The small city of Cairns in the far North of Queensland is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations and for a very good reason – there is so much to do. Its warm tropical climate and amazing natural wonders draw people here from all over the world, with everything from Great Barrier Reef tours, to tropical beaches and amazing rainforest covered mountains. You could spend weeks here exploring all that is on offer, but if you only have a weekend available you can still enjoy the very best that the city has to offer in a wonderful 48 hour trip. Here is how to spend a weekend in Cairns.

Friday night

If you can, try to fly in on the Friday night so that you have all the next day available. Try to choose a hotel in the city so that you can easily get around to make the most of your time. If you have time to head out for dinner, wander down to the esplanade and try one of the amazing restaurants here. If you want to go a bit touristy and adventurous, you could try Dundee’s Restaurant on the Waterfront for some crocodile or kangaroo.


Today will be all about the Great Barrier Reef. If you can’t fly in on the Friday night, make this a Sunday morning trip instead. Pre-book one of the wonderful Great Barrier Reef day tours on offer and head down to the pier in the morning. You’ll jump on a fast and comfortable catamaran and in an hour or so you’ll be floating over one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Spend the day snorkelling or diving amongst the amazing coral and sea life that call this place home. If you don’t like snorkelling or diving, some tours also include glass bottom boat or semi-submersible options, so that you can still enjoy the reef without even getting wet. Another option is to include a visit to Green Island – a beautiful coral cay where you can spend a few hours lazing on the beach, exploring the island or doing some more snorkelling.

Most tours include lunch and all the equipment for enjoying the reef, so all you need to bring is yourself and your bathing suit.


You will travel back to Cairns in the afternoon with a couple of hours left to relax before dinner. That night, why not head to the Reef Hotel Casino? There are four amazing restaurants on offer, along with bars and plenty of gaming to give you a great night out.


In the morning make your way to the outskirts of Cairns and hop on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This amazing cableway climbs steeply up over the rainforest covered mountains situated to the west of Cairns, giving you amazing views of the rainforest canopy and of the city stretched out below. The cable cars then descend right down into the rainforest itself, stopping at two different stations where you can hop out and wander through the forest. One of these stops is at Barron Falls which is particularly spectacular after heavy rain, the water rushing out into the Barron Gorge.


The cableway terminates in the small town of Kuranda which sits right amongst the rainforest. This little hippie town has a lot of character, and a visit to the Kuranda Markets is a must.

To get back to Cairns, take a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This short but spectacular railway line makes its way up and down the mountain between Cairns and Kuranda, providing spectacular views and amazing scenery, passing by rainforest and waterfalls with views out across Cairns.

In the afternoon, take a walk along the Cairns Esplanade and take a dip in the relaxing Esplanade Lagoon. Depending on what time you fly out, you could then head to The Pier to do some shopping or enjoy one of the great cafes or restaurants here.

This short weekend trip will give you a wonderful taste of what Cairns has to offer. There is so much to do and see that you could plan lots of weekend trips to this wonderful city. One thing is for sure – a visit to Cairns will have you wanting to come back time and time again.