Winter Escape to Cairns

Skyrail gondola over Cairns region and rainforest

Leave Winter Behind…

Winter normally signals freezing temperatures, staying indoors and rugging yourself up in layers of clothing, but in Cairns, these concepts are almost unheard of for we do winter a little differently here…

With average daytime temperatures of 22 degrees and clear blue skies abundant throughout the season, Cairns’ winter weather makes for the ideal time to visit the beautiful tropical north.

Girl sitting in hammock at Palm Cove in Cairns

Photo by Marni Cadd

If the moody grey sky you’re seeing outside right now isn’t enough for you to rip off the layers, don your favourite swimsuit and head immediately to the airport, the following bucket list experiences and stunning ‘pinch me’ moments you’ll experience on a winter escape to Cairns sure will.

Cairns is famous for being the home of two World Heritage listed sites – the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest (the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth!). In fact, it’s the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage sites meet. This means you can amp up the wow factor of your tropical getaway by ticking off two major bucket list experiences together.  Plus, with Cairns’ close proximity to all attractions, it’ll be your most relaxing tropical holiday yet.

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Comprising of almost 3,000 sections of reef and 9,000 islands, the Great Barrier Reef can actually be seen from Outer Space. Although, we can assure you it is far more beautiful up close. Home to ten percent of the world’s total fish species, as well as whales, dolphins, and sea turtles, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and is quicker to access from Cairns than the average person’s city work commute.

Turtle underwater on the Great Barrier Reef with snorkelling boy behind

Take your selfie to the next level… Photo by Georgia Productions

You read that right – the Great Barrier Reef is only 40 minutes away from the Cairns CBD. This makes it very easy for you to experience this remarkable living eco-system that is famous all across the world.

Man snorkelling underwater on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns

Photo by Kyle Hunter

Cairns Full Day and Half-Day Great Barrier Reef Trips

You can visit the Great Barrier Reef no matter your itinerary with a range of tour options available. These options include full or half-day experiences and some even include over-night stays at the reef (you can even camp on a pontoon under the stars!).

In out group shot at Great Barrier Reef

Photo by PhlipVids

Cairns reef cruise operators accommodate for everyone from families with young children to serious scuba divers. You can even get PADI dive certified right here in Cairns.

Explore the Islands

No winter escape is complete without walking along the pristine sands of a tropical island. Visit one of the famous and easily accessible islands of the Great Barrier Reef like Green Island, which can be seen from Cairns, or Fitzroy Island, home to Australia’s number one beach.

Man standing in front of beach with blue sea in Cairns

Photo by Kyle Hunter

Choose to spend your day snorkelling off the beach, relaxing on the sand, enjoying lunch at the restaurants or hiking to the top for a beautiful view. You can also enjoy an overnight stay with many islands equipped with moderate and five star hotels.

If you are interested in ‘super-eco’ friendly, visit the Frankland Islands, a cluster of pristine National Park islands, which are completely inhabited.

Frnakland Island from above

Photo by PhlipVids

From Above

Another popular experience is viewing the Great Barrier Reef from above. Marvel at the never ending blue water, the immaculate sand cays and the striking reef structure as you glide effortlessly across the World Heritage listed wonder. GSL Aviation takes you on affordable scenic flights across the sprawling Great Barrier Reef from the Cairns Airport,

GSL Aviation small plane flying above Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns

Photo by Sarah Latham

or you can add a helicopter ride to or from your reef day to take your reef experience to the next level.

Nautilus Aviation girl with feet above the Great Barrier Reef in a helicopter

Insider Tip: Put your feet in the photo for an epic perspective
Photo by Sarah Latham

Cairns Aquarium

For those who prefer to stay dry or indoors, you can still experience the spectacular Great Barrier Reef at the Cairns Aquarium. Located in the Cairns CBD, the Cairns Aquarium is popular with children and adults alike and showcases the best of the region including colourful Nemos and Dorys, jellyfish, starfish, sharks and a walk through ocean tunnel.

Walk through ocean tunnel at Cairns Aquarium

Photo by Chloe Curtis

Not only does the Cairns Aquarium show the best of the best, it also displays other animals and natural habitats of this magnificent region.

The Ancient Rainforest of Cairns, Australia

Want to be let in on Australia’s best-kept secret? The stunning tropical rainforest surrounding Cairns is actually home of the Oldest Tropical Rainforest on Earth.

This is no mean feat; at approximately 130 million years old the ancient rainforest tells a remarkable story of survival. Against all odds, the rainforest has outlived world events that have caused other species to crumble. It survived the dinosaur extinction (yes, this rainforest existed while dinosaurs were roaming the Earth) and an Ice Age.

This spectacular environment was World Heritage listed in 1988 in part due to its exceptional natural beauty. A beauty that we believe all should be able to experience and enjoy without impacting the impressive eco-system.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Located a short 15 minutes outside of the Cairns CBD, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you on a journey of discovery over and through Australia’s tropical rainforest.

Enjoy jaw-dropping views of Barron Gorge National Park, Barron Falls, the Cairns region and the Coral Sea before you descend below to explore the jungle floor.

Ranger with people in Skyrail Rainforest Cableway forest floor

Exploring Red Peak at Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Enjoy a truly immersive experience at Red Peak, an otherwise inaccessible area of the rainforest. Learn about the rainforest’s extraordinary connection to the Great Barrier Reef, the never-ending battle for survival and fight for light with a Skyrail ranger.

Skyrail gondola giving family tour at Skyrail Red Peak Rainforest

Complimentary ranger guided tour at Skyrail’s Red Peak

Discover for yourself why the famous Barron Falls, a landscape that took millions of years to form, is a Cairns icon. Take in the panoramic views from Skyrail’s The Edge Lookout before continuing your rainforest journey and arriving at Kuranda, Village in the Rainforest.

Girl and Boy standing on glass lookout overlooking Barron Gorge at Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

The Edge Lookout

Kuranda, Village in the Rainforest

Kuranda, Village in the Rainforest, has existed for over 130 years. Every year this quaint little town attracts visitors near and far due to its unique ‘hippie’ vibes and large range of activities.

Kuranda Markets

Kuranda Markets

Spend a few hours wandering through the Kuranda Original Markets. Running for over 40 years and open everyday, you are sure to find a quirky souvenir unique to North Queensland. There are also relaxing rainforest walks along Barron River, a few games of mini-golf to be played and self-directed food crawls to enjoy as Kuranda boasts many delectable international cuisines. We recommend stopping in at the Kuranda Crepes to satisfy both your savoury and sweet tooth.

Check out our Things to do in Kuranda blog for more Kuranda inspiration.

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

For those eager to see famous Australian animals, Kuranda also has you covered. The Kuranda Wildlife Experience 3 Park Pass gets you discounted entry into Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld Kuranda. From here you can hand feed wallabies, admire colourful bird friends,

girl standing at bird world in Cairns

Photo by Jilara Kuch

view the delicate local butterflies

Patterned butterfly at Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Cairns

Photo by Chloe Todd

and cuddle a koala!

To make your Kuranda experience as convenient as possible, you can purchase a Kuranda Wildlife Experience pass alongside your Skyrail ticket.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a true mark of this rainforest town history. In operation for almost 130 years, the Kuranda Scenic Railway is a popular choice to combine with your Skyrail rainforest experience.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

Wind your way slowly down the mountainside, with scenic views of Barron Gorge National Park and the Cairns region. Learn about the extensive construction that created the railway line and marvel at the beautiful Stoney Creek Falls as you pass by.

Girl leaning out at Kuranda Scenic Railway

Insider Tip – this is the perfect spot to whip out your camera and get an insta-worthy shot. Photo by Hello Emilie and Jarrad Seng

Kuranda Scenic Railway also offers a luxurious Gold Class upgrade so that you can finish your rainforest experience in style. With complimentary wine and beer as well as a selection of locally sourced afternoon treats as you sit back, relax and journey back into Cairns.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is a popular combination with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. You can learn more about this experience here.

There’s More

Your winter escape doesn’t stop there as Cairns is overflowing with jaw-dropping experiences.

Sunrise Hot Air Ballooning

Hot Air Balloons at Sunrise

Photo by Liam Berghan

Set your alarm clock for an experience you’ll never forget. Watch the sun rise above a layer of early morning cloud as you look out across the Atherton Tablelands from a hot air balloon.

Afterwards enjoy a champagne breakfast before being dropped conveniently back to your accommodation in Cairns.

Waterfall Chasing

As the home of natural beauty, it is no surprise that Cairns boasts a large range of waterfalls at almost every turn. With so many to choose from, it is difficult to narrow it down to just a few recommendations.

Millaa Millaa Falls on the Atherton Tablelands is a perfectly crafted natural waterfall. Famous partly from being featured in a hair commercial, this waterfall is a popular stop for Cairns visitors, especially those wanting to recreate the iconic hair shoot.  Another Australian icon, Jacko featured Millaa Millaa waterfall in a XXXX beer commercial!

Girl flicking hair in front of Millaa Millaa Falls in Cairns

Photo by Cindy Jones

Josephine Falls is especially popular with a younger crowd as the waterfall makes a fun slip and slide. The emerald green pools surrounding the falls are equally as beautiful, so we recommend bringing your camera with you!

Josephine Falls

Photo by James Conomos

Crystal Cascades is the locals’ favourite. Refreshing water and fringed by rainforest, Crystal Cascades will have you thinking you are in the middle of nowhere rather than 15 minutes outside of the Cairns CBD.

girl sitting on rock at Crystal Cascades in Cairns

Photo by Liam Berghan

Foodie Fix

Enjoy an evening wandering through the Cairns Night Markets. There are plenty of food options available from international cuisines, family friendly meals, delicious crepes, churos, fruit salads, ice creams and much more. You can grab some tasty calamari tacos and a fresh juice from Muddy’s Cafe (surrounded by Cairns’ largest playground and water park).

Calamari Tacos on table

Muddy’s Cafe. Photo by Marlee Meleisea

Cairns best restaurants are found all around you, suitable for every palate and dining experience. Looking for something a little fancy? The Spirit of Cairns Sunset Dinner Cruise is the answer. Sail across the Cairns marina on a luxury 26m sailing catamaran while you dig into a delicious and varied buffet.

Spirit of Cairns Sunset Dinner Cruise in Cairns Marina

Spirit of Cairns Sunset Dinner Cruise

For those wanting to get closer to the action, be sure to check out Prawn Star and enjoy fresh seafood as you sit on a trawler in the Cairns marina.

Prawn Star Cairns trawler in Cairns marina at Sunset

Prawn Star Cairns

Coffee aficionados are spoilt for choice with four coffee plantations within an hour’s drive of Cairns. Cairns locals all have their beloved regular spots and we certainly don’t want to play favourites, but we do recommend Annee’s CaPhe Sua Da at Rusty’s Market for a chilled out coffee hit of traditional Vietnamese iced coffee. If you’re looking for funky vibes and a big city laneway feel  Blackbird Espresso and Caffiend are also popular local coffee spots!

Cairns has it all

Wind down from your tropical vacation with a sunset stroll along Palm Cove. As the name suggests, Palm Cove is fringed with palm trees creating the perfect “I’m on holiday” feeling.

With an abundance of accommodation and a myriad of experiences to discover, in no time at all you could be immersed in two of the most spectacular World Heritage areas in the world. From exploring the Great Barrier Reef to delving deep into the awe-inspiring Wet Tropics Rainforest, it’s time to put Cairns at the very top of your ‘I need a tropical getaway now!’ list.

You can find out more about the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience here.

So now that you have been clued up on the beauty and our favourite hidden gems of Tropical North Queensland, we look forward to welcoming you to #TheAncientRainforest and Cairns very soon!

Written by Sarah Latham