Things to Do in Cairns: Your Gateway To The Great Barrier Reef & More!

The Hidden Charms of Cairns: Your Gateway To The Great Barrier Reef & More!

It’s a beautiful all-round destination, ready-made for capturing memorable scenes before picturesque backdrops!

Cairns is a place of many treasures − and that includes one of the seven natural wonders of the world − the Great Barrier Reef.

But Cairns is a gateway to so much more: unspoilt natural landscapes, eye-opening animal sanctuaries and unique gastronomic options. It’s a beautiful all-round destination, ready-made for capturing memorable scenes before picturesque backdrops.

Read on for what we love most about Cairns and its surrounds, from unmissable sites to spectacular sights!

Uncover the tropical idyll of turquoise seas and abundant marine life in Cairns with SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.

With five weekly flights to Cairns from SGD 588, fly on Asia’s most awarded regional airline and enjoy the attentive, friendly and relaxing service the moment you step onto the plane. Book by 30 Nov 18 to enjoy this promotional fare.

Fly to Cairns from SGD 588 with SilkAir

1. Unforgettable ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef

With over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands teeming with life, you could visit the Great Barrier Reef over and over and still find new treasures amongst its diverse flora and fauna. While most choose to embark on a scuba diving or snorkelling day tour from Cairns, there is a multitude of ways to tick this dream destination off your bucket list!

An epic glamping experience on the Great Barrier Reef

You haven’t really seen the best of the reef until you’ve stayed overnight on a pontoon, drifting gently on the waves. Once the crowd of day-trippers returns to shore in the mid-afternoon, you’re left in the peaceful serenity of limitless sea and sky.

Attend an evening diving session to catch sight of timid wildlife, then fall asleep on the deck under a thousand glittering stars. You’ll wake up naturally to a golden sunrise, ready for another exciting morning of exploration.

Walk along the seabed and get up close with nature

Seawalker the Great Barrier Reef

Image credit: Seawalker

Had your makeup done for good photos? Keep it intact with Seawalker’s underwater walking tour of the reef, where you’ll don a special helmet and take a stroll along the ocean floor to encounter corals and tropical fish. You’ll get up close and personal with Green Island’s marine wildlife, without even needing to swim!

Sprint across the reef on a glass bottom speedboat

Reef Sprinter - The Great Barrier Reef

Image credit: Reef Sprinter

If you only have an afternoon to spare, ‘reef sprinting’ might be your best option. Sprinting to the reef at 80 km/h on a speedboat is part of the fun; it’s so fast that you won’t even have time to get seasick! You’ll reach the Low Isles Reef or Outer Reef in half the time, before enjoying a personalised snorkelling and island walking tour.

2. Immerse yourself in the magical forest village of Kuranda

Get unsurpassed aerial views on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Getting to Kuranda is an epic adventure in itself, if you’re gliding through the uppermost branches of the Barron Gorge National Park on the award-winning Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

Your ticket price includes two mid-stations in the rainforest, where you’ll be able to enjoy a complimentary ranger-guided boardwalk tour, a scenic lookout from the Red Peak lookout, and interpretive exhibits at the Rainforest Interpretation Centre. Make sure to opt for the ‘diamond view’ ticket, to peer down at the rainforest canopy from a glass-floor gondola!

Kuranda Village

Image credit: Kuranda Village

Continue on towards Kuranda on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which winds through ancient hand-carved tunnels, and past precipitous gorges and the tumbling cascades of Barron Falls.

Send your heart into a flutter at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Spend a day inside nature’s kaleidoscope at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the largest butterfly sanctuary in the southern hemisphere. It’s home to over 2,000 tropical butterflies and moths, including the electric blue Ulysses butterfly and the vivid green-and-yellow Cairns Birdwing. While on your complimentary guided aviary tour, make sure you wear bright colours to attract these gentle fluttering friends!

Pick up uniquely Australian souvenirs at the Kuranda Heritage Markets

While in Kuranda, be sure to visit the Kuranda Heritage Markets to pick up locally-produced souvenirs, from jewellery to handmade crocodile leather products, boomerangs, and authentic Didgeridoos (Aboriginal wind instruments)!

3. A waterfall expedition and gastronomic adventure in the Atherton Tablelands

An excursion to the scenic, undulating landscape of rainforest, wetlands and savannah of the Atherton Tablelands is a heavenly retreat into nature. You could easily spend days in this sprawling highland plateau, with the multitudes of activities and experiences available less than an hour from Cairns!

Go waterfall-hopping through Waterfall Circuit

The region has a plethora of beautiful, gushing waterfalls. Opt for a self-drive through the 16-km Waterfall Circuit to visit the best of them at your own pace. Take in the beautiful sights of the famous Millaa Millaa Falls and Millstream Fallsyou’ll understand why this area is a favourite of photographers.

Along the way, check out the 500-year-old Cathedral Fig Tree, a massive strangler fig tree nestled in the heart of Danbulla State Forest. Go for a refreshing dip or kayak on the smooth waters of Lake Eacham within Crater Lakes National Park, surrounded by birdsong and views of the forest.

Seek out the Tablelands’ freshest produce

The fertile soil, good rainfall, and plenty of sunshine of the Tablelands support a booming agricultural scene. Don’t leave before you get a taste of the freshest local produce at one of the 2,000 farms dotted around!

One of the best is Mungalli Creek, a biodynamic dairy farm with fantastic ice cream and cheese platters. Gallo Dairyland produces a delicious assortment of chocolates on-site, ranging from hazelnut chocolate to coconut chocolate rough. If you’d rather pick your own, Shaylee Strawberry Farm offers berry-picking sessions.

Skybury Coffee

Image credit: Skybury Coffee

The Atherton Tablelands is also one of the top two coffee-growing regions in Australia. Go on a plantation tour and grab your Arabica fix at Skybury Coffee and Papaya, a sustainable farming estate. Another amazing roastery and chocolaterie is Coffee Works, which hosts all-day unlimited tastings of coffee, chocolate, and liqueur.

Make new friends at Australian Platypus Park

The Australian Platypus Park near Tarzali Lakes is probably the best place to spot this native Australian mammal. The timid but playful creatures have a highly unusual appearance, with a duck-like bill, webbed feet, and warm fur. It’s also one of the three mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young!

See lava up close at the Undara Volcanic National Park

Image credit: Undara Experience

Close by to the Atherton Tablelands, the ancient and mysterious Undara Volcanic National Park is calling. Only 23 countries in the world have lava tubes, and the ones at Undara are believed to be the longest and largest. It’s an indelible experience: walking in the path of a volcano, discovering geographical wonders, and witnessing wild creatures in their natural habitats.

Image credit: Undara Experience

Uncover the mysteries and beauty of Cairns with SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.

With five weekly flights and attractive fares from SGD 588, start planning your next getaway and explore the hidden charms of Cairns! Book your trip by 30 Nov 18.

Fly to Cairns from SGD 588 with SilkAir

4. A scenic drive to the tropical resort town of Port Douglas

Take the scenic route up Captain Cook Highway

Captain Cook Highway

Image credit: Queensland Australia

The beautiful resort town of Port Douglas is only an hour’s drive north of Cairns. Embark on a coastal drive north on Captain Cook Highway, and you’ll witness amazing views of the coastline and the turquoise Coral Sea along the way. Stop by the world-famous Rex Lookout for the best views; it’s one of the most photographed scenes of Australia!

Drop by Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures en route to discover wild crocodiles in the Melaleuca Wetlands, or learn about their conservation on the Crocodile Farm tour. These toothy reptiles might be the star attraction at the park but many other adorable animals live there too, including kangaroos, baby koalas, colourful tropical birds and cassowaries!

Indulge in Port Douglas’ gastronomic delights

Port Douglas is another fantastic access point for both the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics but stay in town for a while to recce the amazing culinary scene.

Drop by Betty’s Bohemian Beach Café for great Kasundi eggs or a fluffy pancake stack, then The Little Larder for an award-winning cuppa. Rattle N Hum is a great option for laid-back Aussie pub food. If you’re feeling indulgent, go for the five- or seven-course degustation menus at Nautilus Restaurant.

Head on to Hemingway’s to sample local craft beers on a tasting paddle, or the waterfront bar On The Inlet for fresh seafood, cocktails and a cool ocean breeze.

Image credit: Flames of the Forest

For a truly unique meal, make a reservation at Flames of the Forest for an evening at Australia’s only rainforest dining venue. You’ll have a feast with their curated modern Australian menu made from locally-sourced ingredients and spices, including kangaroo loin and jungle-spiced meats.

Take a stroll along Four Mile Beach

Image credit: Port Douglas Daintree

Walk off the food coma along the idyllic Four Mile Beach, a broad strip of white sand lined by palm trees on one side, and sapphire waters on the other. For best views of the beach and ocean, head to Trinity Bay Lookout atop Flagstaff Hill.

5. Venture into the pristine, untouched beauty of the Wet Tropics

Image credit: Daintree Rainforest

Heading inland from the eastern coastline, you’ll find a drastically different landscape – the lush tropical forests of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, a World Heritage site and the oldest surviving tropical rainforest on the planet. Visitors can enter the area through one of the protected national parks, the most popular of which include the Daintree National Park and Kuranda National Park.

Embark on a walking tour through the Tropics to spot rare plants & animals

Trekking through the emerald woodland, it’s easy to see how the ancient landscape inspired the world of Pandora in the blockbuster movie Avatar. The lush rainforest is home to 60% of Australia’s butterfly species, 35% of its mammal species, and a further 3,000 of its plant species − many of which are primitive or endangered.

Image credit: Tony Rodd (left), Bryan Gratwicke (right)

To best appreciate the biodiversity and heritage of this extraordinary place, head out for a guided walking tour with a local expert. Keep your eyes peeled for the King Fern, the Idiot Fruit Tree and other plants so ancient that they’re known as ‘Green Dinosaurs’! Other animals endemic to the region include the musky rat-kangaroo and southern cassowary.

Go on a crocodile cruise down the Daintree River

If you’re fascinated by crocodiles after watching Steve Irwin’s The Crocodile Hunter, this is for you. A river cruise offers insights into a different side of the tropical rainforest. Take a cruise down Daintree River to spot saltwater crocodiles congregating around its banks, amongst the abundant birdlife singing overhead.

Attend a Ngadiku Aboriginal Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge

The stunning Mossman Gorge within Daintree National Park is a picturesque scene of cascading water over granite boulders. The best way to explore the area is through a guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, conducted by Aboriginal locals. You’ll be welcomed with a traditional smoking ceremony, before hearing ancient legends and stories from the Kuku Yalanji tradition.

Go jungle-surfing through the Daintree Rainforest

For an entirely different experience (and incredible photo opportunities), go for a zip-lining tour through the trees. You’ll get unrivalled access to the various layers of the tropical rainforest, brushing shoulders with the uppermost branches of the canopy and gliding over cascading streams.

With easy access to cerulean blues and verdant greens, plentiful wildlife from delicate butterflies to snapping crocodiles, and some of the finest Australian cuisine around, Cairns is really the quintessential experience to have in Australia.

Fly to Cairns for your perfect next island escape with SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, from SGD 588. Book by 30 Nov 18 to enjoy this special fare.

With five weekly flights, indulge in carefully selected meals, a full bar service, elements of inflight entertainment and attentive service on every single flight.

Let your incredible experience in Cairns begin the moment you step onto your flight!

Fly to Cairns from SGD 588 with SilkAir

Brought to you by Singapore Airlines and Tourism and Events Queensland.

About Author

Ashley Tan
Ashley Tan

Ashley is a lover of black coffee and sunny mornings. When she takes a break from perfecting her sun salutations and sprinting through TV marathons, she's dreaming of her next adventures: exploring old cities on cobbled pavements, dipping her toes into sparkling waves, and watching the sunset from above the clouds.