Swim at the Lagoon

In case you didn’t know, summers up north get stinking hot and swimming at the beach is off limits due to stinger season (jelly fish that can seriously harm you), not to mention the crocs. Thankfully, a great feature of the Cairns foreshore is their man-made lagoon. With crystal clear water, shallow areas for the kids, lifeguards on hand and a grassy area to laze around it’s a safe and fun place to hang out.

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The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s most famous natural icons, and getting out on the reef is a once in a lifetime experience. Tour options range from small boats where you dive or snorkel off the boat, to larger tours where you moor at a pontoon and access the reef from there. If you have young kids I recommend the pontoon experience – it makes for a great base and more practical than being stuck on a cramped boat all day. Consider Reef Magic Cruises and Quicksilver Cruises.

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Skyrail Rainforest Cableway & Kuranda Scenic Railway

A popular activity around Cairns is to ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway up to the hinterland town of Kuranda. A 7.5km glide over the top of pristine rainforest provides stunning views out to Cairns and the Tableland Valley. From Kuranda take the Scenic Railway back down to Cairns as it winds its way along the McDonald ranges. This famous railway takes 1 hour 45 minutes between Cairns and Kuranda.

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Green Island

A lovely day trip from Cairns is Green Island, just a 45 minute boat ride away. A 6000 year old coral cay within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park it’s great for families as you safely snorkel straight off the shore near the jetty and there’s also a patrolled beach for swimming. Other activities include glass bottom boat, diving, a nice boardwalk through the forest and Marineland Melanesia - home to the largest captive crocodile in Australia. Visit Great Adventures for tour options.

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Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

A great centre for your kids, and you, to see the Aboriginal perspective and learn about the culture of the traditional owners of our land. Tjapukai is a tourist destination that doesn’t feel like a tourist trap, here you can watch dancing shows, make fire with sticks, learn about the didgeridoo, bush medicine and food, and learn how to throw boomerangs and spears.

Visit Palm Cove

20 minutes north of Cairns is the colourful village of Palm Cove, considered to have one of Australia’s most idyllic beaches (there’s a designated swimming area during stinger season). There’s a beachfront playground for children and a gorgeous esplanade to stroll back and forth along for coffee, gelato or endless restaurants to dine in of an evening.

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure’s is 40 minutes north of Cairns and the place to go to get up close and personal with Australian wildlife in a natural setting. They put on entertaining and educational presentations about crocs, snakes, cassowaries, koalas, and see beautiful tropical birds and insects.

White Water Rafting on the Barron River

The Barron River in the beautiful Barron Gorge National Park offers white water rafting that’s perfect for anyone who hasn’t tried rafting before, or for those families looking for half a day of fun and adventure. Raging Thunder offer two hours of rafting just 20 minutes from Cairns.

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Rusty’s Farmer’s Market

A bit of a tourist icon this place, but Rusty’s Markets is one the cheapest farmers’ market we’ve visited around Australia, 50 cent avocados hello. A great place to stock up on your fruit and veg for self-catering in your apartment. Get here on a Sunday at around 2pm just before it shuts, there’s slash down prices galore.

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The Night Markets

Not the best markets in Australia by any stretch of the imagination, but the Cairns night markets is a good way to pass an hour or so and shop for traditional souvenirs and market fair. One offer hard to pass up are the cheap massages, $15 for 40 minutes – unheard of in Australia.

Atherton Tablelands – Drive the Waterfall Way

An hour south-west of Cairns is The Atherton Tablelands, a region worth exploring. One highlight is the 15km waterfall circuit with Millaa Millaa Falls being one of the most photographed waterfalls in Australia. Near the town of Yungaburra is the impressive Curtain Fig Tree and plan for a stop in at Coffee Works in Mareeba for unlimited quantities of coffee, tea, chocolate and liqueur.

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