Insider's Guide to Cairns & the Tropical North

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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Cairns -  think islands, beaches, wildlife, rainforests and that reef - is an essential stop on any trans-Australian itinerary. Here's how to cover the best of it in just three days. Day 1: Cuddle Koalas, Walk Through Fire Kick off ... 

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Certified reviews by travelers like you.

Tracey D

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
May 2016

This was the most awesome experience ever, it beats swimming with the dolphins. And being a Jon-swimmer, perfect for me. The guides were really good and we were that close to the fish, we could touch them.

Doing what: Green Island Day Trip from Cairns Including Seawalker Helmet Dive

Ivo F

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
May 2016

Fitzroy Island is amazing! It was really nice to spend a day walking around, enjoying the water, enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking a glass bottom boat tour so I could take some pictures of the reef, too.
Nudy beach is beautiful, but difficult to walk on if you have no shoes, because of the coral. The secret garden hike is nice and quiet, and gets you away from the crowd so you can relax at the end point with just the sound of the birds, the waterfall and the wind through the trees.
Near the beach though, you can relax with a cocktail or go for a swim.

Doing what: Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

Gillian C

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
May 2016

Unfortunately, the day we went it was cloudy, so there wasn't much of a sunset. But our captain gave a very good commentary. We purchased the dinner option, which I highly recommend because Dundee's is really good!

Doing what: Cairns Sunset Cruise and Optional Dinner

Gillian C

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
May 2016

Recommend this trip! Paul was a great guide. Very knowledgeable and friendly. He remembered everyone's name throughout the whole trip. Small sized tour which was helpful for the wildlife sightings. Was able to see a lot of wallabies and possums but also a tree kangaroo family, a gecko, and even a platypus. Tea/snacks were nice and the dinner was great. Just a heads up for those that may suffer from motion sickness the road up to the tablelands consists of many curves.

Doing what: Atherton Tablelands Rainforest Wildlife Tour by Night

Natalie F

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
May 2016

Excellent meal and cruise, great value for money....

Doing what: Cairns Harbor Cruise with Optional Lunch

Devon L

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
May 2016

Excellent! Great crew.

Doing what: Hot Air Ballooning Tour from Cairns

Gisele H

4 star rating: Recommended
May 2016

The cruise is pleasant and smooth. The crew is absolutely gentle and the landscapes are beautiful, it was definitely a good sunset enjoying some snacks, good drinks and stunning view.
I do not recommend the dinner, the food is really good, but the options are pretty limited and you feel a bit bad watching the others eating different options - not included into your package - I would recommend you to book your dinner independently to the cruise.

Doing what: Cairns Sunset Cruise and Optional Dinner

alwynb

4 star rating: Recommended
May 2016

Enjoyed the daytrip to Fitzroy Island very much - fabulous place and well worth a visit. Only down side was the disgusting toilet facilities by the bar. New cisterns and toilet seats wouldn't cost a lot and would make a huge difference

Doing what: Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

Gillian C

4 star rating: Recommended
May 2016

We had a great time on these tours.
Day one was on the water. The boat was large and clean, and the staff kept everything organized. Both places we anchored were beautiful and lots of sea life to see. Just FYI, when you purchase this tour it is for snorkeling only. We were certified divers, so we had to purchase that on the boat. It is 65 for the first dive, and 20 for additional dives. You can do 3 dives total. And if you want to go with a guide, then it's 10 per person, per dive. Other charges are addressed in the description of the tour. There are two photographers on board, so there's the opportunity to buy those if you had pics taken when you came on board or when you were in the water.
The railway and skyrail to Kuranda is definitely something to do. You will be assigned a seat on the train, and if you can, I suggest that you get a seat towards the back of the train. We were in the first car, and the train didn't start to slow down until we were at the scenic points waterfall so those at the back of the train had more time to capture their pictures than we did. Kuranda itself is a cute town with plenty of wildlife parks to visit and shops to take a look in.
The last day was quite busy with a lot of stops and people to pick up. We had a full bus most of the time most of the day is spent in the bus. It was a hot day, and it took a bit of time for the A/C to get us to a comfortable temperature. Wish we had more time at the zoo and in the rainforest, but we did have plenty of time at Cape Tribulation and the beach. Lunch was excellent, and our guide/driver, Daniel, was great and gave us a good commentary throughout the trip.

Doing what: Cairns Super Saver: Great Barrier Reef Cruise plus Kuranda Scenic Railway plus Cape Tribulation Day Trip

Beachgirl380 Canada

4 star rating: Recommended
May 2016

Fitzroy Island itself is very beautiful and the snorkeling was amazing! It was easy to find amazing reefs within a few meters of the shoreline. We booked the full Activity Pass but felt that there was a real lack of communication between the guests and the tour guys. There were no real instructions on how to catch the glass bottom boat, how to get the lunch, where the best snorkel spots were, etc. Unless you asked all the questions, you didn't receive any instructions on anything. It was also very hot 30C during our visit and it was very difficult to avoid the hot sun -- there is no shade on the beach unless you are lucky to snag a spot under a tree somewhere. Since it is such a long day, it would be nice if the company arranged beach chairs/umbrellas for the guests as we found it very uncomfortable for the full 6 hours.

Doing what: Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

Maureen C

4 star rating: Recommended
May 2016

Great day! The lunch was very good and the snokelling wonderful. The dolphins played around our glass bottom boat and the pilot allowed us extra time for this. The ride on the ferry to and from the island was on time and peaceful.
One star lost for no a/c on the ferry and no ice in the water cooler!!!

Doing what: Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

brucelo1

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

Great ambiance, but would've liked to hear more stories

Doing what: Cairns Flames of the Forest Dining Experience

brucelo1

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

Would've liked to see more of the rain forest.

Doing what: Atherton Tablelands Rainforest Wildlife Tour by Night

Brittany D

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

All the activities were fun but there was a lot of driving in between which made for a very long time. Highly recommend the zip lining and holding a koala at the wildlife habitat.

Doing what: Daintree Rainforest Zipline and Wildlife Habitat Day Trip

Luis C

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

The guide was very nice...the trip was good but a little bit overpriced I think...All the sites we stopped would be easy to get by ourselves with a car...

Doing what: Atherton Tablelands Rainforest Wildlife Tour by Night

sibcat

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

The helicopter ride itself was quite nice. I would have enjoyed it more if it were longer and circled Green Island a bit closer. The other features on the ticket were not explained well and we were misdirected several times to the glass bottom boat and the viewing station which we never did find. Did not find where to snorkel and they sent us to the wrong catamaran to return to the pier.

Doing what: Cairns Shore Excursion: Green Island by Helicopter and Cruise

Raj V

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

Walk to the summit is worth it

Doing what: Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

Hendy B

3 star rating: Worth doing
May 2016

Good crews, punctual during pick up.
The ride itself was smooth, I didn't feel any fear for my first ever hot air balloon ride.
The balloon basket where the people stand was too small for the number of people that is put in. They put 4 people in each section, and it's really tight with not much space to move.
I found it hard to enjoy the scenery too, simply because there's not many interesting things if any to see. Sure it was great to see the sky at dawn, there were some foggy areas as well, but apart from those, it's just forests, farms, and flock of birds.
Also 30 minutes is really quite short. Maybe if you go for another ride you might end up seeing something more interesting, maybe or maybe not.

Magical, uh not really, at least not for me unfortunately.

Doing what: Hot Air Ballooning Tour from Cairns

kris

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
May 2016

Well the night Hummer tour was not what I thought is would be. Not at all what was described in the online description. Hummer was old and almost didn't start, the tour was in a pasture in some guys back yard, where we went around the same trail like 3 to 4 times and then came back to his backyard, not too impressed! On a better note the highlight was going and getting to feed the wallabies, I did get the impression like we weren't supposed to be there though, maybe it was just because it was kind of late and the place is in a campground.

Doing what: Kuranda Rainforest Night Adventure Tour by Hummer

kris

2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better
May 2016

The park is ok, the duck boats are not worth doing.

Doing what: Kuranda Rainforestation Nature Park

barbara j

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
April 2016

They were so professional and attention to safety and knowledge of the area was amazing.
Would highly recommend this

Doing what: Daintree Rainforest Zipline and Wildlife Habitat Day Trip

Jo G

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
April 2016

Wonderful!!! Great staff on the boat, wonderful island and great snorkelling!

Doing what: Fitzroy Island Day Trip from Cairns

Julia D

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
April 2016

This was excellent...we had heaps of fun and the guy driving the boat was fantastic.

Doing what: Cairns Jet Boat Ride

Michelle B

5 star rating: Highly Recommended
April 2016

A great start to a night out in Cairns. Head to the front deck of the boat to enjoy the views along the inlet.

Doing what: Cairns Sunset Cruise and Optional Dinner

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