Situated perfectly amongst some of Australia’s most stunning scenery, Cairns provides a great base for those wanting to vary their days with a few amazing getaways. Whether you’re looking for adventure, awe or relaxation, you’ll find it all on these six must-do daytrips.

1. Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation

No trip to Australia is complete without visiting the world’s oldest surviving rainforest, Daintree – not when Sir David Attenborough described the rainforest as “The most extraordinary place on earth”. This incredible piece of history takes you to another land, one untouched by humans but rich in life and wonder.

Only approximately two hours drive in your hire car from Cairns, you’ll discover more than enough to make the short trip worth it. Daintree Rainforest is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and offers you one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth to explore. From the animals you’ll sight, such as wild Cassowaries, crocodiles and tree kangaroos, to canopy walkways and an amazingly diverse landscape, you soon won’t want to leave. Consider staying and doing a night-time tour to experience another side of this magnificent rainforest.

If the myriad of streams, waterfalls and mountain ranges aren’t quite enough for you, make sure you stop in at Cape Tribulation as well. Here you’ll find Daintree meeting the Great Barrier Reef, the only place you’ll find two UNESCO World Heritage sites side by side.

2. Great Barrier Reef

Just as essential as Daintree Rainforest is the Great Barrier Reef. Better known than it’s counterpart, it’s the world’s largest coral reef, containing an abundance of life, islands and beauty. Not only is the reef listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s also considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Larger than even the Great Wall of China, it’s the only living object that’s visible from space.

Spend a day out here diving, snorkeling and marveling at the world beneath the waves.

Many different types of life call this reef home, and amongst them are the endangered dugong (sea cow) and the large green sea turtle. However, with climate change threatening the survival of the Great Barrier Reef, visiting this irreplaceable gem and doing your part for the environment is more essential than ever. 

3. Port Douglas

For a change in pace on your road trip, take a day to enjoy relaxing in Port Douglas. Sweeping beaches wait for you to wander along them, and on Sundays you’ll find nifty seaside markets springing up for you to wander through.

Check out the rock pools, bask in the sun and spend the evening eating great food in one of the pubs overlooking the beaches. Just don’t forget to choose the sober driver for the night!

4. The Waterfall Circuit

Located around Cairns you’ll find a myriad of waterfalls, a byproduct of the wet season that Queensland experiences every year. Often spilling over into rock pools and bathing holes, don’t forget to take towels and swimming gear with you while chasing these stunning waterfalls down. See how many different ones you can locate in one day – to help you out, consider hunting down these five:

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

5. Mission Beach

From beaches to adrenaline-pumping action, Mission Beach is a perfect daytrip from Cairns. Decide between spending a day relaxing on the 14km of golden sands linking four seaside villages, or choose to partake in something a little more adventurous. If you want to have an idea of what’s on offer, here’s just a few options:

  • Hiking, including tracks to the summit of Bicton Hill and along the rugged headlands to Lugger Bay. 
  • Coral sea kayaking, to spot the dugongs and sea turtles of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Mountain biking in Djiru National Park along the Musgrave Trail.
  • Blo-karting on Mission Beach. 

One of our favourites is the chance to land on the beach, after skydiving above the stretches of rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef. Seeing both from the sky at once while getting your adrenaline fix is something you’ll likely never forget!

6. Kuranda

Drive 15 minutes out of Cairns to the Smithfield Terminal, then leave your hire car behind for the day to take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to Kuranda, a village nestled within a rainforest. Along the way, enjoy the views and stretch your legs at the two stops the Skyrail makes at Red Peak and Barron Falls. 

At Kuranda, spend your day wandering boutique markets and stopping in for delicious food at a range of different stores. Or, if you’d prefer, get your hiking shoes on and lose yourself in the tracks that wind through the forest, discovering something new around every turn. Check out the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and the Koala Gardens as well, when you feel like a change of pace. 

If Cairns sounds like the perfect hub of adventures for you, book your hire car today.