Cairns (pronounced ‘cans’) has come a long way since its beginnings as a boggy swamp and rollicking goldfields port. Heaving under the weight of countless resorts, tour agencies, souvenir shops and a million reminders of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is unabashedly geared towards tourism.
Old salts claim Cairns has lost its soul, but it does have an infectious holiday vibe. The city centre is more boardshorts than briefcases, and you’ll find yourself throwing away all notions of speed and schedules here, thanks to heady humidity and a hearty hospitality that can turn a short stroll into an impromptu social event. Fittingly, Cairns is awash with bars, clubs, eateries and cafes suiting all budgets. There’s no beach in town, but the magnificent Esplanade Lagoon more than makes up for it; otherwise, the northern beaches are but a local bus ride or short drive away.
Cairns Esplanade, Boardwalk & Lagoon Clean, safe swimming in the centre of town.
Crystal Cascades Freshwater swimming holes beloved by locals.
Aussie Drifterz Tubing through tree tunnels at Behana Gorge.
Sugarworld Splash down water slides or cool off in the pools.
Mt Whitfield Conservation Park Walking Tracks Forest paths lead to bird’s-eye views of the city and sea.
Mangrove Boardwalk Mud-free moseys into the scintillating swamps of Cairns.
Flecker Botanic Gardens Amble along the trails or join a guided walk through tropical greenery.
Cairns Adventure Park Bushwalks and birdwatching with local experts.
The Great Barrier Reef
Reef Teach Learn all there is to know about the reef (and how to respect it).
Mike Ball Dive Expeditions The Far North’s best dive liveaboards run by an award-winning local.
Falla Reef Trips Sail in style on an outer-reef-bound pearl lugger.
Reef Magic Family friendly day trips that suit everyone from snorkellers to the water-shy.
Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome Test your nerve on the ziplines, swings and climbs above Cairns’ casino.
AJ Hackett Bungy & Minjin Plummet or swing through the rainforest at collywobbles-inducing speeds.
Flyboard Cairns Strap on a jetpack and soar above the seas.
Rapid Boarders Rafting atop rapids is a buzz, but boarding through them is next-level thrill-seeking.