Day Trips from Cairns

The Cairns area, in northern Queensland, is the epicentre of highlights full of adventure, fun and adrenaline! Head to Cape Tribulation to snorkel with turtles, trek past fairytale waterfalls, test your nerves of steel with a bungee jump, visit Australia’s oldest rainforest the Daintree or go diving at the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. In Cairns, you can easily spend a week! Here is a list of all the highlights of the Cairns area:

TRAVEL TRIP: Before you embark on an awesome day trip in Cairns, check out mindmybag and their luggage storage locations in Cairns.

Cape Tribulation (Daintree Rainforest)

In the north of Queensland, the town of Cape Tribulation lies in the middle of a beautifully unspoiled jungle. It is a unique place in the world, as the (maximum) 180 million-year-old rainforest meets here with pearly white beaches. To make it more concrete: 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites cross here: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

By the way, it’s a wonderful destination if you want to swap the relative hustle and bustle of Australia’s east coast for quieter surroundings. In this hamlet, because yes it is, live less than 400 people.

Are you ready for adventure and do you want to visit one of the oldest rainforests on earth? Do you want to go off the beaten path? Then Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation are destinations you should put on your bucket list today!


Before I move on to the sights you’ll find in Cape Tribulation and the surrounding area, I’ll briefly discuss some interesting facts:

  1. The Cape is located, as the only place in the world, between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
  2. Literally, it means ‘Cape Adversity’, a name given by James Cook in 1770 after he got stuck here with his ship.
  3. Located about 110 kilometres north of Cairns, the Cape belongs to Queensland.
  4. Only a few 100 people live in Cape Tribulation, 330 to be exact.
  5. The Kuku Yalanji people, the original inhabitants of the place, called the place ‘Kurangee’. Literally translated this means ‘place of many cassowaries’. In the Netherlands we call ‘cassowaries’ by the way, these are large, fast and wingless birds.
  6. Cape Tribulation is located in the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest rainforest in the world. It is estimated to be up to 180 million years old!

Go sea kayaking

The area is ideal for exploring by kayak. Sea kayaking gives you the opportunity to see the beautiful surroundings from a different perspective. And what about the Great Barrier Reef, this naturally guarantees the most beautiful corals and a very diverse and colourful marine life.

Think turtles, sea urchins, dolphins and manatees. In the months of July and August, you can even spot whales. On the way you paddle over the clear water along rocks, and mangroves and if you’re wise, you make a stop at the picturesque Cape Tribulation Beach (more on this in item 9.

One organization I can recommend is Paddletrek Kayak Adventures. And I’m not just saying this: they were recently accredited by Eco Tourism Australia. At the moment they offer tours of 2.5 and 3.5 hours. You can also go for the ultimate adventure by doing a jungle trek as well.

Oh, by the way, don’t be afraid or reluctant if you have never kayaked before. After all, once must be the first time. In addition, you will get an introduction and useful safety instructions before you leave. What’s stopping you from taking on this adventure?

Do the night walk

There is, of course, more than kayaking. What about the huge rainforest where you can make crazy walks through pristine nature. Highly recommended is the so-called Night Walk where you go hiking through the jungle with a tour group including a guide. So you come to know more about the “dark side” of Cape Tribulation.

Especially at night, it is very special to do this trek. It is completely silent, the clear sky bulges with stars and you have the chance to spot several unique nocturnal animals. All this creates a unique atmosphere that you’d better witness.

Wondering what kind of animals you might encounter along the way? Two special lizards: Boyd’s corner lizard and the Australian water lizard. But also snakes, different bird species, spiders, frogs and of course crocodiles.

Such tours take 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Don’t count on marked trails or boardwalks. You are going to get acquainted with the real jungle!

Jungle surfing at a high altitude

Cable cars right through the tropical rainforest. To be exact, 5. If you’re looking for excitement and an adrenaline rush, I recommend this activity. Along the way, you can stop at various platforms to see the jungle and the Great Barrier Reef from a bird’s eye view.

On the various platforms, you will also be updated by guides who will be happy to tell you more about the Daintree Rainforest. To make it even more beautiful: you use a unique flying system that makes it possible to ‘fly’ upside down without holding on.

Surfing takes about 2 hours and is a very fun activity if you are in the mood for some adventure. Especially when the sun goes down, this is a great experience. The animals in the jungle then come fully alive.

TRAVEL TIP: If you need help figuring out where to stay on your trip to Cairns, check out our list of the Best Hotels in Cairns.

Visit the Daintree discovery centre

Literally in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, and about 10 kilometres north of the Daintree River, is the Discovery Centre. A must-see if you are in Cape Tribulation. Here you will learn all the ins and outs of this special rainforest.

The best activity is to climb the 23-meter high tower, the Canopy Tower. Once at the top, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the green forests and Mclean’s Creek from the tower. With a little luck, you’ll even see a Casuarius (a wingless bird) looking for coolness here. Along the way you pass 4 platforms, each on a different level.

You also have the opportunity to go to the Display Centre where informative films about the rainforest and its animals are shown. You can also do a self-guided audio tour where you learn more about how Aboriginal people lived here in the past.

Cruise on the Daintree river

Take a tour of the Daintree River and look for the dangerous saltwater crocodiles that live in the area. By the way, the chances of this are quite high. The organization Daintree River Cruises says they are seen in 98% of the trips. If you are a bird lover, pay close attention along the way. You will see several species sitting in the trees and flying around.

This cruise takes about 1 hour and is also fun to do if you want to get more background information about the whole area. I recommend it as one of the first activities to book when you are in the rainforest. An organization I can recommend is Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises.

Go diving or snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef

From Cape Tribulation, you can book a tour to one of the most beautiful reefs in the world: the Great Barrier Reef. As you will understand, you can snorkel here extremely well.

If you do a trip with Ocean Safari, you go to 2 different snorkel sites: Mackay and Undine. Underwater you will literally start your eyes out: sea turtles, nemovis, starfish, sharks and all kinds of spectacularly coloured corals. Really everything you want to see as a snorkeler, you will encounter on this day. The group you go with has a maximum of 25 people. The guides are very enthusiastic and tell interesting stories along the way.

The starting point of the trip is Cape Tribulation Beach. At 400 meters from the beach, you will also find a Jungle Lodge where you can camp in the rainforest. Also, the Turtle Rock’s Cafe where you have delicious local coffee and also delicious burgers, cakes and wraps can eat.

Climb mount sorrow

If you’ve come to Cape Tribulation for forest walks, then the Mount Sorrow Hike is one you should definitely do. This hike takes about a day (or a little less). In a few hours you have reached the top of the mountain, at the top, you can relax and enjoy the beautiful views of nature.

Mount Sorrow is less than 700 meters high, but because the mapped path goes up and down several times, in practice, you cover a longer distance.

You can do this walk independently, but I recommend you to leave before 10.00 am to avoid the rain and to make sure you’re back before dark. It can be quite slippery. In combination with the many leeches, it is not exactly pleasant. Wear good walking shoes and bring plenty of water. Food is also recommended, so you can picnic at the top. At the bottom of the slope, you will find a café where you can also go for a snack.

Cool down in Mason’s Waterhole

This delicious waterhole is located below the eponymous Mason’s Cafe. To get there, you first have to wriggle yourself past some trees and bushes, but a little adventure is not a bad thing, is it?

Once you arrive, you come to a beautiful natural pool. In addition, there are a number of marriages that you can use to slide across the water.

Besides swimming laps, this is also a good spot to spot different species of fish and turtles in the wild. Also, be sure to go to the previously mentioned Mason’s Cafe to try a kangaroo burger. In fact, you even have camel and crocodile meat here.

Visit the beaches

You don’t necessarily have to go to the Whitsundays for pristine beaches, I’ll tell you that. Cape Tribulation also has a lot to offer you in that regard.

Earlier I mentioned Cape Tribulation Beach and Myall Beach. These are 2 beautiful beaches that are well worth a visit. Through a landscaped track you can walk from one beach to the other. I discuss them briefly below:

Cape Tribulation Beach is a beach that is virtually free from the wind as it is bordered by the mountainous green landscape. The water here is really crystal clear, I would almost say that she invites you to take a dip as soon as possible. This is, therefore, something that I would recommend to you. It is not without reason that I already mentioned them in my article about the 28 most beautiful beaches in Australia.

A small downside is that it can get quite touristy here, as there are regular bus stops during the day that come from Cairns and Port Douglas. However, there are always quiet spots to find. Furthermore, you have the Beach House where you can stay overnight or have something to eat and drink.

Then, Myall Beach here is a boardwalk (the Dubuji Boardwalk, 1.5 km) where you walk through the rainforest and mangroves. By the way, this is also the beach where you see tourists riding horses. Note that there is a coral reef adjacent to the beach where you can hurt yourself badly. I recommend you to walk further south to PK’s Jungle Village, here it is a bit more pleasant to enter the water.

But these are not the only beaches you’ll find in the area, so I’ll mention a few more.

Emmagen Beach is probably the most secluded beach you will find here in the region. Ideal if you’re looking for peace and quiet. She is located a few kilometres north of Cape Tribulation Beach, by the way.

Then there is Coconut Beach, where – how could it be otherwise – countless coconut trees grow. Please note that it can usually be quite busy here. Near the beach is a huge coral. Beware of crocodiles at the nearby Myall Creek.

In addition, Thornton Beach is also worth visiting. You have a cafe here (Cafe on Sea) where you can enjoy sea views. On the southern part of the beach lies Coober Creek, do not swim here because crocodiles live here.

The longest beach is without a doubt Cape Kimberley Beach. The sandy plain of about 3.5 km is perfect for a walk or a jog. Another recommendation is to rent a kayak and paddle to the nearby (2 kilometres from shore) Snapper Island.

Finally, Noah Beach, there is also a campground here. Please note that between Noah Beach North and Noah Beach South there is a creek where crocodiles are present.

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