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What to see and do in Cairns – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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Australia is known across the globe for having a huge variety of activities and sights to suit every taste; and here in Cairns it’s no different. What is different however, is the landscape. While 95% of Australia is desert or savannah Tropical North Queensland is green and verdant. This stunning natural location nestled between the blue ocean and lush greens of the rain forest means it’s a haven for those looking for beach and walking holidays.

Matt & Jan Turner

My Destination local expert on


Under the sea


You cannot visit Cairns without getting your toes wet. Just offshore is the most famous and largest natural organism on Earth – the Great Barrier Reef. With over 1500km of stunning reef to explore, you are sure to be able to find every type of fish you are looking for. With a countless number of charter companies available, everyone is catered for when looking to visit the reef, whether you are after short half-day snorkel trips or long multi-day live-aboard adventures. Once in the water, you have the chance to see the breath-taking colours of the reef and every marine animal from stingrays to reef sharks; and don't forget to be on the look-out for the famous little Clown Fish.


Cairns Waterfront


A recent development has transformed the waterfront of Cairns. The perfect setting for a relaxing day with the family or a special evening out, the Esplanade has something for all occasions. The main attraction is the fantastic lagoon, offering a great way to cool off from the heat. Away from the lagoon and around to the docks are some great restaurants and shops, why not take a stroll along the boardwalk and pick up a souvenir?


Go walking


This part of Australia is unique in more ways than one. It is one of the only areas in the world where two World Heritage Sites sit right next to each other, in fact a little further up the coast in Daintree, the two sites actually meet. Head up the coast and explore the breath-taking Daintree Rainforest. There’s dozens of fantastic walking trails suited to all levels of ability. The largest rainforest on the continent provides a great chance to really get amongst nature and experience a real-life living jungle.


Whale watching


At certain times of the year, Cairns plays host to one of nature’s most colossal creatures. Take a trip with Reef Magic and try to spot some of the massive whales as they make their journey through the Pacific. These gentle giants can glide pass your boat in groups of up to ten at a time. Why not take the whole family out and enjoy catching a glimpse of these beautiful mammals?


Sky diving


There’s only one better way of seeing the Cairns coastline than being on it and that’s seeing it from above… or falling from above. Skydive Cairns provides the chance to free fall from 14,000 feet, allowing you to see the enormous scale of the Great Barrier Reef as you fall from the sky. Feel the immense adrenaline rush as you fall from the plane and rapidly reach terminal velocity. It surely is one of the most incredible experiences and a very different way to see the landscape, just make sure you don't lose your lunch on the way down! If sky diving isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options in which you can have a stunning scenic flight, up over the reef allowing you to see it stretch for hundreds of miles up and down the coast.