Australia offers so much to see that its hard to pick just one or two areas to visit when looking at the map of this giant country. Since I’ve always had diving the Great Barrier Reef on my bucket list, Colton and I decided to head to Cairns first and foremost to cross that off the list. But Cairns and Queensland has so much more to offer besides the Reef! If you’re visiting Australia anytime soon, make sure you get a chance to do some of these while in town:
1. Dive Great Barrier Reef
2. Visit Daintree Rainforest
3. Get up close to the wallabies at Granite Gorge
4. Go fishing/Take a River Cruise
Dive the Great Barrier Reef
Most people’s only reason for visiting cairns on vacation is to be able to see the Great Barrier Reef. Although you can dive off of much of Australia’s eastern coast to see the reef, Cairns offers some of the best diving (and closest to shore). Snorkeling is also an option if you don’t want to dive or are pressed for time. To be honest, I think we were able to see more snorkeling than diving on our trip since most everything was 10 feet or less. Some of these boats have over 200 people onboard so I highly recommend booking a smaller group. We went on one that accommodated 80 guests and only about 50 were onboard so it wasn’t bad at all.
Visit Daintree Rainforest
There are a few ways to go about this, you can either rent a car and do a self driven tour (which I recommend) or you can pay a guide to do a private tour, or do a group tour. These run at a hundred dollars or so, while if you drive yourself you only pay a small entrance fee to get your car across the water on the ferry. Driving yourself was great for us as we made a lot of stops and wanted to fly our drone in different places. I’m going to do a separate post on what to visit when driving through the rainforest and you can find it linked here once it’s posted.
Before our trip to Australia all I knew was that I wanted to see a kangaroo in person. Unfortunately, the bigger kangaroos tend to live more central to Australia (in the outback) and like to come out at dawn or dusk more so than the middle of the day, so spotting a big kangaroo in Cairns is pretty much impossible. You will however see plenty of wallabies everywhere. You might not know it, but there are over 30 species in the kangaroo (marsupial) family, big and small. The ones at granite gorge are known as rock wallabies and are on the small side, but still fun to go visit!
Granite Gorge doesn’t cost anything to visit, it’s a free nature park that offers a few hiking trails and also overnight camping if you want to. Their most popular attraction though are the small wallabies that come out to eat from tourists hands. These little guys are definitely cute, but they can get super aggressive when they have food out in front of them! Especially at dusk or dawn when they eat the most. You don’t really have to worry about them biting you, but their long nails may leave you with a few scratches as they try and reach for your food.
Go fishing/Take a River Cruise
Getting out on the water is the perfect way to see even more wildlife Australia has to offer. If you haven’t seen a crocodile before you have to take a river cruise or go on a fishing trip while here. We opted for a private fishing trip with a local who took us out in his boat through the river. We caught tarpon, mangrove snapper, and almost got a few barramundi.
While fishing we also saw a ton of crocs, and a few kangaroos on the river bank. Because we went on a private fishing trip we were able to do more of what we wanted (fish) but still get the scenic tour of one of Cairns’ river systems and wildlife.
Another great option if weather permits is to do an offshore fishing trip. Cairns has some of the best black marlin fishing in the world amongst other great sports fishing. If fishing isn’t your thing, taking a group river tour in the Daintree rainforest may be a better bet for you. You’ll see plenty of wildlife but won’t get as hands on with it. Last but not least, don’t forget to stop by downtown and grab a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants. We recommend the Prawn Star at the marina! Great seafood and cheap beer!
Hopefully this list gives you an idea of what you want to do when visiting the Northeast coast of Australia. Cairns has a super cute downtown area as well, so make sure to stop by and walk around while you’re in town. The aquarium is supposed to be amazing too, we just didn’t have enough time to visit it.