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Things to do in Cairns

Things to do in Cairns
Kuku Yalanji Dreaming captured on Wurrmbu Creek in Mossman Gorge

Top things to do in and around Cairns

I am going to start this post with a disclaimer. I have excluded from this list the critical thing you should do when visiting Cairns, that is visiting the Great Barrier Reef. 

If you come to Cairns and it's surrounding region you need to visit the Great Barrier Reef, do it now while the reef still lives. It is spectacular and a natural wonder.

But if you have some spare time or want to spend a day or two on dry land, what should you do?

Daintree Rainforest

things to do in cairns
Looking out of over the aqua Coral Sea from Cape Tribulation


The Daintree is divided into two key areas and they are both separate places to visit. 

Cape Tribulation

If you have a couple of days then head up to Cape Trib, hire a car and go north. Catch the ferry over to the Cape and explore. There is a variety of accommodation from camping and backpackers hostels to luxury and eco resort style living.

Things to do in Cairns
Sunrise over Cape Tribulation beach with a lone sail boat

Visit Masons Waterhole which is behind Masons General Store. Do the marked walks to see the rainforest up close, but be warned take notice of the warning signs. Look out for crocs, cassowary's or just the plants that will try and kill you if you're not careful.

things to do in Cairns
Masons Swimming hole, one of few safe places to swim on Cape Trib

Do a croc cruise, I did two with the team at Crocodile Express and highly recommend them. They have two locations, one near the ferry and in Daintree village.

Things to do in Cairns
A croc resting on the riverbank from on-board the Crocodile Express.

Mossman Gorge

Just 20 minutes drive from Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge is a spectacular location to visit and explore the very best natural beauty.

Mossman Gorge in the Daintree Rainforest is the cultural home of the Kuku Yalanji Nation, the indigenous people of this breathtaking land. Visiting Mossman Gorge is a wonderful experience where you really can get an appreciation for this ancient land.

There are a bunch of different walks and experiences to be had in Mossman Gorge, I urge you to take your time, do a long walk and enjoy this wonderful place. When you slow down it is amazing what you find.

Things to do in Cairns
Fungi growing in the rainforest at Mossman Gorge


Most people tend to gravitate to the swimming holes, which are literally filled to the brim with backpackers, and while a swim in the heat is enticing. Exploring is more rewarding, finding hidden treasures like this tiny waterfall make it worth the effort.

Things to do in cairns
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Port Douglas

Port Douglas is beautiful and very much a resort town, there are dozens of places to stay from backpackers to 5 star resorts on the beach. There's no question it's very much a resort town so if the resort atmosphere is not what you are craving then I still have two recommendations for you to do in Port Douglas.

Sunrise on Four Mile Beach, this beautiful beach is definitely worth a early morning visit. Come early, watch the sunrise. On my visit I even caught a cruise ship coming in to port for the day.

Things to do in Cairns port douglas
Sunrise on Four Mile Beach Port Douglas

After sunrise take a stroll down Four Mile Beach before breakfast in one of the many cafes in Port.

If you happen to be in Port Douglas on a Sunday then head on over to the Harbour and check out the wonderful Port Douglas Sunday Markets that happen every Sunday on the foreshore. 

There is a great array of art, local produce, hand made items and so much more.

Take a wander on the foreshore while there too, it is a lovely spot and looking over the water back to the ranges is stunning.

Things to do in Cairns port douglas
Looking over the water in Port Douglas Harbour back to the ranges

Paronella Park

Things to do in cairns paronella park
The original entry sign to Paronella Park still standing today

I am going to be unequivocal about this. If you get to Cairns you need to take the drive to Paronella Park. Even better spend the night at Paronella so you can explore the park at your leisure.

I have dedicated a whole blog to Paronella Park so read more here

But the short of it is that this trip back in time was built in the 1930's by a eccentric Spaniard José Paronella. It has a Castle, extensive gardens and is in ruins. It is wonderful, in fact breathtaking at times. 

Things to do in cairns Paronella Park
Ruins of the Castle at Paronella Park

I honestly believe you will love Paronella Park it is enchanting and built totally out of love. In a beautiful part of the country with Free Camping for visitors and a great pub just a few minutes away a perfect spot for an overnight stay.

I hope you enjoy my top tips for things to do in Cairns, have a wonderful trip.


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