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Cairns Cruise Port, Things To Do, Shore Excursions


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Mora Nelson



Welcome to Cairns, one of Australia’s most popular cruise ports and a gateway to unforgettable adventures. Nestled in the tropical far north of Queensland, Cairns offers a unique blend of natural wonders, cultural experiences, and thrilling activities. This vibrant city is a dream destination for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and those seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Australian landscape.


As a cruise port, Cairns welcomes thousands of visitors each year, eager to explore its breathtaking surroundings. From the world-famous Great Barrier Reef to the lush rainforests of the Daintree, there is no shortage of incredible sights to behold. Whether you have only a few hours or a full day, Cairns offers a range of shore excursions and activities that cater to all interests and time constraints.


This article will guide you through the top attractions and things to do in Cairns, including information on Great Barrier Reef tours, rainforest explorations, cultural and heritage sites, adventure activities, and the best spots for shopping and dining. Additionally, we will provide insights into the various shore excursions available to make the most of your visit. So prepare to embark on a virtual journey that will leave you feeling inspired and excited to visit Cairns on your next cruise vacation.


Overview of Cairns Cruise Port

Cairns Cruise Port is a bustling hub that welcomes cruise ships from around the world. Located in North Queensland, Australia, it serves as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The port is conveniently situated near the city center, allowing visitors easy access to a range of attractions and amenities.


With its tropical climate and stunning natural beauty, Cairns offers a delightful mix of adventure and relaxation. The city boasts a modern and well-equipped terminal that ensures a seamless embarkation and disembarkation process for cruise passengers. From the moment you step ashore, you’ll be greeted by friendly locals and a vibrant atmosphere.


Travelers docking at Cairns Cruise Port can enjoy a range of facilities and services. The port features duty-free shopping, cafes, and restaurants, providing plenty of options for visitors to indulge in retail therapy or savor delicious Australian cuisine. The nearby esplanade is a favorite spot for strolling and offers picturesque views of Trinity Bay.


For those interested in exploring the city, Cairns offers a variety of tours and attractions within easy reach of the cruise port. The city center is home to a lively shopping precinct, where you can find a mix of local boutiques, souvenir shops, and well-known brands. Cairns Night Markets are a must-visit, offering a myriad of stalls selling everything from handmade crafts to tropical fruits.


When it comes to transportation, Cairns Cruise Port is well-connected. Taxis, shuttles, and public buses are available to take you to popular tourist spots such as the Cairns Botanic Gardens, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, and the Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome. Rental car services are also available for those who prefer to explore at their own pace.


Overall, Cairns Cruise Port provides a warm welcome to cruise passengers and offers a range of amenities and attractions to ensure an unforgettable visit. Whether you’re looking to embark on an adventure to the Great Barrier Reef, immerse yourself in indigenous culture, or simply relax and soak in the tropical ambiance, Cairns is a destination that will leave a lasting impression.


Top Attractions in Cairns

Cairns is a treasure trove of natural wonders and cultural experiences. Here are some of the top attractions that you shouldn’t miss during your visit:

  1. Great Barrier Reef: One of the world’s most renowned natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef is a must-see when in Cairns. Embark on a snorkeling or scuba diving adventure to discover the vibrant coral reefs and an array of marine life. Choose from various tour options, including day trips and overnight stays, to fully immerse yourself in this underwater paradise.
  2. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail: Experience the breathtaking beauty of the rainforest with a journey on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Wind your way through lush landscapes and cascading waterfalls as you make your way to the charming village of Kuranda. On your return, soar above the treetops on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, enjoying panoramic views of the rainforest and Coral Sea.
  3. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park: Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous heritage of Australia at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Discover traditional art, music, dance, and storytelling as you learn about the history and customs of the local Aboriginal people. Participate in interactive demonstrations, try your hand at throwing a boomerang, and taste traditional bush tucker.
  4. Cairns Esplanade: Take a leisurely stroll along the Cairns Esplanade, a picturesque waterfront promenade offering stunning views of Trinity Inlet and a range of recreational activities. Relax on the sandy beaches, swim in the lagoon, enjoy a picnic in the park, or make use of the free fitness facilities. The esplanade also hosts various events and markets throughout the year.
  5. Daintree Rainforest: Venture north of Cairns to explore the enchanting Daintree Rainforest, the oldest continually surviving rainforest in the world. Take a guided tour or go for a self-guided walk to discover an abundance of unique flora and fauna. Don’t miss a cruise along the Daintree River, where you may spot crocodiles and rare bird species.

These are just a few of the many attractions that Cairns has to offer. Whether you are seeking adventure, cultural enrichment, or simply want to relax and unwind in nature’s embrace, Cairns is sure to captivate and leave you with lifelong memories.


Great Barrier Reef Tours

A trip to Cairns would not be complete without experiencing the awe-inspiring beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. With its vibrant coral formations, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life, it’s no wonder the reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most sought-after destinations for snorkelers and divers worldwide.


There are numerous tour options available to explore the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns. From luxury cruises to intimate sailboats, there is a tour to suit every preference and budget. Here are some popular ways to experience this natural wonder:

  1. Snorkeling and Diving: Get up close and personal with the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef by snorkeling or diving. Both options allow you to marvel at the vibrant corals teeming with tropical fish and other fascinating marine creatures. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, there are tours that cater to all skill levels.
  2. Semi-Submersible Submarine: If you prefer to stay dry while still exploring the wonders of the reef, a semi-submersible submarine tour is the perfect choice. These vessels provide panoramic views through large windows, allowing you to observe the colorful corals and marine life without getting wet.
  3. Helicopter or Scenic Flights: For a truly breathtaking experience, consider taking a helicopter ride or scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef. From above, you’ll be able to marvel at the vastness of the reef and witness its intricate patterns and vibrant colors. This unique perspective offers a truly memorable experience and incredible photo opportunities.
  4. Reef Education Centers: Learn more about the Great Barrier Reef’s delicate ecosystem and conservation efforts at one of the dedicated education centers. These interactive exhibits provide insights into the reef’s importance, threats, and ongoing preservation efforts. It’s a great opportunity to deepen your understanding and appreciation for this natural wonder.

When planning your Great Barrier Reef tour, be sure to consider factors such as your desired level of activity, time available, and personal interests. Many tours also offer additional activities, such as scenic coastal cruises, visits to pristine islands, or even specialized experiences like swimming with turtles or rays.


Remember, it is essential to choose tour operators that prioritize sustainable practices and minimize their impact on the reef. By opting for eco-friendly tours, you can contribute to the conservation of this fragile ecosystem and help ensure its preservation for future generations to enjoy.


Embarking on a Great Barrier Reef tour from Cairns is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s splendor. So grab your snorkel, dive gear, or camera, and get ready to be immersed in the beauty that lies beneath the surface of this underwater paradise.


Rainforest and Wildlife Experiences

Just a short distance from Cairns lies the breathtaking rainforests of North Queensland, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a world of lush greenery, diverse wildlife, and ancient landscapes. From guided tours to self-guided hikes, there are numerous ways to explore the region’s rainforest and encounter its unique wildlife. Here are some of the top rainforest and wildlife experiences near Cairns:

  1. Daintree Rainforest: Discover the ancient beauty of the Daintree Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest rainforests on Earth. Take a guided tour or explore the numerous walking trails to experience the magic of this pristine wilderness. Look out for rare fauna like the Southern Cassowary, the shy Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, and an array of vibrant bird species.
  2. Cairns Wildlife Dome: Located in the heart of Cairns, the Cairns Wildlife Dome is an enclosed rainforest environment that allows visitors to get up close and personal with native Australian wildlife. Take a guided tour and meet koalas, tropical birds, reptiles, and even crocodiles. The dome also offers a unique opportunity to experience the rainforest from a different perspective with its zipline and rope courses.
  3. Kuranda Rainforest Village: Nestled in the tropical mountains above Cairns, Kuranda is a charming village surrounded by lush rainforest. Take the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to reach this picturesque destination. Once there, explore the village’s markets, visit the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, get up close to kangaroos and wallabies at the Kuranda Koala Gardens, or take a guided rainforest walk.
  4. Atherton Tablelands: Venture inland to the Atherton Tablelands, a region renowned for its stunning waterfalls, volcanic crater lakes, and diverse wildlife. Explore the lush waterfall circuit, visit Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine, and keep an eye out for tree kangaroos, platypuses, and colorful birds. The region is also known for its coffee and dairy production, offering opportunities for tastings and farm visits.

While exploring these rainforest and wildlife experiences, it’s important to respect the natural environment and follow any guidelines provided by tour operators or national park authorities. Opt for eco-friendly tours that prioritize conservation and preservation efforts, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the wonders of these pristine ecosystems.


Whether you choose to wander through the ancient rainforest, spot wildlife in the Cairns Wildlife Dome, or venture to the Atherton Tablelands, you’ll be captivated by the beauty and biodiversity that the North Queensland rainforests have to offer. From the smallest insect to the largest of trees, this region is brimming with natural treasures waiting to be discovered.


Cultural and Heritage Sites

Cairns is not only blessed with natural beauty but also rich cultural and historical significance. The region is home to a diverse mix of indigenous communities and a fascinating blend of cultures. Explore the following cultural and heritage sites to gain a deeper appreciation of the area’s history and traditions:

  1. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park: Immerse yourself in the ancient Aboriginal culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Through interactive experiences, dance performances, and storytelling, you’ll gain insight into the traditions, customs, and Dreamtime stories of Australia’s indigenous people. Learn to throw a boomerang, play the didgeridoo, and taste traditional bush tucker.
  2. Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks: Venture into the heart of the UNESCO-listed Daintree Rainforest with the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks. Led by local indigenous guides, these tours reveal the cultural significance of the rainforest and its importance to the Kuku Yalanji people. Gain firsthand knowledge of traditional medicinal plants, bush foods, and learn about the connection between the land and the Aboriginal people.
  3. Historical Buildings: Cairns boasts numerous well-preserved historical buildings that provide insights into the region’s colonial past. The Cairns Museum, housed within the iconic School of Arts building, tells the story of Cairns through collections and exhibitions. The Heritage-listed Casino, with its stunning architecture, offers a glimpse into the city’s past as a popular tourist destination.
  4. Cooktown: Embark on a journey to Cooktown, a town rich in history and culture. Follow in the footsteps of Captain James Cook, who landed here in 1770 on the Endeavour. Visit the James Cook Museum, explore the Botanic Gardens, and stroll through the streets lined with beautiful historical buildings. The vibrant local arts scene and museum exhibitions provide further insight into the region’s past.

Visiting these cultural and heritage sites allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the traditions, customs, and history that have shaped the Cairns region. By engaging with local indigenous communities and immersing yourself in their culture, you contribute to the preservation and celebration of Australia’s rich Aboriginal heritage.


Remember to approach these cultural sites with respect and an open mind, as they are not only opportunities for learning but also sacred places of great significance. Let the stories shared and the connections formed inspire a greater appreciation for the diverse cultures that have shaped this captivating part of Australia.


Adventure Activities

Cairns is a playground for adrenaline seekers, offering an array of thrilling adventure activities that take advantage of its stunning natural surroundings. If you’re looking to get your heart racing and create unforgettable memories, consider these exhilarating adventure activities in Cairns:

  1. White Water Rafting: Take on the rapids of the Barron or Tully River for an adrenaline-pumping white water rafting experience. Navigate through challenging rapids and witness the beauty of the surrounding rainforest as you conquer the rushing waters. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rafter, there are tours available to suit all skill levels.
  2. Bungee Jumping and Giant Swing: If you’re up for a daring plunge, head to the AJ Hackett Cairns Adventure Park. Leap from a purpose-built tower and experience the rush of bungee jumping, or take a brave swing on the thrilling giant swing, where you’ll swing through the rainforest canopy. These activities are not for the faint-hearted but promise an unforgettable adrenaline rush.
  3. Skydiving: Take to the skies and experience the ultimate thrill of skydiving over Cairns. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Great Barrier Reef, lush rainforests, and the picturesque coastline as you freefall through the sky. Choose from various altitudes and jump with an experienced instructor to ensure a safe and exhilarating adventure.
  4. Ziplining: Soar through the tropical rainforest canopy on a zipline adventure. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you glide among the treetops, immersed in nature’s beauty. With multiple zipline courses available, you can choose your adventure level, from gentle rides to adrenaline-pumping leaps of faith.
  5. Quad Biking and Off-Road Tours: Embark on an exhilarating quad biking or off-road tour through rugged terrains and remote trails. Navigate through dense rainforests and cross creeks while taking in breathtaking panoramic views. These tours provide an adrenaline-fueled adventure while showcasing the natural beauty of the Cairns region.

Before participating in any adventure activity, ensure that you are physically prepared, follow all safety instructions, and use reputable tour operators that prioritize your well-being. It’s also important to check age and health restrictions for each activity and consider personal comfort levels.


Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, an opportunity to conquer your fears, or simply to push your boundaries, Cairns offers a selection of thrilling adventure activities that will leave you with everlasting memories and a sense of accomplishment.


Shopping and Dining in Cairns

Cairns is not only a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers but also offers a vibrant shopping and dining scene. From bustling marketplaces to waterfront restaurants, the city provides a diverse range of options to indulge in retail therapy and savor delectable cuisine. Here’s a glimpse into the shopping and dining experiences that await you in Cairns:




Cairns is home to a variety of shopping precincts, where you can find everything from local crafts to high-end fashion. Some popular shopping destinations include:

  • The Cairns Night Markets: Located on the Esplanade, these markets come alive in the evening, offering a wide array of merchandise such as souvenirs, clothing, accessories, and local arts and crafts.
  • The Pier Cairns: Situated along the waterfront, The Pier features boutique shops, galleries, and stores selling unique local products. Take a leisurely stroll and discover the perfect souvenir or memento to remember your Cairns experience.
  • Cairns Central Shopping Centre: This large shopping complex in the heart of Cairns houses a wide range of stores, including major retailers, fashion boutiques, and electronics outlets.

Whether you’re looking for Aboriginal art, fashion, jewelry, or unique gifts, Cairns offers something for every shopper.




Cairns is a food lover’s paradise, combining fresh local produce with diverse culinary influences. From waterfront dining to street eats, the city boasts a vibrant dining scene that will satisfy any craving. Some highlights include:

  • Esplanade Lagoon Precinct: Located along the stunning Cairns Esplanade, this area is home to a range of restaurants, cafes, and bars where you can enjoy a meal with a view. Indulge in fresh seafood, international cuisine, or savor a relaxing coffee overlooking Trinity Inlet.
  • Grafton Street Eateries: Explore the hidden laneways and alleys off Grafton Street, where you’ll find a variety of restaurants and cafes serving up international flavors, from Thai and Vietnamese to Italian and Indian.
  • The Pier Dining: Alongside the esplanade, The Pier offers a selection of waterfront dining options, allowing you to savor delicious cuisine while enjoying picturesque views of the marina and Trinity Inlet.

Don’t forget to sample the local delights, such as fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and native Australian ingredients like kangaroo and crocodile. Cairns also hosts a vibrant nightlife scene, with plenty of bars and pubs offering live music and entertainment, making it a great place to unwind after a day of exploring.


It’s worth noting that Cairns is also known for its vibrant food markets, offering a wide range of street food from around the world. From the Esplanade Markets to Rusty’s Market, you can satisfy your taste buds while wandering through the bustling stalls.


Whether you’re looking for a memorable dining experience, unique souvenirs, or a taste of local flavors, Cairns provides a delightful mix of shopping and dining opportunities that will leave you satisfied and eager to explore more.


Cairns Shore Excursions

When your cruise ship docks at Cairns Cruise Port, you’ll have a range of shore excursion options available to make the most of your time in this incredible destination. From exploring the Great Barrier Reef to immersing yourself in the region’s cultural heritage, here are some must-try Cairns shore excursions:

  1. Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling: Take a snorkeling tour to the Great Barrier Reef and discover the wonders of this underwater paradise. Cruise to a pristine reef location, don your snorkel gear, and dive into the crystal-clear waters, where you’ll witness vibrant coral formations and a kaleidoscope of colorful fish. Expert guides will ensure your safety and provide insights into the reef’s ecology.
  2. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail: Embark on a scenic journey through the rainforest with a combination of the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Enjoy panoramic views as you wind through lush landscapes on the historic railway, and then glide above the canopy on the cableway, taking in breathtaking vistas of the rainforest and coastline.
  3. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous culture of Australia with a visit to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Experience traditional dance performances, hands-on art workshops, and interactive demonstrations. Afterwards, take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to glide high above the rainforest canopy, learning about the unique flora and fauna along the way.
  4. Cairns Wildlife Dome and City Tour: Explore the wonders of the Cairns Wildlife Dome, where you can get up close to Australian wildlife in an enclosed rainforest environment. Meet koalas, crocodiles, and colorful bird species. Afterwards, embark on a guided city tour to discover Cairns’ iconic landmarks, including the Esplanade, historical buildings, and the bustling marina.
  5. Cairns Rainforest and Waterfall Adventure: Venture into the ancient rainforests of North Queensland on a guided tour that takes you to lush waterfalls and hidden gems. Explore the stunning Mossman Gorge, swim in cool freshwater pools, and enjoy a picnic surrounded by nature’s beauty. This excursion offers the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the tranquility of the rainforest.

These are just a few examples of the many Cairns shore excursions available to cruise passengers. Whether you’re seeking adventure, cultural enrichment, or a chance to connect with nature, Cairns has something to offer. It’s important to book your shore excursions in advance to secure your spot and ensure a seamless and memorable day exploring this captivating destination.


With a wide range of activities and experiences to choose from, Cairns shore excursions provide the perfect opportunity to create lasting memories and make the most of your time in this stunning part of Australia.



Cairns, Australia’s tropical gateway and bustling cruise port, offers a wealth of experiences for every type of traveler. From the mesmerizing beauty of the Great Barrier Reef to the enchanting rainforests and rich cultural heritage, this destination is a true gem of the Australian continent.


With its convenient location and well-equipped cruise port, Cairns welcomes visitors with open arms. The city provides a range of amenities, shopping opportunities, and dining experiences that cater to a variety of tastes. Whether you’re indulging in retail therapy at the night markets, savoring local flavors at waterfront restaurants, or exploring the region’s cultural and historical sites, Cairns will leave you with lasting memories.


For nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts, Cairns offers a playground like no other. The Great Barrier Reef beckons with its vibrant colors and diverse marine life, providing snorkelers and divers with an unforgettable experience. The rainforests surrounding Cairns offer a chance to immerse yourself in lush greenery, encounter unique wildlife, and learn about the area’s indigenous heritage.


Moreover, Cairns’ range of shore excursions ensures that cruise passengers can maximize their time in this captivating destination. From snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef to exploring the ancient Daintree Rainforest, each shore excursion provides an opportunity to create cherished memories.


As you plan your trip to Cairns, remember to consider the ecological impact of your activities and choose responsible tour operators that prioritize sustainable practices. By supporting conservation efforts and respecting the natural environment and indigenous cultures, you contribute to preserving the beauty of this unique destination for years to come.


With its stunning landscapes, thrilling adventures, cultural experiences, and warm hospitality, Cairns truly has it all. So, whether you’re arriving by cruise ship or exploring on your own, get ready for an unforgettable journey filled with natural wonders, exciting activities, and a taste of Australian culture you won’t find anywhere else.