There’s no denying that Cairns’ attractions are among the world’s best. Located on the east coast of Far North Queensland, it is the most popular base for exploring the world famous Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands among many others. With its laidback feel, Cairns also boasts of its beachfront esplanade and has its shares of hip bars, nightclubs, eateries and cafes.


Below we share the top places and attractions which would make you grab your road trip packing list and spark your wanderlust with this beautiful laid-back city that's best explored outdoors. 


1. Great Barrier Reef


Great Barrier ReefSea Turtle poses for the camera at the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Tom Schulze


As the largest living structure on earth, the Great Barrier Reef which is off the coast of Queensland is about the size of Japan or 70 million football fields! It can even be seen from space! As the world’s largest coral reef system, it is home to one-third of the world’s coral species. October is turtle’s nesting season, making it a perfect time for a trip. Be amazed as you view this spectacular work of nature, recognized as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. With underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats or if you prefer scuba dive tours, you’ll have the perfect view of this underwater wonderland that you’ll surely fall in love with.


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2. Cape Tribulation, Queensland


Cape Tribulation, QueenslandVisitors walk the shore of Cape Tribulation. Photo:


Lose hours wandering the white sand, basking in the sun and dipping your toes into clear turquoise waters of Cape Tribulation. The World Heritage-listed area is two hours north of Cairns making it a perfect road trip from the city. Explore the area by self-guided trails, guided walks and horse rides. A fringing reef at the cape is also a great place to explore at low tide.  


3. Skyrail Rainforest


Skyrail RainforestMajestic view of the Kuranda from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Photo: Tom Hall


Go on an unforgettable journey through the world's oldest continually surviving rainforest on earth by riding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Glide just metres above the rainforest canopy in Skyrail’s comfortable six-person gondola cabins, which provide spectacular and uninterrupted views of the rainforest, tropical Cairns, the Coral Sea and the lush Cairns Highlands. The views will definitely leave you breathless.


4. Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park


Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park Learning about the aboriginals' way of life at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Photo:


Experience the vibrant music, dance, legends and food of Australia's indigenous people at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. It’s the ultimate place to immerse yourself in the rich and ancient cultures unique to Australia’s aboriginals. There is something for everyone to enjoy with the range of activities- from dance performances, boomerang and spear throwing, men's and women's business through to art exhibitions.


5. Kuranda Scenic Railway


Kuranda Scenic RailwayKuranda Scenic Railway passes the majestic Barron falls. Photo:


Surrounded by a World Heritage Rainforest, Kuranda Village is a picturesque town 25 km northwest of Cairns.  The perfect way to enjoy the spectacular journey to this charming town is by riding the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Enjoy incomparable views of dense rainforest, steep ravines and beautiful waterfalls such as Barron Waterfalls and Stoney Creek Falls.


6. Nudey Beach


Nudey BeachVisitors sunbathing at Nudey Beach. Photo:


Snorkel and swim among the abundant and beautiful marine life that thrive in the shallow coral reefs that surround Nudey Beach making it safe for children to swim in. Nudey Beach is on a small stretch of magnificent white sand and pristine turquoise waters on the shores of Fitzroy Island. It is nestled in among the Great Barrier Reef. To reach this stunning natural beauty, one has to take a leisurely walk for 15 minutes, winding through breathtaking views of the rainforest and coastal woodlands. It is the perfect place to just soak up under the sun and enjoy the pristine waters lap gently on the shoreline.


7. Cairns Night Markets


Cairns Night MarketsBustling shoppers at Cairns Night Market. Photo: facebook @cairnsnightmarkets


Each night when the sun sets, Cairns Night Markets come alive with shoppers and local vendors. Located at the Esplanade, the Cairns Night Markets offer more than 70 shops with souvenirs, crafts, clothing, restaurants and even Chinese massages. Enjoy the night shopping and bargaining in an open-air setting. Whatever you are into, the Cairns Night Market will be sure to have something that will grab your attention.


8. Palm Cove, Queensland


Palm CovePalm trees lined the beach at Palm Cove. Photo:


Enjoy a quiet and sophisticated relaxation in a stunning village by the sea at Palm Grove, a tropical paradise with a gorgeous beach and century-old Melaleuca trees. It includes a world-class and award-winning beach resorts, restaurants and spas. This paradise is perfectly situated between Cairns and Port Douglas. Enjoy beautiful golf courses and experience the thrill of kayaking around nearby islands, getting wet and wild with water sports. Relax and bond with your kids fishing off the jetty or just lazing around on the beach.


9. Tully River


Tully RiverWhite-water rafting at Tully River. Photo:


Go white-water rafting at the spectacular Tully River, considered one of Australia's best white-water rafting spots. The river plunges through Tully Gorge National Park, which has a camping area. From the camping area, a short walk takes you through rainforest known for its colourful butterflies which are best seen between September and February.


10. Cairns Lagoon


Cairns LagoonDramatic sunset sky at Cairns Lagoon. Photo:


Located along the waterfront of the Coral Sea in the heart of Cairns, the Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon is a scenic 2.5 km expanse of foreshore free for the public to enjoy.  The artificial, sandy-edged, 4,800 square metre saltwater pool is patrolled and illuminated nightly. Enjoy the adjacent 3km foreshore boardwalk with its parklands, picnic areas, birdwatching vantage points, free barbecues and fitness equipment.


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