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How to Spend 3 Days in Cairns & the Tropical North

How to Spend 3 Days in Cairns & the Tropical North

Most visitors who head to Cairn visit this city in Australia’s tropical north as a way to access the Great Barrier Reef, but the region offers a variety of activities. On a three day trip, you have plenty of time to visit the reef and also explore the city and the surrounding rainforest. Here are some ways to spend 72 hours in Cairns. 

Day 1: Experience the City by Land and Water

A great way to get your bearings is on a sightseeing tour of the city and its surroundings. Hop on a bus, bike, or Segway for a guided tours of city attractions like the Flecker Botanical Gardens and St. Monica's Cathedral, which boasts the largest themed stained glass windows in the world. Some bus tours give you the option of also taking a morning cruise to Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Alternatively, book an audio tour and explore the city at your own pace.

End your day with a sunset cruise through Trinity Inlet aboard a comfortable catamaran. Soak up views of  the city and the harbor while you enjoy drinks and appetizers; some cruises even offer dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants after the ride.

Day 2: Head Out Onto the Great Barrier Reef

The UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef is the main attraction in this part of the world, so make the most of your visit by spending a whole day exploring it. Join a diving and/or snorkeling cruise, and visit two different sites to see the vibrant marine life living below the reef’s clear waters. Cruises often cover Outer Great Barrier Reef highlights like Saxon Reef or Norman Reef in the morning, then head to Hastings Reef in the afternoon, and most include a hearty lunch as well as snacks. Some tours also offer a short helicopter flight over the reef to give you a different perspective on the world-famous site.

In the evening, get a taste of Aboriginal culture with dinner at Flames of the Forest, an open-air restaurant set under the trees in a rainforest that features upscale food along with live music and performances. 

Day 3: Explore the Kuranda Rainforest

Spend your last day in Cairns exploring another of the area’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rainforest around the town of Kuranda. Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway, and visit the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (largest flight aviary in the country), the Rainforestation Nature Park, and the Koala and Wildlife Park before returning to Cairns on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Some tours also include lunch and an Aboriginal cultural experiences; some have the added privilege of skip-the-line entrance and upgraded seating on the scenic railway.

To celebrate the end of your trip, get dressed up and finish the evening with an entertaining (and interactive) dinner theater show filled with music and comedy. From burlesque shows to murder mysteries, Cairns Dinner Theatre’s shows will keep you entertained and—with a three-course meal included with the ticket—satisfied.

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6 Tours and Activities

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Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns

Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Personal Luxury Snorkel & Dive Cruise, Cairns

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Spend a day on the Great Barrier Reef at two different snorkel and dive sites on this luxury catamaran cruise from Cairns. Travel in style aboard a fast, comfortable catamaran to the outer edge Upolu Reef. Take an Adventure Snorkel & Glass Bottom Boat Tour through the highly protected no-fishing zone sites in the Marine Park. Refuel with a buffet lunch on board the catamaran before heading to your next destination, Upolu Cay reef. Enjoy the shallow azure blue waters surrounding this natural Coral Cay with both snorkeling or diving on offer. Be mesmerised by coral teeming with colourful fish.
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  • 9 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$155.13
From
$155.13

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling and Diving Cruise from Cairns

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If snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, don’t miss this day trip from Cairns. The 35-metre superyacht, Evolution, departs Cairns with a record 5 hours spent exploring 2 spectacular and exclusive outer Great Barrier Reef locations for an adventure-filled day! You’ll visit 2 different locations on the barrier reef for the chance to see tropical marine life in the clear waters. Lunch is included onboard the boat, and you have the option to upgrade to include additional adventures such as introductory or certified scuba diving or a helicopter flight over this UNESCO World Heritage site. Both water sports enthusiasts and novices are welcome. Includes instruction and equipment provided by friendly and professional instructors.
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  • 8 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$119.89
From
$119.89

Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

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Journey to the rain forest village of Kuranda via two unique transit options on this memorable full-day tour from Cairns or Port Douglas. Skip the line and enjoy Gold Class service aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway, winding through lush mountain passes and waterfall gorges along the way. In the opposite direction, glide above the treetops in a gondola and soak up spectacular views of the mountains and coastline on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. In Kuranda, enjoy leisure time to explore the heritage markets, learn about aboriginal culture or interact with native wildlife.
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  • 8 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$165.70
From
$165.70

Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip from Cairns
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Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip from Cairns

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Explore the lush beauty, amazing wildlife and rich heritage of Tropical North Queensland on this customizable full-day trip to Kuranda from Cairns. Travel to this enchanting rain forest village aboard the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway, and choose from a variety of activities including visits to the Tjupakai Aboriginal Cultural Park and Rainforestation Nature Park. Hang out with koalas and exotic birds, browse local markets and opt to include a delicious buffet lunch. At the end of the day, glide through the treetops back to Cairns on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$125.94
From
$125.94

Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour
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Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour

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First time in Cairns? Discover the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north on this 5.5-hour sightseeing tour. Visit city attractions like the Flecker Botanical Gardens and St Monica's Cathedral, and stroll along the scenic Cairns waterfront. Indulge in a delicious Devonshire afternoon tea (included) taking in the stunning views from the jetty at Palm Cove before taking a short hike through the Barron Gorge National Park. For the full experience, upgrade to include a 2-hour morning cruise to Green Island in the UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef marine park. This small-group tour is limited to 20 people.
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  • 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$64.07
From
$64.07

Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour

Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour

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Cairns is a tropical paradise. Make sure to make time to see the koalas at the Wildlife Dome and see the stunningly beautiful Esplanade Lagoon. Perfectly suited for discovery on foot, our self-guided audio tour allows you to set the pace and explore at your leisure as you uncover the stories of this exciting city. To discover this fascinating city in your own time and at your own pace just download this self-guided audio tour, pop in your headphones, open the map that comes with your download and start walking. On this tour you will learn about the history of the city from the Aboriginal people who first inhabited these lands to the gold rushes that saw European colonisation, the industries that emerged thereafter, and the impact of World War Two. The tour will take approximately two hours, but you can pause the audio guide when needed. Grab a bite to eat or do some shopping along the way. Please note that this tour is only available in English.
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  • 2 to 3 hours
From
$16.11
From
$16.11