Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, in Tropical North Queensland fits in more untouched beauty, ancient culture and adventure within its borders than some entire countries manage to do, with the World Heritage List double-act of the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest its most prized stars.

World Heritage Listed. Life changing.

Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef is total bucket list material.

  • Snorkel, dive or join a live-aboard to and share the water with curious minke whales and sea turtles.
  • Zipline through the ancient beauty of the Daintree Rainforest and meet the local tree kangaroos or elusive cassowary.
  • Tackle world-class mountain bike trails weaving through World Heritage Listed rainforest.
  • Kayak, walk or gallop your way along Cape Tribulation beach – where you may not see another soul.

Thousands of years in the making

If you’re seeking a real connection to the land, you’ll find it in the stories, the smiles and the history of the Indigenous Australians who share their culture with you.

  • Stand in the world’s oldest open-air gallery at an Indigenous rock art site.
  • Learn traditional painting and hunting skills.
  • Experience a spa treatment in a sacred rainforest cultural site.

Launchpad to (even more) paradise

While Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas are the main ports of call, your holiday here among the palm trees is just the beginning.

  • Discover the real meaning of untouched in the Torres Strait Islands.
  • Taste the tropics on a road trip through the Atherton Tablelands, sampling locally-made coffee, cheese, chocolate, liqueur and more. 
  • Become an outback adventurer on the Savannah Way and take the great 4WD pilgrimage to Cape York.

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Things to do in Cairns

Explore the largest living thing on earth

The marine playground of the Great Barrier Reef is right off the coast of Cairns and more than 30 tour boats leave from the marina every day.

Swim with whales

Queensland is the only place in the world where you can interact with minke whales. Every June and July, you can swim alongside these gentle giants in the Ribbon Reefs off Cairns and Port Douglas.

Explore the city

Cairns city has a relaxed vibe during the day and reveals its vibrant night life after dark. With night markets, a casino and restaurants dotted along the esplanade, you’ll find lots to do after dark. You can even take dip in the Lagoon.

Head inland

The lush green wilderness of the Atherton Tablelands will reveal waterfalls and secluded swimming holes.

Things to do in Port Douglas

Discover the Great Barrier Reef

A cruise to the inner reef of the Great Barrier Reef takes just 30 minutes from Port Douglas, so you can spend more time snorkelling or diving in the pristine waters.

Explore Mossman Gorge

This is the most accessible part of the Daintree, just 20 kilometres from Port Douglas. Take an easy walk along the boardwalk, swim in the clear waters of the Mossman river, surrounded by lush green foliage and butterflies.

Visit Cooya Beach

Just north of Port Douglas, this coastal suburb is famous for mud-crabbing and boating. Take a tour with an Indigenous guide and learn the hunting and cultural traditions of the Kuku Yalanji people who have been living in this region for 50,000 years.

Visit Four Mile Beach

A short stroll from the heart of Port Douglas, you’ll stumble across Four Mile Beach, a stretch of golden sand that’s remained largely undeveloped.

Taste the tropics

Settle in for alfresco dining with more than 60 restaurants and cafes within walking distance. Macrossan Street is the town’s main eatery with restaurants serving house-made gnocchi, healthy Acai bowls and fresh local seafood.

What’s on around Cairns

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself, cheer for your favourite team, indulge your inner gourmet or move to the beat, there’s an event for you in Cairns. Take a look at the packed events calendar and discover your best time to visit.

Where to stay in Tropical North Queensland

From luxury resorts to cheap and cheerful caravan parks – and everything in between – there’s a huge range of accommodation in Cairns and the surrounds.

Cairns accommodation

There are hundreds of places to stay in Cairns, from backpacker hostels and comfortable motels to five-star resorts with a huge range of facilities. There are campgrounds and caravan sites on the city fringe, or larger self-catering holiday houses and apartments perfect for a family group.

Port Douglas accommodation

Port Douglas has been the region’s resort capital for 30 years: with everything from boutique luxury retreats to huge family-friendly resorts with kids’ clubs and a full schedule of activities. Budget-conscious travellers can check into a hostel or go DIY in one of the many self-contained apartments.

Getting there

Cairns Airport is the gateway to Tropical North Queensland, with 14 international and domestic airlines flying to destinations in Australia, Asia and New Zealand. It’s a 10-minute drive to the centre of Cairns or an hour to Port Douglas.

Getting around

Catch a bus

It’s easy to hop on a bus and travel around central Cairns, with stops close to the Esplanade, Botanic Gardens and shopping areas. You can also catch the bus to nearby beaches, including Yorkeys Knob, Kewarra and Palm Cove.

Drive

Taxis or ride-share services (such as Uber) are available all over the city. If you want to hire a car, the region is easy to navigate and it’s the best way to explore the Daintree.

Take the scenic route

Cairns is at the start of one of Tropical North Queensland’s great scenic routes, the Great Barrier Reef Drive, which runs 140km along the coast to Cape Tribulation.

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