Capital of the Tropical North the cosmopolitan city of Cairns is framed by a backdrop of rainforest mountain ranges and is the perfect base for every activity you could imagine – on land, in the air or below the sea.
No trip to Cairns is complete without visiting the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system. Numerous day cruises head out and give you the opportunity to snorkel and dive among vivid coral gardens and colourful fish. Underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats also offer a window into this astounding wonderland.
In the heart of Cairns is the Esplanade, a scenic 2.5km expanse home to parklands, playgrounds and recreational facilities, as well as the spectacular, man-made swimmable lagoon. The city has shopping precincts and local markets for picking up regional produce and handicrafts as well as a thriving café scene with many trendy eateries dotted along Grafton and Spence Streets while The Esplanade is also brimming with great restaurants.
Outside of the city there is much to see and do. The mountain village of Kuranda is tucked within the tropical rainforest and is known for its vibrant arts community with local markets open daily. It is however the journey to and from Kuranda that is arguably the highlight. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides above the rainforest canopy then descends deep into its heart while on your way back to Cairns you can travel on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. This two jour train journey traverses dense rainforest, winding past rugged mountains, tumbling waterfalls and the stunning Barron Gorge.
At Tjapukai Aboriginal Park, just 20 minutes outside Cairns, guests have the opportunity to experience authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through live performances, guided bush walks and activities such as boomerang throwing and didgeridoo playing.
South west of Cairns are the Atherton Tablelands, home to cooler climes, volcanic craters and deep blue lakes, endless waterfalls, quaint villages, gourmet food producers and an abundance of rare wildlife.
GMT +10 hour
Flights from the UK to Cairns take around 24 hours, including a stopover.
Cairns experiences two distinct weather seasons, winter between April and September with slightly cooler but warm temperatures and minimal rainfall; and summer from October to March, with hot sticky temperatures and heavy periods of rainfall, although this generally occurs overnight.
This full day/night tour begins at around 2pm and visits a variety of locations across the Atherton Tablelands, which are rich in biodiversity. Highlights include the 500 year-old Cathedral Fig Tree, enjoying interpretive rainforest walking trails and looking out for the musky rat kangaroo, as well as platypus spotting at dusk at your own private viewing area. The tour includes afternoon tea t Lake Barrine and dinner at a country restaurant. Available daily from Cairns (excluding 24-26 Dec, 31 Dec & 01 Jan).
First stop on this full day tour is Skybury Coffee Plantation for morning tea and incredible views over the Great Dividing Range. Continue into the Australian Outback through historic towns and rolling hills. After a pub lunch set off for a cave tour where the fossilised remains of the ancient coral reefs give a portal to a lost world just like the Great Barrier Reef. Minimum 4 passengers for tour to operate. Reasonable level of fitness required due to steps and uneven ground. Available Mon, Wed & Fri from Cairns, Northern Beaches & Port Douglas (excluding selected dates).
Join this full day foodie tour from Cairns which visits eight unique sites where you can sample wines, spirits, cheeses, coffee, rainforest condiments, chocolates, tropical fruits and much more. Sit back and relax, take in the beautiful views of contrasting landscapes as you are taken on a fascinating and tasty journey. Available Tue-Sat (excluding selected dates) from Cairns and Palm Cove. Also includes morning and afternoon tea. Minimum age 17.
Board the Turtle Islander for a short trip to the Great Barrier Reef where you have a full day of fun ahead. Begin with a river cruise down the Mulgrave River where migratory and breeding birds can be spotted. At the mouth of the river the Frankland Islands slowly come into view. Disembark on the island before you join a guided snorkelling tour straight off the beach. A semi-submersible tour or glass-bottom boat is also included for those wishing to stay dry whilst viewing the underwater world. Available daily from Cairns (excluding selected dates).
Travel to Cape Tribulation through some of the oldest rainforest in the world. Included is a Daintree River Cruise where you can hope to spot crocodiles, birds and other wildlife as you journey through the mangroves. Alexandra Lookout provides spectacular views over the estuary before a tropical lunch amongst the rainforest. Take a walk along the spectacular beach before continuing to Mossman Gorge Centre, for an indigenous presentation and guided walk. Available daily (excluding selected dates) from Cairns and Palm Cove. Minimum age 4.
This full day tour begins as you drive north to beautiful Cooya Beach, a special place and traditional fishing ground for the Kuku Yalanji people. Join one of the Kubirri Warra brothers on a beach, mudflat and mangrove walk and an introduction to their fishing and gathering techniques. Continue to Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre and be greeted with a traditional smoking ceremony. After lunch, wander into the lush rainforest of Daintree National Park with your guide. Available daily from Cairns. Minimum age 4.
Travel by fast wavepiercer catamaran to the activity platform at Agincourt Reef, at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Ideal for both snorkellers and non-swimmers seeking the widest choice of reef experiences including snorkelling, underwater observatory and semi-submersible. All snorkelling equipment and tuition is provided. Available daily from Port Douglas and Cairns (excluding 25 Dec) and also includes morning/afternoon tea. AU$6.50 environment management charge payable locally. Fuel surcharge may also be payable locally.