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How to Spend 1 Day in Cairns

How to Spend 1 Day in Cairns

The charming city of Cairns, with its islands, beaches, and access to the Great Barrier Reef—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is an essential stop on any Australian itinerary. Here’s how to spend one memorable day in the gateway to the tropical north.

Morning: Soar Over the Great Barrier Reef

Instead of sailing out to the Great Barrier Reef, admire it from above on a scenic flight, which offers time savings over boating and a better view. Fixed-wing airplanes usually feature all window seating for unobstructed views and excellent photo opportunities. Scenic flights typically take 30 to 60 minutes and fly over Green Island, Upolu Cay, Arlington Reef, Vlasoff Cay, and Michaelmas Cay as well as Cape Grafton, False Cape, Double Island, and the Northern Beaches of Cairns including Palm Cove. As you fly, your pilot provides insights on each sight.

Afternoon: Explore the City at Ground Level

Back on solid ground for the afternoon, embark on a half-day sightseeing tour of Cairns and its surroundings. Guided tours typically visit city attractions, such as Flecker Botanical Gardens and St. Monica's Cathedral, and include time for a short hike through Barron Gorge National Park. Some tours add on afternoon tea at a local cafe. Alternatively, zip around the city on a Segway Ninebot. You’ll see many of the same attractions as on typical sightseeing tours but at a faster pace. Independent-minded travelers, on the other hand, can elect to take a self-guided audio tour and explore at their own pace.

Night: Get Out on the Water for Sunset

Complete the trifecta of air, land, and water exploration with a sunset cruise along the scenic, mangrove-lined Trinity Inlet. Aboard a comfortable catamaran, you can relax and enjoy the cool breeze. As the setting sun lights up the sky, you get to soak up views of the city and its harbor, aided by the captain's commentary on places of interest. Sunset cruises typically included a drink and appetizers, and some offer the option of adding on dinner at a restaurant, typically a local seafood restaurant on the waterfront.

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3 Tours and Activities

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40-Minute Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns

40-Minute Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight from Cairns

star-5
104
Get a rounder perspective of the Great Barrier Reef by viewing it from the air on this scenic flight from Cairns. Soaring over the UNESCO-listed reef allows you to take in its colors and appreciate its vastness. Enjoy unobstructed photo opportunities from your window seat as you take in such sights as Green Island, Upolu Cay, Vlassof Cay, and Michaelmas Reef. Includes pickup and drop-off from your Cairns hotel.
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  • 40 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$158.85
From
$158.85

Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour

Cairns City Sights and Surrounds Tour

star-4.5
72
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
$63.96
From
$63.96

Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour

Cairns Self-Guided Audio Tour

star-2
1
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