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. The 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.
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.
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.
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.
WHAT TO DO IN CAIRNS
KURANDA – THE RAINFOREST VILLAGE
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!
WHAT TO DO AROUND 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.
PORT DOUGLAS AND THE DAINTREE RAINFOREST
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.
WHAT TO DO IN PORT DOUGLAS
DID YOU KNOW?
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.
BEST TOURIST DRIVES AROUND CAIRNS
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:
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!
WHEN TO TRAVEL
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.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly to Cairns.
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