Although the town appears to be a small place, Cairns is one of the major tourist hotspots in tropical Queensland and with plenty of surprises. That’s why you need a Cairns tropical travel guide! Things here are fantastic; the rainforest village of Kuranda offers unique sights, and if you take the cable car you can even appreciate breathtaking waterfalls from a bird’s eye view, walk through the lushest of foliage and come across some of the rarest species on earth.

The Barron Falls, Kuranda

And the nature lovers can continue towards the king of the Australian jungles – Daintree National Park that is renowned for the widest variety of plants per square meter on the planet.

If one still does not have enough of the tropical greenery The Tablelands will do the job – refreshing waterfalls, beautiful walkways, exotic wildlife, scenic drives and outstanding photography opportunities, all this only 1.5-hour drive from Cairns.

The Atherton Tableland offers excellent camping, hiking and outdoor activities

Snorkelers and scuba divers will find an underwater paradise in the surrounding reefs and young kids may want to look for Nemo and Dory; The Great Barrier Reef is their home after all.

It is not a rare thing to spot a saltwater crocodile in one of the Cairns` reserves, and the world’s deadliest bird – Cassowary – dwells in the surrounding jungles. Adventure can truly be anticipated on every corner, but perhaps that is what makes it so exciting to visit Cairns.

Watch out for cassowaries when driving and walking – they can be encountered both in the forest and on the beach


Cairns is often compared to its tropical cousin on the west coast – Broome, where the population during the peak season triples and the heavy winter rains drive the residents away so they can return in a few months and start the new season; both seaside resorts are totally dependent on tourism.

Indeed, the tourism infrastructure here is at its best; there are boutiques, shopping malls, restaurants, spas, cafes, tour operators, real estate agencies and a good variety of nightlife options.

Tourists coming to Cairns typically end up exceeding the budget as the place teems with endless attractions and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The Cairns` Esplanade Lagoon gets much appreciated during the steamy tropical days


  • Esplanade Lagoon – a popular 4800sq-metre saltwater swimming facility that offers an all-year-round, safe, swimming location without stingers and crocodiles
  • Cairns Botanic Gardens – renowned for having one of the best exhibitions of tropical plants in Australia, ideal for relaxation and walking (Flecker Gardens, Gondwana Heritage Garden, Watkins Munro Martin Conservatory, Freshwater and Saltwater Lakes, Zhanjiang Friendship Gardens)
  • Palm Cove – get up early and watch the sun rising above the beach
  • Smithfield – large shopping complex with deluxe shops and restaurants
  • Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park – Cairns` favourite Aboriginal c experience. Visit the cultural village, and learn about the indigenous bush tucker & medicine, traditional hunting & weapons, e.g. spear and boomerang, and watch various dance and didgeridoo performances
  • Cairns Night Market & Rusty’s Markets – retail shopping, original souvenirs, and good-quality local food can be found at the night markets whereas the ‘Rusty`s’ offers an eclectic mix of both edible and craft-based goods, including artisan pastries, chocolates and fresh local produce
  • Lyquid Nightlife – enjoy a tropical cocktail in luxe style to finish off the day!
Sunrise over the Palm Cove, Cairns


Kuranda Scenic Railway Is one of the major points of interest in Cairns, the tourist railway (2 hours one way) ascends the Macalister Range and passes through the suburbs of Stratford, Freshwater, and Redlynch before reaching the rainforest of Kuranda. There will be many spectacular lookouts on the way, including the famed Barron Falls, Stoney Creek Falls and Surprise Creek Falls.

Kuranda Village boasts attractions such as bird aviary, butterfly sanctuary, wildlife rescue & rehabilitation centre, reptile park and koala sanctuary, fossil and gemstone museum, quirky markets, candy making displays, various cruises on the Barron River, jungle tours and walking tracks. E.g. Jum Rum Creek Environmental Park, the River Walk, Barron Falls Walk, the Wright’s Lookout. 1 day may well not be enough for you to discover all the attractions of Kuranda!

The rainforest village of Kuranda is one of the highlights of Cairns


  • Barron Gorge National Park & Skyrail – a 7.5 km cable car above the tropical rainforest and the iconic Barron Falls, Wrights & Henry Ross lookouts on the way
  • Crystal Cascades – Lake Morris, rainforest walks, waterfalls and swimming holes
  • Finding Nemo on a snorkelling tour – choose one of the myriads reef cruises in Cairns to find the legendary anemone clownfish
  • Whale & Dolphin watching – between June and September
  • Pontoon Tours – book one of these tours for the younger ones. The specially designed Marine World platforms are paced in the shallow waters of the Great Barrier Reef with protective nettings ideal for families
  • Green Island  – a splendid coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef and a popular one day trip from Cairns, (45 min by a catamaran from Cairns unless booked a cruise package), the major attraction is the Glass Bottom Boat
  • Fitzroy Island – stunning mountainous island resort with luxurious accommodation, fringing reef, hiking trails, a variety of water sports activities, snorkelling, and diving at Nudey Beach (45 min by a ferry from Cairns)
The Green Island is popular with snorkellers, various tours can be booked in Cairns


‘The Tablelands’ is a highland region in the hinterland of Cairns and a heaven for all nature lovers. The landscape comprises of rainforest, wetlands, and savanna – all homes to abundant birdlife and wildlife like tree kangaroos, Cassowary, and wallabies.

The region is known by tourists for the Waterfalls Circuit, a 17-km driving loop that includes Barron River, Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls, Ellinjaa Falls, Pepina Falls, Mungalli Falls, and others. The drive is ideal for those who would like to cool down in the fresh spring water and photographers.

The Millaa Millaa Falls, Atherton Tablelands


From North to South, there are more than 52 kilometres of Cairns` coastline stretching along the scenic Captain Cook Highway, from the Machans Beach, Holloways Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach, Kewarra Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove and Ellis Beach.

This is one of the most spectacular tourist drives in Australia. The coastal road continues towards the up-market resorts of Port Douglas, and passes through the several national parks, to reach the World Heritage Site of the Daintree National Park and its unspoiled rainforest at Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation.  

Daintree River, Daintree National Park


  • Macalister National Park – rainforest walks, mountain bike trails, birdlife spotting, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
  • Mowbray National park – birdlife spotting, Oak Beach, Wildlife habitat (interactive zoo), Alexandra Reefs
  • Port Douglas – for an added touch of luxury pay a visit to the famous Four Mile Beach and see what makes this remote seaside resort so popular with American tourists (fantastic facilities and tourist infrastructure)
  • Mossman Gorge – Mossman River nature walks, Aboriginal cultural tours, eco-tours, birdlife spotting, short self-guided walks (Baral Marrjanga, Lower River Track, Rex Creek Bridge and Rainforest Circuit Track )
  • Daintree Rainforest – Daintree River, Discovery Centre, River Cruise Centre, Cow Bay
  • Cape Tribulation – discover the glorious beaches of the Daintree National Park, the unspoiled coast from Thornton beach to the Cape Tribulation beach is fringed with extremely rare beachside rainforest
Cape Tribulation represents a sheer unspoiled wilderness


Not far from Port Douglas, the ill-famed ‘Batt Reef’ received a high level of media attention and tourist interest; 4th of September 2006 the legendary Aussie’ Croc Hunter’ Steve Irwin died here after being pierced in the chest by a stingray while filming his popular ‘Ocean`s Deadliest’ that became his last. Today, the visitors can take a boat or a scuba dive tour to the reef from Port Douglas.

Port Douglas town makes a perfect destination for those who are fond of luxury and comfort


An ideal way how to explore the countryside of Cairns and discover its natural wonders is a road trip. There are numerous 1-day scenic drives around the town lead through and the major attractions. The most recommended are:

  • Kuranda National Park Circuit: Cairns-Trinity Beach-Palm Cove-Port Douglas-Shannonvale-Mount Molloy-Mareeba-Cairns (220 km) – 2WD access
  • Basic Tablelands Circuit: Cairns-Kuranda-Mareeba-Atherton-Gordonvale-Cairns (180 km) – 2WD access
  • Great Tableland Circuit: Cairns-Atherton-Millaa Millaa-Innisfail-Gordonvale-Cairns (300 km) – 2WD access
  • Bloomfield Track: there is a fantastic option for all fans of road trips: from Cape Tribulation, follow the Roseville-Bloomfield Road until the end, the track ends in Cooktown – a pristine frontier town that combines isolated coastlines, rich history, Aboriginal culture and rugged Australian scenery (100 km one way, 4WD only, return via the main Highway)
The Bloomfield Track is ideal for all adventurous road-trippers (4WD only)


There are several important things to note and remember when travelling in tropical Queensland.

Stingers – although the beaches and its clear shallows look inviting the signs around must be taken seriously. Stingers are almost transparent marine creatures with venomous tentacles, some of them deadly. From November through to April the stingers inhabit the seas of the northern Queensland.

Cassowaries – the notorious Australian Cassowary seems a lovely bird. However, they are recorded as the world`s most dangerous birds! The large flyless bird (grows up to 2 m tall) can get very aggressive when frightened, and it would chase the victim forever. It can easily slice a person into two pieces with a single fatal kick as Cassowary’s primary weapon is its dagger-like digit II claw.

Saltwater & Estuarine Crocodiles – from Fraser Island all the way up to the tropical North, both types of crocs inhabit the coastal waters. It might not be an everyday sight, but they are also not rare to spot. Always read the beach and creek signs!

Cyclones – the tropical coast of Queensland is threatened by seasonal cyclones (mostly between Jan-March)

Sunburn – the major danger for most of the foreigners is the Queensland tropical sun. Australia is well-known for its extreme UV indexes and blistering sun. Make sure you use enough sunscreen throughout a day and wear a hat at all times!

The Four-Mile Beach near Port Douglas is one of the most photographed in Australia – it is a patrolled beach with a stinger-net enclosure for safe swimming


Hence above, the best time to visit Tropical Queensland is between May-October.

NOTE when planning your trip, check out the Australian school holidays as the major tourist locations tend to get very busy.


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Eva Bodova

Tuesday 9 June 2020

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