5 Cairns Bucket List

5 Cairns Bucket List Items You Must Do Before You Leave

Cairns is full of so many different activities and experiences, you want to experience them all, but also have a budget and don’t know where to start. Don’t worry we’ve compiled the top 5 Cairns Bucket List Items to kick start your Cairns adventure – make sure you experience all of these before you leave Tropical North Queensland.

1. The Great Barrier Reef

Did we really have to say it? The hero attraction of Queensland, and in fact, even Australia, is our World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. One of the seven wonders of the natural world and can even be seen from Space, no Cairns experience is complete without visiting the reef at least once, or twice…

The Reef is complete with tropical islands and sand cays. With pure white sand and the bluest of seas from above and a hub of tropical marine life bursting with colour from below. While the news may be reporting the terror of the Great Barrier Reef dying, we can tell you, as Cairns locals, that it is very much flourishing and thriving.

With countless numbers of tours leaving from Cairns and Port Douglas everyday, you can spend half a day, a full day or even multiple days and nights experiencing the Great Barrier Reef. Choose to go to Fitzroy Island, Green Island, Michaelmas Caythe Three SistersVlasscoff CayFrankland Islands, we really could fill up this entire blog with lists of wonderful and unique gems of the Great Barrier Reef to visit.

For a local insight on the must-do places on the Reef drop by our office at 17 Scott Street, Cairns City or for a great deal go and see Peter Pans Travel Agency

When looking for the best deal, keep in mind the number of hours spent on the water available for each option. Sometimes a full day tour only has an extra hour on the reef than a half-day tour but is double the price. However, in saying this, it is also important to keep in mind the further out you go (towards the ‘outer reef’), the less boats will visit and the more impressive the Reef will be.

2. Kuranda and the World Heritage listed Rainforest

Cairns also has another, less known, claim to fame, which is our tropical rainforest.

Stretching from Cooktown, a 4-hour drive north of Cairns, down to just above Townsville, another 4-hour drive south of Cairns, is a narrow strip of green tropical rainforest called the Wet Tropics Rainforest. This Wet Tropics Rainforest we are honoured to experience, is home to the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth. The Wet Tropics is estimated to be 130 million years old which makes it over 60 million years older than the Amazon!

Areas of this rainforest haven’t changed in millions of years and can be thought of as a living time machine allowing you to look back at what the rainforest was like when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

There are many ways to experience this majestic rainforest, by hiking through to Glacier Rock on the Douglas Track, or swimming in the pristine green pools of Josephine Falls, but one of the most popular attractions of this region is exploring the rainforest with the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. A combined train and gondola experience, the train takes you up and through the mountain ranges on a heritage listed vintage train, and Skyrail allows you to experience the rainforest from above, sailing across the ancient canopy and exploring the forest floor at stops along the way.

You can do this journey in either order, but while you are there, make sure to spend some time in Kuranda, the village in the rainforest. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops but also home to the Kuranda Original Markets and plenty of wildlife parks – like Rainforestation, Birdworld, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Kuranda Koala Gardens.

Just make sure you don’t forget your camera!

 3. Chillagoe and the Outback

Cairns is a gateway to all types of experiences, and in addition to the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical Rainforest, only a few hours drive will see you standing in the dry outback with an insight into Tropical North Queensland distant past.

3 hours drive West from Cairns is the tiny outback town of Chillagoe. Chillagoe is known for its rocky outcrops and deep caves. It might boggle your mind when standing in the dry landscape 3 hours drive inland, but Chillagoe was once completely underwater. The rocky outcrops are actually fossilised reef and ancient caves dating back 400 million years ago.

Hire a car (certain car companies will allow you to take your car off road to reach Chillagoe so be sure to ask) and pack a tent for a weekend wandering around the outback. Cheap camping spots are available at the Chillagoe Observatory & Eco Lodge.

While you’re there we definitely recommend exploring the Chillagoe Caves – some caves are free but some are worth paying for a tour. The insight you receive from the guide, and the extra adventure is worth the cost.


Another free and interesting sight is Balancing Rock.


4. Waterfall Chasing!

Don’t go chasing waterfalls is terrible advice, and if you follow what TLC preach you’ll be missing out on some epic adventures while you are visiting Cairns. There are waterfalls near and far, our favourites are…

Stoney Creek 15 minutes out of the CBD


Josephine Falls 1 hour south of Cairns

Nandroya Falls, located off the Palmerston Highway south of Cairns

Crystal Cascades 15 minutes out of the CBD

Windin Falls, on the Atherton Tablelands

Read our blog Best Waterfalls in Cairns for a larger list on amazing waterfalls you must see while in Cairns!

5. Crocodiles!

Crocodiles inhabit the Far North of Australia and have stood the test of time. Crocodiles are ancient dinosaurs that have maintained their predator status to all animals and humans alike.

While you should never go looking for a crocodile in the wild, as due to their highly camouflaged body and vicious nature, they are extremely dangerous, you can experience these fascinating monsters in Cairns safely.

Visit Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures located in Wangetti, between Cairns and Port Douglas, look for the signs along the road. Open every day of the year except for Christmas Day, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures can be explored between the hours of 8:30am and 5:00pm!

Visit Rainforestation and meet their resident 5m saltwater crocodile weighing in at 650kg, Jack the Ripper. He is famous for killing 12 of his past girlfriends.

Visit Cairns Zoom located in the roof of the Casino (!) in the Cairns CBD. Goliath hangs out here every day and at Cairns Zoom you have the opportunity to zip line over him – how many other places in the world can you do this?


Written by Sarah Latham, Pictures by Sarah Latham unless otherwise stated. 

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