Do you want to do see some of the amazing things Cairns has to offer but also want to have the kids in bed by 7:00pm? Here are 12 of the best day trips to take from Cairns to the surrounding region.
1. Lake Eacham Crater Park
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr 10 min via Gillies Highway, 1hr 40 min via Kennedy Highway
Created by a volcanic explosion over 1200 years ago, this crater lake is an amazing and unique sight. The lake is filled with turtles, fish and surrounded by rainforest and wildlife. Take a dip in the crystal-clear blue waters and enjoy the free BBQ facilities.
Eacham is an astonishing 65 meters deep, but has a shallow swimming platform and pontoon great for kids to swim and play while supervised. Take a walk around the perimeter with the paved walking track provided, and view the turtles at the strategically placed viewing decks stationed around.
2. Babinda Boulders and Devil’s Pool
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr via Bruce Highway
Situated 65km south of Cairns, the Babinda Boulders are a is a sacred Aboriginal reserve that inhibits a large stream of flowing water and cascading waterfalls with huge boulders scattered throughout. Nestled into the rainforest, this destination is abundant with wildlife and clear waters to take a dip in.
Although beautiful, Devil’s Pool can be dangerous in the wet season, so stick to the viewing decks if you’re with children and only swim in the designated swimming spots. This is a great place for family walks and BBQ picnics due to its great scenery and easy walking tracks.
3. Kuranda Village
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr via Kennedy Highway
Known as the Village in the Rainforest, Kuranda is humming with wildlife, family friendly activities, waterfalls, lakes, tracks, great dining, markets and heaps of attractions. Located in the mountains just 25km from Cairns, this small community is a great splash of culture and history and a must-see for tourists and locals alike.
Take the SkyRail Cableway or the Kuranda Scenic Railway train there if you want the full experience, and make a day out of visiting the Barron Falls, The Butterfly Sanctuary, The Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld or the Honey House.
4. The Waterfall Circuit
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr 40min via Gillies Highway, 2hr via Kennedy Highway
Wish to see a number of completely different waterfalls in the same day? Then hit up the Waterfall Circuit near Atherton on the Tablelands.
Starting from Cairns, take the Gillies or Kennedy highway to your first stop at Millaa Millaa Falls where you’ll find an 18m plunge waterfall surrounded by thick rainforest. Next, continue 8km down the road to Zillie Falls, where you’ll find a viewing deck of the waterfall and picnic facilities, a great stop for lunch. then head another 2.5km down the road to Ellinjaa Falls which is a rocky, volcanic waterfall that inhabits turtles and platypuses, if you’re lucky to spot them. If you venture into the water, there is a ledge tucked behind the waterfall to sit and admire.
Now, you can choose to head home from here, or you can continue down the road visiting the lesser-known Mungalli Creek Falls, Nandroya Falls and Tchupalla Falls along the Palmerston Highway. If you’re up for a bit more adventuring – they are definitely worth the visit.
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr via Captain Cook Highway
Port Douglas is a hot spot for divine dining, great shopping and access to the Great Barrier Reef. Jump on the historic Bally Hooley Train, a local favorite to visit all the best sights around town, and if the children are old enough, take them to the renowned cane toad racing inside the Iron Bar. While you’re there, why not pay a visit to the gorgeous Four Mile Beach or take a walk along the Flagstaff Trail?
If you’re visiting on a Sunday, check out the Port Douglas Markets at Market Park (adjoining Anzac Park) anywhere between 8.00am and 2.00pm to get a great feeling of the relaxed Port Douglas vibe.
Also, don’t forget to visit Mossman Gorge on the way to or from Cairns, a nature park so old dinosaurs used to roam it. Port Douglas is renowned for its beautiful beaches, local markets and for being a luxury holiday destination, a great place to bring the family for a chilled-out family day in style.
6. Lake Morris
Distance from Cairns City: 50min via Lake Morris Rd
Lake Morris is the major water supply for Cairns, a fresh water reservoir dam located in Lamb Range. The drive there is truly stunning, leading you through the mountains giving you occasional views over Cairns City and Redlynch Valley. At the end of the road you’ll find the stunning Lake Morris (also known as Copperlode Dam) and although you can’t swim here, there are plenty of picnic tables, viewing points and a playground to explore. Informative signs are placed around the area explaining how the reservoir works, so you can even learn something while you’re up there.
If you’re up for a bigger adventure, you can hike up to Lake Morris, too – the trail starts at Crystal Cascades and takes you up the hill through the rainforest with stunning views along the way. The hike can be strenuous at certain parts and takes about 1.5-2 hours one way, so be sure you’re up for it before committing to the walk.
7. Green Island
Green Island Distance from Cairns City: 45 min via ferry
Green Island is a tiny but mighty 12 hectares of boardwalks, tourist shops and a great environmentally friendly resort. There is an amazing reef to explore as well as parasailing, helicopter tours, glass bottom boating and diving. Green is also home to Melanesia, the world’s largest crocodile in captivity for viewing.
8. Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island Distance from Cairns City: 45min via ferry
Fitzroy Island is 339 hectares with the Great Summit rainforest walk and a 5-star resort, beach front bar and restaurant. The reef here is slightly better the further you dive out however fish are abundant near the shores. The sea trampoline is situated just off the coral covered beach, great for children who are confident swimmers and a range of diving, snorkeling, boating activities are available.
9. The Curtain Fig Tree
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr 15 min via Gillies Highway
The Curtain Fig is a Cairns must-see. She is over 500 years old and hidden within lush rainforest, it’s hard to believe this giant beauty stemmed from a seed only millimeters in size. A wooden viewing deck wraps around the tree with information plaques that let you in on the history of the tree and how curtain figs are created. Located near Yungaburra in Danbulla, this natural landmark is great to stop in on after a day in Atherton viewing the lakes and waterfalls.
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr 25min via Kennedy Highway or Gillies Highway
Atherton is a rural town within the Tablelands Region, with plenty to do and see in the area.
While you’re there, a visit to The Crystal Caves is a must for all things bright and glistering. With 600 square meters of tunnels to explore at your leisure, you can get up close and touch the diverse range of ancient crystals and fossils at this interactive educational hub, and even crack open your own geode to keep.
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr 40min via Captain Cook Highway
Spanning a whopping 1200 square kilometers, the Daintree is a part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent, and it’s a must visit for all ages. It’s the only place in the world where two World-Heritage listed sites exist side by side – the Daintree National Park and The Great Barrier Reef.
The Daintree Discovery Centre features a stunning 23 metre Rainforest Canopy Tower, spectacular Aerial walkways and boardwalks along with rainforest reptiles and native fish displays. You can also opt to see the rainforest from a birds’ eye view by embarking on a Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour and glide through the forest on a zipline. There’s plenty more to do, including Wilderness Cruises and Horse Riding Tours at Cape Tribulation, Kite Surfing and Stand-Up Paddle Tours and Ocean Safaris in the most beautiful part of the world.
12. Paronella Park
Distance from Cairns City: 1hr 15min via Bruce Highway
Visit a historic castle built way back in the 1930’s and the enchanting rainforest surrounding it. Jose Paronella arrived in Australia from Catalonia in Spain, in 1913 – with the dream of building a castle for the enjoyment of the public, which became Paronella Park. Marvel at an incredible combination of over 7500 trees, ferns and plants Jose planted together with his wife Margarita. The park is also home to many animals including birds, butterflies and aquatic life, and a gorgeous waterfall cascades from underneath the suspended bridge into Mena Creek. It’s a must-visit for all ages.