It’s all action in sunny, sophisticated Cairns, gateway to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and international hub for tanned travelers. There so much to do here you might want to start slowly. Wander past the lagoon and picnic spots of the Cairns Esplanade, do an Aboriginal walking tour or bliss out on the white sands of Mission Beach. Alternatively, dive into action with a sky-dive or bungy-jump. Snorkel or scuba dive with brilliant fish and coral or sail past pristine islands on the Great Barrier Reef. Day-trip to the tranquil, butterfly-fringed village of Kuranda and discover Cairns’ great restaurant and bar scene.
Ease into tropical holiday mode with a stroll along the oceanfront Cairns Esplanade, the city’s social and recreational hub. Stop for an alfresco breakfast at one of the trendy cafes and watch the energetic locals whizz past on bikes and roller-blades. Afterwards cool off in the huge saltwater lagoon or relax on the grass alongside adventure-seekers from around the globe. Maintain the easy pace with a walk through the Cairns Botanic Gardens and lazy afternoon on rainforest-fringed Mission Beach, to the south of Cairns. Cruise the mangrove-lined waterways of Trinity Inlet or explore the area on an Aboriginal walking tour, learning about fish, crabs and medicinal plants. Alternatively, send your adrenalin soaring on a bungy-jump or sky-dive. In the evening, browse local Aboriginal artworks at the night markets, watch the flaming sun sink into the horizon and head back to the Cairns Esplanade for a fresh seafood feast.
There’s a huge variety of tours out to the reef, with something to suit every level of daring and experience. Go snorkelling, learn to dive or see the reef without getting wet on a glass-bottomed boat. Take a day tour to the 6,000-year-old coral cay of Green Island. Snorkel alongside brilliant tropical fish, and explore the island’s white beaches and lush rainforest. Visit Michaelmas Cay, home to thousands of nesting seabirds, a myriad of colourful corals, giant clams and reef fish. Sail past palm-topped islands to Upolu Cay – a small sand island atop a skeleton of coral reef. Travel to the Outer Reef on a multi-storey pontoon or explore it on an introductory dive trip. Discover the vibrant coral gardens, marine life and turtle sanctuaries with an experienced instructor. Extend your stay and get qualified on a five–day PADI course. For experienced divers, there are multi-day live-aboard trips.
Take a scenic rail trip across mountains, tropical rainforest, waterfalls and national park to the picturesque village of Kuranda. Have breakfast or brunch amidst the World heritage-listed rainforest, watching colourful birds and butterflies flit past. Then follow one of the many walking trails through the verdant vegetation. Do short, gentle walks to Jum Rum Creek and Davies Creek Falls or a four-hour hike to breathtaking Barron Falls. Cruise down the river past platypus, turtles, lime-coloured frogs, gaudy parrots and fresh water crocodiles. Afterwards, browse the lively markets for opals, Aboriginal art and hand-crafted jewellery. Sit for your portrait, watch street performers and sample local honey, macadamias and exotic juices. Wander through the many galleries, many of which are dedicated to Aboriginal art and cultural artefacts. Learn to play the didgeridoo and learn about the long-reaching history of different Aboriginal tribes in this rainforest. Back in Cairns, get into the energetic nightlife along Spence and Lake Streets.