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Cairns, Australia is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park. You can also add on visits to Fitzroy Island, the Aboriginal town of Kuranda, the Green Island, and even go skydiving. In this guide, we lay out a sample 5 day Cairns itinerary, with suggestions to shorten or lengthen it, depending on your interests and how much time you have available.

An Overview of Cairns

Cairns is a small coastal city that attracts flocks of tourists each year. The main draw for visitors is the easy access out to the Great Barrier Reef, where scuba divers and snorkelers will sail out to explore and admire this natural wonder of the world. Whether it be a multi-day scuba tour, spending the night on a coral cay, a snorkeling day trip, or viewing the reef via helicopter, there’s an option for anyone.

You’ll also find a wide range of activities both in and around Cairns.

Visit the city’s esplanade, where you’ll find a public lagoon along a main road full of great restaurants and bars. Spend a day exploring the nearby town of Kuranda, an Aboriginal village within the nearby rainforest. Take a trip south to Mission Beach, and on your way stop for a quick adventure at Josephine Falls or Babinda Boulders. Lastly, don’t forget to spend a day exploring the vibrant Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest where jungle meets the reef.

5 Day Cairns Itinerary: Day 1


For your first day in Cairns, you’ll take a trip up to the Aboriginal rainforest town of Kuranda. This town is very well popularized amongst locals and tourists alike for its markets and atmosphere.

There are two popular methods of reaching Kuranda: the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Kuranda Scenic Railway. Both are fantastic and arguably better than Kuranda itself. You’ll take both of these forms of transit today.

8:00 am: Breakfast at Waffle on Cairns
9:30 am: Bus pickup to Smithfield Terminal
10:00 am: Depart Smithfield Terminal towards Kuranda
11:30 am: Explore Kuranda
2:00 pm: Depart Kuranda on Scenic Railway
4:00 pm: Return to Cairns
4:15 pm: Walk the Esplanade
5:00 pm: Early dinner

8:00 AM: Breakfast at Waffle on Cairns

Let’s start your trip out on a sweet note. Waffle on Cairns may arguably be the best place in all of Cairns for breakfast. This small breakfast joint serves a wide range of delicious gourmet waffles, both sweet and savory depending on what your taste buds are feeling. We found them to be so good that we came straight back here for lunch the same day!

9:30 AM: Bus Pickup to Smithfield Terminal

Assuming you don’t have a car, you can arrange a bus transfer to the Kuranda Skyrail terminal for a small fee. When booking online (which is required to board the skyrail), make sure to choose the “bus transfer” option, as well as when and where you’d like to be picked up. A bus ride should take about 10 minutes to reach Smithfield Terminal.

NOTE: If you don’t want the hassle of arranging your transportation, you can book a full day tour of Kuranda which also includes visits to the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and the Koala and Wildlife Park.

10:00 AM: Depart Smithfield Terminal towards Kuranda

Once boarding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, it’s about a 40-minute gondola ride to Kuranda. As you ascend through the air over Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, you’ll be treated to sweeping birds-eye views out over the rainforest below. The cableway is one of the two main ways to reach Kuranda, with the other being reserved for your trip back to Cairns.

Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

There are 3 stops along your route: Red Peak, Barron Gorge, and Kuranda. Due to this, we have allocated extra time for you to stretch your legs and visit each stop. The first is Red Peak, where you’ll find a short, 5-minute nature trail along wooden boardwalks. I don’t believe this is worth your time as there are minimal views and there are better sites later into your ride. Since it is such a small stop however, you have the time to explore here if you wish.

Transfer onto the next gondola and ride for an additional 15 minutes to Barron Gorge. As you approach, you’ll have spectacular views of the valley and waterfall from the air. These views right here are what makes the Skyrail worth it.

Here you’ll find an awesome, thunderous waterfall that spans the massive Barron Gorge. Get off at the station here and walk the boardwalks, where you can walk out to a better vantage point of the falls. Once you feel like you’ve fully taken in the view, hop back on the gondola for the final leg towards Kuranda.

Do note that, in order to ride the skyrail, you must book in advance. You can find the official website here. You can also upgrade your booking to the diamond view gondola, which includes a private gondola with a glass floor. In our opinion, this wasn’t worth it as the special gondolas are more scarce and the glass floor can easily fog up on a rainy day. However, if you’d like the privacy and extra views, it may be worth the upgrade.

11:30 AM: Explore Kuranda

Kuranda is an Aboriginal rainforest town famous for its culture and markets. The village is very popular with those who travel to Cairns, seeking an escape into the jungle to learn about Aboriginal culture. Walk the main road, pop into the array of shops, and wander the markets. There are also smaller exhibits where you can hold koalas and see birds.

The earliest the Kuranda Scenic Railway departs is 2:00pm, so you’ll be in town for a good few hours. Take your time and really get to explore the area. Grab lunch at either the Kuranda Hotel or any of the cafe’s that line the main road.

Do note that, when we visited Kuranda we didn’t find it to be the vibrant, mystical village that people had made it out to be. On a Monday midday, it almost seemed like Kuranda was a ghost town. Most of the shops were closed, and there was hardly anyone walking around town. We may have just visited on a less-popular day and gotten seriously unlucky, but this is something that no one talks about. In our opinion, the transportation to Kuranda is way better than visiting the town itself, and that alone makes the trip here worth it.

2:00 PM: Kuranda Scenic Railway

This 132-year-old railway is the other preferred method of transit to Kuranda. The old-timey scenic railway has a certain charm reminiscent of the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter. The railway departs Kuranda twice daily, at 2:00pm and 3:30pm.

On your 90-minute ride between Kuranda and Cairns, you’ll pass through tunnels, past waterfalls, and enjoy a brief 10 minute stop back at Barron Gorge. Get out here to stretch your legs and admire the view of the falls one last time.

Kuranda Railway

Barron Gorge Australia

Barron Gorge | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

You can upgrade to Gold Class when booking online for an additional fee. With gold class, you’ll enjoy a premium cabin with lounge style seating for a more comfortable, luxurious experience. Do note departure time from Kuranda if you choose to do this upgrade.

4:15 PM: Stroll along the Esplanade

Assuming no unexpected time delays, you’ll reach Cairns Central Station by 4:00pm. From here the rest of the day is for you to decide how to spend. We recommend taking a stroll up to the Esplanade, which is only a 15-minute walk from the station.

The Esplanade, situated right off of the town’s coastline, is a fantastic place to take a dip on a hot day. Enjoy a stroll along the man-made lagoon and pop into the water to cool off. The open park area is free and easy to access, and on a sunny day can be seen drawing some pretty large crowds. The area is also a hotspot for public events and live entertainment.

Cairns Fish | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

5:00 PM: Early Dinner

There are a wide variety of great restaurants in the area here. If you’re hungry, we recommend grabbing an early dinner at Villa Romana or Rattle n Hum. If you’d like to explore a more pricey option directly on the waterfront, try Waterbar and Grill Steakhouse.

For our list of meal recommendations, see the “Where to Eat” section at the end of this article.

5 Day Cairns Itinerary: Day 2

Great Barrier Reef

In this itinerary, you have one day to day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. You can organize a snorkeling or scuba trip with this time.

However, if you are an avid scuba diver, consider taking a multi-day excursion to the reef. There are a variety of liveaboard tours that range from just a few days to a full week, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in this spectacular natural setting.

Liveaboard Tours Great Barrier Reef | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef

I took a two-day liveaboard tour with Reef Encounter and it was one of my best experiences in Australia. Learn more about the tours in our Guide to Liveaboard Tours of the Great Barrier Reef.

If you choose to extend your time in the Great Barrier Reef, add more time to do this complete itinerary.

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5 Day Cairns Itinerary: Day 3

Skydive at Mission Beach and Wooroonooran National Park

For high-thrill seekers and those unafraid of heights, this will undoubtedly be the most adrenaline-filled day of your trip. You’ll skydive at Mission Beach at one of the world’s most beautiful skydives sites, where you can see the Great Barrier Reef during freefall.

Afterwards you can celebrate on the beach and visit Wooroonooran National Park on your way back to Cairns.

7:00 am: Depart Cairns
9:00 am: Arrive at Mission Beach
11:30 am: Unwind at Mission Beach
2:30 pm: Josephine Falls
3:45 pm: Babinda Boulders
5:30 pm: Arrive in Cairns, dinner

7:00 AM: Depart Cairns

Today is structured around a 9:00am booking with Skydive Australia. We recommend booking a skydive time slot early in the morning. In case unexpected weather delays arrive, you’ll have more wiggle room without cutting into activities planned for later in the day. Plus, in our experience, conditions seem to be most optimal in the morning.

It takes a little under 2 hours to reach Mission Beach via car. You can book a private transfer with Skydive Australia to & from Cairns but note that you will be unable to visit Josephine Falls and Babinda Boulders.

9:00 AM: Mission Beach Skydive

Here it is, the moment of truth. For all you adrenaline seekers out there, how about a view of the Great Barrier Reef that you just can’t beat anywhere else?

Not only is skydiving at Mission Beach one of the most scenic skydive locations in Australia, but it’s also one of the most beautiful in the entire world. If you hopefully have a clear day today, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the reef, nearby islands, turquoise blue waters, and the vast rainforests and coastline below as you fall. To top it off, you’ll actually come in for a landing on Mission Beach itself! Afterwards you can sit back and enjoy a few piña coladas as a celebration!

Mission Beach Skydive offers tandem skydives from 8,000 and 15,000 feet, along with additional packages depending on group size. We figure if you’re going to be jumping out of a plane, you might as well go for the 15,000 foot jump and enjoy the absolutely breathtaking views for longer.

Expect your skydive experience to take about 2 and a half hours. This time includes check-in, safety briefings, meeting your guide, the plane ride up and of course, the skydive. From 15,000 feet, freefall will last roughly 60 seconds, with an additional 6 to 8 minute glide back down onto Mission Beach. Enjoy the views from up there! If you’d like to learn more about your skydive, visit Skydive Australia here. 

NOTE: I was unable to go skydiving during my visit to Cairns. I had the skydive booked but rainy weather cancelled my flight and I unfortunately did not have enough time to reschedule it. However, I did go skydiving in Sydney and it was an incredible experience. From the photos I’ve see, this looks like an amazing place to go skydiving and I’m sorry I missed out on it.

11:30 AM: Unwind at Mission Beach

For a post skydive celebration and a chance to get your heart rate down, how about a few piña coladas on the beach? Mission Beach itself is gorgeous, as you probably noted from way up in the air. Stroll along the beach, soak up the sun, and pop into a nearby cafe for lunch.

Mission Beach Cairns | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Mission Beach | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

2:30 PM: Josephine Falls

An hour drive north from Mission Beach (on the drive back to Cairns), you’ll reach Josephine Falls in Wooroonooran National Park.

This is a great spot to chill, with a natural swimming hole as well as short walking tracks that take you around the falls. Josephine Falls is considered the best waterfall near Cairns, and a great spot for an afternoon adventure. Do make sure to check signs for restricted swimming zones as conditions can be rough.

Josephine Falls

Josephine Falls | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

3:45 PM: Babinda Boulders

This Aboriginal site with a haunting legend makes for another afternoon adventure outside of Cairns.

Babinda Boulders | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Babinda Boulders

Well known for its canyon full of large slick boulders, this makes for a fun spot to explore. You’ll find tiny lagoons to swim in, but do not swim in the actual canyon! This will be heavily marked, but currents can be dangerous and deaths have occurred there before. Stay on the walkways and swim only at the designated spots.

Babinda Boulders is only a 20-minute drive from Josephine Falls, so it’s a great place to visit if you’re in the area. If you’re looking for a spot to take a swim, try the calmer lagoons by the carpark.

5:30 PM: Dinner in Cairns

It’s roughly an hour long drive between Babinda and Cairns, so you’ll make it back to town by dinnertime. For recommendations on where to eat and drink, see the “Where to Eat” section at the end of this article.

5 Day Cairns Itinerary: Day 4

Island Adventure

You have three options today. Choose between visiting the large Fitzroy Island for an adventure at land and sea, Green Island for some breathtaking snorkeling, or a helicopter ride out to Vlasoff Cay for those unafraid to splurge on their budget.

Due to time constraints on when these excursions run, you can unfortunately only pick one of the three islands to visit, yet all will guarantee a brilliant day trip out to the reef.

OPTION #1: Fitzroy Island

11:00 am: Depart Cairns
5:00 pm: Return to Cairns
6:00 pm: Dinner

11:00 AM: Depart Cairns on the Fitzroy Flyer

In order to reach Fitzroy Island, book tickets to ride the Fitzroy Flyer. It takes about 45 minutes to sail to the island from Cairns. Check in at the Fitzroy Island Booking Centre at least 30 minutes before your departure time. There are only limited departure and arrival times each day, so ensure you do not miss your ferry. You can find the full timetable here.

You can also book a transfer from Cairns to Fitzroy Island on a catamaran with Sunlover Reef Cruises.

12:00 PM: Explore Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy Island is a fairly large island situated on the outskirts of the GBR. The island’s main draw is Nudey Beach, a stunning white sand beach surrounded by turquoise waters. This is a prime spot to work on your tan and take a swim in some of the most beautiful waters you’ll ever see. The best part is, Nudey Beach is only a short walk from the island’s port.

Fitzroy Island is also surrounded by a small reef, making for some great spots to snorkel. You can book guided snorkel tours that highlight the best segments of the surrounding reef. If you prefer to stay on land today, you’ll also find a rainforest full of fantastic walking tracks. Hike out to the island’s lighthouse or the summit of the island, where you can enjoy sweeping views that overlook the island and surrounding reef.

On the island, there’s also a resort where travelers can grab meals and spend the night. If you want more information on booking tours or learning more about Fitzroy Island, visit here.

Fitzroy Island | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Fitzroy Island | shutterstock.com

5:00 PM: Return to Cairns

This is the last departure for the day, so if you end up missing this you’ll have to spend the night. Given what we’ve seen of Fitzroy Island, however, this doesn’t seem to be that bad of a setback. To ensure you make your ferry back home, make it to the island’s jetty at least 15 minutes before departure time.

Once back in Cairns, grab dinner and a few drinks!

TOUR OF FITZROY ISLAND: If you prefer to take a tour, Fitzroy Island Adventures offers a day trip to Fitzroy Island from Cairns, which includes the option to add on snorkeling and a ride on a glass bottom boat.

OPTION #2: Green Island

8:30 am: Depart Cairns
4:30 pm: Return to Cairns
5:30 pm: Dinner

8:30 AM: Depart Cairns via Great Adventures

There are only 2 departure and arrival times at Green Island daily. We recommend booking the earliest arrival and latest departure from Green Island to maximize your time, giving you roughly 7 hours at this tropical paradise. It’s about a 45-minute ferry ride out to Green Island from Cairns.

9:30 AM: Explore Green Island

Smaller than Fitzroy but just as beautiful, Green Island is a beautiful cay formed by the GBR’s coral over 6000 years ago. This is also the only cay in the reef that has a rainforest! This island is nearly surrounded by coral and one of the best nearby spots to snorkel the GBR. Similar to Fitzroy, you’ll also find a resort on the island.

Green Island is extremely popular for its snorkeling, which you’ll find is better than on Fitzroy Island. Hire snorkel equipment and swim out straight from the island, or book a snorkel tour that takes you further out into the reef. You can also book a glass bottom boat tour if you’d prefer to view the reef’s beauty while staying dry.

Green Island | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Green Island | shutterstock.com

What’s the difference between Fitzroy and Green Island? For starters, Fitzroy is the much larger island of the two. You’ll find greater diversity in the adventures to be had, where you can snorkel, hike, or visit extremely beautiful beaches. Green Island is smaller but has some impeccable snorkeling opportunities. For those interested in snorkeling, Green Island is the better choice over Fitzroy Island. If you’d like a destination with more options, we recommend picking Fitzroy.

4:30 PM: Return to Cairns

This is the last departure from Green Island today, so ensure you’re at the jetty 15 minutes before the ferry leaves. Once back in Cairns, treat yourself to a nice dinner and a few drinks.

Tours of Green Island

This sailboat tour starts in Cairns and includes a 2 hour cruise out to Green Island, plenty of time for snorkeling and swimming, and a cruise back to the mainland.

See the Great Barrier Reef from a scenic flight and then cruise to the Green Island with Big Cat. This includes the option to go snorkeling or view the coral from a glass bottom boat.

On this full day trip from Cairns, cruise out to Green Island on a catamaran and snorkel or dive in the reef.

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OPTION #3: Vlasoff Cay

10:00 am: Cairns Aquarium
12:00 pm: Depart Cairns
3:00 pm: Return to Cairns
3:30 pm: Cairns Botanic Gardens
5:30 pm: Dinner

10:00 AM: Cairns Aquarium

The main tour of Vlasoff Cay is much shorter time-wise than visiting the other two islands, giving you additional time to view sites in Cairns. You’ll also notice today starts later than the other two options, giving you time to enjoy a nice, hearty breakfast. We’ll start today with the Cairns Aquarium.

With over 16,000 aquatic animals across 9 distinct ecosystems, this giant collection of sea life is definitely worth a visit. We found this to be a great aquarium with some pretty fascinating exhibits near the end, as well as an underwater tunnel that gives you some incredible angles of a group of sharks and rays. The Aquarium opens at 10:00 am, so you should have a much less crowded experience.

Cairns Aquarium | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

12:00 PM: Depart Cairns via Nautilus Aviation

Imagine flying off to a remote island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, surrounded by nothing but pristine waters and a beautiful coral reef. A helicopter ride out to Vlasoff Cay is an experience like none other, offering you the ideal escape from reality to unwind at a natural paradise.

Apart from an already stunning 20-minute helicopter ride, the main draw is the chance to spend 2 hours on the white sands of Vlasoff Cay. The best part is, you’ll (most likely) have the entire place to yourself. Although it is on the pricey side, this is such an unforgettable experience that it’s a must-do on a high budget trip to Cairns.

I recommend booking with Nautilus Aviation. They get excellent reviews, and their tour package includes complimentary beach chairs, umbrellas, snorkel equipment, picnic gear, and sparkling wine. The 2 hours you have on the cay may just end up being the best of your entire trip!

A booking costs AUD $949 per person, with a minimum of 2 people required to book. We recommend booking months in advance as this is an extremely popular thing to do, so they sell out fast! You can learn more at their site here. 

Your trip itinerary will be included in your booking. You may have to call to make a booking, but check their site first. Exact times are not given, but they tend to book tours from around 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. A tour, including the helicopter ride there and back, lasts 3 hours. Enjoy your time on a secluded island paradise!

3:30 PM: Cairns Botanic Gardens

Given a 12:00 pm booking, you should make it back to Cairns at around 3:00 pm. With that, we recommend visiting the Cairns Botanic Gardens as the last stop for today.

The Cairns Botanic Gardens offers a massive collection of tropical flora, making it the easiest way to experience the nearby rainforests for those on a time crunch. Located just outside town by the airport, a visit here is perfect if you have a free afternoon in Cairns. Wander the boardwalks as you immerse yourself in the jungle atmosphere that is adored by visitors from near and far.

5:30 PM: Dinner in Cairns

For recommendations on where to eat and drink, see the “Where to Eat” section at the end of this article.

5 Day Cairns Itinerary: Day 5

Daintree National Rainforest

For your final day in Cairns, you’ll be taking a day trip up to Daintree National Rainforest. This works best if you have a rental car but it can be done on a tour.

7:30 am: Depart Cairns
9:30 am: Daintree Discovery Center
10:45 am: Thornton Beach
11:30 am: Dubuji Walk
1:00 pm: Lunch
2:30 pm: Cape Tribulation
3:30 pm: Noah Beach
6:30 pm: Dinner in Cairns

7:30 AM: Depart Cairns

You’ll have a long, 2-hour drive ahead of you before reaching the Daintree Discovery Center. Luckily, a good portion of this is along the Captain Cook Highway, a scenic coastal drive that connects Cairns and Port Douglas. Along the way you’ll be treated to some great coastal views and several pristine beaches that you are welcome to stop at. We recommend Trinity Beach and Holloways Beach.

Things to Do in Cairns | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Rex Lookout on Captain Cook Highway

You’ll pass through Lower Daintree before reaching the ferry crossing. The ferry operates continuously between 5:00 am and midnight every day, so you should have no trouble making it across the river. This is a car ferry, so staff will direct you when parking on the ferry itself. It only takes several minutes to cross the Daintree River.

9:30 AM: Daintree Discovery Center

Your first top in the park is Alexandra Lookout, one of the best viewpoints in Daintree National Park. Here is the view.

Alexandra Lookout Daintree Australia | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Alexandra Lookout | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Just a short drive up the road is Daintree Discovery Center, a great spot to learn more about the rainforest and what you’ll expect to find on your journey. The center has a few wooden boardwalk trails that you can follow on a short jungle circuit, as well as a lookout tower that reaches over the canopies of the nearby trees. Frankly, the view isn’t the best from up here. You’ll find more action closer to the jungle floor.

Also at the discovery center are smaller displays featuring snakes, jungle bugs, and an aquarium. There is also a coffee shop by the front entrance. We recommend a quick visit to the discovery center, about an hour at most. There are much better places to visit deeper into the rainforest, but this is a good spot to get your bearings.

10:45 AM: Thornton Beach

Only a few hundred yards from the parking lot, the rainforest ends where a wide, sandy beach begins. Thornton Beach stretches out for miles in either direction, and walking from a rainforest and onto a wide-open stretch of sand is cool as it is. We were the only ones here when we visited, so you may get lucky and have the entire beach to yourself. There is also a cafe by the parking lot, but this was closed when we visited.

Thornton Beach Daintree

Thornton Beach | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

Be mindful of swimming in the ocean at these beaches. There is a risk of both crocodiles and jellyfish in the water, and you’ll see plenty of signs posted warning you about these dangers.

11:30 AM: Dubuji Walk

Known as the “forest of vines”, this long boardwalk trail takes you deep within the jungle and mangrove forests. You’ll pass by swamps and a spectacular array of tropical flora. Of the several boardwalks in the park, we found this one to be the most unique. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for both crabs and crocs lurking within the water.

Dubuji Walk Australia

Dubuji Walk | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

There’s also a separate boardwalk that will take you out to Myall Beach, a wide stretch of sand similar to Thornton Beach. Expect to spend a little over an hour here walking the trails.

1:00 PM: Lunch

There’s surprisingly good variety in lunch options for being so deep into the park. Nearby you have Cape Trib Camping Sandbar, PK’s Jungle Village and Bar, and other small cafes. Take your pick on what will best suit your appetite.

2:30 PM: Cape Tribulation and Kulki Boardwalk

Cape Tribulation is the most northern point in Daintree that is easily accessible, with anything beyond only possible to reach via 4WD. The beach here is similar to the others that you’ve seen in the park, and you can reach it by following the Kulki Boardwalk 5 minutes from the parking lot. You’ll find a crazy unique section of Mangrove trees growing on the eastern section of the beach, which is something unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Continue up the boardwalks for another couple minutes before reaching a lookout over Cape Trib. The view here is phenomenal, and it didn’t seem like many people knew about this fantastic photo spot. Of the boardwalks and views featured within Daintree, this one was my favorite.

Cape Tribulation Beach

Cape Tribulation | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

3:30 PM: Noah Beach (Optional)

On your drive south, back towards Cairns, stop by Noah Beach. This is the one final beach on your journey, yet I believe it’s the most beautiful. Better yet, we did not see a single person here for the entire hour we spent on this beach. Pop out for a quick stroll and take in the views.

Noah Beach Daintree

Noah Beach | 5 Day Cairns Itinerary

There is a campsite here located only a few hundred yards from the beach. When we visited Daintree, we spent the night at this campsite which was an unbelievable experience. Even though we encountered a few fiascos in our experience, sleeping within the rainforest and being able to easily walk out to a secluded beach for sunrise will always be a memorable experience for me.

6:30 PM: Dinner in Cairns

For recommendations on where to eat and drink, see the “Where to Eat” section, listed next.

Where to Eat in Cairns

Waterbar and Grill Steakhouse: Being a steakhouse located right on the water, do expect a slightly more expensive meal here. Don’t worry, what you’re paying for is absolutely worth it. Not only is it so relaxing to enjoy a meal by the ocean, but their fresh seafood and steak are delicious. Other travelers we met also raved about this spot while we were in Cairns, so this makes the perfect place to treat yourself.

Waffle on Cairns: Ever wanted a waffle for lunch but felt guilty if you’d order one? Waffle on Cairns solves that problem with their mix of both sweet and savory waffles, served for breakfast and lunch. Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they’re served as a work of art. I ate here for breakfast one day, and after finding out how delicious the waffles are, came straight back here for lunch the same day. You have to check this spot out while in Cairns.

Jimmy’s Burger & Co: Jimmy’s has a pretty standard menu for burgers, fries, and the like, but they totally shine with their shakes. You can order a delicious “thickshake”, or if you want an extra kick, a spiked shake as your dessert. My go-to order is the Bailey’s and Chocolate shake combo, a delicious concoction that I ended up ordering more times than I’d like to admit.

Villa Romana: Located right off Cairns’ Esplanade, Villa Romana has everything you’d wish when it comes to Italian food. Tasty food and a good view, this spot is worth visiting.

Rattle n Hum Cairns: About a 30 second walk from the Esplanade and lagoon, Rattle n Hum is a beautiful sports bar with a wide selection to pick from. Not only is their menu fantastic, but you can also enjoy a few games of billiards or even pinball after finishing your meal.

Dundees on the Waterfront: Located on the edge of Marlin Marina, this seafood restaurant gets great reviews and has a solid menu featuring anything you could think of. They even serve kangaroo and crocodile satays!

Where to Stay in Cairns

I stayed at Gilligan’s Hotel & Resort. This is a hotspot in Cairns and maybe one of, if not the most popular, place to stay in town for young travelers. This hostel/hotel/nightclub is captivating for its high energy. You’ll find a resort-style pool and several bars along with dancefloors. Gilligan’s hosts a special event each night, so be on the lookout as there may be something you definitely don’t want to miss. We stayed here for 2 nights in a dorm-style room and had no issues with noise while sleeping despite the nightclub only a story below us.

If you are looking for something more high-end, Crystalbrook Flynn is a 5-star hotel that gets exceptional reviews. The Abbott Boutique Hotel, Dreamtime Travellers Rest, and City Terraces are mid-range hotels that also get excellent reviews.

Modifying this Cairns Itinerary

For those with less than 5 days in Cairns, you shorten this itinerary by removing day 3 (skydiving, Mission Beach, and Josephine Falls) to turn this into a 4 day itinerary. To turn this into a 3 day itinerary, remove day 3 and day 4 (day trips to Fitzroy Island, the Green Island, or Vlasoff Cay).

If you have more time, consider doing a multi-day liveaboard tour of the Great Barrier Reef of doing multiple island day trips from Cairns (such as Fitzroy Island and the Green Island).

If you have any questions about this 5 Day Cairns Itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Australia

QUEENSLAND: Get started with our article Best Things to Do in Cairns. Visit the Great Barrier Reef, either on a multi-day liveaboard tour or on a cruise out to Lady Musgrave Island. Spend the day in Daintree Rainforest and two of Australia’s best zoos.

TASMANIA: In Tasmania, hike to Cape Raoul and Wineglass Bay, explore the Tasman Peninsula, spend some time on Bruny Island, visit Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, and cruise to Tasman Island.

SYDNEY: Get started with our Sydney Bucket List, which contains 40 of the best things to do in Sydney. We also have a guide to 20 great restaurants and bars in Sydney, the best beaches in Sydney, where to stay in Sydney, the Spit to Manly walk, and a Guide to Skydiving in Sydney.

EXPLORE NEARBY NEW ZEALAND: There are many wonderful things to do in New Zealand, such as visiting the Milford Sound, bungy jumping and jet boat riding in Queenstown, touring the Marlborough wine region, spending some time in Wanaka, visiting Aoraki/Mt. Cook, and hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Read all of our articles about Australia in our Australia Travel Guide.

5 Days Cairns Australia Itinerary


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