Top 10 Reasons To Visit Cairns

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Cairns is a vibrant, tropical city with fun attractions and natural wonders, making it one of the best places to visit in AustraliaThough it's most famous for being the "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef", Cairns has so much to offer travellers in addition to snorkelling and diving in world-class reef sites. There are ancient rainforests filled with waterfalls and wildlife all around Cairns, and there are so many opportunities for adventure sports. 

In the city itself, Cairns is packed with culture, cuisine, nightlife, and more. You can browse through local markets, mingle with other travellers, and soak in the multicultural atmosphere. No matter what you're looking for on your mission up to Cairns, this incredible city is sure to exceed expectations. 

Here are the top 10 reasons to visit Cairns, though there are honestly endless reasons to spend some time in this glorious corner of Northern Queensland!

girl walking into Cairns Central shopping center

Top 10 Reasons To Visit Cairns, Australia

Why choose Cairns? There are so many reasons to visit Cairns, from its proximity to World Heritage-listed reefs and rainforests, to its dynamic and engaging attractions in the city center. Whether you're looking to bungy jump, swim in waterfalls, party till the sun comes up, or lounge on the soft white sands of a tropical island, you can do it all in Cairns!

couple walking into the water at Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

1. The Great Barrier Reef is right offshore

Of course, #1 on our list of reasons to visit Cairns is the Great Barrier Reef! The world's largest coral reef system fills the waters off the coast of Cairns, meaning you can reach reef sites in about an hour. Anyone who loves water sports and marine life cannot miss the opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you book a day tour or spend the night out on the reef, exploring this vast and enchanting underwater world may be one of your favorite Australian experiences!

girl snorkelling next to hard corals in the great barrier reef

2. Gorgeous tropical islands are also right offshore

Pristine tropical islands also populate the waters around Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. As a fun alternative to a boat tour on the Outer Reef, book a day trip to an island! Green Island, Fitzroy Island, and the Frankland Islands are the most popular islands near Cairns where you can combine incredible snorkelling and diving with a spectacular island visit. Lounge on brilliant white sands, bushwalk through untouched rainforest, and kayak through the crystal clear waters full of marine life!

aerial view of Fitzroy Island's beaches and rainforests

3. Cairns has epic nightlife

If you love an exciting night out on the town, you'll love the nightlife in Cairns. The city has a thriving population of locals and tourists alike, meaning there are fun venues that suit all types of people. You can find mellow bars with live music, fancy restaurants with Instagram-worthy cocktails, or pumping nightclubs with DJs and dance floors. Whether you're a backpacker looking to rage until morning, or you just want a few casual drinks and some good food, there is something for everyone in Cairns. 

a nightclub in cairns filled with people

4. The Daintree Rainforest is just north of Cairns

The Great Barrier Reef is not the only World Heritage Site near Cairns! The Daintree Rainforest is another spectacular, Heritage-listed natural wonder that lies just a few hours north of Cairns. At an estimated 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet. Anyone who loves nature and history should venture up to this remote, mysterious, and breathtaking corner of Queensland. Stroll on the deserted beaches of Cape Tribulation, swim in glistening watering holes, and explore the dense and vibrant rainforest trails. 

girls sitting near a blue creek in the rainforest

5. Cairns is home to two amazing markets

Another top reason to visit Cairns is the shopping, dining, and sightseeing available at the local markets. Rusty's Market is a local treasure that is located right in downtown Cairns. Open every morning and afternoon on the weekends, Rusty's Market has over 180 stalls and specialises in fresh tropical fruits. If you're craving a smoothie bowl, this is the place to be! When the sun goes down, the Cairns Night Markets have you covered. Every night from 4:30pm - 10:30pm, you can browse through local goods, souvenirs, and food stalls at this bustling indoor market hall. 

girls buying fruit at a tropical street market in Cairns

6. You can spot iconic Aussie wildlife in and around Cairns

Every traveller in Australia dreams of seeing unique Australian wildlife such as kangaroos and koalas. Even if you're an Aussie local, there are lots of ways to get in touch with the natural world in Cairns. You have a great chance of seeing marine life out on the reef, including sea turtles, giant tropical fish, reef sharks, or even whales in the winter. Inland you can potentially find platypus in the Atherton Tablelands, cassowaries in the Daintree Rainforest, or saltwater crocodiles in the Daintree River. Whether you visit a wildlife park or attempt to spot creatures out in the wild, you can see some fascinating animals in and around Cairns!

giant colorful cassowary in the rainforest

7. Cairns has a welcoming tropical climate

The warm, tropical climate is definitely one of the top reasons to visit Cairns. You'll never need to worry about packing lots of warm layers when you head up to northern Queensland! With lots of sunshine and high temperatures, you'll always welcome the chance to swim in a waterfall or snorkel on the reef. Just remember to wear sun protection and stay hydrated! Those who don't like the heat can visit in the winter when the temperatures drop but are still warm and pleasant. 

girls looking up at palm trees in Cairns Australia

8. There are stunning waterfalls all around Cairns

Cairns is home to numerous picturesque waterfalls that make the perfect respite from the Queensland heat. To find the best waterfalls in Cairns, head southwest of the city to the Atherton Tablelands, a lush rainforest region full of lakes, creeks, hiking trails, quaint rural towns, and waterfalls! Whether you want a dreamy photo opportunity or you just want somewhere tranquil to swim, relax, and have a picnic, the waterfalls in Cairns are truly magical. 

waterfall plunging into a pool in the rainforest near Cairns

9. Cairns is perfect for adventure sports and adrenaline activities

Thanks to its flourishing rainforests and tropical climate, water sports are abundant in Cairns! You can try something new and have a blast with friends when you book adrenaline-pumping activities like skydiving or bungy jumping. Or you can take to the water and try river tubing or white water rafting through gorges and forests. If you're a total dare-devil or you just want to have a fun afternoon outside, Cairns is full of opportunities for adventure. 

group of travelers going river tubing in Cairns

10. Cairns is a vibrant, multicultural city that suits all types of travellers

Given all of these reasons to visit Cairns, you can see why this enticing Queensland city is popular among travellers. Aussie locals and families visit Cairns to experience the beauty of the tropics and have a sunshine-filled getaway. Backpackers and international travellers visit Cairns to see iconic World Heritage Sites and tick the Great Barrier Reef off their bucket lists. Couples may honeymoon or plan a romantic getaway in Cairns so they can escape to tropical islands and swim in magical waterfalls. Cairns draws in all types of travellers with its varied attractions and diverse atmosphere. Even if you're travelling solo, you can easily meet people in Cairns through tours, nightlife, or hostels.

There are so many reasons to visit Cairns, and any traveller can find something here that excites them!

group of travellers hanging out at a hostel pool

Ready to plan your visit to Cairns and the rest of East Coast Australia? Check out our itineraries, tours, and campervan rentals so you can make the most of your time in Australia!

Feel free to live chat with our local travel experts if you have any questions about Cairns or other Australian destinations. 

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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