A magnet for nature lovers and adventure junkies, this sunny city in northern Queensland is the gateway to both the Great Barrier Reef and spectacular tropical rain forests. Whether you hit the water or get your kicks on land, the Cairns Esplanade eases you into evening with lively bars and pubs that help take the edge off your adrenaline-packed adventures.
What We Love
The Great Barrier Reef: If you’re a diver, this is a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. If you’ve never tried it, you can get scuba-certified in a day. You can also snorkel on the surface if you don't like the idea of exploring in the deep.
The Rain Forest: Daintree National Park to the north of Cairns is home to towering fan palms, eucalyptus trees, and Mossman Gorge, where a gin-clear river cascades over granite boulders.
Best Known For
Bungee Jumping: New Zealander A.J. Hackett may have popularized the extreme sport, but Aussies have long embraced it, too. Just 20 minutes north, in a lush rain forest, is Hackett’s 164-foot bungee tower; get ready for an adrenaline hit.
Crocodile Spotting: Queensland is home to some monstrous crocs. On a boat excursion along the Daintree River you can spot the massive reptiles sunning on muddy banks or even fighting over their turf.
White-Water Rafting: Embark on a wet-and-wild adventure as you tackle raging white water on the Tully River south of Cairns. Don’t forget to smile for the video camera while hanging on for dear life on the Class III and IV rapids.
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Who It's Best For
Adventure Seekers: If it makes your pulse race, you can try it here. In addition to scuba diving and bungee jumping, the Cairns region offers skydiving, hot-air ballooning, Jet Skiing, and quad biking.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It is Home to Deadly Jellyfish: From November to May, venomous box jellyfish, also known as stingers, frequent calm coastal waters in the region. Check on the status of beaches (some close when the sea creatures are out; others put up barriers for swimmers). Diving operators typically provide protective Lycra and wet suits.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.