Cairns in 5 days

Heading to Cairns? Not sure where to go or what to do? Keep reading..


Day 1 -

We always find the best way to start a trip is spending the first day checking out your surrounds. For this we recommend heading to the waterfront, there you will find the famous lagoon. Pack swimmers, towel, sunscreen and camera, you will want to capture some shots of this site.

After a swim, simply cross the road and take your pick of places for lunch. The best way to work off your lunch is shopping of course. There is one main shopping centre in Cairns and it's huge. You will find all your international brands there, as well as some smaller boutiques, but don't stop there. Every night, in Cairns city the night markets come alive. This is a must do. From street food to clothing to cheap goods. Check it out.


Day 2 -

It's time to hit the road and head North to Mossman Gorge. It's worth the drive going through Port Douglas and up to the lookout for a scenic view of the coast.

Once arriving at the Mossman Gorge centre, your best option is to pay for a bus ticket to take you to the start of the track. While the walk is doable the bus is so much easier and quicker.

Mossman is filled with boardwalks and dirt paths, all very easy going. Simply pop on your walking shoes and get ready to explore. It is very clearly signed so no chance of getting lost.

We really suggest bringing some good walking shoes and comfortable clothing and it can get hot and humid. We also suggest packing a picnic lunch and swimmers and stopping in at the swimming spot for a bit to eat and a quick dip as long as the swimming conditions are good.

Mossman takes a whole day. From the drive there, the walk and heading back to Cairns, especially if you drive via Port Douglas.


Day 3 -

After a full day of walking, the best thing you would want to do is snorkel of course! After all, you can't come to the Great Barrier Reef without heading out on the water right?

This one here gets tricky. There are so many amazing day or half day tours that suit your needs, you really need to do some research into what's best for yourself. We do however have some recommendations for you.

  1. Heading to the outer reef and spending the day on a pontoon. Now don't be fooled, these pontoons are action packed. Offering snorkelling, diving, glass bottom boats, swimming nets and plenty of activities to entertain you for an entire day. Guaranteed you will come home happy and very exhausted.
  2. Head to an island. Our top picks are Fitzroy and Green. From Fitzroy you can snorkel, dive and swim straight from the shore (Green island is a short boat ride to do these activities). Both islands offer plenty of activities to keep you entertained, such as glass bottom boats, kayaks and sand sports. Both islands have so much to see and explore, they offer slightly different things with Fitzroy being a bit more touristy. Simply take your pick.
  3. Keen diver? or want to learn?  There are honestly so many tours that will take you out either as a new diver or experienced. We have our recommendation that will cater to both. We highly recommend heading out with Reefquest. The staff are amazing, they will make your day unforgettable. 
  4. Simply want to cruise the reef maybe have a snorkel or just watch the sun set. Well there's not better place to do that than from Cairns.

There are a huge range of tours when it comes to the reef, it can be overwhelming but it's all personal choice here. We have shared some of our top choices so hopefully that helps your decision a bit.

Day 4 -

When you arrive in Cairns, it's hard not to miss the gondola heading up and down the mountain. Well this is a must!

Booking is essential, especially in peak season. We highly recommend catching the scenic train to Kuranda early morning allowing you to have lunch and spend the entire day in Kuranda, you will need the day. Then catching the sky rail (gondola) back down the mountain in the afternoon. Heading back down there are 2 stops, both with short rainforest walks worth doing.

Want to know more about how the day pans out? Check out our Cairns and surrounds blog.


Day 5 -

Last day in Cairns and a day to relax and slow down. We suggest heading to Yorkeys Knob to grab a coffee or even breakfast from Hidden @ Yorkies (south end of Yorkeys foreshore). Take your time to walk the beach (watch out for crocs of course) or if you have little ones like us, let them play in the huge playground. Cattana wetlands will be your next stop. A hidden gem filled with beautiful plants and so much wildlife. Located in Smithfield, pop on your walking shoes and explore the boardwalks. Keep your eyes open for the odd eel that might be swimming right under you.

Your last stop of the day, we highly recommend Palm Cove. Personally our favourite place. Spend the afternoon wondering through the boutiques, enjoying a sneaky cocktail, then either lunch or dinner at the surf club, well priced and absolutely delicious.


Cairns is an amazing place. Easy to come back to time and time again. We hope this helps you plan your trip. Click HERE to read more and see some photos from our own Cairns adventures.

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