How to Spend 1 Day in Cairns
The charming city of Cairns, with its islands, beaches, and access to the Great Barrier Reef—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is an essential stop on any Australian itinerary. Here’s how to spend one memorable day in the gateway to the tropical north.
Morning: Soar Over the Great Barrier Reef
Instead of sailing out to the Great Barrier Reef, admire it from above on a scenic flight, which offers time savings over boating and a better view. Fixed-wing airplanes usually feature all window seating for unobstructed views and excellent photo opportunities. Scenic flights typically take 30 to 60 minutes and fly over Green Island, Upolu Cay, Arlington Reef, Vlasoff Cay, and Michaelmas Cay as well as Cape Grafton, False Cape, Double Island, and the Northern Beaches of Cairns including Palm Cove. As you fly, your pilot provides insights on each sight.
Afternoon: Explore the City at Ground Level
Back on solid ground for the afternoon, embark on a half-day sightseeing tour of Cairns and its surroundings. Guided tours typically visit city attractions, such as Flecker Botanical Gardens and St. Monica's Cathedral, and include time for a short hike through Barron Gorge National Park. Some tours add on afternoon tea at a local cafe. Alternatively, zip around the city on a Segway Ninebot. You’ll see many of the same attractions as on typical sightseeing tours but at a faster pace. Independent-minded travelers, on the other hand, can elect to take a self-guided audio tour and explore at their own pace.
Night: Get Out on the Water for Sunset
Complete the trifecta of air, land, and water exploration with a sunset cruise along the scenic, mangrove-lined Trinity Inlet. Aboard a comfortable catamaran, you can relax and enjoy the cool breeze. As the setting sun lights up the sky, you get to soak up views of the city and its harbor, aided by the captain's commentary on places of interest. Sunset cruises typically included a drink and appetizers, and some offer the option of adding on dinner at a restaurant, typically a local seafood restaurant on the waterfront.
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