Cairns is hot, hot, hot – and we’re not just talking about the weather

Once considered little more than a convenient jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef, the unofficial capital of Tropical North Queensland has become a bucket list destination in its own right. Take a boat tour to the outer reef or Fitzroy Island, go on a day trip from Cairns to the tropical rainforest at Cape Tribulation, take a full day tour to see native wildlife, visit Mossman Gorge, or marvel at the mighty Barron Falls. This friendly tropical tourist town is ever-changing and offers something for travellers of all ages with loads of natural wonders to explore.

Our Cairns tours

14 Days From 3715

See the natural wonders of Queensland and New South Wales on an adventure through the...

8 Days From 2067

Discover K'gari (formerly Fraser Island), the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef, Mission...

5 Days From 1720

Take a five-day adventure tour through the coastal wilderness of Kuku Yalanji land,...

13 Days From 3650

Bask in the beauty of north-east Queensland on an adventure that takes you to the Great...

5 Days From 1720

From Cairns, take a trip to explore Port Douglas, Daintree Rainforest, the Great...

Tailor-Made trips

Take four or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

12 Days From 3650

12 days to uncover Queensland’s best, from Brisbane to K'gari (Fraser Island), the...

12 Days From 5100

Experience the full range of Australia’s natural wonder, with visits to the Blue...

14 Days From 3715

Travelling from Sydney to Cairns, soak up the best of Australia’s east coast beaches,...

6 Days From 1530

This nature-fuelled trip will take you from Cairns to Kuranda, Mareeba, Mossman Gorge,...

8 Days From 2067

From Brisbane, you’ll visit Noosa Heads, K’gari (Fraser Island), Hervey Bay, Airlie...

18 Days From 5260

Travelling from Sydney to Cairns, soak up the best of Australia’s east coast beaches,...

19 Days From 5260

Tour from Sydney to Cairns, taking in the splendour of the Great Barrier Reed, K’gari,...

Highlights of Cairns

Donkeys in the Atherton Tablelands

Atherton Tablelands

Walk the Atherton Tablelands with Intrepid Travel and you’ll be introduced to a side of this beautiful destination that few get to see, from local legends to unique insight into the region’s flora and fauna. You’ll also have a friendly four-legged companion to carry your bags.

Fig tree

Join a day trip

Take a day trip to see sights such as Millaa Millaa Falls, Mamu Tropical Skywalk, Josephine Falls, Paronella Park, Babinda Boulders or beautiful Lake Barrine. This deep rainwater lake is home to amethystine pythons, eastern water dragons and other native wildlife.

Snorkeller at Ningaloo Reef

Explore the outer reef

Pack your swimmers and get ready for an aquatic adventure as you explore the outer reef on one of the many boat tours which include snorkelling. Sunlight sparkles on the ocean, the sun warms your back, and colourful fish tempt you to jump in the water.

Mossman Gorge

See Mossman Gorge

Experience the beauty of Mossman Gorge in Daintree National Park. This wilderness area is home to the oldest, continuously surviving rainforest on earth and has stunning swimming holes surrounded by towering trees and bright blue Monarch butterflies.

Koala in a tree

Spot native animals

Keep an eye out for native animals such as koalas high in the trees, rock wallabies which can often be seen at Granite Gorge, Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos and cassowaries which are regularly spotted around the ranger stations when you’re riding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

Hiker in the Daintree Rainforest

Walk tropical rainforest trails

Grab a good pair of walking shoes and hit the trails in and around Cairns. Take a short stroll along the trail which takes you to Barron Falls, tackle the full day Mount Bartle Frere track or go wild in Cape Tribulation which has plenty of pristine rainforest walks to explore.

Cairns tour reviews

Cairns FAQs

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises). However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

Cairns is the main airport for Tropical North Queensland with domestic flights flying to and from most major Australian cities. There is a train service from Brisbane to Cairns multiple times per week and regular long distance buses which travel up and down the coast. Driving is also possible if you enjoy spending time on the road and don't mind long drives.  

The areas in and around Cairns are well signed and easy to navigate. A local bus service is available although your options can be somewhat limited if you are hoping to travel further afield. Taxis and ride share options are also readily available. 

Any time of year is a good time to visit Cairns. Summer is hot and humid and perfect for swimming. Spring and Autumn are cooler and the region tends to be quieter. Winter is ideal for those who don't enjoy humid temperatures and the weather is typically good. If you are visiting between October and May and swimming in the ocean, it is advisable to wear a 'stinger suit' to protect yourself from possible jellyfish stings. 

Read more about if you need to wear a stinger suit in Cairns

Cairns tends to be a casual place so you can leave your fancy clothes at home. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must, even in winter. If you forget any essentials, it is easy to pick up whatever you need in the Cairns CBD. 

Cairns is a laid back destination which means casual clothes or active wear are fine to wear during the day. Smart casual is the norm for restaurants including the more upmarket dining spots in town.

WiFi is readily available throughout Cairns. There can be limited or no WiFi available for a short time when you're on some sections of road in the Atherton Tablelands and other remote spots. There is no WiFi signal throughout most of Cape Tribulation. 

Mobile coverage is readily available throughout Cairns. There can be limited or no mobile signal for a short time when you're on some sections of road in the Atherton Tablelands and other remote spots. There is no mobile signal throughout most of Cape Tribulation. 

It is possible to swim at Cairns’ attractive northern beaches such as Palm Cove, Trinity Beach and Kewarra Beach, but don't go swimming in the ocean around the CBD at any time of year. There is plenty of mud when the tide goes out along with the occasional croc. Instead, head for the large man-made Esplanade Lagoon which is safe and free to use. 

Read more about the best places to go swimming in Cairns

If you don't want to travel too far or are visiting with young children, day trips to Fitzroy Island or Green Island are a good option. Full and half day tours to the outer reef depart daily from downtown Cairns, including a First Nations tour with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel. Overnight liveaboard trips are also available depending on demand. 

Read more about the best way to see the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns

It turns out that Cairns isn't just full of natural beauty with plenty of events and festivals also providing you with plenty of entertainment to take your tropical holiday to another level. Here are a few of our favourites: 

  • Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair
  • Cairns Ecofiesta
  • Understory Film Festival 
  • Cairns Children's Festival  
  • Cairns Marathon 
  • Cairns Festival 

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. Some of the hiking trails in Tropical North Queensland can make walking difficult for travellers who are less mobile on foot. However, we’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Learn more about Accessible Travel with Intrepid

Read more about Australia