company to anyone thinking to see the Great Barrier Reef.
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The flight enabled us to...
Julie_S, Sep 2021
40-Minute Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns
The flight enabled us to see the beautiful colours of the great barrier reef off cairns, staff, pilot and plane great
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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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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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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.
star-4
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.
star-5
This is absolutely excellent value...
Jilly_B, Jul 2016
Classic Kuranda by Skyrail and Scenic Railway, Rainforestation & lunch. CKB
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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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.

Time Zone
AEST (UTC +10)
Frequently Asked Questions
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