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Esplanade Lagoon (½ - 1 day)
Cairns is located on the coast, unfortunately you can’t really enjoy the sea and the beaches as there are a lot of threats like marine stingers and crocodiles. Besides that the nearest beautiful beach is approximately 20 to 25 minutes drive. So a good way to relax and enjoy the sun in a safe swimming location is Esplanade Lagoon.
There are lifeguards on duty from 6am to 10pm in the summer months (October - March) and from 7am to 9pm in the winter months (April - September). The Lagoon is closed for maintenance every Wednesday until midday.
There are also public barbecues which u can use for free. So have your lunch or dinner there while overlooking the Great Barrier Reef.
Tusa Dive (1-2 days)
When you are in Cairns, of course you have to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, or at least you should do some snorkelling. There are several operators, but one of our favourites is Tusa Diving. The have great equipment, a new boat and very friendly staff.
They visit two dives sites each day, selected for the day’s weather conditions. They have access to sixteen unique dive and snorkel sites, all on the outer reefs. For more information about actual prices visit their website.
If you are looking for a bargain, try to book as late as possible, they might give you a discount, but there’s always a chance they’re fully booked of course. You can try this at the TUSA shop opposite Esplanade Lagoon. They also give discount if the weather forecast is not very good.
Cape Tribulation (1 day)
The World Heritage Cape Tribulation is a unique Ecological system, where the rainforest meets the reef. This place and the area around is a must-see when you’re in Cairns. The drive from the city to ‘Cape Trib’ along the coast at Cook Highway is already breathtaking. This is definitely a road, which can compete with Melbourne’s Great Ocean Road.
Besides the Kulki Lookout there are a more nice places to visit. The Mossman Gorge for example where you can walk through the rainforest and the suspension bridge and watch the waterfall. Make a river cruise on Daintree River and watch tree snakes, kingfishers, crocodiles and much more wildlife. If you’re lucky you’ll see a Cassowary while driving around. Best time to go to Cape Trib is during the dry season in August and September.
If you have your own car (or a rental) it’s nice to do this tour in your own pace. You can easily spend two days in the area. A nice place to stay overnight in the middle of the rainforest is Heritage Lodge & Spa, where you can swim in a mountain river. If you don’t have your own transportation it’s best to do an organised tour in one day. There are several operators offering this tour, our favourite is Tropical Horizons Tours.
Kuranda (½ day)
On a beautiful sunny day, you should visit the tourist village Kuranda. And it’s not about the village itself, it’s about the great way travelling to Kuranda and back. Best way to travel to Kuranda is by Skyrail, which brings you 7,5 kilometres through the rainforest. You can make two stops during this ride and you will get great views on the Barron Falls. (The skyrail costs $44 one way for an adult and it is open from 9 am to 3 pm daily.)
In Kuranda you can walk around and see the tourist market, bird world, koala garden and a lot more touristic things. Two hours should be enough there, so you can do this trip in half a day.
The most wonderful way to travel back to Cairns is with the Kuranda Scenic Railway (one way costs $47 for an adult). During this ride you will make a stop again, offering you another spectacular view on the Barron Gorge. The train will bring you back to Cairns Station in approximately two hours while you can relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
It's hardly impossible to do this trip cheaper then a booked tour, as the tour companies get great discounts and they arrange transportation to the skyrail as well. If you have to do that by taxi and buy your own tickets, you pay more then a package deal. So just go to one of the booking offices around Cairns and book this tour.
Beaches of Cairns (½ - 1 day)
As mentioned in the Esplanade Lagoon tip, Cairns has some nice beaches outside the city, but most of the times it’s impossible to go for a swim as there a lot of threats like marine stingers and crocodiles. But for those who really want to go to the beach, there are a few around Cairns.
Clifton Beach for example, which is 25 kilometres north of Cairns. You can go there by car or by bus 110 from Cairns City Mall. The most popular beach is Palm Cove a bit more north from Cairns. And when you go to Cape Tribulation you could go to Port Douglas and enjoy the ‘4 mile beach’.
But again, beware of marine stingers and crocodiles and if there’s a sign that says: No swimming, please follow the advice.
Cairns Museum (1-2 hrs)
If you really have nothing to do in Cairns and like to learn all about the history of Cairns, Aboriginals and nature around the city, you should go to the Cairns Museum. The museum is not so beautiful and even a bit dull, but what it makes special are the tours and stories from the volunteers.
The entrance fee is $5, including the guide. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, except on Sundays. It is located at the corner of Shields Street and Lake Street in the centre of Cairns.
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Language of the world
Of course you like to speak a few words of the local language onboard the plane or at your destination. Here you find some simple basics of the main language spoken in Cairns.