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Visiting Cairns and the Tropical North for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting Cairns and the Tropical North for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

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Hi, I'm Karen!

Karen is a Scottish freelance travel and culture writer based in the US. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC, and Condé Nast Traveler.

see more

From exploring the rain forest and reef to checking out the resort town’s attractions, there’s a lot to do in Cairns and the Tropical North. On your first visit, you’ll want to cram in as many must-dos as possible. Here are our top tips for first-timers in the region.

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

A Cairns must.

Experience the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef on a snorkeling cruise from Cairns. Tours typically visit at least two different reef locations for the chance to see a variety of tropical marine life. Certified scuba divers should look for a tour that offers an upgrade to include diving. 

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You can't miss the Great Barrier Reef on your first trip to Cairns. Photo: Andrew Watson / Viator

Take a sightseeing tour

Explore the highlights.

Get your bearings and check off the city’s most important landmarks on a sightseeing tour. Visit city attractions such as the Cairns Botanical Gardens and St. Monica's Cathedral, home to the world's largest peace-themed stained-glass window, and stroll along the scenic Cairns waterfront.

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Visit the rain forest

Explore the region's diversity.

Easy to reach on a day trip from Cairns, Daintree National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit for getting a glimpse of the exceptional biodiversity of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. 

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There are plenty of animals to admire in the Daintree National Park. Photo: Andrew Watson / Viator

Experience Aboriginal culture

Learn more about the region's indigenous peoples.

Cultural dinner shows at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tell the story of creation through colorful dance performances and boomerang- and spear-throwing demonstrations. 

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Soar through the sky

For a new perspective.

Worried that you won’t have time to squeeze in the many attractions on offer? Put the whole region in perspective with a helicopter flight that takes you over the Great Barrier Reef, the northern beaches, Barron Gorge National Park, and the rain forest.

More aerial options

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See all Cairns & the Tropical North tours
209 tours & tickets
Things to do in Cairns & the Tropical North
See all things to do in Cairns & the Tropical North
Cairns Neighborhood Guide
5 Must-See Cairns Neighborhoods and How to Visit