awesome cairns things

10 Awesome Cairns Things to Do When Visiting

So you are visiting Cairns soon? Well that’s good news, for we have things to see and do all year round. Our 10 awesome Cairns things to do focus on our natural environment and places of exceptional beauty. However this does not include the likes of posh country houses and fancy restaurants. Although we do have a fine spread of art galleries and museums for a more formal occasion.

Now let’s see … which of our 10 awesome Cairns things to do deserves pole position in the adventure we have  for you today? We think a trip to Kuranda is the right way to start, because we can can gaze back down on Cairns from a height, and get great views of the coastal strip and the blue Coral Sea stretching far into the distance.

awesome cairns things

Skyrail Views Back to Cairns: Sheila Thomson: CC 2.0

# 1 of 10 Awesome Cairns Things to Do: Visit Kuranda

Cairns was originally going to be limited to a small port. Where settler farmers shipped their products south to Brisbane, for  city folk who lacked our rich soil and fertile climate on the table land above us. Following a long and winding road up the escarpment turned out a pain, especially after they discovered rich seams of precious metals in the mountains. So they used their mining skills to hack a cliff-hangar of a railway line with their bare hands, picks and shovels.

Our favourite way to visit Kuranda is following that self-same route up the cliff. There’s not a patch of reinforced concrete to be seen, but the spidery wooden bridges are still good and strong. Vintage railway coaches add to the flavour while a powerful  loco takes care of the heavy loading. We can even stop along the way to stretch our legs. When we reach the top, a historic railway station with tropical gardens welcomes us with every imaginable tourist attraction. As an added bonus, we can catch a sky gondola back down to Cairns with views like we showed you in the first photo.

awesome cairns things

Kuranda Scenic Railway Station: Photnart: CC 3.0

# 2 – The Call of the Wild White Waters West of Cairns

The classic pioneer village of Kuranda is some 330 meters (1,000 feet) above the coastal plain where Cairns nestles besides the warm calming Coral Sea. Water temperatures back there are in a stable range of 27–28 °С throughout the year.  Given an annual rainfall between one and three metres (3.2 to 9.6 feet), its unsurprising our rivers turn into dare-devil cataracts. Especially from December through to March when monsoons fall in bursts of pelting water.

This is the season of white water rafting, arguably one of the most awesome Cairns things to do. We can refer you to some of the best skippers, boats and crews we know. Best take some spare dry clothes with you for the return journey though, for at the very least you will be seriously splashed and even sopping wet. The best Cairns white water rafting experiences are under personal guidance of experienced skippers. They know the best way to negotiate rapids for what may be the white river rafting experience of your lifetime.

awesome cairns things

Cairns White Water River Rafting: Gary Bembridge: CC 2.0

# 3 – A Walk Through a Primeval Forest Where Dinosaurs Roamed

Millions of years ago the world was a different place. We were going through a period of global warming when all Australia was warm, humid, and with abundant rainfall. Nowadays, much of our country is very different. However, the combination of the warm Coral Sea and the Great Dividing Range has preserved a memory in the magic place we call the Daintree Forest. Here we can see plants that dinosaurs sniffed, pondered over, and seized in their mighty jaws.

Incredibly, Daintree Forest stretches all the way down to the high water mark, as if waiting for primeval life to walk onto land from the sea. They have treetop board walks over some of the world’s earliest plants, and several ancient families of tree ferns. This is also a globally important bird sanctuary where southern cassowaries,  tooth-billed and golden bowerbirds, lovely fairywrens, and victoria’s riflebirds and pale-yellow robins strut their stuff to the delight 0f bird lovers of all ages. Truly, this is a must-see place among the 10 awesome Cairns things to do.

awesome cairns things

Daintree Rain Forest: Dinkum: CC 1.0

# 4 – More Awesome Cairns Things to Do: The Great Barrier Reef

The Australian Great Barrier Reef is a tropical ocean coral paradise spread over 344,00 kilometres (133,00 square miles). To put this in perspective, that’s about the size of Finland or Germany, or the U.S. state of Montana, the fourth largest. There are ferries to major islands, while private tour operators have fast catamarans. Not to mention air conditioned underwater observatories, and semi-submersibles offering incredible views of life underwater in the coral sea.

The Great Barrier Reef is truly an amazing place. Coral deposits go back half a million years, and attract over 1,500 different fish species. Out to sea, dwarf minke whales, indo-pacific humpback dolphin, and humpback whales make dramatic splashes as they emerge to breath deeply. We have 17 sea snake species, and six types of turtles that come to breed in our placid, sheltered water. Come and join us, the water is warm. Come and immerse yourself, buoyed in warm water in paradise. You will find nothing like this anywhere else on earth.

awesome cairns things

Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef: Wikimedia Contributor: CC 1.0

# 5 – Pay an Early Visit to Cairns Aquarium (But Keep Your Feet Dry)

We had to wait a few extra weeks as the salt water took a while to mature in the tanks. However the promise was already there, and the grand opening was a watershed day for our fair city on the Far North Queensland coast. The Regional Council is already promising ‘a vibrant botanical boulevard‘ connecting through from our CBD. Soon it will be all systems go for the new home of the plants, animals and habitats unique to our remarkable part of the world.

The structure comprises 9,000 square metres (100,000 square feet) of exhibition space spread across three generous levels. The pools and tanks hold 3,000 000 litres (80,000 gallons) of fresh, brackish and salt water. There are opportunities to share our rich diversity of wildlife in ways previously impossible to imagine. The aquarium goals include conservation, education and outreach, research, and invitations to all and sundry willing to participate in this dream.

awesome cairns things

Image: Cairns Aquarium, Great for Families and Kids With Thanks

# 6 – Awesome Cairns Things Happen at the Tjapukai Experience

We are feeling our way through the past when things did not always pan out the way we wanted. We won’t attach blame. The cultures failed to connect, and violence followed. The traditions of the oldest Australians assume new relevance as we reach out to handshake, as we should have done before. Tjapukai is very special place where we can delve into things that some of us never knew existed. The cultural outdoor museum is conveniently not far from the lower Skyrail gondola station that connects by cable to Kuranda.

The Djabugay people own this place and they are our hosts when we visit, making the experience even more authentic.  They offer a shuttle service from Cairns and Northern beaches holiday accommodation, that runs mornings, afternoons, and evenings. During daytime, we can wander freely through the exhibits, and savour Djabugay food baked on organically-fired hot rocks buried  in the earth. In the evening, we could join in the night fire experience, when we paint out faces and join in a truly remarkable celebration we may see nowhere else on our planet.

awesome cairns things

Tjapukai by Night: Image Tjapukai.Com With Thanks

# 7 – Take a Trip to Green Island on a Fast Catamaran Ferry

Green Island is a genuine coral formation overlaid by waves depositing sand and other debris. Nature’s experiment – if you like – has a diverse ecosystem within its 0.15 square kilometre / 0.1 square mile spread. The island supports a variety of plants in a dry coastal beach environment, and an inner semi-evergreen vine thicket hence the name. There is a luxury 46-room resort, although most visitors on a day trip prefer their holiday accommodation in Cairns.

Green Island is a mere 27 kilometres / 17 miles from Cairns so the trip takes under an hour. There is thus ample time to explore the coral reefs offshore by scuba diving. If we are feeling flush, we like to visit the upmarket resort on the island for a light lunch. Their Emerald’s Resort and Bar does a divine smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese, tomato, lettuce, smoked salmon, bay capers, and spanish onion.

Several other islands nearby Cairns offer diverse ‘desert island’ experiences. We provide luxury accommodation in Cairns for discerning guests upon their return. But please stay with us. We have three more awesome Cairns thing to share, while staying in our Cairns holiday rental which is truly super cool.

awesome cairns things

Green Island: Sue Waters: CC 2.0

# 8 – Awesome Cairns Things: Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures at Wangetti Beach

Cairns crocodiles are seriously large creatures and they are naturally dangerous. They grow up to 2.8 metres long from nose to tail (nine feet) at which stage they make African lions look like pussycats which they definitely are not. We ask that you do not go near them unless under guidance of an experienced ranger. Fortunately we can introduce a safe venue where the scales tilt in our direction. To get there, drive north from Cairns for 40 kilometres (25 miles) along scenic Captain Cook Highway on the boundary of the gorgeously deep blue Coral Sea.

Hartley’s has been a destination since 1933 when it opened as a tearoom. Yep, we drank tea then and some still do. Since then, it grew to a large spread where you can watch crocodiles close-up from a boat, or meet a cassowary and other curious mammals of Far North Queensland. While Hartley’s Crocodile Ventures is a business doing crocodile farming, it also has a strong commitment to sustainability and eco tourism. However we doubt the giant reptiles are impressed by this. So do take care, watch the signs, obey the rules, and listen to the friendly guides.

awesome cairns things

Feeling Peckish: Travis: CC 2.0

# 9 – More Awesome Cairns Things: The Barron River Falls

We don’t know why Cairns’ original Aboriginal inhabitants called this mighty cataract ‘Din Din’ but it sure makes a heck of a noise as it comes crashing down in season. Consider these statistics:

Total height 125 metres / 410 feet: maximum width 259 metres  / 850 feet

Longest drop 107 metres / 315 feet: average flow per second 30 centimetres / 12 inches

The dramatic flows you see in tourist photos are only after substantial rain, in wet season which is November through to March.  Outside of this time the cataracts are narrower. The average width is hence 137 meters / 449 feet, but still well worth viewing at any time considered safe.

The top of the falls is near the historic pioneering town of Kuranda, that became a major tourist attraction for families with kids. The water crashes down through virgin tropical rain forest which is a sight on its own. There are five viewing points with varying degrees of access. The Barron Falls Lookout provides dramatic views of the cataract at Barron Falls Railway Station. Then there are other hiking trails, such Wright’s lookout with sweeping views across the Barron Gorge towards the coastal plains of Cairns.

awesome cairns things

Barron River Falls in Spate: Phil Long: CC 2.0

# 10 – Rent a Luxury Home at Wanggulay  Convenient for All Attractions

We have two award-winning 5 Star luxury retreats right on the edge of heritage rain forest, and nature as it should be, unspoiled. They are 15 minutes from Cairns and close to Port Douglas and Palm Cove in North Queensland, Australia. 

The villas each sleep up to 13 guests, and are perfect for couples love nests, honeymoon suites, 5 star family accommodation, pet-friendly holidays, private wedding venues, and executive retreats. if you truly want to experience the sensation of being on your own in the wild, then what can be better than going to sleep here every evening, and waking here every morning to the calls of birds.

Included in these private vacation rentals are all the features you’d expect from a 5 star resort, and including 4 or 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, sleeping for up to 13 guests, pet friendly, free unlimited and fast wifi, an amazing spread of facilities, as well as outstanding reviews from many satisfied guests.

Our properties are light years away from average Cairns holiday resorts. There is no resident manager watching over their shoulder. The only sounds you hear are your own friends and family, and birds singing in rustling trees. Please book early to reserve your space, since we are regularly booked out, and we want to welcome you to our Wanggulay see you soon.

awesome cairns things

Wanggulay Too

awesome cairns things


cairns waterfalls

Cairns Waterfalls Tumbling from The Tableland

The eastern edge of Far North Queensland is a low-lying narrow coastal strip. The Great Barrier Reef is close by in the Coral Sea, while to the west there are lush green rain forests populated with flocks of colourful birds. Further inland, the terrain rises steeply westward to the fertile Atherton Tableland. Thanks to generous rainfall we have gorgeous Cairns waterfalls throughout the year.

The best time to visit Cairns waterfalls is from January to March, when the monsoon season dumps vast quantities of rain throughout the region. Streams become rivers, and cascades mighty torrents raising spray into the sky. After the bounteous bonanza clears, the waterfalls become more gentle playthings. At the height of summer, some of Cairns best waterfalls like Milla Milla provide delightful natural swimming pools, with large smooth rocks the delight of families.

cairns waterfalls

Tinaroo Falls: Owen Allen: CC 2.0

The Mighty Barron River Waterfall

Tinarro Falls is just below Tinaroo Dam high up on the Atherton Tableland. During monsoon season, this tributary of the Barron River sends huge volumes of tumbling water through the Barron Gorge. Barron Waterfall marks the point where the river begins a series of four cascading drops totaling 107 meters / 351 feet on its way to the Coral Sea.

At the height of the monsoon rain season these drops become thundering cascades across a width of 259 meters (850 feet). After this is over, they reduce to trickles, owing to the remaining water diverting to a hydroelectric power station. There are three great ways to view the largest of Cairns Waterfalls. First, the Kennedy Highways passes just upstream. And then we also have a skyrail cable car popular for informal weddings, and a retro passenger train providing dramatic year round views.

cairns waterfalls

Barron Falls near Kuranda, Australia One January: Ashlsimm: Use for Any Purpose If Attributed

Onward to Mungalli Falls Near Cairns, Far North Queensland

The Barron Waterfall undoubtedly takes the cake for brute power among Cairns waterfalls in season. However Mungalli is more beautifully delicate as it drops 90 meters in several cascades over  sheets of rock. There are great photo opportunities from the viewing platform. Delightfully, there is a great swimming hole at the bottom of the falls just an hour’s or so drive from our luxury accommodation rental with genuine natural rain forest at the bottom of the garden.

There’s a nice view from the top at the Mungalli Student Village, Wilderness Retreat, and Outdoor Education Centre. Thereafter, walk along the track past a wide rocky cascade to the bottom of the falls. The trail continues onward for a short distance before terminating at the viewing platform in the photo. Swimming is permitted. By all means be our guest on a summer’s day.

cairns waterfalls

Mungalli Falls Near Cairns, and Wanggulay: Jim Bendon: CC 2.0

Millstream, the Widest Drop of All Cairns Waterfalls

There are two waterfalls to see here. This makes the 147-kilometre trip from Wanggulay even more worthwhile. Once you reach reach the old pioneering town of Ravenshoe – well worth a visit – follow the signs to Big Millstream Falls. Inquire locally for the route to Little Millstream Falls which is delicately pretty on a more minor scale.

Big Millstream Falls plunges over the edge of a columnar basalt lava flow in spectacular style. There are several walking trails in the shadow of the Great Dividing Range. There are also World War II remains to visit at this, the highest point of North Queensland. Much of them are ‘as left’ when 1,000 troops departed in 1945. Tread gently here for some of the boys who swam here never returned. A lovely, but sometimes bittersweet place …

Big Millstream Falls: Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland: CC 3.0

Cascading Water at Another of Our Lovely Cairns Waterfalls

Not all waterfalls have to be that dramatic. A gentler flow often creates a larger, more generous swimming hole as is the case with Malanda Falls. It doubles as a swimming pool for the locals, so a great opportunity for the kids to meet new friends. The water from the North Johnstone River is prone to spilling over in the rainy season. This creates a great conservation area with two 20-minute trails to follow.

Malanda is an old mining town dating from the tin and copper rush, and from where Malanda Milk comes you’ll find in supermarkets in Cairns. There’s a great historic resource center in the town itself, and interesting hotels and pubs from pioneering days. Malanda Falls have another claim to fame you won’t often see. You can swim with platypus at the bottom of it if you can find one, because the water is crocodile free.

cairns waterfalls

Malanda Falls: Joel Annesley: CC 2.0

Mount Hypipamee National Park and Dinner Falls

This gorgeous national park is some 120kilometres (75 miles) from Wanggulay along the Gillies Highway but definitely worth a visit. The attraction centers around a volcanic pipe that once blasted gas, but is now a deep, tranquil lake.  While the 400-metre (1,300 foot) path is longer than the other waterfalls we write about here, you will be rewarded by a viewing platform providing uninterrupted views into the crater.

The walk to the bottom of the waterfall through rain forest will take you forty-five minutes in total, but it is well worth it because of opportunities to see tree kangaroos and possums. There is also great bird life including  victoria’s riflebird, bridled honeyeaters and golden and tooth-billed bowerbirds. Entrance is free but organised and commercial groups do require permits. After all this writing we are ready for a swim in another of Cairns waterfalls you should visit. See you there.

cairns waterfalls

Dinner Falls: Spalti: CC 2.0



Cairns Romantic Accommodation

What Lies Westward of Our Cairns Romantic Accommodation

The geography of Far North Queensland varies greatly as the coastal strip gives way to the Great Dividing Range. Drive across the Atherton Tableland, and go a scant two hundred kilometres further west. You could end up in a land of rusty tin shacks, red dust, and emus with penetrating glances. Let’s set that option aside for now, and take a car trip to the west, and upwards to the Atherton Tableland. Read more