Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, offering numerous experiences that revolve around the water, and the perfect base from which to explore Tropical North Queensland’s world-famous rainforests.
Tour operators offer the chance to indulge in adrenaline-pumping activities – white-water rafting, bungee jumping, sky diving and four-wheel-drive tours – while the more peaceful pursuits include hiking to a waterfall, following the Tablelands tasting trail, visiting a spa, wandering a quiet beach, or taking a river cruise.
There's also a selection of world-class golf courses in the region surrounding Shangri-La The Marina, Cairns that can be reached by car or helicopter.
Check out 13 things to do in Cairns if you have a few hours to spare.
Covering 38 hectares and home to exotic flora and fauna, Flecker Botanic Gardens is one of Cairns' favourite tourist destinations.
Visitors will enter into a different world where the hidden beauty of tropical nature can be appreciated. The gardens are filled with colourful rare flowers, thick foliage and several types of trees.
The Cattana Wetlands is around 80 hectares of degraded land that Cairns Regional Council has rehabilitated into a nature conservation park. It's situated off Dunne Road in Smithfield, accessed by either Yorkeys Knob Road or McGregor Road, approximately 20km north of the CBD.
The wetlands are open every day of the year from 5.30am to 7pm. (Note: The park may be closed at different times during the wet season).
Facilities available are BBQs, picnic areas, toilets, bird hides and a 420m boardwalk through the feather palm forest.
The Daintree Rainforest is a tropical rainforest on the northeast coast of Queensland, approximately a two-hour drive north of Cairns. At around 1,200 sq km (460 sq mi), Daintree is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent and is the oldest living rainforest on Earth.
The Daintree Rainforest is a very spectacular piece of natural beauty you will encounter in your lifetime. There are a number of tours, ranging from adventurous to relaxing, operating to Daintree each and every day.
Tropical North Queensland crowns Australia’s Sunshine State, with Cairns sitting on the Coral Sea coast between the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics of Queensland rainforests. The region is famous for its warm weather, clean water, fresh air and abundant space.
The destination is popular with outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, boasting a high concentration of sustainable travel options and eco-friendly experiences, while an abundance of fresh local produce tempts foodies keen to feast on local flavours.
It’s only an hour by boat to the Great Barrier Reef – tourist vessels depart daily from Marlin Marina, only steps from the hotel’s lobby – and day-trip tours collect visitors from the front door to embark on excursions into the rainforest.
Cairns Performing Arts Centre
The Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) provides an extraordinarily enhanced audience experience and a state-of-the-art facility. At CPAC, you will witness innovative performances with a mix of classic and revived theatrical pieces. The versatility of the venue enables a variety of events including music, theatre, dance, opera, comedy, contemporary circus and film.
Tanks Art Centre
Far North culture, history and the great outdoors combine at a heritage-listed location a stone's throw from the Cairns Esplanade. The Tanks Art Centre was named after the oil storage tanks that have stood on this site beside the Cairns Botanical Gardens since World War Two - three tanks were built for the Royal Australian Navy in 1944 - and, after being decommissioned in 1987, were transformed into an innovative multi-use complex that celebrates the best of the region's arts scene. Tanks is celebrated for presenting a comprehensive program of live music, theatre performances, market days, exhibitions and workshops and is a favourite with the Far North's artists and art lovers alike who keep the laid-back venue buzzing with creative energy.
Cairns Regional Gallery
Experience the vibrant visual arts of Tropical North Queensland in this elegant gallery in the heart of Cairns.
Cairns Regional Gallery hosts major exhibitions of fine Australian and international collections covering historical and contemporary art. This includes the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
Encompassing multiple precincts, with a host of dining options, shopping outlets, specialty stores, offices, a gym, health spa and hotel, this is an urban lifestyle centre like no other. Reborn and re-branded, The Pier at the Marina boasts premier waterfront location, marina access, underground parking, not to mention stunning views.
The Cairns Central shopping centre is a popular shopping destination in Cairns. Home to more than 180 stores, Cairns Central is the largest mall in the whole North Queensland area. The place also has several boutique shops where visitors are sure to pick up some interesting merchandise.
Located at the Esplanade and full of treasures, the Night Markets come alive each evening as crowds of people stream into this area. The markets are famous for the sale of art items, crafts and Australian souvenirs of all kinds. Visitors can also sample delicious cuisine at the food outlets.
The Esplanade Markets, which are open on Saturdays, are ideal for those looking to purchase lovely trinkets and delicate jewellery.
Popular markets in the city include the Tanks Market Day which is held at the Tanks Art Centre situated on Edge Hill. Held on every last Sunday of specific months, this market showcases a different theme every time.