What to see and do on a trip to Cairns? Here are 13 Cairns Experiences


Rusty’s Market

Although literally just a tin shed with stalls inside, it’s pretty epic! There are loads of locally grown fruit and veggies that are ridicoiulsy cheap as well as lots of little food stalls too. I discovered my true love for Vietnamese iced coffee and chai tea here (which I highly recommend you try at Annie’s!) They’ve also got things like homemade samosas, pork buns, raw and gluten free desserts, French crepes, Vietnamese Pho plus lots more. It’s the cheapest farmer’s market I’ve ever been to and if I lived in Cairns, I would be here weekly.

The markets are only open Fri, Sat & Sun from 5am to 6pm (but 3pm on Sundays).



Red and blue arrow hikes

Located in Mount Whitfield Conservation Park and behind the botanical gardens, these two hiking trails link up to each other with the red beginning first, followed by the blue trail which is longer and more strenuous.

The trails are a very popular fitness regime amongst many locals on weekends and it certainly does test your fitness! The continuous incline of stairs makes it challenging – even for those who think they are pretty fit. The walks are gorgeous though, with rainforest all around you and there are scenic viewpoints on the way up too!



Botanical Gardens

The botanic gardens are beautiful to wander through with lots of tropical flora and fauna to dazzle you. I especially enjoyed walking through the bamboo boardwalk! The gardens are open everyday from 7.30am to 5.30pm and it is free also!


Cairns Esplanade

Lined with coconut trees all the way along (hello paradise!) and right by the water, you can’t really visit Cairns without taking a stroll along the esplanade. In the town centre along the water is a large commercial pool and sun baking deck for visitors to use who want to escape the hot heat in the summertime and enjoy a dip in the water. There are also many little eateries and restuarants along the pier that offer great views to sit back and relax.






While visiting the Barrier Reef is one of the most popular attractions to do in Cairns, not far behind is definitely a trip to Kuranda. Kuranda is approx. 25km northwest of Cairns and you can easily drive here yourself, but many opt to ride the famous scenic sky rail train that passes through lush rainforest and the Barron Gorge. Kuranda itself is only a little rainforest village, famous for its markets that sell locally produced honey, trinket souvenirs, clothing, gemstones and much more! The markets are open everyday form 9:30 till about 3:30pm.



Visit an island and the Great Barrier Reef

From Cairns, there are various day tours you can book that take you out to some of the islands off Cairns (fitzroy being a popular option as well as Green Island) and you can spend the day snorkelling and swimming in some of the best parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Alternatively, you can always stay longer than a day and stay for a few nights on Fitzroy Island.




Night markets

Cairns have a night market that open from about 4pm each afternoon till late each night. On the beach side is the Asian style food court that is good value for money if you are looking for cheap dinner eats and on the other side of the markets are where you can find the dessert stuff such as churros, milk teas, Japanese crepes and other delicious treats! If you venture past both of these entry points to the inside of the markets they have lots of cheap Australian souvenir trinkets as well as massage stalls. The night market is just a great spot to wander through once the sun goes down.  



Walsh’s Pyramid

If you are visiting Cairns on a mission to keep fit or if you love a good bushwalk or hike, then definitely consider conquering Walsh’s Pyramid! The pryamid stands 922 metres tall and will probably test your fitness levels through some of the steep and rocky track, but the 360 degree views from the top of the summit will be well worth it.


Crystal Cascades

Crystal Cascades is a gorgeous location to take your swimmers and swim in the fresh water rock pools in beautiful rainforest surroundings. It’s only a short walk (approx. 1km) from the car park entry to reach the end of the cascades, but there are many swimming spots to stop at along the way. We were lucky enough to see two little baby turtles swimming near us! The entry here is free, however there is no public transport here so a car or scooter will be your easiest option to reach Crystal Cascades.



Bahana Gorge & Mossman Gorge

Both Bahana & Mossman Gorge offer spectacular scenic walks and enchanting views of lush forest and pristine water. Bahana Gorge is approx. 30 mins south of Cairns and if you are up for a hike, you can expect the walk to take about 45 minutes, what has been dubbed some of Cairns’ best swimming holes in the region! Mossman on then other hand, is a little further away past Port Douglas (so north) and is part of the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park.



Be adventurous

There are so many fun and exhilarating things to do in Cairns such as Helicpoter flights, water rafting, sky diving, budgee jumping, crocodile spotting and horse riding!


Hire a car

If you find yourself in Cairns for longer than a few days and want to explore what else is around, there are many towns both seaside and inland not far from Cairns that are great to check out e.g Innisfail, Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge, Palm cove and some of the northern beach towns. If you don’t want to hire a car, there are bus and train transport options.


Pub crawl

Despite being a small town, there is still a nightlife to be enjoyed for those who wish too venture out in the night time. Being such a popular backpackers destination, you will find many cheap pub crawls and boat parties to enjoy or alternatively you can head to some of Cairns’ popular drinking spots such as Cock and Bull, Courthouse Hotel, Salt House, Gilligans, Union Jack and Pj’s (just to name a few).

And if Pub Crawling isn’t your thing?
I especially love the Salt House. Not only is Salt House located in a prime spot (right by the Esplanade), their happy hour between 4pm-6pm is the perfect spot to kick back, watch the sun set and enjoy a wine or beer over a variety of their top notch tapas dishes or quality pizzas.


For more Carins experiences, check out more posts on Cairns here:

Day trips from Carins
Short Guide to Cairns










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