Although I am now settled in Sydney, I have moved around a lot in my life. And one of the places that I lived for a few years (and still the place that I go home to visit my parents) is close to Cairns in Far North Queensland. I actually lived on the Atherton Tablelands for my last few years of high school and during that time and since then I have enjoyed exploring the area and seeing a lot of beautiful places, both on the Tablelands and in the surrounding area. For this post I will only be focusing on places in or around Cairns and will leave the places in the Tablelands for their own post at a later date.
There is so much to see in the area and I definitely haven’t seen it all (I still haven’t been to the Great Barrier Reef, I know, shock, horror!) and these are just places that I have enjoyed visiting. Because I am such a fan of getting out and exploring nature, a lot of these will be outdoors and may be a bit of a drive from Cairns, but in my opinion they are totally worth it.
So without further ado and in no particular order…
1. Arrow tracks (red, yellow, green and blue)
These tracks are all located near the Cairns Botanical Gardens and they each provide a different degree of length and difficulty. The red arrow is the shortest track, and it is a loop with lookouts at several points along it. From the red arrow you can access the blue arrow track which is also connected to the yellow and green tracks. Each of the walks provides different views and I like the way that the tracks are all interconnected as you can easily move from one track to the other and get a lot of variety on your walk. At the top of both the yellow and red arrow tracks there are lookouts that provide a great view of the airport and is a lovely place to sit and watch planes take off and land.
2. Josephine Falls
Josephine Falls is a very beautiful waterfall located just over an hour outside of Cairns, but it is well worth the drive and then short walk from the carpark. Particularly on a hot day, this is a great place to cool off, with a big pool with a natural slide into it.
3. Stoney Creek
Stoney Creek is about a 20 minute drive from Cairns CBD and it offers everything. There are walks that you can take from the carpark either upriver or if you are up for a solid walk there are even tracks that take you up to Kuranda and beyond. There are also waterholes to swim in, both right next to the carpark and further upstream with many rocks to climb on (one of my favourite things to do!) and beautiful waterfalls.
4. Cairns Skyrail
This is one of the first activities I did in Cairns, before I moved to the area. I really enjoyed this one as it provides a bird’s eye view of the rainforest below and it is a peaceful way of getting up the range to visit Kuranda. You can also stop half-way up and go for a wander in the rain forest before getting back on and going on to Kuranda. You can choose to go there and back on the Skyrail, or to change it up you can take the Kuranda Scenic Railway on one leg of the journey. I personally have never been on the railway, but it would provide another perspective of the area which is very beautiful.
5. Babinda Boulders
It has been quite a few years now since I have been to Babinda Boulders and I only went the one time, but I remember it being such a beautiful place! It was so refreshing to take a swim there and I remember it having such clear water! It also has a lot to explore, with the opportunity to go up and down river to find a quieter place to swim or just to see what is out there.
6. Cairns Kart Hire, Laser Tag and Escape Rooms
This one is a little bit different to the others on the list, as it is not a natural attraction, but I have still had lots of fun here. Located between Cairns and Smithfield this place has something for everyone. There is an outdoor go kart track, along with laser tag and even escape rooms. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of driving go karts, but I do enjoy watching other people drive them and I also very much enjoyed the escape room that I did with my family there.
7. Mossman Gorge
You might be noticing a bit of a trend by now. So many of my favourite places involve swimming locations in the rainforest. Mossman Gorge is another one that fits into this category. This one is a bit of a drive north of Cairns to Mossman. Mossman Gorge has an information centre where you park the car and then you can catch the bus for a short drive to the Mossman River. When there you can walk amongst the rainforest to a lookout over the river, and there is also a small beach which is a great place for a swim. This one has a bit of a current, which has provided me with some enjoyable times trying to swim upstream and see how far I can get. This is another area with an incredibly beautiful setting to spend some time, whether you decide to swim, or just enjoy the lookout or climbing up or downstream.
8. Port Douglas
I’m sure if you know much about Cairns at all you would have heard of Port Douglas. Port Douglas is a very popular tourist destination north of Cairns and there is a reason for this. Firstly, the drive along the coast from Cairns to Port Douglas alone is stunning, but then once you get to the town itself it is a wonderful area, with plenty of beaches and incredible views paired with a main street full of unique shops that are lots of fun to look through. The last time I visited here I did a short walk from Four Mile beach around the coast to the other side of the town and this was a nice, quieter place for a walk, with incredible ocean views.
9. Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome
This is another one that is indoors, but it still has the rainforest element to it! It is located in Cairns, not far from Cairns Central or the Esplanade. The dome is home to a variety of wildlife, and there are also other activities available such as a high-ropes course (complete with a zipline over a crocodile enclosure) and an opportunity to walk around the outside of the top of the dome (with a harness of course) with stunning views of the surrounding landscape. I have done both of these activities and have enjoyed both of them very much, as they provide a unique experience that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.
10. Cairns Esplanade
Although the esplanade is generally a lot busier than other places on my list it is actually one of my favourite places to visit when I go home. There is just something about bringing a barbeque and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. It is such a great place to enjoy a good meal, paired with a swim in the lagoon and a walk up and down the esplanade. Often we will pair trips to the esplanade with a stop at our favourite ice cream store, which for me is a definite plus!
I hope that you enjoy this list and that you are able to visit some of these places if you are ever in Cairns, or revisit them if you have already been to them. There is so much to see and experience that it was hard to limit it to just one list, and I look forward to getting out and exploring even more new places when I am next up there.