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Cairns & The Great Barrier Reef is total bucket list material.

Snorkel, dive or join a liveaboard and share the water with curious minke whales and sea turtles. Watch them up close and personal as you snorkel in one of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.

Get acquainted with city of Cairns, from its ocean-fronting esplanade featuring a swimming lagoon, restaurants and cafes, weekend markets and mind-boggling offering of adventure and nature experiences. Here are top tips on how to enjoy this Queensland tropical gem.

Overnight at the Great Barrier Reef

Want to lie beneath the stars on the Great Barrier Reef?

With a maximum of 18 guests and a minimum of 2, your bed for the night is a luxury swag that is laid straight out upon the deck of the pontoon. It presents an awesome opportunity to fall asleep with the stars twinkling overhead and the sea gently lapping up against the pontoon’s sides. Sunlover by Starlight also provides you with all your meals, champagne (or a beverage of your choice) and access to the reef without the crowds.

HOT TIP: Don’t forget to check out their underwater observatory at night time – all sorts of interesting critters are attracted to the lights of the Sunlover pontoon.

Wild Rush

Sign up for a full-day or half-day white water rafting trip down the Tully or Barron River depending on how adventurous you are. For adrenaline junkies, opt for the Xtreme Tully River White Water Rafting for a speedier ride and extra adventures such as jumping off cliffs into the river, swimming down the rapids and raft surfing.

Soar Sky High

If there’s anything worth dragging yourself out of bed at 4am for, it’s hot air ballooning. Romantic, scenic, loads of fun – it’s all of this and more. The view of the lush rainforest, sprawling farmlands and meandering streams is simply stunning. You may even spot a couple of hopping kangaroos. Round it off with a hearty champagne breakfast!

Kuranda Day Out

Take a day trip to Kuranda Village where there are rainforest walks, markets, cafes and wildlife sanctuaries to visit. To get there, hop on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway that spans 7.5km, giving you a bird’s eye view over of the ancient tropical rainforest. Head back to the city via the famous 100-year old Kuranda Scenic Railway that travels through lush rainforest, 15 tunnels, 98 curves and 40 bridges.

Bring out the Adventurous in you

The Cairns Wildlife Dome, located above the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, lets you interact with animals such as turtles, pythons and lizards amidst a rainforest environment of parrots, cockatoos and other birds native to the Wet Tropics region. Try the Cairns Zoom, the world’s first Challenge Ropes Course in a wildlife immersion exhibit, featuring over 50 crossings and ziplines, one of which lets you zip over a 4m saltwater crocodile!

Whether you’re a first-time jumper or a seasoned thrill seeker, bungy pioneer AJ Hackett guarantees they’ve got a jump to take you out of your comfort zone with its Jump Menu of 16 different jump styles. Now, there’s also the Minjin Jungle Swing, created to allow 1, 2 or 3 people to experience extreme speed and acceleration together.

Tarzan Swing

Jungle Surfing is a unique and exhilarating way to experience the beauty of the world-renowned Daintree Rainforest. Fly through the trees on flying fox ziplines, stopping at five platforms with bird’s eye views over the treetops, down to cascading streams and out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures is simply the best place to see crocodiles and local wildlife in the North. With over 2100 metres of timber boardwalks and pathways leading you on a journey of discovery through woodlands and rainforest where you can see an array of wildlife, including beautiful tropical birds, wallabies, reptiles, insects and other native fauna.

Enjoy their entertaining and educational wildlife presentations including, snakes, quolls, cassowaries, koalas and crocodiles. Take a boat cruise on Hartley’s Lagoon to see crocodiles and other wildlife inhabiting the beautiful melaleuca wetland.

Atherton Tablelands

Take your taste buds on a tour of the tropics in the Atherton Tablelands, just an hour’s drive inland from Cairns. With waterfalls, lakes and vast areas of farming land, the Tablelands makes a great day trip or an overnight stay in one of many quaint Bed & Breakfast or rainforest lodges.

Waterfalls & Lakes

No visit to the Tablelands is complete without exploring the waterfalls and crater lakes circuit. Popular stops include Malanda Falls, and the waterfall circuit of Millaa Millaa, Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls. Along the way, keep a look out for Ulysses butterflies and wild platypus!

Feel the ancient magic of 10,000 years old volcanic crater lakes, Barrine and Eacham, and the sprawling Yungaburra Curtain Fig Tree. Treat yourself to some famous homemade scones at the historical Lake Barrine teahouse.

Scenic Drives

The beauty of the Cairns region is that there are literally hundreds of different day tours and activities one can pursue beyond the Great Barrier Reef. Many are discovering the hidden gems, just an hour’s drive from the city of Cairns.

Palm Cove

This tropical paradise is only 25 minutes north of the city of Cairns. Named after the palm trees that line the beach, the atmosphere in Palm Cove is one of relaxed sophistication. Known for its stunning beach resorts, restaurants and spas, this is the place for those seeking a romantic hideaway.

Port Douglas

Prized for being a gourmet getaway as much as a A-Lister’s holiday spot, the drive from Cairns to the resort town of Port Douglas offers stunning views of the ocean. This is the place to indulge in fabulous food, swim with gorgeous marine life, or simply chill out.

Start the day by having ‘breakfast with the birds’ at Port Douglas’s Wildlife Park Rainforest Habitat. Then soak up the sun by hiring a bike to ride-along Four Mile Beach.

Sunday is the day for visiting Port Douglas’ local markets by the sea. The Sunday Market is a “Cotters Market”, ensuring that goods offered for sale are locally made or grown by the stall holder.

For more information, visit Queensland.com