Cairns is a great spot to discover tropical north Queensland. From diving the Great Barrier Reef, to trekking in the jungle, to swimming in waterfalls, there are countless amazing things to do in and around Cairns. Here are my top 5 things to do near Cairns.
1) Swim with turtles on Fitzroy island
Only a 45 minutes boat ride away from Cairns is a paradise island surrounded by coral. Fitzroy Island is the perfect destination for a day trip from Cairns.
We spent the morning relaxing on Nudey beach (about a 10 minute walk from the port), lunchtime eating burgers and listening to live music at Foxy’s bar, and the afternoon paddle boarding and swimming with turtles (we spotted a total of four wild turtles!). You can hire snorkles, paddle boards and kayaks at the Fitzroy Island Dive & Adventure Centre.
You might also wish to visit the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy Island (CTRC). It is a volunteer operated, non-profit organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick and injured turtles. They run daily tours, but these are capped at 15 people so make sure you sign up through the General Store when you arrive (it’s located near Foxy’s bar).
There are 3 boats a day heading to Fitzroy Island from Cairns, at 8am, 11am and 1:30pm. You can then head back to Cairns on the 9:30am, 12:15pm or 5pm boat. You will need to book the ferry in advance.
2) Dive Great Barrier Reef
Tick a massive item off your bucket list by spending the day diving the Great Barrier Reef! There are quite a few different companies offering tours, so I would advise shopping around to see what works best for you. We booked with Silverswift as our hostel offered us 10% off and so it worked out the cheapest option for us.
Personally I would recommend diving over snorkeling as it allows you to go deeper thus making it easier to admire the reef and marine life. If you haven’t dived before don’t worry! Most tours will offer introductory dives for those who aren’t certified.
You can also explore the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays.
3) Road trip up to Cape Tribulation
Hit the road and drive up to Cape Tribulation. It is about a 3 hour drive north of Cairns so you might wish to stay overnight. Here you can admire mile long palm fringed beaches (but don’t swim as there might be crocs!), go trekking along the many rainforest paths or go on a crocodile cruise along the Daintree River.
If you are using your own transport you will need to pay 28$ for a return ferry to Cape Tribulation (there is no other way to get there).
On the way there (or the way back) make sure you check out Mossman Gorge. This is a beautiful spot to explore as well as swim. Make sure you check the current and water levels before swimming as it might not be safe.
4) Cool down at the Crystal Cascades
On a hot day the locals love to cool down at the Crystal Cascades. These are located about 30 minutes from Cairns (you will need your own transport to get there).
If you follow the main paved path (right of the carpark) there are a number of spots and waterfalls to swim in.
However I would suggest taking the path to the left of the carpark. This will take you into the jungle…. follow the path for around 5 to 10 minutes until you see that it either heads to the right with a really steep climb or it heads right to join the river. Turn right and walk up the rocks in the river for about 5 minutes until you get to Fairy Falls, a beautiful hidden waterfall!!
TOP TIP – Don’t use Google Maps as it thinks that Fairy falls is located further up the river!
5) Admire far North Queensland’s World Heritage-Listed rainforest from the Kuranda Scenic Railway
The Kuranda Scenic Railway winds its way from Cairns to Kuranda through rainforest, mountains and waterfalls. It’s a unique way to be in the heart of nature whilst relaxing and also learning about the history of the area and the train with the onboard commentary. There are two trains a day heading from Cairns to Kuranda and vice versa.
I hope you enjoy immersing yourself in the beautiful nature around Cairns! If you’re planning a roadtrip in north Queensland check out my two week itinerary!
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