1. GREAT BARRIER REEF
Never mind a Cairns must-do, this is a life must-do. On bucket lists across theglobe, one of the natural wonders ofthe world is right on Cairns’ doorstep,or rather, sandy shores.
The world’s largest coral reef system, it’s made up of 900 islands stretching over an area of around 344,400sq km,and diving into this under-water world is unbeatable. The vibrant coral comes in every colour and shade of a Duluxs watch book, while friendly shoals offish dart about or lazy loners weave their way through the coral, dipping down for a toke or two on some shrimp or plankton. Spot the occasional bobbing turtle, sweeping stingray or gliding reef shark and you will see the true wonder of these majestic creatures that call this aquatic paradise home.
For a day tour, we recommend Passions of Paradise for a slice of luxury. Set sail on the 25m catamaranto Paradise Reef, which is exclusive to Passions of Paradise so you will dodge the crowds and be able to say hello in person to Wally, the resident Maori wrasse. Passions also moors up at Michaelmas Cay, which is a world famous bird sanctuary and has sandy beaches which give way to waters rich in giant trevally, small black tip reef sharks, bat fish and hundreds of species of colourful reef fish.
To stretch your trip out, try an over-nighter with Deep Sea Divers Den,where you can sleep aboard the big OceanQuest boat and go on a number of dives from some of its 17 exclusive moorings at Norman, Saxon and Hastings reefs.Both companies offer snorkelling,introductory diving and certified divingexpeditions so everyone can have a go.
2. NIGHT CANOEING
Australia’s wildlife is as active at night as it is at feeding time. Plus it’s infinitelymore magical (and spookier) canoeingby moonlight and listening out for thenocturnal creatures’ echoing cries andscurrying movements in the trees.
The only company to offer a night canoeing tour is On the Wallaby, which meets you 900m north of Cairns to paddle under the stars on Lake Tinaroo.
With life jackets, torches, your canoe and paddle all included, you take to the peaceful waters for this enchanting experience at 8pm in a minimum group of three ($40pp).
You will see creatures you are less likely to spot during the day as they come out to play: your guide will help you spot tree kangaroos, ring tail and brush tail possums, carnivorous possums, wallabies,red legged pademelons, bandicoots,gliders, snakes and platypuses.
3. SKYDIVE AUSTRALIA
If you’ve been thinking about skydiving but haven’t managed to build up the nerve, just do it you big pussy.
Seriously though, it’s the most fun you will ever have, yes ever. And you don’t even get that dropping sensation in your stomach; you’re so high you just feel like you’re flying. Awesome, no?
SkyDive Australia offers the highest tandem jump in the country. Jumping from 14,000ft gives you up to 60 seconds of free fall (the awesome bit) before your parachute deploys and you peacefully float your way down to the ground.
The company has a branch in Cairns,meaning not only can you see the Great Barrier Reef up close, but also get the bird’s eye view as you fall through the skies above. Surely seeing multi-coloured coral beneath a turquoise ocean beats jumping over the muddy fields of England? Yep, we thought so. So, like wesaid, if you’re thinking of doing it, now’sthe time.
4. WATERFALL TOUR
Always wanted to recreate the Timotei ad hair flick by agushing waterfall? Here’s your chance.
On the Wallaby offers a day trip to several pristine waterfalls, such as the famous Millaa Millaa, where you can jump in for an invigorating swim. You will also visit the spectacular Gilles Tange and tropical Atherton Tablelands as well as exploring cathedral and curtain fig trees and taking a rainforest walk through Lake Barrine National Park. They will also take you on a jungle trek to viewthe raging Dinner Falls and World Heritage-listed MountHypipamee National Park, all for $99pp for the day.
5. BUNGEE JUMP AND MINJIN SWING
We’ve all heard of a bungee jump, but a minjin swing?Sounds like a piece of sex apparatus to us…
It’s not, but it’s still a lot of fun, and it is for two – or even three (also one, but swinging on your own is never as fun). You get strapped up so you are lying face-down and then you swing from 45 metres down to one metre in 3.5 seconds, reaching speeds up to 120kmph. Hells yeah.
The bungee is off a purpose-built 50ft tower, with 16 different jump styles available. Both are found in theheart of the rainforest, so lush flora and waterfalls greet you before you ping back up. Bungee $169, minjin $235.
6. WHITE WATER RAFTING
The Tully River offers the best rafting in Australia and New Zealand according to the pros at Raging Thunder.There is also the milder Barron River if you’re new tozooming down rapids on what is basically a big dinghy.
If you’re a seasoned rafter, or you just like your adrenalin kicks right to the groin (but in a good way), signup for the Xtreme Tully Raft, where the most experienced guides will ensure your knuckles are as white as the waters. You will also swim in rapids (probably after you fall in), cliff jump and raft surf on your tour. Raging Thunder rafting experiences start from $133pp.
7. RAINFORESTSTATION NATURE PARK
This park is some 30 minutes north of Cairns, set in 100 acres of World Heritage Rainforest.
Take a World War II Army Duck tour through the undergrowth before splashing down into the lake to float alongside turtles, fish and eels. Pop to the Koala & Wildlife Park for a cuddle, although keep your distance from some of its other residents including crocs and snakes. Far friendlier are the local indigenous guides atthe Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience. They will show youhow to throw a boomerang and spear as well as put onan authentic dance show.
8. SKYRAIL RAINFOREST CABLEWAY
If you’re not much of a daredevil but still like the idea of seeing the rainforest from above, you can smoothly glide over the canopy in a glass-bottomed cable car or one of the brand new four-person open-air gondolas.
You can pop out at Skyrail’s two mid-stations, where you can explore the rainforest from ground level, on boardwalks and from scenic look-outs, and learn a bit more about the ‘science bits’ at the interpretation centre.A one-way trip costs from $47.
9. CAIRNS ZOOM AND WILDLIFE DOME
Trying to spot a tiny creature in a rainforest can feel like,well, trying to spot a tiny creature in a rainforest.
If you want a guarantee that you will get up-close and personal with creepy crawlies you can head to the enclosed Wildlife Dome, which houses parrots, cockatoos,pythons, crocs, lizards, gliders, curlews, bettongs, frogmouths and kookaburras. While there you can havea go at ‘ZOOm’, a course of ropes and zip lines above theindoor rainforest and dome.
10. GO WILD JUNGLE TOUR
Take a day tour to the lush Daintree Rainforest with Jungle Tours and you will be treated to one of the most scenic coastal drives along the way: the Captain Cook Highway in Port Douglas.
Once at the forest, you will get a detailed tour with a knowledgeable guide, which is just as well as Daintree is one of the most ancient rainforests on Earth and home to the largest range of plants and animals in the world. Indeed, you will get the chance to see the endangered cassowary and have a ‘snap’ taken with a crocodile, koala or snake. Next, head off for a Daintree river cruise, stopping off at Alexandra Lookout for spectacular views across the river and Coral Sea. At the end of the day you get to chill out on the sweeping sandy beach at Cape Tribulation. Bliss.