I consider myself lucky enough to have visited Cairns countless times now and each time gets even more stunning. Really though, Cairns itself is a beautiful holiday spot, attracting many backpackers, families and couples each year and for good reason; it is basically the gateway to only the Great Barrier Reef but to plenty of adventures! There are plenty of great half day/full day trips only moments away from Cairns that should not be missed if you are planning a trip to Tropical North Queensland (which you totally should btw!). Here are my top picks 🙂
If you aren’t spending a short getaway or weekend away at Palm Cove, then it is definitely worth a day visit! Palm Cove is only small but being perched right by the ocean with beautiful palm fringed beaches makes it a prime spot for a relaxing and peaceful getaway, and ideal for couples.
Mossman Gorge and Bahana Gorge
Mossman Gorge is an hour north of Cairns near Port Douglas. Here there are great swimming holes with two loop walking tracks, the longer one being close to 3km. There are many places to stop along the walk for a swim so be sure to take your swimmers along with you!
Behana is 30 minutes south and inland of Cairns, located near Gordinvale. It takes about 40 minutes to walk the path to get to the swimming holes but the views of lush forest and pristine waters are well worth it. Mossman and Bahana Gorge are definitely trips worth a visit for anyone who enjoys a bit of walking (in beautiful rainforest of course!).
Port Douglas has gotten a name for being one of Northern Queensland’s most beautiful beach towns and driving from Cairns you will see why. The endless coat of coconut trees, salty sea breeze and crystal blue ocean views are postcard worthy! Port Douglas is a little slice of paradise.
Mission Beach is about a 1 hour 50min drive south of Cairns, and is a gorgeous little beach town that feels worlds away from Cairns! The small town has got a really laid back feel and it’s not hard to fall in love with the unspoilt sandy beaches (without a soul in sight!) and coat of coconut trees that stretch on for kilometres.
Explore some of Cairns’ northern beach towns (Hollaways, Trinity, Yorkeys Knob)
Feel like a local and head to some of Cairns’ local beachside towns such as Holloways, Trinity Beach and Yorkeys Knob – all which have their own individual charm. I took the below pic at Trinity Park..I found a little walkway that ended up being a short forest walk with some gorgeous views! Totally unexpected but so beautiful.
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef stretches approx. 2,300km across the ocean, and Cairns is a prime spot to venture out to see some of the best parts of the Reef. The main two islands off Cairns are Fitzroy and Green Island, and there are many day trips for under $100 to visit that include ferry transfers and snorkel gear. If time allows in your travel plans, you could even consider staying put on Fitzroy for a night or two. There are plenty of restaurants, walking tracks, white sandy beaches and reefs to enjoy!
Away from the ocean is Kuranda, a funky little rainforest village known for its market stalls and eateries. You can drive to Kuranda, however there is also the popular option to catch the Scenic sky rail up to Kuranda, where you will be greeted with sweeping rainforest and gorge views as you rise up above sea level. The markets are open 7 days a week from 9:30 each day with many little souvenir trinkets and locally grown specialities (like honey). Definitely make a stop here for lunch at one of the eateries down stairs. They’ve got a selection of Japanese, Indonesian, French and more international cuisines to pick from!
The Draintree and Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is a World Heritage Listed area that combines both rainforest and beaches, and is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and untouched regions across Australia to explore. The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world – 135 million to be exact – and is located roughly 2.5 hours from Cairns. Whether you are visiting to relax and feel and completely disconnected from the world or to be adventurous, there are many activities you can do such as bush walking, four wheel driving, zip lining, kayaking, swimming (to name a few..). There are also many organised tours you can book that vary in length and activities.