Cairns Day Trips

On this page you have some ideas for Cairns day trips.

Cairns may have only one museum and only so many attractions in the town, but there are a lot of things to do outside the town, which you can do on a day trip.

You can take day trips to the Great Barrier Reef, to the rainforest village Kuranda, to Port Douglas, to Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation in Daintree National Park, to Atherton Tablelands, and to outback towns such as Dimbulah and Chillagoe.

On top of that there are many activities and adventures that can be done on a day trip.

Northern Day Trips

cairns day trip

Cairns Northern Beaches
The shortest and easiest day trips are those to Cairns Northern Beaches. 
You can even catch a city bus. They are small communities with sandy beaches,
picnic areas, and little shops. 
Palm Cove and Trinity Beach are more upmarket, Holloways and Machans are most laid-back.

port douglas

Port Douglas
Port Douglas is a touristy town with some expensive accommodation, great restaurants and bars, trendy shops and a nice marina, and the beautiful Four Mile Beach. 
If you can, make it a Sunday when there are the famous and colourful Port Douglas Sunday Markets.

mossman gorge

Mossman and Mossman Gorge
Mossman is a sugar cane town just north-west of Port Douglas. Although still more like a country town, it is starting to get commercialised looks and a few trendy shops. Particularly with the new Mossman Gorge (still beautiful) centre and the way they market it, the town will sooner or later be another Port Douglas.

cape tribulation

Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is the coast between Daintree River and Kulki (the actual cape) in the northernmost section of Daintree National Park. There is a lovely beach, dense tropical rainforests and some nice boardwalks. It is nice even though it is touristy and the weather is often rainy.

Trips On the Water

cairns islands

Islands off Cairns
There are some great islands that you can visit either on day trips or on a longer stay. The closest ones are Fitzroy and Green Island although some trips also go to Low Isles off the coast of Port Douglas.
Lizard Island is much further north, off the coast of Cape Melville in Cape York.

cairns great barrier reef

Great Barrier Reef
It is very popular to take a trip from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef. And it's a good idea too. Because the reef is closest to the mainland up here, the trip to the reef is both quick and reasonably cheap. The trips from Cairns and Port Douglas are the best value in Australia. It's a great day out!

Trips to the Inland

kuranda queensland

Kuranda Village

Kuranda is
one of the most popular of all Cairns day trips. It is a small rainforest village north-west of Cairns on the Great Dividing Range.
It is most famous for its markets, but it also has some great bird and butterfly parks, a venomous animals park, and some fantastic tropical rainforest around it
to discover.

kuranda scenic railway

Scenic Train and Skyrail

To get to Kuranda, you can either drive there, or you can do the classic tourist thing, catching the old scenic Kuranda Train one way, and Skyrail the other.
It makes a great day trip and is well worth it if you want to see the beautiful Barron Falls and Barron Gorge National Park.


Tjapukai Cultural Park
In Cairns end of the skyrail trip is also the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park - a great experience if you are from overseas and want to learn about Aboriginal culture. There are both day and night tours, and you can learn how to throw a boomerang, and enjoy a big a smorgasbord dinner.


Chillagoe is a little outback town only 150ish km inland from Cairns.
There are other cute little outback spots on that road like Dimbulah, Mutchilba, Petford,
Lappa and Almaden, but Chillagoe is the last one you likely manage on a day trip.
Behind it is Burke Developmental Road to Normanton and Karumba.

atherton tablelands

Atherton Tablelands
South of Mareeba (a town between Kuranda and Chillagoe) is Atherton Tablelands - a beautiful area well worth a drive. It is cooler than the coast and there are some beautiful towns, lakes and rainforests that make some great Cairns day trips. You better make a few, it's a little much to do the whole Tablelands in one day if you want to do it properly.

Atherton Tablelands

Your closest way in is to drive west from Gordonvale - a small town just south of Cairns.

gillies range

After passing small communities like Little Mulgrave you will be crossing the Gillies Range - similar to Kuranda range except it's woodland - not rainforest.

gillies range lookout

And like the Kuranda Range, there is a lookout point with some great views over the surrounding landscape.

Danbulla Forest Drive

After the range, you first pass the turnoff to Danbulla Forest Drive.

danbulla forest drive

There is another lookout,

danbulla forest drive lookout

... Lake Euramoo,

lake euramoo

... the Mobo Creek Crater walk,

mobo creek crater

... historical chimneys,

danbulla forest drive chimneys

... and the most famous - Cathedral Fig Tree.

cathedral fig tree cathedral fig tree

(being from Europe, my Mum was amazed).

Lake Tinaroo

Danbulla Forest Drive also goes around Lake Tinaroo.

lake tinaroo

It's very famous for freshwater barramundi fishing,

lake tinaroo fishing

... and is a great, and popular place for camping.

lake tinaroo camping

Tolga and Kairi

West of Lake Tinaroo are small towns Tolga and Kairi.


There is a wood gallery, a museum and a historical railway station.

rocky creek war memorial

And there is a Second World War Memorial Park at Rocky Creek - the whole Tablelands area was a busy war site with training camps.


South of Tolga and Kairi is Atherton - the largest town and administrative centre of the whole Tablelands area.

atherton town

There are the famous Crystal Caves,

atherton crystal caves

... a Chinese Museum,

atherton chinatown museum

... and Halloran Hill - with views over the seven hills that surround it.



South-east of Atherton is Yungaburra - a small town known for some good old Italian, Swiss and Austrian restaurants.


Just outside the town is the Tablelands' most famous and easiest accessible fig tree - the Curtain Fig.

curtain fig tree curtain fig tree

And a nearby creek is a good place to see platypus.


Crater Lakes

South of Yungaburra are the two crater lakes - Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham.

lake eacham

Around both are some rainforest walks - good places to look out for amethystine python - Australia's largest snake.

rainforest walks

And there is also a famous pair of huge kauri trees.

kauri trees


South of the lakes is Malanda - another nice small town.


Like many places on the Tablelands there are waterfalls,

malanda falls

... and a dairy factory turned to a museum and restaurant.

malanda dairy

But unlike most other places, the area around Malanda is a good place to try to spot wild tree kangaroos.

tree kangaroo

Millaa Millaa

South of Malanda is Millaa Millaa - a southern Tablelands town.

millaa millaa queensland

It is also known for dairy industry,

millaa millaa

... also previous timber industry,

millaa millaa timber

... but mostly for all the beautiful waterfalls that surround the town.

millaa millaa falls mungalli falls

You can go for a drive and visit them all on the so-called Waterfall Circuit.


West of Millaa Millaa is Ravenshoe - famously Queensland's highest town and consequently with a very cool climate.


Even here are some waterfalls,

ravenshoe waterfalls

... but more famously a large wind farm,

atherton tablelands

... a historical train station,

ravenshoe train station

... and some four wheel drive tracks in the surrounding hills.

ravenshoe 4wd

But more four wheel driving can be done if you go a bit further inland to Herberton and beyond.


Here, the rainfroest have been replaced by dry open woodland, and the area has a lot more outback feel.

herberton hotel

The old hotel, the Heritage Village,

herberton historical museum

... and the Mining Museum are all here thanks to the area's rich tin mining history.

herberton mining museum

The town is surrounded by some tracks and trails,


... most good for walking as well as four wheel driving.


And even better does it get if you go further inland,


... past the township of Irvinebank,

irvinebank museum

... south of Emuford,


... the area around Ord and Brownville,

irvinebank ord

... north of Mount Garnet,


... has some great four wheel drive tracks.

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