5 Perfect Trips From Cairns
There's so much more to Cairns than the Great Barrier Reef! These are some of our favourite day trips from the adventure capital of Queensland.
An award-winning beach, snorkelling with sea turtles and rainforest walks-what more could you want on a tropical island? Located only an hour from Cairns by boat the island’s waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef. The coral and marine life around Fitzroy Island is considered to be in great condition, especially when compared to the nearby (and very popular) Green Island which has been seriously affected by coral bleaching. Snorkelling off the island is very a similar experience to the expensive boat tours which take you snorkelling on the reef. Expect to see turtles, stunning coral and plenty of tropical fish. You can also kayak and paddle board around the island. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land follow one of the hiking trails through the island’s rainforest or soak up the sun on Nudey Beach, which was ranked number one in Brad Farmers Australia’s 101 Best Beaches 2018.
Planning your trip: Adventure company Raging Thunder run day trips from Cairns, you can upgrade your basic day trip package to include snorkel, paddle board and kayak hire, lunch and a glass bottom boat tour so all your activities are covered for the day. Opt for the catamaran package to maximise your time on the island. If you have your own camping equipment you can also camp on the island for $35 per night.
If you’re feeling adventurous book yourself in for the sunrise kayak tour (no experience required) with Pacific Watersports. Watch the sunrise whilst looking for turtles from your kayak. The small group tours are led by a laid-back local guide who will take you to from Palm Cove’s beach to Double Island, which was once owned by Richard Branson who built a luxury resort on the island. The resort, once frequented by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, was abandoned years ago but you can catch a glimpse of the resort which has eerily been left in perfect condition. You’ll also have the chance to snorkel from the island’s coral beach. Once you’re back in Palm Cove treat yourself to breakfast from a fancy café on the shoreline or take a walk along the quiet sandy beach.
Planning your trip: The sunrise kayak costs $65 for hours and for an additional fee they will collect you from your Cairns accommodation. If you want a taste of Palm Cove’s luxury resorts without the crazy price tag book a night at Palm Cove Flashpackers where you can enjoy use of the pool and bicycles. If you’re on a tight budget the public bus from Cairns to Palm Cove is only $4.50 and can bring your own food to barbecue by the beach.
Daintree Rainforest & Cape Tribulation
With 150 million-year-old fern trees, giant birds that have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and no phone signal whatsoever its little wonder the Daintree is often compared to the set of Jurassic Park. The Daintree is easily accessible from Cairns and a trip to the Daintree is the perfect opportunity to see all of those creatures you’ve always associated with Australia (think killer crocs, giant spiders and deadly snakes) as well as some unique and interesting animals like the cassowary, goanna and forest dragons. As well as these crazy creatures you’ll find some stunning views and lookout points, including Alexandria’s Lookout from which you can see the Lower Isles where Steve Irwin lost his life.
Cape Tribulation beach is a beautiful beach free from crowds (you’ll most likely be the only person on it) and is also the only place where two world heritage sites (the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree) meet.
Planning your trip: The Daintree is easily accessible by car via the Captain Cook highway. If you don’t have your own car try the Cairns Backpackers Facebook page as there are always people hoping to team up with other backpackers and rent a car for a Daintree road trip. Stop at the Mossman Gorge on the way up and take a dip beneath the falls then jump on a crocodile spotting cruise on the Daintree River. If you want to be off the grid for more than a day, spend a night in a beach hut at Cape Tribulation Beach House, where you’ll have your own pool under the rainforest’s canopy as well as direct access to Cape Tribulation beach. Staff at the Beach House can also organise horse riding along the beach, guided night tours and jungle surfing.
Port Douglas was once a glamorous playground for the rich and famous, including John Travolta and Mick Jagger. Although the town is no longer a hub for wealthy celebrities it’s still well worth visiting and is an ideal stop off on the way to Cape Tribulation. Wake up bright and early to enjoy the sunrise on Four Mile Beach before taking a short hike up Flagstaff Hill to get that famous postcard view of Port Douglas. Stop at Sparrow Coffee for the best coffee in Port Douglas then spend your afternoon drinking and eating your way through the substantial number of bars and restaurants in Port Douglas. If you’re seriously committed to sampling the lifestyle of the rich and famous who once frequented Port Douglas take a jet ski tour around the port. In the evening head over to Anzac Park for a beautiful sunset on the harbour with the Daintree Rainforest in the background.
Planning your trip: Port Douglas is a scenic one hour drive from Cairns. The sights of Port Douglas can easily be seen in a day but if you want to stay a little longer, a night at Port Douglas Backpackers is highly recommended. This fantastic hostel is in the centre of Port Douglas and has a reasonably cheap bar, swimming pool and (very) basic gym facilities. The hostel also has brilliant deals with local restaurants so you can have a meal out for just $10. A free shuttle bus to and from Cairns can also be organised by Port Douglas Backpackers.
If chasing waterfalls is your thing there are plenty of beautiful waterfalls in Far North Queensland. One of the nearest and most popular falls is Millaa Millaa Falls made famous by Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl video and the Herbal Essences advert. If you like a bit of thrill with your waterfall visit Josephine Falls where you can bathe in the pool beneath the falls or take the short and slippery climb to the top and slide your way back down on this natural waterslide. At Babinda Boulders splash about in the crystal clear lagoon before taking a stroll to the beautiful boulders themselves. If these famous falls are too mainstream for you try Nandroya Falls (but be prepared for the 6km round trip from the car park).
Planning your trip: Millaa Millaa Falls is only an hour and a half from Cairns by car and many of the other waterfalls are close by. Getting a group together to hire a car or minivan is a cheap and easy way to enjoy the falls at your own leisure. There are also several group tours from Cairns such as Uncle Brian’s Atherton Waterfall Tour (one and two-day tour options available) which includes Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls and Milla Milla Falls.
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