Cairns is a great place to depart for your Great Barrier Reef tour since its right at the doorstep!

The town is a thriving mecca of unique activities and thrilling attractions, thanks to its UNESCO listed sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest at Daintree National Park. These two magnificent natural wonders of the world come together near Cairns and provide a playground of adventure sports, thrilling activities and kick-ass adrenaline adventures you simply can’t find anywhere else on the planet!

What to Expect When You Visit Cairns

Located in northeast Australia, Cairns is a modern city of around 160,000 population. Whether you’re a backpacker on a budget or a luxury traveller on the trip-of-a-lifetime, you’ll find the locals offer a friendly Aussie welcome. “Casual” sums up everything in this area of North Queensland, from the local dress code to the laid-back atmosphere. However, when it comes to activities and tours, everything is done professionally with ship-shape efficiently and smiling enthusiasm. Known as the “Gateway to the Barrier Reef” this walkable waterfront city is packed with independent bars, cafés, shops, tour desks, bureaux de change, ice cream parlours and restaurants. They collectively combine to make this eclectic city throb with life and hum with excitement for what lies just offshore – the Great Barrier Reef!.

Cairns Climate

Cairns has a tropical climate with warm sunny temperatures all year round. Remember that Australia is in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are reversed!

  • Average daily temperatures in January 28°C (82°F)
  • Average daily temperatures in July 21°C (70°F)

The humid rainy season is from December to April, but that won’t stop you from getting out on tours and enjoying all that this city has to offer!

Getting Around

If you’re staying in Cairns city centre, most attractions are within easily walking distance. Local buses offer regular services to nearby beaches and delightful towns such as Port Douglas and the rainforest village of Kuranda.

What to Pack

Cool comfortable clothes are the order of the day in Cairns. Choose loose styles and natural fabrics. If you plan to explore the rainforest, invest in some insect/mosquito repellent clothing or long trousers and shirts with sleeves. At other times, beach casual and boat practical are the order of the day.

You’ll also need:

  • Insect repellent (containing picaridin or deet)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses (the glare from the water is merciless!)
  • Hat
  • Camera/waterproof underwater camera (cheap disposables are good!)
  • NB. Our tours include all watersports and snorkelling equipment so no need to carry cumbersome gear with you.

Cairns Highlights

Stroll along the waterfront and you’ll see boats geared up for snorkelling, diving, island tours and deep sea fishing charters, which are unsurpassed.

Must-see highlights include:

Best Beaches around Cairns

The Esplanade Lagoon is a huge open air swimming pool which makes up for a lack of beaches in the city centre.

However, there are plenty of gorgeous sandy beaches just a short bus ride away.

  • Machan’s Beach – close to Cairns and undeveloped
  • Holloways Beach – watersports, pool and restaurant
  • Yorkey’s Knob – perfect for windsurfing and kitesurfing
  • Trinity Beach – netted for safe swimming in stinger season. Enjoy a beach “barbie” Aussie-style by taking advantage of the free gas barbecues along the beachfront
  • Palm Cove – lined with resort-style hotels
  • Ellis Beach – gorgeous sandy beach 28km north of Cairns

Things to Do Around Cairns

Discover the Great Barrier Reef

  • Visit the Great Barrier Reef (by sea, by air, or stay dry!)
  • Take the ferry to Green Island, a coral cay with sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving, boardwalk and an underwater observatory
  • Go sport fishing on an action-packed day aboard a luxury fishing boat (and take home fresh fish fillets for dinner!)

Discover the Rainforests

Where to Eat

Cairns has a host of cafés and eateries to suit all budgets and tastes. Some of the most established eateries include:

$ Tosca’s – a modern Italian restaurant in Cairns Shopping Centre, famous for its chargrilled pizzas and old world character.

$ Night Market – great food nightly after 5pm on the Esplanade

$$ Prawn Star in Marlin Marina, Cairns. Nothing beats sitting on a boat enjoying fresh seafood at affordable prices.

$$ Blue Moon Grill for casual Australian fare on the waterfront at Trinity Beach. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) and dine beneath the stars in this wonderful setting.

$$$ Fishlips Bar and Bistro in Cairns Yacht Club offers contemporary seafood dishes and homemade ice cream.

Tropical Travel Tips

  • Wear a stinger suit when swimming or use beaches lined with stinger nets to limit the risk of a sting from a deadly box jellyfish. Stinger season runs from November to early June
  • Use plenty of insect repellent to avoid itchy bites or the risk of mosquito-borne diseases
  • Visit in late August and join in the annual two-week Cairns Festival!

See all Tours Departing Cairns →