Situated perfectly among some of Australia’s most stunning scenery, Cairns provides a great base for a road trip and hiring a car with many one-day getaways to choose from. Whether you’re looking for adventure, or to relax in awe in Mother Nature, you will find what you’re looking for in one of these six must-do day-trips.

1. Visit the Daintree Rainforest

Drive time: Approx. 2 hr from Cairns Airport

No trip to Cairns is complete without a drive in your hire car along the winding roads of the Daintree with the rainforest canopy overhanging from above. Once described by Sir David Attenborough as “the most extraordinary place on earth”, the Daintree Rainforest will take you another land in your hire car, one untouched by humans and rich in life and wonder.

Only just over a 2-hour drive in your hire car from our rental location near Cairns Airport, you will discover an ancient habitat unseen anywhere else on the planet. The Daintree Rainforest is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and is one of the most complex ecosystems on earth. Here you can spot 6-foot tall Cassowaries, crocodiles, tree kangaroos and many other wildlife native only to this region. Park your hire car when you rent a car in Cairns to visit this amazing place and try a night-time tour to experience a completely different side of the rainforest.

There is simply so much to see in the Daintree Rainforest when you rent a car for a visit. Once you have finished exploring every nook and cranny of the myriad of streams, waterfalls and mountain ranges in your hire car, journey south once again for a contrasting, but equally essential pit-stop on your rental journey – The Great Barrier Reef.

2. Witness the wonder of The Great Barrier Reef

Drive time: Approx. 0.25 from Cairns Airport

While you may need more than a hire car to get to the Great Barrier Reef (a boat perhaps?), a rental is definitely a must to get you in and around town and to the Reef Fleet Terminal where all Cairns boat cruises depart. From the rainforest to the reef in your rental car, you could say the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef share a lot of similarities. Both are UNESCO World Heritage listed sites, they are large and one-of-a-kind natural structures. Perhaps however, the Great Barrier Reef lists higher in the ranks of top places to visit when hiring a car from Cairns Airport. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is larger than the Great Wall of China! If you could drive along the Great Barrier Reef your journey would be last over 25 hours or be like driving from Cairns to Sydney. We recommend parking before visiting the reef however and spending a day snorkelling, diving and marvelling at the world beneath the waves.

3. Drive to Port Douglas

Drive time: Approx. 1 hr from Cairns Airport

This time we’re heading north in our hire car for a change of pace and a bit of relaxation. Port Douglas is a lovely day trip in your rental from Cairns Airport for locals and tourists alike. Sweeping beaches and nifty seaside markets await you as you take the 1-hour road trip in your hire car from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas. This drive is one of the most scenic and popular drives to take in from Cairns with the rainforest on one side and the reef on the other, and plenty of lookouts in between. We recommend stopping at a couple of beaches on your hire car road trip, include Trinity Beach, Clifton Beach, Palm Cove and Four Mile Beach. When you get to Port Douglas and park your hire car, be sure to visit one of the many restaurants overlooking the beach for a pint and some good old Australian pub grub.

4. Follow the Waterfall Circuit

There are countless waterfalls a short drive in your hire car from Cairns Airport to choose from. Take a drive in your rental and hit all of the top waterfall spots in one day. The idyllic temperatures of Cairns combined with the annual wet season beginning at the start of summer results in a cascade of water making its way down the Atherton Tablelands and into the waterholes and rock pools on the Cairns coastal plain below. Try driving the famous Waterfall Circuit in your hire car and take a refreshing dip in up to 20 waterfalls. Here are our top five recommendations when renting a car from Cairns Airport:

  • Josephine Falls
  • Millaa Millaa Falls
  • Zillie Falls
  • Elinjaa Falls
  • Wallicher Falls

5. Drive to Mission Beach

Drive time: Approx. 2 hr from Cairns Airport

From secluded beaches to adrenaline-pumping action, Mission Beach is a perfect day trip from Cairns Airport when you rent a car. Park your hire car and spend a day relaxing on the 14 kilometre stretch of golden sand linking a handful of small seaside villages or choose to partake in something a little more adventurous. We recommend these top four experiences when renting a car from Cairns Airport.

  • Leave your hire car behind and hike to the summit of Bicton Hill or along the rugged headlands to Lugger Bay
  • Kayak in the Coral Sea and spot dugongs and sea turtles
  • Mountain bike in Djiru National Park along the Musgrave Trail
  • Try Blo-karting on Mission Beach, a wild mix of sailing and bike riding

One of our ultimate things to do in Mission Beach is sky diving. Climb to 14,000 feet above sea level and drop into thin air over the rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef and the famous stretch of Mission Beach.

6. Take a road trip to Kuranda

Drive time: Approx. 0.5 hr from Cairns Airport

There are a couple of ways to visit Kuranda from Cairns Airport. Take the eastern approach to Kuranda from Cairns Airport through the suburb of Smithfield and drive 30-minutes through dense rainforest and rocky waterfalls. The other option is to park at the Smithfield Terminal, a short 15-minute journey and take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Meander high above the ancient rainforest until you reach the village of Kuranda. Spend the day wandering through boutique market stalls or check out the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and the Koala Gardens. There is always something for everyone when you organise your Cairns car rental from East Coast Car Rentals!