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Guide to White Water Rafting Cairns

Couple sitting in the raft, paddling down the Barron River

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One of the best things about Cairns is that you are never short of things to do. You can dive into the Great Barrier Reef, laze around on a tropical island, go hiking or on bush walks, or simply kick back in the CBD and do some shopping.

But we’re a family that likes to keep things adventurous, so if you’re also someone who’s looking for some adrenalin-fueled attractions in Tropical North Queensland, then you might like white water rafting in Cairns.

Credit: Tourism & Events Qld

There are two main rivers in Cairns, The Tully and the Barron River. One is for adventurers, and the other is a bit more family-friendly.

Not sure which white water rafting experience is right for you? This guide will tell you about our experience white water rafting in Cairns and give you a little idea about what to expect.

Which is the Best River in Cairns for White Water Rafting?

There are two rivers that offer white water rafting and they both offer something different and unique, so there isn’t really a best river, per se.

Let’s take a closer look at each one to see which one might be best for you.

Barron River

Aerial view of Barron Falls
Barron Falls| Credit: Tourism & Events QLD

The Barron River is only a 20-minute car ride out of Cairns and so can be easily visited as a half-day trip. If you have a short time in Cairns, this is the river that will allow you to pack more into your itinerary.

The rapids are gentler than The Tully, though still strong enough for the thrill, making it a fantastic introduction to white water rafting for first timers. It’s suitable for beginners and families with children of a minimum age of 12. The rapid grade is 2-3, which is about in the middle of the scale.

Although it can be done as a half-day tour, you still get to spend a good two hours on the river.

Aerial view of a white water rafting along the Barron River
Credit: Tourism & Events Qld

As well as the exhilaration of adventure, the Barron River is also an area of outstanding natural beauty, with the stunning Atherton Tablelands in the distance, and the jungles surrounding Kuranda. And let’s not forget, the 260m high Barron Falls.

Barron Gorge is a narrow valley formed by waterfalls. While the area is stunning, the rapids can be quite strong in places and are even used to create electricity by the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station, so don’t be underestimated by these waters.

Tours for these rapids run all year…

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