16 Best Things to Do in Cairns, Australia

Cairns, located in Tropical North Queensland, is a captivating destination that offers a plethora of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
From exploring the world-famous Great Barrier Reef to immersing yourself in the lush rainforests of the Wet Tropics, Cairns has something for everyone.
In this blog post, Mary will take you through the best things to do in Cairns, ensuring that your visit to this tropical paradise is nothing short of extraordinary.

Things to Do in Cairns
Things to Do in Cairns

Explore the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef

No trip to Cairns would be complete without a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed wonder. This natural marvel, sitting on Cairns’ doorstep, is home to a diverse array of marine life and vibrant coral reefs.

Embark on a snorkeling or diving adventure to witness the breathtaking underwater world up close. Several tour boats depart from Cairns’ marina, offering a range of experiences to suit every traveler, from half-day excursions to multi-day liveaboard trips.
Don’t miss the opportunity to ‘seas’ the day and explore this underwater paradise.

Stroll Through the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city by taking a stroll through the tropical oasis of the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Spread across 38 hectares, these gardens are home to a vast collection of rare and exotic tropical plants.

Marvel at the towering Amorphophallus Titanum, one of only two found in Australia, with its impressive size and unusual appearance.
Join one of the guided walks to learn more about the gardens’ flora and fauna and keep an eye out for wildlife along the way.

Dive into the Cairns Aquarium

Cairns Aquarium
Cairns Aquarium

Immerse yourself in the wonders of Tropical North Queensland’s diverse ecosystems at the Cairns Aquarium.
With 16,000 species of animals across 10 different ecosystems and 71 exhibits, this aquarium offers a captivating glimpse into the region’s marine life.

As the only aquarium in the world to showcase wildlife from two World Heritage-listed sites, the Cairns Aquarium is a must-see attraction.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour, go diving with sharks (no experience required), or visit the newly created turtle hospital for a truly unforgettable experience.

Take a Refreshing Dip in the Rainforest

With the tropical weather of North Queensland, finding a place to cool off is a must. Just a short drive from Cairns CBD, you’ll discover refreshing swimming spots nestled within the Wet Tropics Rainforest.

Stoney Creek, Crystal Cascades, and Fairy Falls are popular destinations for locals and visitors alike. These natural wonders offer serene settings surrounded by lush greenery, providing the perfect opportunity to escape the heat and take a dip in crystal-clear waters. Don’t forget your swimwear!

Get Active Outdoors on the Esplanade

Swap the confines of a gym for the scenic beauty of the Cairns Esplanade. Join the locals on their daily routine of jogging or walking along the 2.5km stretch overlooking the Coral Sea.

The Cairns Regional Council has conveniently placed markers every 500m, allowing you to easily monitor your distance.
For fitness enthusiasts, this waterfront promenade offers the perfect setting for a rejuvenating workout. Soak in the stunning views while staying active in the great outdoors.

Indulge in Fresh Produce at Rusty’s Markets

Immerse yourself in the vibrant and colorful atmosphere of Rusty’s Markets, located in the heart of Cairns. With over 180 stalls, this bustling marketplace offers a wide variety of goods, from fresh produce to handcrafted souvenirs.

Discover the flavors of Tropical North Queensland as you browse through an array of fruits, vegetables, and local delicacies.
Rusty’s Markets is a favorite among locals and acclaimed chefs alike, making it a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts.

Experience Cairns’ Vibrant Bar Scene

Unwind and treat your taste buds to the best bars and breweries that Cairns has to offer. From speakeasy-inspired gin joints to rooftop bars with panoramic views of the Coral Sea, there is something for every discerning palate.

Indulge in locally brewed beers or sip on handcrafted cocktails as you soak in the tropical ambiance. Don’t miss the chance to explore Cairns’ vibrant bar scene and discover your new favorite watering hole.

ZOOM and Wildlife Dome

For an adrenaline-pumping experience combined with wildlife encounters, head to ZOOM and Wildlife Dome. Located on the rooftop of The Reef Hotel Casino, this unique attraction offers a ropes course and a wildlife park all in one.

Test your agility as you navigate through the ropes course, and don’t miss the chance to zipline over a 4.5m crocodile named Goliath.
ZOOM and Wildlife Dome is a must-visit for thrill-seekers looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure.

Immerse Yourself in the Art Scene

Cairns’ vibrant art scene is a testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. Explore the Cairns Art Gallery and Court House Gallery, both located conveniently next to each other, to discover how the natural environment has inspired local artists.

Bulmba-ja showcases the works and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, providing a unique insight into their rich cultural traditions.
Take the opportunity to appreciate the diverse range of artworks and gain a deeper understanding of the region’s artistic expression.

Savor a Seafood Feast

As a coastal town, Cairns is renowned for its fresh and delicious seafood. Treat yourself to a seafood feast at one of the many acclaimed seafood restaurants in the city.

From succulent prawns to mouthwatering fish dishes, you’ll find an abundance of options to satisfy your cravings.
For a truly memorable dining experience, head to the marina and hop aboard Prawn Star, where you can enjoy freshly caught seafood while taking in the stunning views of the waterfront.

Step Back in Time at the Cairns Museum

Delve into Cairns’ fascinating history at the Cairns Museum, located in the heart of the city. From Indigenous stories to the impact of the cane pioneers, the museum offers a comprehensive exploration of the region’s heritage.

Learn about significant events such as toad plagues, mold outbursts, and the influence of the 1970s hippie movement. The Cairns Museum provides a captivating journey through time, shedding light on the diverse aspects of Tropical North Queensland’s past.

Shop Till You Drop in Cairns CBD

For those seeking unique souvenirs and retail therapy, CBD is a shopper’s paradise. Wander through the Cairns Night Markets, Cairns Central, Oceana Walk, and Grafton Street’s boutiques to find treasures from the tropics.

From pocket-sized linen tea towels to hand-painted didgeridoos, you’ll discover a wide range of locally-made products.
Take your time to explore the various markets and shops, and indulge in some retail therapy while supporting local businesses.

Unleash Your Inner Child at Cairns’ Playgrounds

Traveling with children? Cairns has some fantastic playgrounds that will keep them entertained for hours. Muddy’s Playground, shaded by towering Fig Trees along the Cairns Esplanade, is a favorite among families.

With its flying fox, slides, rope bridge, and onsite café, Muddy’s Playground offers endless fun for kids of all ages. For a more adventurous playground experience, visit Fig Tree Playground, known for its ultimate treehouse, and Centenary Lakes, where nature play takes center stage. Let your little ones unleash their imagination and enjoy the great outdoors.

Discover More Hidden Gems

While this guide covers some of the best things to do in Cairns, there are still countless hidden gems waiting to be explored. From quirky cafes to palm-lined beaches, Cairns offers a myriad of experiences for every traveler.

Venture off the beaten path and discover your own personal paradise in this tropical wonderland. With its natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, Cairns has so much more to offer than meets the eye.

Catch a Show at Munro Martin Parklands

Immerse yourself in the vibrant arts and entertainment scene of Cairns by catching a show at Munro Martin Parklands. This outdoor venue hosts a variety of performances, from live music concerts to theater productions.

Check Ticketlink for an overview of all events happening in Council-owned venues, including The Tanks and Cairns Performing Arts Centre.
Whether you’re a music lover or a theater enthusiast, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest. Experience the cultural vibrancy of Cairns through its diverse range of performances.

Take a Refreshing Dip in the Cairns Lagoon

Cool off in the heart of Cairns at the iconic Lagoon. This 4800 square meter saltwater swimming pool is the perfect place to escape the tropical heat.
With safe swimming conditions and stunning views of the Coral Sea, the Lagoon is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Pack a picnic and make a day out of it by utilizing the free BBQs available nearby. If you’re feeling active, join one of the free fitness events organized by the Cairns Council. From pilates to volleyball, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


Cairns, with its stunning natural landscapes and abundant activities, is a dream destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers.

Whether you’re exploring the Great Barrier Reef, immersing yourself in the rainforests, or indulging in the local cuisine, there’s no shortage of incredible experiences to be had.

Plan your trip to Cairns and embark on a tropical adventure that will leave you with unforgettable memories. With this guide, you’re well-equipped to make the most of your time in Cairns and experience the best this captivating destination has to offer.

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