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It’s the time of year that families eagerly await the arrival of the most anticipated event of the year – the Cairns Festival. This celebration of arts, culture, and community brings together locals and tourists alike, promising a captivating experience for families. With a plethora of activities and entertainment lined up, let us share with you the best things to expect for families during this enchanting countdown to the Cairns Festival. 


Event: City Lights

Date: Friday 25th August-Sunday 3rd of September 

Time: 7am-11pm daily  

Where: Cairns City Library, 151 Abbott St 

Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of City Lights as the Cairns City Library collaborates with the renowned local artist, Roland Nancarrow. With a portfolio encompassing sculpture and painting, Roland’s works beautifully capture his unwavering passion for the tropics, showcasing the allure of tropical birds and plant life. 

Get ready for a mesmerising sensory adventure as Roland’s captivating artwork comes alive through intricate projections, creating a breathtaking fusion of visuals and sounds. Prepare to be spellbound by this unforgettable extravaganza of light and creativity, where art and illumination intertwine to create an experience like no other.  

Event: Reef Lights

Date: Friday 25th August-Sunday 3rd of September

Time: 6:30pm (nightly)

Where: Esplanade Lagoon

Reef Lights returns to Cairns Esplanade for Cairns Festival 2023! This awe-inspiring sensory light experience celebrates the interconnection of the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest. Guests are immersed in vibrant colours, captivating lasers, and enchanting soundscapes, making a dramatic statement about Cairns’ unique culture and connection to these natural wonders. Don’t miss this extraordinary journey of light and creativity


Event: Spectacular Grand Parade

Date: Saturday the 26th of August

Time: 5.30-8:00pm

Where: Cairns Esplanade

The first weekend of the Cairns Festival kicks off in grand style with a dazzling opening parade that winds its way down the Esplanade at 5.30pm. Imagine the excitement in your children’s eyes as they witness captivating floats, colorful costumes, and a myriad of performers from diverse cultural backgrounds. The festive atmosphere will leave everyone enthralled and set the tone for the days of celebration ahead. Attracting thousands of visitors and locals, the Grand Parade has long been the opening highlight of the Cairns Festival and is a true community event in the finest of Tropical North Queensland traditions.  

Dress in your best glitzy, glittered attire with enough sequins and sparkle to be seen from the skies and join in on the Grand Parade festivities and then watch the sky sparkle with spectacular fireworks at 7:30pm.  

Keep an eye out for the Roving Puppetry. these brightly coloured, bendy-necked, leg- balancing creatures are officially recognised as nature’s most ridiculous thing. 

Flamingos is a ludicrous new roving performance from Dead Puppet Society, featuring a flamboyance of full-sized flamingos. Visible from a mile away, this obnoxious hot pink flock moves through public space, leaving a trail of bemusement and wonder in its wake.  

Event: Light Moves by Bonemap

Date: Tuesday the 29th of August

Time: Session 1: 6:30pm – 7:15pm, Session 2: 7:30pm – 8:15pm, Session 3: 8:30pm – 9:15pm

Where: Lake Placid

Journey along the bank of the Barron River for an intimate encounter with the living spirit of this Bama story place. Light Moves is a world of performance, colour, storytelling and projection art reflected across the calm waters and rainforest gorge of Lake Placid. The lake is a Djabugay storywater place. The narrative of this place is told through an animation of creation motifs, specific to the location represented through artwork by Yirrganydji/Djabugay artist Bernard Lee Singleton Jr. Audiences will enjoy the stunning natural ambience of Lake Placid while experiencing its transformation through Light Moves.


Event: A variety of different performers including the Boy Of Many Colours, Eliza and the Delusionals, The Jungle Giants, Jelly Oshen & Phat Love.
The Esplanade Main Stage is FREE! Bring the whole family down for hours of entertainment 

Date: See full performance schedule here 

Where: Main Stage at the Western Events Lawn,  Festival HQ Stage at Court House Gallery & Munro Martin Parklands

See world-class musical performances right here in Cairns, tickets are required for some performers, so don’t miss out! BOOK HERE

Event: Symphony of Emotion: Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Barton Meets Tchaikovsky:

Date:Sunday 3rd September

Time: 6pm 

Where: CPAC Theatre  

The Cairns Festival is enriched by the majestic performances of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Under the guidance of Chief Conductor Umberto Clerici, the orchestra showcases a program that includes Peter Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry, beautifully capturing the Australian landscape with the virtuosic performance of William Barton on the didgeridoo. The concert also features Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5, a masterpiece that showcases the full power and emotion of the orchestra. Audiences are treated to a symphony of emotions, connecting deeply with the music and the talent of these exceptional musicians.


Event: Carnival on Collins, A Father’s Day Tradition:

Date: Sunday 3rd of September

Date: 9.00am-3.00pm  

One of the most cherished traditions of the Cairns Festival is the Carnival on Collins, a lively street party that coincides with Father’s Day. Set amidst the Tanks Arts Centre Promenade, Cairns Botanical Gardens, and the Community Gardens on Greenslopes St, this free event celebrates the vibrant tropical lifestyle of Cairns. Families gather to revel in the festivities, enjoying community markets, street performances, and a joyous ambiance that is nothing short of contagious. Carnival on Collins is not only a celebration of art and culture but also a heartwarming tribute to the bond between fathers and their loved ones.

As the Cairns Festival countdown draws nearer, your family can look forward to an unforgettable experience filled with arts, culture, and entertainment in the breathtaking tropical paradise of Cairns. From the lively opening parade with the spectacular fireworks extravaganza, the Cairns Festival offers something for everyone, ensuring that both children and adults will have a fantastic time. So mark your calendars, gather your loved ones, and immerse yourself in the magic of the Cairns Festival – a celebration that brings people together and creates lifelong memories.