Cairns North Queensland is a growing city with a population of around 120,000. First settled in 1876 to service the gold mining to the west, Cairns is a major sugar cane region with a very robust tourism industry.
Cairns is the gateway to many exciting attractions of North Queensland. A popular tourist destination, especially with overseas guests, visitors to Cairns have a mix of fun tours and excellent accommodation.
The Great Barrier Reef is just an hour cruise from Cairns, making it the ideal spot for cruise operators, fishing and dive charters, plus it has some of the best beaches found anywhere in the world.
Just north of Cairns is Trinity Beach and Palm Cove, both tourist destinations in their own right, Port Douglas is a little further on, about 80 kms.
Queensland’s highest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere, overlooks the city and the village of Kuranda is a spot that attracts many tourists for the natural beauty and a ride on the scenic Kuranda Rail and Sky Gondola.
The Daintree Forest to the North of Cairns, is a heritage listed area and holds the largest collection of rare flora and fauna in the world.
The Daintree River is a popular area to go crocodile spotting, while picturesque Cooktown is a must see day tour from Cairns.
Add the Atherton Tableland to the overall picture, with stunning waterfalls, volcanic craters and the amazing Undara Lava Tubes, and it’s easy to see why Cairns is the fourth most popular tourist destination in Australia.
Come on up to Cairns and have a fantastic time.
Things to do in Cairns
Cairns Tropical Zoo isn’t large, yet it is a zoo where you can get close to a vast array of birds and native Australian animals such as kangaroos, koalas and wallabies. With arguably the best bird show presentation of any zoo in Australia, Cairns Tropical Zoo is a fabulous day out for all the family.
There is a huge area set aside for freshwater and saltwater crocodiles and fabulous walk-through areas where you can hand feed and pat kangaroos. Make sure you take the time to Visit Cairns Tropical Zoo. It’s Awesome!
We recently visited Cairns Tropical Zoo and was very impressed by the close interaction that visitors can have with the zoo animals.
It may not be as big as the zoos you find in the major cities, yet Cairns Tropical Zoo is a zoo where you can feed kangaroos by hand, pat a koala, hold a snake and walk in bird aviaries, where the birds may even come sit on your shoulder. Now that’s getting close to the animals.
You won’t see elephants or giraffes. What you will see is Australian animals. Koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, wombats, dingoes and many more. Cairns Zoo does have a few animals from overseas like the Red Panda, Cotton Top monkeys and Madagascan Lemurs, but the majority are native Australian animals.
There are free wildlife shows, where you will learn a lot of interesting facts about the animals. The bird show is outstanding, informative and very entertaining, with black cockatoos, Major Mitchell cockatoos, magpies, Tawny Frog mouths and a very talented and amusing white cocky showing off in front of the audience.
Because Cairns Tropical Zoo is a smaller zoo, keeper talks are more personal and you get a much better view of the animals and their behaviour. I loved the bird show and thought it was the best I had seen. Surpassing even the excellent Free Flight Bird Show at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo for pure enjoyment and information. Make sure you give the white cockatoo a donation when the show is over, it is amazing how he will take your money and put it in the money box.
Everyone loves koalas and Cairns Tropical Zoo has quite a few. Look for the times when you can have your photo taken holding a koala or just walk through the koala sanctuary where you are just an arms length away from these adorable animals.
Koalas sleep for 20 hours a day so most times they are hanging in the trees, but they are still so cute.
They say never smile at a crocodile, so be wary when you come to the crocodile enclosure. Some of Cairns Tropical Zoos crocodiles are serving life in imprisonment, sentenced for being rather troublesome creatures around Cairns, eating dogs and cattle.
Wildlife Rangers had to trap the large saltwater crocodiles and throw them in gaol at the zoo to ensure they didn’t start eating humans. If you are there at feeding time the crocodile show is a real eye opener.
Cairns Tropical Zoo is situated on the highway about 20 minutes north of Cairns at Palm Cove.
Public buses stop right at the front entrance to the zoo, there is ample free parking available for those self driving or you can organise bus pickup and drop off through your hotels tour desk.
Try to give yourself about 4 hours at least at the zoo. There is a lot to see and a lot to learn with photo opportunities galore. Also ensure your camera batteries are fully charged and you have plenty of room on the storage card as you will take lots of photos.
Cairns Tropical Zoo has a good cafe for a welcome cup of coffee or a delicious lunch. Don’t forget to purchase a bag of kangaroo feed when you enter the zoo, kids and grown ups love the kangaroos and wallabies eating from their hands.
Cairns Tropical Zoo
Captain Cook Highway
Palm Cove, Cairns, Queensland
Open 7 days from 8:30am to 4:00pm (closed Christmas Day).
Kuranda Day Tour
The mountain village of Kuranda is just 25 kms from Cairns and is a popular day trip to the cooler air and lush green forest. Full of attractions, the Kuranda Railway and Skyrail Gondola are the most popular ways to get up and down the mountain.
We consider this the best Kuranda Day Tour of the many on offer. You have return transport from your accommodation. The amazing train journey to Kuranda, free time in the village and the equally amazing Skyrail experience back down the mountain. Yes, this is the best Cairns Kuranda day tour at an affordable price.
No trip to Cairns is complete without taking the scenic Kuranda train ride, with it’s fabulous views and breathtaking scenery.
Open in 1891 after an absolute engineering miracle to build a rail line in such harsh conditions, the Kuranda Railway has flourished and today it is a major Cairns tourist attraction which carries thousands of happy passengers each year.
On this fantastic Cairns Kuranda day tour, you will travel by bus to Caravonica Lakes for a ride up the mountain on the Sky Gondola, stopping to view the spectacular Barron Falls and a visit to the CSIRO Interpretive Centre.
When you finally arrive at the Skyrail Station in Kuranda, you are free to explore the markets and craft shops in the village, have a quiet coffee and soak up the atmosphere or take a look at the Butterfly House.
The local council and Queensland Government have made walking tracks into the rainforest and along the Barron River to the famous falls, which are simply fabulous.
Your return to Cairns is on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Enjoy the natural beauty as you reflect on the effort that was taken to construct the rail line over the mountain.
Have your camera ready as there are many outstanding chances to get that perfect photo and the train actually stops on a trestle bridge to give you the perfect picture location.
You can choose to go up to Kuranda on the scenic railway and return via the Skyway to Caravonica Lakes. Same price either way. Same awesome experience.
Whatever way you choose to travel on your day, the Cairns Kuranda Day Tour will give you a fabulous adventure as the views are more than delightful, the attractions in Kuranda very entertaining and the overall tour high quality and value for money.
Undara Lava Tubes Tour
Walk through ancient lava tubes that were once fiery rivers of molten rock. From Cairns travel by coach into the Atherton Tableland and take a guided tour of the remarkable Undara Lava Tubes.
West of Cairns, the Undara Lava Tubes are ancient lava tunnels formed millions of years ago. Your guides will explain the formation of the caves and other natural geological wonders.
This tour can only be described as fascinating, as you will be completely amazed that nature can form such wonderful formations out of flowing molten lava. You have the opportunity to enter these ancient tunnels and see for yourself the mysteries that lie within.
The caves formed by the lava are said to be over 160 kms long and are home to a vast array of animals such as bats, moths and beetles.
People are drawn to the Undara Lava Tubes for the natural beauty and sheer magic of walking through tunnels that were once molten lava from ancient volcanoes dating back millions of years.
Within the Undara Lava Tubes, your guide will explain how the tubes were formed and point out interesting features.
Please contact Undara Lava Tubes direct for all bookings. Book ahead as this tour does sell out. www.undara.com.au
There is accommodation available at Undara and camping facilities. You can self drive from Cairns, which will take around 4 hours via Innisfail. Perhaps you should plan to take longer as there are some fabulous sights along the way, such as the Millaa Millaa Falls and Innot Hot Springs, that should not be missed.
Hartley’s Crocodile Farm
Take a tour to Cairns best crocodile farm, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. See crocodiles in the lagoon jump for food, watch as trainers hand feed crocs and see the terrifying snake show. Scary but fun for all the family at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm Cairns.
Cruise through the lagoon, which is teeming with saltwater crocodiles. Hartleys is a working farm where the crocodiles are grown for sale, so you are assured to see many crocs on the day and you can even get to feed them yourself. Awesome!
No visit to Cairns is complete without seeing a crocodile and the best Cairns Crocodile farm is at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Hartley’s is an actual working farm where crocodiles are raised for their skins.
Visitors can take a crocodile cruise on the lagoon and see feeding exhibitions. There are many other native animals on show and you can get your photo taken holding a crocodile or snake if your game enough. There is also a fabulous snake show which gives an insight to some of the deadliest snakes in the world.
Like to tour the crocodile farm? This is an amazing tour and you will get an appreciation why farming crocodiles is the best method in harvesting their skins without upsetting the eco balance.
Take a look at this crocodile video clip taken at Hartley’s farm on the lagoon cruise. They say a picture says a thousand words and the video shows just what you can expect to see on the crocodile cruise. This is a great day out for family fun and one that you must do while in Cairns.
You may want to try a snack at the restaurant where crocodile meat is on the menu. This is a good opportunity to take a bite of a croc before one bites you, while sitting back and enjoying the view over the lagoon.
Included in the Hartleys Crocodile Adventures Tour is hotel pick up and return from central Cairns hotels and some northern beaches. Check out the link below for full details.
Hartleys Crocodile Farm isn’t that far from Cairns, roughly half way between Cairns and Port Douglas. If you can self drive you will save a lot of money by paying just the entry fee on the day.
Hot Air Balloon Rides Cairns
Fun balloon flight over the Atherton tablelands in a specially constructed hot air balloon with Hot Air Cairns.
The basic balloon ride includes a 30-minute scenic flight, hot cooked breakfast with champagne and a souvenir flight certificate on completion.
Hot air ballooning is a thrilling and exciting thing to do while in Cairns, so book online now and enjoy the sights of the Atherton tableland at sunrise.
Cairns Hot Air Balloon ride will give you lasting memories of this beautiful tropical paradise.
There is nothing quite like the thrill of soaring silently into the early morning air and watching the earth below come to life. Hot air ballooning is a soft adventure that young and old can experience with the same degree of satisfaction.
Hot air ballooning in Cairns is probably the cheapest ballooning experience in Australia. Compared to capital cities, Cairns ballooning is certainly affordable for most budgets and there is a certain romance in gliding over the tropics.
Included is hotel transfers between Cairns, Northern Beaches, Palm Cove and Port Douglas, a fabulous hot air balloon flight, breakfast on completion, plus a champagne toast if your old enough and a certificate of completion as a lasting memento. Now that’s value.
Hot Air Balloon flights are the perfect gift for birthdays, anniversaries, in fact a balloon ride is perfect for any occasion. What about saying your wedding vows in a hot air balloon? How romantic!
Make a promise to yourself right now, that you will experience this fabulous adventure sport, and book your Cairns hot air balloon ride online today.
Cairns White Water Rafting
Here’s a fun tour while your in Cairns. One that you must try. White Water Rafting on either the Barron River or Tully River will have you enjoying the rapids and having holiday fun.
Cairns is blessed to have two rivers in the region that are awesome for white water rafting.
If you want to try white water rafting, this is the place to start. Make advanced bookings online for a day filled with action and adventure.
Choice of 2 white water rafting tours from Cairns to either the Barron River or the Tully River. Both give fabulous white water rapids excitement with one a 4 hour tour while the longer Tully River tour is around a 12 hour duration.
The Barron River has rapids classed up to grade 3 and is just a short journey (aprox 20 minutes) from Cairns.
White water Rafting on the Barron River is very popular due to the easy access and gentler grades, which are ideal for those that have never been rafting before.
You must remember during the wet season rivers may be a little dangerous and on the other end of the scale, during the dry months there may not be a lot of water, enough though to make it interesting.
Barron River Rafting is an afternoon tour commencing at 2.00pm with hotel pickup and return included. Great for those just wanting a fun experience. Book Barron River Rafting Online!
The more challenging and longer white water rafting tour on the Tully River, takes around 12 hours and includes hotel pick up and return, morning tea and coffee, BBQ lunch and afternoon snack.
The Tully River is about 140 kilometers south of Cairns and provides fast and furious white water action with rapids graded to level 4.
This is the more challenging tour and is a little more expensive due to the travelling time involved.
Kuranda Scenic Rail Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld and Skyrail Day Tour
Take the scenic rail to Kuranda and then visit Birdworld and the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary at your own pace. You then travel back down the mountain on the Kuranda Skyail gondola in time to meet your coach back to your accommodation.
This is one of the best combination day tours from Cairns to Kuranda. You get to experience the trip up and down the mountain from a different perspective and see the different amazing scenic features each way.
Depart Cairns for one of the worlds best rail journeys next to amazing rainforest, through hand dug tunnels and past towering waterfalls to the picturesque village of Kuranda, some 25 kms from the city of Cairns.
Take the opportunity to have a look around Kuranda and the markets, then pay for your own entry to both Birdworld and Butterfly World.
Time permitting, another must do is to take the short walk to the Barron falls lookout for great photo opportunities, although you do make a stop at the lookout on your way up on the scenic train.
Birdworld has an amazing collection of tropical birds with Lorikeets, black cockatoos, Cassowarys and Macaws, just some of the hundreds of species in the specially constructed rainforest ampitheatre. Birds fly as if in the wild and you may even have friendly ones land on your shoulder seeking a hand out, so have that camera ready.
Kuranda Butterfly Sancturary is home to over 1500 tropical butterflies, all local to the surrounding area.
A popular attraction in Kuranda since 1987, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary exhibits the largest Australian butterfly, the Cairns or Australian Birdwing butterfly and of course the amazing electric blue Ulysses butterfly, among the many species that millions of visitors have come to see.
Finally you will enjoy a journey across the top of the rainforest canopy on your way to Caravonica Lakes, where you will be taken by coach back to your Cairns accommodation. This is a full day tour of delightful sightseeing and fabulous wildlife.
The tour done this way doesn’t cost a fortune and you can pace yourself as to what you want to see on the day. We suggest booking a tour to Kuranda going up on the scenic rail and coming back on the Skyrail if you need transport from your hotel accommodation. You then decide what you want to see in Kuranda.
- Birdworld entrance is approx. AUD17.00 adult, 8.50 child
- Butterfly Sanctuary entrance is approx. AUD19.00 adult, 9.50 child
You can save a considerable amount of money if you self drive to Caravonica Station and travel up and back on the Skyrail gondola. This is the option that we suggest, which you can book online at Skyrail Website. Or alternatively drive direct to Kuranda.
Cairns Airport Transfers
Cairns airport shuttle bus transfers to and from hotels in Cairns City, Northern Beaches, Palm Cove, Port Douglas and the Silky Oaks Lodge at Mossman are made easy with Cairns Airport Connections bus.
The Cairns Airport is located in the northern suburbs of Cairns with the ocean one side and the highway the other. Perhaps just a 10 minute drive to the Cairns CBD on a dual motorway.
Port Douglas on the other hand is about 70kms from Cairns on a scenic yet quite winding road. The scenery is beautiful, because of this, the drive can be dangerous because of drivers being distracted by the awesome views.
You really must be careful as drivers just stop without warning or pull off the road without signalling any intention. Very dangerous indeed, with sharp bends and very little passing opportunities.
So the best and safest way to get from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas is to let someone who knows the road well do the driving.
A taxi between Cairns and Port Douglas is only an option if you have plenty of money. There is a better option and that is by local shuttle services.
Book your seat on the affordable Cairns airport shuttle bus operated by Airport Connections in Cairns.
Cairns Airport Connections has been operating airport to hotel and hotel to airport transfers for many years and their experienced drivers will deliver you to most Cairns city hotels, Northern Beaches and as far as Mossman in relaxed comfort.
Airport shuttles are the cost effective answer to costly taxis. Just imagine how much a taxi would cost to go from the airport to say Port Douglas.
At around $40.00 per person for our airport transfer to Port Douglas, this is just a fraction of the taxi cost. Transfers to Cairns city hotels start around a low $15 pp. Yes, this is the only way to go.
Bookings must be made ahead of your travel dates so your seat can be allocated on the day. Reservations may be made for both arrivals and departures to and from Cairns Domestic and International airports.