Cairns is a small city in the north of Queensland, Australia, and is the gateway to one of Australia’s most famous national treasures, the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is the largest in the world and stretches 2,600 kilometers along the coastline of Queensland. There are thousands of secluded islands and smaller reefs to explore, making the Barrier Reef a stunning destination in its own right.
Aside from the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns boasts a myriad of attractions that will keep visitors occupied for weeks. Cairns’ laid-back atmosphere also makes it a great place to simply sit back and unwind for a few days. If you’re visiting Cairns, check out my top-10 things to do and see:
Explore the Great Barrier Reef – arguably the main reason people visit Cairns. Visitors can choose from a huge range of diving and/or snorkelling trips and leisure cruises that can last a day or even weeks!
Fly over the Great Barrier Reef – claims have been made that the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space. I’m sure the view is impressive from up there but a great way (and one that’s a more accessible option for most of us) to truly appreciate the innumerable colours of the reefs is to go on a flight over the reefs. This will be a flight you’ll not easily forget!
Head for the beaches – Cairns is home to magnificent stretches of glistening white sand against a backdrop of tropical foliage. Whether you’re looking for a secluded spot, stunning resorts or an exclusive spa, there’s a beach for everyone.
Kuranda Scenic Railway and Rainforest Skyrail – this is another of Cairns’ must-sees. The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a historic train that takes visitors across the lush rainforests of the World Heritage listed Barron Gorge National Park. The Rainforest Skyrail glides silently over the rainforest canopy, providing visitors with unique views of the rainforest from above.
Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas – the Daintree National Park is probably the only place on the planet where two separate World Heritage sites sit alongside each other (the Daintree Forest and the Great Barrier Reef). This 150 million year-old forest straddles Cape Tribulation and is home to a large variety of Australian flora and fauna. Trekking through the forest is a fascinating experience while the views of the Coral Sea are stupendous. Visitors can also opt to stop by the lovely coastal town of Port Douglas (between Cairns and Cape Tribulation) for a few days to indulge in some great cuisine, a few rounds of golf or laze on Four Mile Beach. In November 2012, Port Douglas will be the premier spot to watch the total solar eclipse.
Lounge at the Cairns lagoon – this is a great way to join the locals for some fun in the water! The Cairns Lagoon is located at the city’s esplanade and is a large park with grassy areas and shady spots with a massive saltwater lagoon in the middle. It’s a lovely place to sit back and people-watch, frolic in the cool water and mingle with the locals.
Sushi! – one of the first things visitors to Cairns will notice is the abundance of Japanese eateries. If you’re a sushi/sashimi fan, Cairns is the place to indulge yourself! The sushi is some of the best in the world and the fresh sashimi simply melts in your mouth!
Paronella Park – built by a Spanish immigrant in the 1930’s as an expression of his love to his wife Margarita, Paronella Park features castles, battlements, terraces and waterways amidst the verdant rainforest. The huge kauri trees are especially impressive. Today, the park is an enchanting place that’s constantly voted as one of Cairns best attractions.
Chillagoe Caves – these caves are hundreds of millions of years old and offer a fascinating glimpse into the geological history of northern Queensland. Located at the far side of the Atherton Tableland, about 220 kilometers west of Cairns, the caves are home to magnificent stalactites and stalagmites as well as Aboriginal rock art that is touted to be more than 30,000 years old.
Undara lava tubes – another fascinating geological attraction that’s located in Cairns’ hinterland, the Ungara lava tubes were formed almost 200,000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption. The tubes are about 100 kms long, making them the longest continuous lava flows in the world. It’s a surreal experience to walk through the massive reddish/orangy-coloured lava tubes. A trip to the Undara lava tubes can easily be combined with a visit to the Chillagoe caves.
Kuranda Scenic Railway - The Kuranda Scenic Railway goes over a bridge in Queensland
2012 eclipse - first contact - The start of the partial phases of the 2012 solar eclipse
2012 Solar Eclipse - partial stages of the eclipse recommence - Video of third contact and the bgeinning of the partial eclipse during the 2012 eclipse seen from Port Douglas
2012 Solar Eclipse totality seen from offshore of Port Douglas - Video of totality during the 2012 eclipse seen from Port Douglas in Queensland
The Gabba - Day one of the Australia / South Africa Test Match - Picture gallery from the first day of the Australia v South Africa Test Match
Chase eclipses - 5 reasons you must - Chasing eclipses and why it's is a must-do experience in a travellers life
Eclipse chasing - Essential total eclipse trip planning information from 2010 to 2019
Eclipse Websites - A selection of websites with information about total solar eclipses
Solar eclipses - occurances and types - A brief description of the types and occurences of different types of solar eclipse
Your next solar eclipse trip - what to know and do - What to know and do when planning your next solar eclipse trip
Keith Jenkins is a travel blogger based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He writes about his travels on the Velvet Escape blog while his travel photos are featured on The Happy Explorer photoblog. In addition to being a travel blogger, Keith offers social media consultancy and marketing services. He is also the co-founder of the Global Bloggers Network , a community that helps individual and corporate travel bloggers grow and monetize their blogs.