Cairns sits in a picturesque location surrounded by misty mountains, endless golden beaches and scenic tropical islands. The city is the heart of Tropical North Queensland and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and the Daintree National Park. To get the most out of this fascinating region, come along with us as we take you on a journey to discover the best day trips from Cairns.
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- Where is Cairns?
- Day trips from Cairns
- Top Five Cairns Day Tours
- Kuranda Day Tours from Cairns
- Cairns Island Day Tours
- The Cape Tribulation & Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns
- Paronella Park Day Trip from Cairns
- Self-drive day trips from Cairns
- Day trips from Cairns to Port Douglas
- Port Douglas Accommodation
- Cairns Beaches
- Day trips from Cairns to Kuranda
- Day Trips from Cairns to Innisfail
- Innisfail Side Trips
- Day trips from Cairns to Herberton
- Other day trips from Cairns
- Last words on day trips from Cairns
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Where is Cairns?
Cairns is the jewel of Far North Queensland and is framed by the natural beauty of the Macalister Range and the Coral Sea.
Cairns is 1,678 km north of Brisbane which is the state capital of Queensland in Australia. The city has a Domestic & International Airport with flight connections to Australia’s capital cities and some regional areas.
The Spirit of Queensland train service connect Brisbane to Cairns five times a week. The train journey between Brisbane and Cairns takes 25 hours. Drive time between Brisbane and Cairns is around 19 hours.
Day trips from Cairns
There is a good selection of Cairns day trips to choose from and you can do them either independently or by tour. We give a choice of both options, which you take will depend on your length of stay, preferred travel style and budget.
When it comes to day trips Cairns has a lot to see and planning is a must. Highlights include the tropical islands of the Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree and Kuranda Rainforests which are part of the UNESCO Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site.
Other popular day trips are the waterfalls and towns of the Atherton Tableland, the resort town of Port Douglas, the old world charm of Paronella Park, the stunning beaches and so much more.
We begin with Cairn’s day tours as they are a fantastic option for learning about the local histories, culture and ecology of this unique region of Queensland.
If you want to explore the area independently scroll down to our self-drive day trips from Cairns.
Top Five Cairns Day Tours
To help you discover the diversity of the region we share our pick of top tours in Cairns. These much loved Cairns trips include a range of fun and informative tours that feature a variety of activities.
|Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip from Cairns||Take a train journey on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway through dramatic rainforest scenery visiting highlights along the way.||See|
|Green Island Day Trip from Cairns||A must visit attraction. Take in Green Island and see the reef close up.||See|
|Outer Reef Pontoon Experience from Cairns||Take a catamaran journey to a pontoon moored on the outer reef to visit the wonders of the Barrier Reef.||See|
|Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Day Trip from Cairns||Visit 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites when the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef at Cape Tribulation. Full day including lunch.||See|
|Paronella Park experience||Enjoy the full Paronella Park experience as you explore and learn the history of this interesting place.||See|
Kuranda Day Tours from Cairns
Kuranda is on the top of many peoples list of places to visit in Cairns and once you have been there you will understand why. Surrounded by tropical rainforest this pretty village has a welcoming laidback vibe which is enhanced by a vibrant collection of markets, art galleries, coffee shops and restaurants.
1. Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip from Cairns
One of the most exciting ways to reach Kuranda is to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
The 1.5 hour train journey on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway takes you through dramatic rainforest scenery and stops briefly at the picturesque Barron Falls. This is the time to discover the regions history as you wind your way through Barron Gorge National Park.
Marvel at the breathtaking panoramic views as you skim the treetops of this ancient rainforest on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. The glass floor gives a bird’s eye view of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest.
This tour has a range of additional activities that give insight into the natural beauty and rich culture of the area.
- Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
- Rainforestation Nature Park
- Butterfly Sanctuary
- Kuranda Koala Gardens
Cairns Island Day Tours
With the Great Barrier Reef sitting on its doorstep most Cairns tours include a trip out to the islands.
If you are looking for Cairn’s snorkel tours a trip to Green Island will guarantee an action packed day out on the reef. Cairns Outer Reef Tours are the best option when planning Cairn’s diving trips.
Green Island Tours from Cairns
Green Island is a coral cay which is 27 km off the coast of Cairns. Visiting Green Island is one of the most popular Cairn’s day trips to Great Barrier Reef.
2. Green Island Day Trip from Cairns
This tour has a wide variety of activities and optional extras for a perfect day on the island. From the beach you can swim with tropical fish and explore the coral gardens. Once ashore you can walk amid the lush rainforest of the island.
We chose to take the Green Island day trip from Cairns and had a great day out. After arriving we took a ride in a glass bottom boat which was a great introduction to the waters of the coral cay.
We spent the rest of the day snorkelling from the beach, exploring the lush rainforest, relaxing on the beach and strolling along the jetty.
Activities on offer include
- The choice of a glass-bottom boat tour or use of snorkelling gear for the day
- Catamaran cruise transfers to and from Green Island
- Introductory Scuba Dive
- Seawalker Helmut Dive
- Buffet Lunch
- Semi-submersible Coral Viewing Tour
Cairns Outer Reef Tours
For snorkelling and diving enthusiasts a trip to the outer reef is perfect for discovering the natural delights of the Great Barrier Reef. This tour has a good range of activities and there is a choice of optional extras to make your trip to the reef memorable.
3. Outer Reef Pontoon Experience from Cairns
The tour begins with a catamaran journey to a pontoon moored on the outer reef. Here you will find a selection of activities which are perfect for discovering the wonders of this underwater world.
- Glass bottom boat and Semi-Submersible tours
- Snorkelling equipment
- Underwater observatory
- Sunlover waterslide and sundeck
- Great Barrier Reef and fish feeding presentations by marine experts
- Enclosed ocean pool
- Buffet Lunch
- WiFi on board
- Fresh water showers and change rooms
This is possibly one of the best Great Barrier Reef trips from Cairns with a choice of unforgettable optional experiences which include an introduction to diving and Heli flights of the reef.
- Guided Snorkel Tour
- Seawalker Helmet Dive
- Intro or Certified Diving
- Heli Flights
The Cape Tribulation & Daintree Rainforest Tour from Cairns
For the ultimate Cairns rainforest tour, you can’t go past a Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest trip. If you must choose one Cairns tour it should be this one as it allows you to relax and admire the views while leaving all the hard work to your driver.
4. Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Day Trip from Cairns
This tour allows you to experience two UNESCO World Heritage sites when the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef at Cape Tribulation.
Take part in a smoke ceremony given by the Kuku Yalanji people, the traditional owners of the land. Explore the rocky outcrops and go swimming in the refreshing green waters of Mossman Gorge.
Stop for lunch at Ferntree’s Rainforest Lodge in Cape Tribulation and try the range of tropical fruit ice creams at the Daintree Ice Cream Company.
Imagine walking with dinosaurs as you pass the prehistoric plants of the Daintree Rainforest on the Marrdja Botanical Walk and admire the breathtaking views from Mount Alexandra Lookout.
- Welcome to Country ceremony
- Live commentary on board
- Local guide
- Hotel pickup and drop-off
- Air-conditioned vehicle
- Daintree River Cruise
Paronella Park Day Trip from Cairns
Many people have dreams of living in a castle, but Jose Paronella made this dream a reality. Paronella Park is 108 km from Cairns and first opened to the public in 1935.
5. The Paronella Experience
This grand old dame was the height of fashion during her glory days and boasted a ballroom, tearooms which turned into a formal restaurant in the evening, picnic and swimming areas.
At the time Paronella Park was the place to be seen and today it is still a popular place to visit. Age and the rainforest setting add an air of mystique, a reminder that dreams do come true if you have the vision and determination to make them happen.
This tour gives the full Paronella Park experience as you explore and learn the history of this fascinating place. Tour the park and Jose Paronella’s privately owned Hydro Power Station which caused quite a stir when built as many places didn’t have power in the 1930’s.
Have afternoon tea on the beach at Etty Bay and go Cassowary spotting and stargazing. Enjoy dinner at a country pub and delight in Paronella Parks impressive evening light show.
- Bottled water
- Admission to Paronella Park (with 2 year return pass)
- Live Commentary, storytelling & audio podcast
- WiFi on board
- Infant & child seats
- Air-conditioned vehicle
Self-drive day trips from Cairns
Everybody loves a road trip and for those wanting a more independent holiday we have several interesting road trips from Cairns to explore. Whether you choose to travel along the coast or inland be ready to fall in love with Tropical North Queensland.
We begin with coastal day trips from Cairns where you will be awestruck by the spectacular mountain landscapes that frame some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Day trips from Cairns to Port Douglas
Port Douglas is a popular resort town which is famous for the palm trees and golden sands of its seemingly endless Four Mile Beach. The town has great shopping, restaurants and bars and is the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.
The drive from Cairns to Port Douglas
To get to Port Douglas head north from Cairns on the Captain Cook Highway. Cairns to Port Douglas is an easy 66 km drive which takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
As you drive along the Captain Cook Highway you will pass turnoffs to many iconic Cairns beaches. Trinity Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove and Ellis Beach are easily accessible from the highway.
Making your way along the road you will catch glimpses of breathtaking coastal scenery. Between Cairns and Port Douglas you will find the Rex Lookout which has stunning views of Trinity Bay. The lookout is also a popular jump off point for hang gliders.
Things to see in Port Douglas
Set in an area of spectacular beauty and home to one of the best beaches in Australia, Port Douglas is a pretty town which has everything you need for a relaxing holiday.
The town is renowned for its shopping, restaurants and of course its beach life. Here are just a few things to do when taking day trips from Cairns to Port Douglas.
Four Mile Beach
Four Mile Beach has everything you would expect from a tropical island, tall swaying palms and endless sandy beach. Luckily you don’t have to take a boat as it sits on the Queensland coastline and is the crowning glory of Port Douglas.
The beach is a popular place for kite surfers and swimmers with stinger resistant enclosures on the northern end of the beach during stinger season from November to May.
St Mary’s by the sea
If you are looking for old world charm look no further than St Mary’s by the sea. This Queensland Heritage listed church was built in 1914 to replace an earlier church which had been destroyed in a cyclone.
The church is in a pretty setting which is surrounded by tall palm trees. Inside the glass altar window has stunning views of the beach, mountains, Coral Sea and the nearby heritage listed Sugar Wharf.
Trinity Bay Lookout
For that picture perfect holiday snap, you can’t come to Port Douglas without visiting the Trinity Bay Lookout. The lookout has spectacular views overlooking Four Mile Beach and Trinity Bay.
Walk the Flagstaff Hill Trail
From Trinity Bay Lookout take a walk along the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail for breath taking views of the Coral Sea and Low Isles. There are three different trail classifications which cater to children and the disabled to experienced trekkers.
Visit Hemingway’s Brewery
If you love a cold brew, make sure to stop off at Hemingway’s Brewery! The brewery is in a fabulous waterfront location overlooking the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina.
This local craft brewery has a range of award winning beers with tantalising names such as Pitchfork Betty’s, Doug’s Courage and Mr Wong. With a range of mouth-watering menu items Hemingway’s Brewery is the place to relax in the Port Douglas sunshine.
Visit the Port Douglas Markets
One of the best ways to get a taste of Port Douglas is to visit the Port Douglas Markets. Here you will find an excellent range of seasonal fresh produce, local handicrafts and tasty delicacies.
Port Douglas Markets are held at Market Park every Sunday between 8am and 1:30pm.
Port Douglas Accommodation
If you want to break your journey in Port Douglas, you will find a fabulous range of accommodation for every budget. You can relax in luxury at one of the resorts, enjoy family time with an apartment, stay in a hotel or caravan park.
Although Cairns doesn’t have a beach it does have the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon which is a delightful 4800 sqm saltwater swimming area on the Cairns waterfront.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to experience the beautiful beach landscapes of Cairns Northern Beaches. In less than 30 minutes you can be unwinding in the tropical sunshine of a palm tree lined beach. Here are some of our favourite Cairn’s beaches.
Trinity Beach has a quiet laid back vibe and a rich history that dates to World War II. During the war the beach was used as a training ground for amphibious landing craft. Today the beach is lined with shady trees, holiday apartments and a small selection of restaurants.
From November to May a swimming enclosure is set up to prevent marine animals from entering the swimming zone.
Clifton Beach is a quiet beachside suburb of holiday homes and low rise holiday apartments. Catering to families the beach has a swimming net and there is a great children’s playground with barbeque facilities.
The Northern Beaches Leisure Trail is a well shaded foreshore pathway that leads from Clifton Beach to the restaurants and entertainment of Palm Cove.
When passing through Ellis Beach make sure to stop at the Ellis Beach Bar & Grill, a popular refreshment stop which is famous for its Sunday live sessions and $1 oysters.
Palm Cove is 27 km north of Cairns and instantly recognisable by its jetty, coconut palm lined beach and views of Double Island.
This much loved holiday destination has many resorts and spas that focus on relaxation and wellness. Foodies are well catered for as Palm Cove has a good selection of first class restaurants and cafes.
Palm Cove Markets
With over 130 stalls Palm Cove Markets is the place to pick up a souvenir, see the local crafts or taste farm fresh produce. The Palm Cove Markets are held on the first Sunday of every month between April and December (but not in September).
Palm Cove Accommodation
Palm Cove has a great selection of resort and apartment style accommodation and is often used as an alternative to staying in Cairns.
Day trips from Cairns to Kuranda
When thinking of Kuranda day trips from Cairns most people imagine a journey on the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Although not as exciting there is another way to enjoy this rainforest village.
The 29 km drive from Cairns to Kuranda twists and winds its way into the mountains and takes around 40 minutes to complete. While in part the trip can be a little hair raising as the edge of the road plunges into the depths there are also glimpses of scenery. Make sure to stop at Henry Ross Lookout for spectacular views of the valley below.
Once you arrive in Kuranda you will be captivated by this pretty village. Kuranda has a range of shops to explore. You can pick up a souvenir at the Kuranda Markets, try on a Crocodile Dundee hat at Monsoon Leather or sample a sweet treat and watch lollies being made at Kuranda Candy Kitchen.
Art enthusiasts can view local artworks at Kuranda Arts Cooperative Kuranda and admire the Aboriginal art at Doongal Aboriginal Art. After shopping relax in one of the restaurants and coffee shops or soak up a little history at the Kuranda Hotel.
Kuranda Railway Station
Built in 1915 Kuranda Railway Station has the enchanting charm of yesteryear. Set amid the ancient ferns and trees of the tropical rainforest the station is the venue for Kuranda day trips by train. While there stop off for a cream tea in the station tearooms.
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
With over 1,500 tropical butterflies on show the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly exhibit in Australia. Here you can learn about a butterfly’s life cycle and walk through the aviary’s rainforest gardens. The colourful butterflies will fill you with delight as they flutter around you.
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is open daily between 9:30am and 3:30pm, entry fees apply.
Naturally landscaped with native and exotic plants, waterfalls and ponds Birdworld Kuranda plays host to more than 350 birds from Australia and the world.
There are handfeeding and photo opportunities and it is a great place to see native cockatoos, galahs, colourful rainbow lorikeets and the regions endangered cassowary.
Birdworld Kuranda is located at the Heritage Markets and open daily between 10am and 3pm, entry fees apply.
Kuranda Koala Gardens
If you are looking to cuddle a koala, make sure to stop off at the Kuranda Koala Gardens. Here you will find a variety of Australian animals including wombats, wallabies, quokkas, freshwater crocodiles and many more.
The Kuranda Koala Gardens is located at the Kuranda Heritage Markets and is open from 10am to 4pm daily, entry fees apply
Barron Falls Lookout
A short drive from Kuranda is the Barron Falls Lookout where you will find wheelchair accessible walkways that are suspended high above the forest floor. Here you can appreciate the height of the vine tangled trees of the rainforest.
From the lookout you get a spectacular view of Barron Falls and at certain times of the day, the lookout is the perfect spot to see the Kuranda Scenic Railway and watch the gondolas of the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glide by.
Day Trips from Cairns to Innisfail
Innisfail is 86 km from Cairns and takes just over an hour to drive on the Bruce Highway. The region is famous for its sugar cane and bananas, and you will see many of these plantations as you drive around the area.
The highway is shadowed by Mt Bartle Frere and Mt Bellenden Ker which are Queensland’s highest and second highest mountains. Near the small township of Babinda, you will see turn offs to the Babinda Boulders and Josephine Falls, two scenic attractions that shouldn’t be missed.
Innisfail sits on the Johnstone River on the Cassowary Coast. The town has an interesting cultural mix that includes the local Mamu people, English, Italian and Spanish to name a few.
If you love all things Art Deco, Innisfail is one of Queensland’s hidden gems. Rankin and Edith Streets showcase some of the best preserved Art Deco buildings in the country. Many of these beautiful facades are heritage listed and teaming with Art Deco features.
Innisfail Side Trips
Make sure you get up early to start your Cairns to Innisfail day trip as there are a heap of side trips to explore. Innisfail is a gateway to the Atherton Tablelands and a short drive to coastal tourist attractions.
Etty Bay is 15 km from Innisfail and possibly one of the best places to spot a cassowary. These large flightless birds are the symbol of the region and the third largest bird in the world after the ostrich and emu.
Cassowaries can often be seen walking on the beach at Etty Bay and it is a rare opportunity to catch sight of this notoriously shy bird.
If you missed taking the Paronella Park tour from Cairns you have a chance to see it on this Cairns to Innisfail road trip. Paronella Park is 18 km south of Innisfail and well worth a visit.
Paronella Park tells the story of Spanish immigrant Jose Paronella. Arriving in Australia in 1913 he worked hard as a cane cutter and eventually made his fortune buying and selling cane farms.
Jose was a man of vision and along with his wife Margarita, had dreams of building a castle in the rainforest of Tropical North Queensland.
Paronella Park showcases the fruits of his labour and was once a popular tearoom and restaurant, ballroom with theatre and outdoor picnic and swimming area. Today the park has elegantly aged and sits majestically within a lush green setting.
Included in the entry ticket is the Evening Experience which is a fabulous sound and light display. Bookings are essential for the evening experience.
Paronella Park is open every day except Christmas Day from 9am to 7:30pm and entry fees apply.
Atherton Tableland Waterfalls
From Innisfail head up onto the Atherton Tableland to the town of Millaa Millaa. The journey from Innisfail to Millaa Millaa is 59 km and takes around 50 minutes.
The drive up to the Tablelands is beautiful, ancient ferns and tropical rainforest line the road and as you reach the top the landscape changes to rich green mountain pastures filled with happy healthy cows.
The Waterfalls Circuit
The Waterfalls Circuit is just outside the town of Millaa Millaa and highlights the beauty of three falls, the spectacular Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls.
Millaa Millaa Falls is in a leafy rainforest setting with a picnic and viewing area. Here you can watch the water plunge down into the natural pool below, the perfect place to cool down with a refreshing swim.
Mungalli Creek Farmhouse Café & Mungalli Falls
Other attractions outside of Millaa Millaa are the Mungalli Creek Dairy and Mungalli Falls. To get to the dairy and falls follow the signs just out of town.
Healthy cows mean lots of delicious ice cream and cheese which you can sample at Mungalli Creek Farmhouse Cafe. This small dairy believes in Biodynamic farming and does not use chemical fertilisers, growth hormones or GMO’s.
The Mungalli Creek Dairy Café serves a range of cheese platters, cheesecakes and dishes which feature the farms produce. Take your favourite ice cream flavour home and choose from the selection of cheese on sale at the café.
Continue along the road until you get to Mungalli Falls, these magnificent falls start off small but grow larger as they take a dramatic drop down into the thick rainforest below.
Day trips from Cairns to Herberton
Herberton is a pretty town which is 95 km from Cairns and takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive. Herberton has a rich mining history, and you can learn about this history at the Herberton Mining Museum.
Historic Village Herberton
A visit to Historic Village Herberton is a must when planning day trips from Cairns. The village is set over 16 acres and you will spend hours exploring over 50 restored buildings that are scattered across the area. Included are a vast array of shops, garage, pub, bank and so many more.
Also on display is a wonderland of antique and vintage memorabilia that will take you back to yesteryear and put a smile on every family member’s face.
Historic Village Herberton is open from Monday to Sunday from 9:30am to 4pm with last entry at 2:30pm.
Other day trips from Cairns
We have just scratched the surface of day trips from Cairns, there are so many more to choose from. Take a trip to Mareeba and visit the Emerald Creek Ice Creamery and Jaques Coffee Plantation.
Explore Malanda and sample the tea at the Nerada Tea Rooms and tea plantation. Or discover the charming town of Yungaburra which is a steppingstone to the fishing and water sports of Lake Tinaroo.
Last words on day trips from Cairns
Cairns is the gateway to some of the most stunning scenery on the planet. We packed so much into our day trips from Cairns but only saw a fraction of this beautiful region, there is so much more to see.
If you are visiting, I recommend taking at least one tour and try to see as much as you can, you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery and wonderful experiences. Without a doubt you will want to visit Cairns again.
Have you been to Cairns? What day trips from Cairns did you take?
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