What are the best things to see and do in Cairns?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Jennifer Kester

As the gateway to tropical North Queensland, there is so much to see and do in Cairns. Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend.
1. Visit the Great Barrier Reef. A trip to Cairns without seeing the Great Barrier Reef would be the equivalent of heading to Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a first-time snorkeler, you can acquaint yourself with the unique coral and marine life of the reef on one of the numerous boat trips that depart from Cairns each day.
2. Relax at Cairns Esplanade. Whether you feel like cooling off in the water or taking a relaxing stroll, Cairns Esplanade is the place to be. The Esplanade Lagoon, in particular, is a favorite of locals and tourists alike and offers a safe, saltwater swimming area year round.
3. Enjoy the scenic view. The immense beauty of Cairns and the spectacular reefs and rainforests are best taken in from the sky. A scenic helicopter flight is a great way to see the reef and many local companies provide tours.
4. Hop on board the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This rail journey is one of the most popular ways to travel to the rainforest village of Kuranda, about 15 miles from Cairns. Travel through century-old tunnels as you learn about the history of Cairns and enjoy the picturesque surroundings of World-Heritage listed Barron Gorge National Park.
5. Discover Aboriginal art. Learn about Australia’s indigenous culture by visiting Canopy Artspace, a gallery and studio that showcases the work of the best established and emerging indigenous artists in Queensland. You might even find a piece of fine art to take home as a souvenir.

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