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43 The Esplanade Cairns 4870 QLD Australia

Cairns Travel Guide 2023

From exploring the Great Barrier Reef to watching a sunrise from a hot air balloon. Here's our guide to your trip of a lifetime in Cairns!

Whether it's a short or long visit, Cairns will embed itself into your fondest memories. Known as the adventure capital of Australia and the gateway to The Great Barrier Reef, Cairns has something for everyone. Featuring everything from nature and wildlife attractions to the area's history and culture. To help you plan your trip, here are our recommendations on the best things to do in Cairns this year.

The Great Barrier Reef 

I'm sure The Great Barrier Reef is already at the top of everyone's To Do lists... However, picking the right tour for your trip can be challenging! There's a wide selection of tours available for different levels of swimmers. Here are a few options to try and make your planning a little bit easier!

Outer Reef Pontoons

These floating playgrounds offer activities for all ages and are the perfect choice if you have young children or you want a more casual experience on the reef. You'll be able to make the most of the reef with activities tailored to all ages and experiences. The majority of Outer Reef Pontoons offer glass bottom boat tours, snorkelling and scuba diving.


The newest pontoon on the block, powered using solar and wind energy, with a fully functioning scientific lab on board. Offering crowd favourite Great Barrier Reef activities like intro and certified diving, helmet diving, snorkelling tours, an underwater observatory and glass bottom boat tours. They also have presentations from marine biologists and indigenous guides during the tour.


Taking you out to a terrific activity platform on the Agincourt Reef, you'll be spoilt with marine life on these pristine ribbon reefs. The pontoon is fit with facilities for diving, snorkelling, glass bottom boat tours, an underwater viewing platform and even helicopter rides over the reef! The Quicksilver tours offer accessible access to The Great Barrier reef with their water-powered lift, which allows for easy access to the snorkel pool, with accessible access to the vessel and an accessible bathroom on board. For more accessible info, please visit their FAQ page or get in contact via their website.

Outer Reef Day Trips

Alternatively, there are plenty of day trip options for more experienced swimmers and divers. These tours will allow you to explore more of the reefs' untouched outer sections. The most common day trips will take you to two sites on the Great Barrier Reef, with options for snorkelling, intro diving or certified diving.

Exploring the Rainforests and Waterfalls   

Another you'll already have on your list, exploring the surrounding rainforests. The Daintree Rainforest, Kuranda and the Tablelands Region are all incredibly beautiful in their own unique way. If you have the time, we'd recommend setting aside a day for each. The best way for you to get the most out of the surrounding rainforests and waterfalls is through a guided day trip, as the area is so vast, having experts guide you will be your best opportunity to see all the iconic landscapes and wildlife.

The Daintree Rainforest 

The largest rainforest in Australia and the oldest rainforest in the world. It is home to some incredible wildlife, such as crocodiles and cassowary, along with incredible scenery. We'd recommend picking a tour that covers the Mossman Gorge, The Daintree River and Cape Tribulation. You'll see some incredible scenery and have a chance to see some elusive wildlife, like the saltwater croc!

Atherton Tablelands 

A taste of everything the Cairns region has to offer. Boasting a combination of rainforests, savannah habitats, desert lands, volcanic crater-like lakes and much more. To see all of the awe-inspiring sights, Waterfall Wanderers is a great adventure, which will take you through the Tablelands. The day trip will appeal to everyone (aside from members of TLC), as you'll spend the day chasing waterfalls and will get to see almost every iconic natural landmark along the way! You'll journey to Babinda Boulders (actively accessible), Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, Mount Hypipamee, The Crater, Dinner Falls, The Curtain Fig Tree (look out for Tree Kangaroos) and Lake Eacham, plus, you'll stop along the way to search for wild platypus!

Within the Tablelands, you'll find Kuranda offers a range of fun and exciting experiences. See Barron Falls from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, take in the sights from the Karunda Scenic Railway or even explore the Rainforestation Nature Park from an army duck vehicle! Barron Falls is actively accessible, with a ramped trail taking you to all of the beautiful viewpoints.

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is also a worthwhile stop whilst you're in the area. It is the largest butterfly aviary in the Southern Hemisphere with over 1500 species of butterflies, making for a magical spectacle.

Cast Away to Nearby Islands

For a more relaxed experience, visiting one of the many tropical islands off the Cairns coastline is a must. Immerse yourself in paradise, with crystal clear waters, white sand, rainforests, island palm trees and spectacular reef formations. There are many island day trips to choose from, along with accommodation options if you are looking to stay a bit longer. If you are chasing a short and relaxing trip, we recommend visiting Fitzroy Island or Green Island.

Relax with a Tropical Beach Day

Looking for a more chilled-out day in between all of the excitement? Visiting one of the many beaches surrounding Cairns is a great way to experience more beauty in North Queensland. Perfect for a break day to unwind and regenerate some of that much-needed travel energy. Pristine beaches like Palm Cove, Ellis Beach and Trinity Beach are located just 25-minutes North of the city. For swimming, it's worth keeping in mind that from November through to May, 'stingers' (jellyfish) become a bit of a nuisance, however, most beaches should have a netted area to keep them at bay.

Adventure Time!

Want a break from looking at all the natural beauty? Luckily for you, Cairns is home to some of the most adrenaline-filled adventures in Australia! From close encounters with crocs to white water rafting and even skydiving, the perfect action-packed adventure is out there for you.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures is widely renowned as Australia's best croc show. Your adrenaline will be pumping when you get up close and personal with the prehistoric-looking reptiles.

Tully River Rafting partake in the adventure of a lifetime, rafting down one of Australia's best rapid rivers! This adrenaline-filled activity will take up a whole day, so it is worth planning ahead for this one.

Hot Air Ballooning is both exciting and peaceful, presenting one of the most ways to watch the sunrise in North Queensland. See the surrounding landscapes from a whole new perspective, in the calm and silent open air.

A Day Exploring the City

Whilst the Cairns region is full of unbelievable natural attractions, there's also a lot on offer within the city that you may or may not have thought about. Here's how a day exploring Cairns might pan out!


Fuel up in the morning at Cruze Coffee

Start your day off right, with probably the best cup of joe you can find in Northern Queensland. Cruze Coffee is extremely passionate about coffee and when they say a fresh brew, they mean fresh. With a wide range of top-quality beans and blends, we recommend preparing your taste buds for an excellent cup of coffee to get your day started!


Check out all the fresh produce at Rusty's Market 

Open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Rusty's Market is a great way to spend your morning pigging out on some fresh local produce! There is something for everyone at Rusty's, with the market boasting over 180 stalls, offering exotic fruit, veg and flowers, delectable desserts, fresh bread and seafood along with international stalls and beverage stalls. Even if you aren't hungry, it's worth walking around and taking in some of the incredible produce being displayed!


Have a dip in the Esplanade Lagoon 

After you've fuelled up on coffee and fresh produce, escape the heat at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon! Positioned right on the Trinity Inlet, you'll be able to swim and relax in the all-year-round safe swimming attraction. Built to mimic the beautiful beaches surrounding Cairns, there's a sandy shoreline and shallow water for kids, along with timber decks, shady trees, landscaped gardens and open spaces.


Get a little bit boozy at Wolf Lane Distillery

Once an old 1900's horse stable, The Wolf Lane Distillery is the first of its kind in Cairns. We highly recommend an afternoon visit, to experience one of Australia's most awarded gin distilleries hidden away in the heart of Cairns. Offering table service, you'll be able to order tasting paddles and food for a wonderfully flavourful and merry afternoon.


Explore the Cairns Aquarium by Twilight 

It may seem strange because it's indoors, but booking the Cairns Aquarium by Twilight tour is a great way to visit the popular aquarium after hours. Experience how the fish behave during the night, with night-time predators like sharks and groupers on the hunt! You'll receive a two-hour guided tour from an ecologist, with the option of a meal at Dundee's Restaurant afterwards!


Catch a show at The Cairns Convention Centre

Having recently finished a $176M extension, The Cairns Convention Centre is home to some blockbuster events and shows throughout the year. Being a short 12-minute walk away from the hotel's doorstep, it's very much worth looking ahead to your travel dates to see if there are any shows you might be able to catch whilst you're here! For your convenience, we are constantly updating our Events At Cairns Convention Centre Page so you don't miss out on any upcoming action!


Tuck into all-you-can-eat Churrasco at the award-winning Bushfire Flame Grill

The theatre of the kitchen is brought to your table at Bushfire. Carvers circle the restaurant with skewers of marinated and seasoned, flame-grilled meats, which are craved right onto your plate! Served with a platter of starters, a selection of perfectly paired side dishes and finished with Bushfire's famous Cinnamon Pineapple, churros and ice-cream for dessert. If you're planning a visit, it's best to book early as tables sell out fast.

Getting to Cairns

From the US to Cairns 

For our American guests, don't let the long flight put you off the trip of your life! Depending on where you are located in the US, you'll be looking at either a 1-stop or a 2-stop flight, from a few airports on the West Coast, you'll be able to get to Cairns after a 20-hour journey with a stop in Sydney Airport.


From Singapore to Cairns 

Coming from Singapore? For the most relaxing travel experience to get you into holiday mode before you arrive, we'd recommend booking the direct flight option through Singapore Airlines. There are cheaper and fairly quick options that stop through Denpasar or Cities in Australia as well.


From the UK to Cairns 

Getting to Eastern Australia from the UK is a hefty journey, but will be worth the travel time when you are here. The most convenient journey you'll find to Cairns is the one-stop option through Singapore, if you book a few months in advance the fare is similar to the other longer travel time options available, so it's worth keeping your eyes peeled!


From New Zealand to Cairns 

For our South Pacific Neighbours, there are a few flight options available, depending on where you're based in New Zealand. You'll be able to catch a direct flight from Auckland, if you are based in Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington, you'll likely have a stopover in either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.


From Japan to Cairns

Jetstar and Japan Airlines both run a direct flight service between Cairns and Japan.


Upon arrival in Cairns, whether you're hiring a car or taking a taxi, you'll be in the heart of Cairns within a 12-minute drive from the airport.

From exploring natural landscapes to swimming in the Esplanade Lagoon, all of us here at Pacific Hotels Cairns, hope you have the trip of a lifetime!

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