Free Things to Do in Cairns

What are the other things to do in Cairns?

Apart from all the attractions, adventures and other activities that you can do in Cairns (and pay money for it), there are some things that are totally FREE :-)

Below is a list of activities that you can do without paying a cent! Go swimming, enjoy beaches and lakes, spend some time in the rainforest and get some exercise walking or jogging along the tracks that you did not know exist.

Fishing is also a great activity not only because you may end up with a free dinner, but it also gives you good chances to spot some wildlife like wild crocodiles.


Beaches and Lakes

swimming in cairns

Australian beaches are not good for swimming because of sharks and other dangerous creatures; and in Queensland you can add crocodiles and jellyfish to the list. 

While many Queensland beaches do have swimming areas, in Cairns we don't even have that. It's the Lagoon and it's nice too.

cairns fishing

Fishing in Cairns
Fishing is a national activity in Australia. Ideally, you'd take a dinghy to the Great Barrier Reef. 

If you haven't got a boat, you can fish off beaches. Jetties, river mouths and mangroves are good places, which is why Cairns northern beaches are popular.

lake placid cairns

Lake Placid
Another place popular with fishing, and swimming - is Lake Placid. It is in northwestern Cairns, in a suburb called Kamerunga. 

It is a great place to walk, enjoy the rainforest, have a picnic or cook a BBQ, fish for barramundi, swim without crocodiles, and watch for wildlife such as Lace Monitors.

cairns beaches walking

Northern Beaches Walks
Northern beaches are excellent places to walk and jog. You can walk from Palm Cove to Kewarra Beach, which is a very long walk. 

Holloways and Machans Beach are also connected. Trinity Beach and Yorkeys Knob are shorter and not connected to other beaches.

birdwatching cairns

Bird Watching
The good thing about muddy beaches is that birds love them. 

Pelicans, herons, ibises and spoonbills all flock on the mudflats off the Esplanade walking track during certain times and are easy to watch from a reasonable distance. Just bring your binoculars and camera.

Walking and Jogging

esplanade walking track

The Esplanade Walking Track
Cairns Esplanade has changed a lot during the last decade. Before the Lagoon came in 2004, there was not even a place to go and cool down in the water.
The new Activity Precinct is one of the best things to do in Cairns and an excellent place to get your daily exercise with ocean views. 

mount whitfield

Mount Whitfield Walks
If you are into views and exercise, some great things to do in Cairns are the two Mt Whitfield walks - the 1.5km Red Arrow, and the 6.6km Blue Arrow Walk up to Mount Whitfield.
Both start next to the Tanks Art Centre near Cairns Botanical Gardens on Collins Street. Great walks through rainforest.

cairns lakes

The Centenary Lakes Walks
Nearby, across the street from the entrance of Cairns Botanical Gardens on Collins Street, is one end of the track to the Freshwater and the Saltwater Lake, and through a park down to Greenslopes Street.
The walk first goes through an area of a beautiful thick mangrove swamps.

cairns mangrove walk

Mangrove Walk

More mangroves can be seen on the Mangrove Boardwalk off the Airport Avenue.
I have done many mangrove boardwalks but this one is the best one I have seen.
It's quite extensive and some of the roots are massive. Just bring insect repellent as mozzies can be quite bad.

cairns crystal cascades

Crystal Cascades and the Walk
In northwestern Cairns, near Redlynch, is another one of the great things to do in Cairns - Crystal Cascades - a lovely walk through some beautiful tropical rainforest along a creek with a lot of water cascades and a waterfall in the end. There are also picnic tables and two swimming spots, both in the beginning of the walk.


barron gorge cairns

Barron Gorge National Park Drive
Not far from Lake Placid in the northern suburb of Kamerunga is a nice drive alocng Barron Creek. In the end of the drive is the beautiful Barron Gorge with a lovely waterfall running down from the cliff, and a hydroelectric station.
White water rafting trips start here and take you to Lake Placid.

lake morris

Lake Morris Drive
This is another scenic drive, up along a mountain side, which starts on the Reservoir Road between Whitfield and Kanimbla. The drive is narrow and steep in parts, and has a few good lookouts.
In the end of the drive is Lake Morris with the Copperlode Dam that is Cairns water supply. Quite beautiful.

Centenary Lakes

Centenary Lakes is a nice place for a walk in Cairns.

It is in north Cairns, near Flecker Botanic Gardens, and it is a good alternative to the more popular Esplanade walking track, if you are after a walk.

Other than the area's northern end, it's not rainforest, it's a freshwater and a saltwater lake habitat.

Most locals enter the park from the southern end - Greenslopes Street, but this time I started from the north - just across the road from the main entrance to Flecker Botanic Gardens.

The walk to Centenary Lakes starts in Collins Street, from an observation platform.

centenary lakes

There is first a loop to Fitzalan Gardens and a Lily Pond, that goes past an interpretive centre and picnic tables.

centenary lakes lily pond

But the main walk is along the Rainforest Boardwalk to Centenary Lakes.

It goes through coastal lowland swamp rainforest - the vegetation that  covered much of the Cairns area before the city was built.

It is a self guided walk, which goes past marked plant species like Leichhardt tree, king fern, lacy tree fern, MacArthur palm, black palm, climbing fig, scrub breadfruit, Alexandra palm, potato vine, fan palm, wait a while vine, hairy fig, birds nest fern, native monstero, quandong, cotton tree, weeping tea tree, Queensland umbrella tree, weeping fig, golden Guinea tree, corky bark; a turnoff to a shortcut to Freshwater Lake, swamp pandanus, climbing swamp fern, mangrove fern, swamp lilly, and elephant ear, before you come out to the lakes - Freshwater Lake on your right, and Saltwater Lake on your left.

centenary lakes rainforest boardwalk

From that shortcut turnoff, Freshwater Lake self guided walk starts. There are species like swamp pandanus, cotton tree, hairy fig, swamp lilly, weeping tea tree, white water lilies, climbing swamp fern, umbrella tree, lotus lily, New Guinea Ru, weeping fig, saw palmetto, Queensland maple, West Indian royal palm, toddy palm, everglades palm, gebang palm, Florida royal palm, Australian arenga palm, mangrove palm, coconut palm, serdang palm, fan palm, scrub turpentine, Fiji fan palm, golden cane palm, foxtail palm, cabbage palm, golden Guinea tree, spiny headed mat rush, screw pine and different mangrove species.

centenary lakes freshwater lake

At the walk's end you come to Saltwater Creek and continue walking north along the creek. Further north you have different options such as turning left to return to Fleckers Botanic Gardens, continue north to Collins Street and Tanks Art Centre, or turn right, cross the creek over a bridge, and continue south past Saltwater Lake. There is a shelter, picnic tables, and a section with tropical food plants.

centenary lakes saltwater lake

The Centenary Lakes park was created in the 1970s as part of the celebration of Cairns Centenary in 1975. In 2007, the park was added to Flecker Botanic Gardens.

Fishing in Cairns

So where is there good fishing in Cairns?

Locals fish right at the Esplanade at the high tide - mostly the northern end.

The mangrove areas around the Airport and in the Trinity Inlet are also good for fishing.

Northern Beaches are good, particularly close to river mouths.

Fishing from river mouths and beaches you can catch barramundi, mangrove jack, queenfish, fingermark, trevally - only to name a few.

fishing cairns barron river
Fishing, Barron River.

There is good fishing along the beaches and in the rivers both south and north of Cairns.

fishing yorkeys knob
Fishing, Yorkeys Knob.

Inland, on the Atherton Tablelands, Lake Tinaroo is known for freshwater barra.

fishing lake tinaroo
Camping at Lake Tinaroo.

As you may know there are fishing rules - closed seasons, size limits and take and possession limits are all in the full detail in the Destination Guide. 

fishing cairns queensland
Fishing, Trinity Beach.

If you have a boat or hire one, you can go out to the reef where there is excellent fishing.

cairns boat hire
Cairns boat hire.

There is a boat hire place at A Finger in Cairns Marina. In the reef you can catch coral trout, red emperor, trevally, spangled emperor and other yummy reef fish.

cairns fishing tours
Fishing charters in Cairns.

You can always take fishing trips with tour operators who take you out to the coral reef with a fishing boat. Most of them depart from Cairns Marina, many from B finger.

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