Growing up in Australia I never knew much about Cairns. It wasn’t until I moved to FNQ that I discovered the true beauty of it. Apparently its Australians biggest tourist town. So there’s plenty of things to see and do. But the best tips always come from a local, right?
If you are looking to take some RAD shots for your gram, check out this blog post.
I’m straight up going to tell you not to swim at the Cairns beaches. There’s lots of amazing pools everywhere you look. It’s also handy to know that Cairns has a wet and dry season. The wet season is hot, humid and rains a lot so personally I would avoid travelling between Dec-late March.
RUSTYS FARMERS MARKET
Hello 50c avos! Firstly, start off by visiting the coconut stand out the front of Rustys where the staff crack it open for you then hands you a straw. SO delish!
Not only can you buy tropical fruit and veg there’s also an array of food trucks inside the market. My personal fave is the Maxican stand. Plus isn’t there a rule not to shop with an empty stomach?!
Every time I visit Cairns (as an ex local) I always stock up on because eating out can get super repetitive not to mention expensive. It’s handy to have cut up fruit in a container for day trips too. Nothing better than eating fresh pineapple on the beach.
For all the flower lovers out there, you will be amazed by the ginger and birds of paridise flowers that are sold there.
Hot tip – If you get there before they close they drastically slash the prices.
SEE CAIRNS FROM ABOVE
What better way to do Cairns sightseeing than from above?
For many people, skydiving is considered the ultimate thrill-seeking activity. Or if that’d not for you I highly recommend booking a helicopter joyflight. Trust me they aren’t as expensive as you think!
SWIM AT THE CAIRNS LAGOON
Crystal clear waters, beach views and life guards. The Cairns Esplanade lagoon is a cool place to laze around, read your book and meet other travelers.
Pre corona you would find the grass covered by backpackers snoozing in the sun but these days it’s not as busy.
Hot tip – pack food to cook on a BBQ. The Cairns City Council keeps the BBQ’s SO incredibly clean. They are available along the esplanade and have tables & taps close by too.
VISIT THE NIGHT MARKETS
It’s got plenty of the junky touristy stuff that you see everywhere which is more geared to the international visitors.
I go there for the amazing cheap massages and to get dessert. I’m seriously hoping that Waffle & Puff open up again because their cream cheese and blueberry waffle is to die for. My second fave is the choc dipped Churros.
Top Tip – I would avoid the oriental buffets in the food court. There’s also a psychic based onsite who I’ve been to a few times.
VISIT THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
The all-weather Marine World platform caters for all activity levels and is a great base for the day. Especially for families
We had our own table and chairs on the sundeck, use of fresh water showers and changing rooms and lockers, and a yummy morning/afternoon tea plus a full buffet lunch.
The snorkel area is supervised at all times, they had snorkeler rest stations scattered around if you needed a break in the water. There’s a sheltered area for kids too.
It’s a huge day so I wouldn’t plan too much for the evening.
VISIT THE AQUARIUM
I haven’t been to the Cairns aquarium yet but have heard good things. It’s open every day of the year and is perfect for those rainy days. Sometimes they are open in the evenings and host events too so keep an eye out on their website
VISIT THE VILLAGE OF KURANDA
Kuranda is a nearby village in Tropical North Queensland that is surrounded by rainforest.
I prefer to drive because its on the same route as the waterfall circuit so you can easily spend the morning there and continue to check out the Tablelands.
Kuranda contains many amazing attractions such as a markets, bird aviary, a wildlife park, and the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
I highly recommend getting breakfast or lunch at the markets.
I legit had the BEST breakfast two weeks ago. It’s not the prettiest picture but the food was mind blowingly good (and this is coming from someone who isn’t easily impressed)
EXPLORE THE BOTANICAL GARDENS
Plant lovers will especially love the gardens. There’s SO many rare plants there that you just don’t see anywhere else. It kind of feels like Jurassic park when you are walking around.
There’s guided tours and a free visitor centre. But it’s super easy to just wander around yourself. And it’s right in town, you can easily walk there from the Esplanade in around 20 mins or theres free onsite parking too.
If you are keen for a decent walk, do the red arrow. You will work up a sweat and there’s a nice view at the top.
Some of the year they host moonlight cinemas there
Hot tip – Wear mozzie repellant especially during the wet season & take plenty of water with you. There’s cafes there too.
VISIT THE CRYSTAL CASCADES
This is another fun thing you can do while exploring the rainforests of Cairns.
Crystal Cascades is a swimming hole surrounded by many magnificent boulders and waterfalls found in Tropical North Queensland.
Be aware that there’s no phone reception and no tours that can take you to this spot.
The bungy jump is run by the legends at AJ Hackett. It’s totally set up for tourists, there’s a viewing platform with a bar. The venue is know for their Sunday sessions. It’s a good vibe and the staff are super friendly.
You can also take a ride on the Minjin Jungle Swing while you’re there. On this swing, you can go flying through the jungle at speeds of over a hundred miles an hour. Do this alone, or share the experience with up to two friends.
This is something that’s sure to get your heart racing. It’s a wild experience, to say the least, and it’s something you’ll never forget.
RIDE IN A HOT AIR BALLOON
Hot air ballooning is another incredible way to see the beautiful country of Australia from the sky and definitely one of the most unique things to do in Cairns.
This happens early in the morning as the sun is rising. You’ll get breathtaking views of the Atherton Tablelands, along with much of the area’s beautiful farmlands and rivers.
Hot Tip – allow plenty of time to drive to the location and take your time driving across the range. Spend the rest of the day checking out the waterfall circuit.
DRIVE THE WATERFALL CIRCUIT VIA THE TABLELANDS
Heads up that this is an entire day trip. I would start by having breakfast in Kuranda then make your way down through the Tablelands.
My FAVE spot to stop is at the Millaa Millaa Falls. They are magnificent waterfalls surrounded by lush rainforest located on the Waterfalls Circuit. The falls cascade perfectly to a pristine waterhole below where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the cool water.
There’s also a lovely grassy picnic area for you to relax. Millaa Millaa Falls are one of the most photographed in all of Australia, so make sure you bring your camera. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a platypus!
VISIT NERADA TEA FARM
This is en route on the ‘waterfall circuit’ and worth a visit. There’s tearooms on site so you can sample the teas and their home made scones. It’s a super historic site for the region, the Nereda tea farms have been around since the 1900’s.
Hot tip – whilst the photo looks lovely the ground is very muddy and stinky. Be prepared to go barefoot