When I think of Australia, I think of sun, sand, sparkling white sand beaches, surf, coral reefs, stunning fish and marine life and pristine nature, so naturally, as I scan the guidebooks of Queensland's east coast, my eyes fall on Cairns, Australia. Located about 1,400 km north of Brisbane, this tourist destination has it all. From the rainforest to the Great Barrier Reef where you can go diving, snorkelling, laze in the sun, play golf, go trekking and even white-water rafting. Cairns' tourist attractions top many visitors' lists of things to do when visiting Australia. Most all activities can be arranged upon arrival in Cairns at one of the local hotels or tour operators in town.
Snorkelling and Diving the Great Barrier Reef
The first thing on my list of priorities is the Great Barrier Reef. The photographs of snorkelers in crystal clear water, swimming along with fishes and sea turtles have fascinated me since I was young. There are so many options to choose from, Cairns day-trips to the reef are plentiful, going to hotspots like Green Island, Michaelmas Cay, and the outer reef through Port Douglas. These trips usually offer lunch and drinks, with various options to snorkel, scuba dive, take a glass-bottom boat tour, or just lounge on the brilliant white sandy beaches of the reef islands. For me, the lure of the reef is too much, and at the first opportunity, I don my mask and snorkel and jump in, searching for bright colour fishes, sea turtles, giant oysters, little reef sharks and the friendly Maori wrasse. There are also numerous over-night trips that take visitors to less-frequented outer-reef destinations where the coral reef is pristine, the fish are larger and even more plentiful and perfect for scuba diving.
Cairns Nightlife and Reef Casino
After a day of snorkelling the reef, I settle back to enjoy the evening and search out the Cairns nightlife hotspots. The city boasts numerous restaurants and bars, many located around the central Esplanade. The Reef Casino is a Cairns tourist and local favourite, and provides plenty of entertainment, as well as drinks, food and dancing. Pub crawls are another popular outing, especially for those visiting Cairns, Australia, and are organized by many tour operators and backpacking hostels around the city.
Tropical Rainforest on the Skyway Rainforest Cableway and Daintree National Park
My next Cairns tourist attraction is a trip to the rainforest. I head off to the Skyway Rainforest Cableway, an eco-tourism experience that allows you to glide over top of 7.5 km of the region's tropical rainforest in a gondola, just metres above the canopy. With two mid-stations, I decide to hop off at Barron Falls Station and explore the rainforest on foot, checking out the astounding waterfalls and exploring the visual and interactive displays at the Rainforest Interpretation Centre. Another exciting rainforest day-trip from Cairns takes you to Daintree National Park and World Heritage site, the largest rainforest in Australia and home to a diverse and rare selection of flora and fauna.
Atherton Tablelands What an Adventure
From Cairns, there are so may day-trip options, it is difficult to decide where to go next. I decide on a trip to the Atherton Tablelands, where I take in the awe-inspiring scenery of the crater-lakes, thundering waterfalls, and the castle ruins at Paronella Park. A trip into the outback is also a fascinating way to spend the day, and day tours are offered to Undara Volcanic National Park and the famous Lava Tubes, a geologic wonder dating back almost 200,000 years. Cairns' tourist attractions are unparalleled, and the countless tour operators ensure you can find a great deal on these and other Australian adventures.
Cairns Lagoon, Reef Casino and Cairns Wildlife Dome
By day four of my trip to Cairns, all I want to do is soak in the sun and lounge by the water. I head out the city's salt-water lagoon. Located on the promenade by the water in downtown Cairns, the lagoon is a favourite destination for relaxing tourists and locals alike. There are free outdoor barbeques available for use along the Cairns promenade as well, and the boardwalk can be walked or biked, providing views of the water and downtown Cairns. While spending the day in town, tourists can check out an array of local attractions. In the afternoon, I check out the Cairns Wildlife Dome, located on top of the Reef Casino. The 20-metre glass enclosure provides a unique wildlife experience right in the heart of downtown Cairns. I roam through this rainforest environment, and revel at the opportunity to view the large assortment of Australian birds, mammals, and reptiles often difficult to see in the wild.
Cairns Esplanade Time for some Shopping
As my trip in Cairns comes to an end, I remember that I had better not be thinking of going home empty handed. The Cairns night market on the Esplanade offers an array of souvenirs, from clothing and games to roo-skin paraphernalia. I pick up some Australian flag beer cosies and a souvenir didgeridoo. There is also a Saturday market at the Cairns Esplanade lagoon, offering all sorts of souvenirs and local artistry. As my last night in Cairns draws to an end, I begin thinking about all the things I am going to do on my next visit to Cairns, Australia. Cairns tourist attractions are never-ending, and no matter how much you manage to pack in, whether it's a weekend jaunt or a week-long vacation, there's no doubt you'll leave wanting more.
Hire Campervan in Cairns to Explore the Coast, Northern Tropics or Outback
Since I am not ready to head home, I decide to hire a campervan in Cairns and do some more exploring on my own for a few days. These economical rental campervans are easy to drive and perfect for cruising up north, to the outback or south towards Brisbane. I opt for the Cairns to Brisbane route since I have not had enough snorkelling and diving the Great Barrier Reef. Deciding on a campervan rental as opposed to a regular car was easy and ideal so I can stop when I want, camp along the way, and explore the beautiful sparkling beaches. However, the best part is I can pick up this hire campervan in Cairns and drop it off at the Brisbane campervan rental depot before catching a flight home. Read my other articles if you want to know more about the fabulous road trip journeys by campervan between Cairns and Brisbane and Brisbane to Sydney.
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