Lifestyle & Leisure

Weekend Trip to Cairns: Great Barrier Reef and More

You can easily spend your entire weekend trip to Cairns exploring the Great Barrier Reef, but there are so many other fascinating things to see and do too. Plan your weekend to include time at the reef and then head off to explore this amazing city. 

Located in the far northern part of Queensland, Cairns is a hotspot for tourists from around the world so things can get rather crowded. Leave your large bags and backpacks with a luggage storage service while you are out and about. 

Even though you are only in Cairns for a few short days, find the time to visit as much as you can, including the Daintree Rainforest and Cairns Botanic Gardens. Take a ride on the iconic Kuranda Scenic Railway. 

Great Barrier Reef

Spend time exploring the largest coral reef system in the world at the Great Barrier Reef. With 900 different islands and over 2,900 reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is truly a sight to see in the Coral Sea. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Since you are only in Cairns for the weekend, you cannot spend as much time at the Great Barrier Reef as you would probably like but you will definitely want to stay for a few hours swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. 

View this colorful phenomenon from the underwater observatory and snap some social media-worthy photos to share with friends and family. 

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Take a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway that runs from Cairns to Kuranda over the Great Dividing Range. The railway passes right through beautiful forests and amazing mountains.

The original railroad was constructed over 120 years ago and was used as a commuter railroad. Today it is mainly used for tourists to see more of the countryside and the Atherton Tablelands, where Kuranda is located. 

The train ride is just under two hours one way and you can even sign up for a train tour that leaves from Cairns and goes to Kuranda and then back to Cairns. 

Daintree Rainforest

Spend a few hours just north of Cairns in the Daintree Rainforest, a portion of the biggest continuous rainforest in Australia. You will not have enough time to fully explore Daintree, but you will get to enjoy some of the most amazing scenery.

The largest population of butterfly and bat species can be found in the Daintree Rainforest. Bring your camera and snap photos of some of these species while you walk along the trails. Waterfalls can be found throughout and you will love it here. 

You can even sign up for tours where a guide will take you through the Daintree Rainforest. There are half-day and full-day tours available, Since you are only here for the weekend, you may want to check out the half-day tour. 

Cairns Botanical Gardens

A must-see when spending the weekend in Cairns is the Cairns Botanical Gardens. Wander through on your own with an audio tour guide or sign up for a group tour. There is a Segway tour that lasts about an hour and a half that is great fun. 

Best known for its tropical plants native to Australia, the botanical gardens are expertly laid out and separated into different zones overflowing with colorful explosions of tropical flora. Native animals also call the gardens home and are easy to spot. 

Crystal Cascades

You have to make a short trip to Redlynch to see one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Queensland. Crystal Cascades is located on Freshwater Creek and offers fantastic swimming in the heart of a rainforest. 

It is actually several waterfalls that flow into large pools of crystal, clear water. Bring a picnic and spend a few hours relaxing at Crystal Cascades. This amazing little slice of paradise is the perfect spot to unwind. 

Green Island

Located just offshore from Cairns, Green Island is a small island where tourists love to spend time learning more about the Great Barrier Reef, shopping for souvenirs, or relaxing at the café. It is a part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

The sandy white beaches, crystal clear waters, and lush rainforest make Green Island perfect for relaxing and soaking up the Australian sun. Stay at the Green Island Resort or hop on a cruise that will bring you to the Island for a visit. 

Palm Cove

Vibrant palm trees line the beach in Palm Cove, a delightful village that sits on the sea. Spend time relaxing on one of the best beaches near Cairns or do a little scuba diving, kayaking, or snorkeling. 

There is even a 9-hole golf course for anyone who wants to try their hand at a round of golf. Browse through the quaint shops or spend an hour or two at one of the spas. Then enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the amazing restaurants in Palm Cove. 

Atherton Tablelands

Take a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway to the Atherton Tablelands for a few hours of exploring. This highland region is only about 30 minutes from Cairns and is a favorite spot among the locals. 

There are several small towns and villages in the Atherton Tablelands, including Kuranda, where you can find adorable restaurants and cafes as well as small shops. Stop by the Coffee Works boutique and roaster for a fragrant cup of coffee.

You can also tour the Hou Wang Miau Chinese Temple, the Lake Barrine Tea House, and the Tyrconnell Historic Goldmine. Take a tour of the Gallo Dairyland, a working dairy farm that is truly fascinating to see. 

There is so much to see and do in and around Cairns besides the Great Barrier Reef. Your weekend trip to Cairns will be jam-packed with a mix of sightseeing, exploring nature, and lounging on pristine beaches. 

You will be able to recharge your batteries even while packing in so many interesting and fun activities while you are in Cairns. The atmosphere and culture are more laid back than most cities and you will find yourself slowing down and soaking up the sun.