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11 Amazing Things to Do in Cairns, Australia (Reef & Beyond)

Aerial view of the boat on the reef

I had it in my head that I wouldn’t like Cairns, Australia. I’m not sure why, but I was wrong.

As one of Australia’s biggest tourist towns, Cairns is vibrant with plenty of restaurants and cafes to keep me happy.

Not to mention, thanks to its Tropical North Queensland location, the weather in Cairns is amazing. You can walk around at night and have plenty to see and do, and the days are filled with an enormous number of choices from snorkeling tours to hiking in the surrounding national parks.

Credit: Tourism & Events Qld

I quickly discovered that Cairns is more than just a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also the gateway to the Atherton Tablelands and the nearby Daintree Rainforest. For nature lovers, the city is not too bad to use as a base for hiking adventures.

We were blown away by the number of things to do in Cairns. So to help you plan your trip to Cairns, here’s a list of the best attractions in Cairns, plus a few hidden gems.

Things to do in Cairns, Australia

So without further ado, here are the top things to do in Cairns. Whether you want to explore the Great Barrier Reef, relax and chill, or learn about the local history and culture, these Cairns attractions are for you.

1. Swim at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

people on the sand at Cairns Lagoon

Definitely, a favourite feature of the Tropical North Queensland towns is their man-made pools by the beach.

Just in case you didn’t know, the cruelty of the Aussie north is you get stinking hot summers, but you can’t swim from the beaches, they’re full of stingers – jellyfish that can seriously harm you, even kill you.

There are also a few crocs around too. Sadly, Australia is full of deadly creatures, but fortunately, you can avoid them easily.

The main beach in Cairns is also more of a mud flat, and not that nice anyway.

Not to fear, the man-made Cairns lagoon gives you exactly what you need.

Crystal clear waters, beach views, and life guards. The Cairns Esplanade lagoon is a cool place to laze around, read your book, and meet other travelers.

2. Visit Rusty’s Farmer’s Market

fruit and vegetable stalls at Rusty's Farmers Market
Rusty’s Farmers Market

OMG. I would be hanging out at Rusty’s Markets every week if I lived in Cairns.

I think it’s the cheapest farmers’ market I’ve visited in Australia so far. 50 cent avocados, hello! Get here on a Sunday at around 2pm just before it shuts, there’s slash-down prices galore.

You might want to check with the Woolworths supermarket too, on a day we were in there they had a trolley full of fruit…

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