1) Dive the Great Barrier Reef and Sail the Whitsundays

Never mind a Cairns must-do, this is a life must-do. On bucket lists across the globe, one of the natural wonders of the world is right on Cairns’ doorstep, or rather, shores. The world’s largest coral reef system, it’s made up of 900 islands stretching over an area of around 344,400 sq km, and diving into this underwater world is unbeatable. The vibrant coral comes in every colour and shade of a Dulux swatch book, while friendly shoals of fish 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. There’s no better place to learn to dive, and we recommend PADI centre ProDive Cairns prodivecairns.com. Take its five-day learn to dive course before joining its three-day, two-night live-aboard dive trip in the Great Barrier Reef.

Of course not all the stunning sights are underwater, as the Great Barrier Reef is dotted with 74 tropical islands with national parkland, white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters. The most common stop-offs include Whitehaven, Airlie, Hamilton and the whimsically named Daydream Island. To really explore the islands, Wings offers a mini (but very muddy) 4WD tour of the Whitsundays hinterland as well as sailing and snorkelling tours wings.com.au. Or for anything from a day’s diving, to an island hopping pass, to the opportunity to sleep under the stars on a pontoon deck, try Awesome Whitsundays. awesomewhitsundays.com

2) Skydive Cairns

Skydiving is the most fun you will ever have. Yes, ever. You don’t feel like you’re dropping, you 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 as you fly through the sky you will see the Great Barrier Reef’s multi-coloured coral beneath a turquoise ocean below – beats jumping over the muddy fields of England, right? australiaskydive.com.au

3) 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 45m 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 the heart of the rainforest, so lush flora and waterfalls will blur before your eyes. ajhackett.com

4) Night Canoeing

Australia’s wildlife is as active at night as it is at feeding time. Plus it’s infinitely more magical (and spookier) canoeing by moonlight and listening out for the nocturnal creatures’ echoing cries and scurrying movements in the trees. The only company to offer a night canoeing tour is On the Wallaby, which meets you 900m north of Cairns at 8pm to paddle under the stars on Lake Tinaroo. 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. onthewallaby.com

5) Waterfall Tour

Always wanted to recreate the Timotei ad hair flick by a gushing waterfall? Here’s your chance. On the Wallaby offers a day trip to several 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 view the raging Dinner Falls and World Heritage-listed Mount Hypipamee National Park, all for $99pp for the day. onthewallaby.com

6) Skyrail 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 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 $50. skyrail.com.au

7) 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 have a go at ‘ZOOm’, a surprisingly nerve-wracking course of ropes and zip lines above the indoor rainforest. cairnszoom.com.au

8) Go Wild Jungle Tour

Take a scenic coastal drive along the Captain Cook Highway to Daintree Rainforest, one of the most ancient rainforests on Earth and home to the largest range of plants and animals in the world. Spot 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. At the end of the day you get to chill out on the sweeping sandy beach at Cape Tribulation. Bliss. jungletours.com.au

9) 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 to zooming 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), sign up 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 $108pp. ragingthunder.com.au

10) Rainforestation Nature Park

The Rainforestation Nature Park is some 30 minutes north of Cairns, set in 100 acres of World Heritage Rainforest. Take a tour on a World War II Army Duck (basically a boat with wheels) 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 at the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience. They will show you how to throw a boomerang and spear as well as put on an authentic dance show. rainforest.com.au