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There’s no better place to spend a week than Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. Cairns is the perfect destination to explore some of Australia’s best natural wonders – from the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest all on your doorstep, and so much more. We share our ultimate guide to planning an epic 1 week Cairns itinerary.
This itinerary for Cairns is meant as a guide to help you plan your own perfect Cairns 7-day itinerary… or for a longer stay.
You may prefer to skip one or more of the days detailed in this travel itinerary, for a shorter stay in Cairns, or to swap some of the activities for other things that interest you more.
You can easily spend much longer than a week in Cairns and still not run out of places to see and things to do.
We recommend you decide what attractions and places you most want to visit in order or preference, so you can ensure you have time to fit those into your stay. Then you can work in the lesser important activities around them.
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Our 7 Day Cairns Itinerary
We actually spent 8 days in Cairns, however, one of those days was spent by the resort pool and enjoying a fancy meal on the Marina, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary so we have tweaked this itinerary to fit into a single week.
If you have extra days to spare, you can easily fill them with the many attractions in Cairns or explore beyond the city.
Or do as we did and enjoy a day of lazing around by the pool or beach!
While a car is not essential for your stay following this itinerary, it will make it much easier (and usually cheaper) to have your own transport for the week. We hired a carwhich gave us the flexibility to visit all of these places easily, for much less than the cost of tours and public transport.
Here is a summary of the 1 week in Cairns itinerary:
Day 1- Arrive in Cairns
Day 2 – Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge, Port Douglas, Palm Cove
Day 3 – Kuranda, Baron Falls
Day 4 – Outer Great Barrier Reef Pontoon
Day 5 – Paronella Park, Josephine Falls, Babinda Boulders
Day 6- Green Island
Day 7 – Fly home
Day 1 – Arrive In Cairns
Arrive in Cairns and get ready for some exploring. Depending on what time of day you arrive, you may be able to fit in a lot or a little on this day.
It is less than a minute’s walk to the Cairns Cruise Terminal and just a few minutes from the Esplanade and Lagoon.
Alternatively, check out these top Cairns Airbnbs for a unique place to stay.
Spend your first afternoon taking a stroll along the Cairns Esplanade and the Marlin Marina.
Head to Hemingway’s Brewery towards the end of the Cairns Wharf for a great selection of eats and their speciality beers. They often have live entertainment on if you want to make it a lazy afternoon or evening.
Finish your day with a relaxing walk along the marina seeing some of the massive boats that are docked and enjoying the warm evening air.
The Daintree is approximately 2.5 hours drive from Cairns and there are plenty of places to stop along the way so we suggest heading off very early.
If you want to visit Cape Tribulation while in the Daintree, you will need longer as you will need to cross the Daintree River by ferry to reach the point where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.
A guided day tour can be a great way to fit all the must-see locations into your Daintree visit while sitting back in an air-conditioned coach. But you can do a self-drive visit as well.
Take a Daintree River wildlife cruise and you might see a crocodile in the wild! If not, you will spot lots of other wildlife as you float along the rainforest-lined river.
Afterwards, if you have time, head to the Daintree Discovery Centre for a walk through the forest canopy, with suspended walkways and guided nature tours.
As you make your way back south, stop off at Mossman Gorge where you can enjoy lunch at the Mossman Gorge Centre, before catching the shuttle bus up to the Gorge. They run continuously throughout the day and are $12.50 per person.
At Mossman Gorge, it’s a short rainforest walk to the water hole and suspension bridge. Take a swim or get your walking shoes on and do the nature walk around the Gorge.
This takes around an hour and requires moderate fitness levels. It is a beautiful walk!
In the afternoon, head to Port Douglas for a stroll (or a swim) at Four Mile Beach.
This is a great option for dinner, or head to Palm Cove, which is only around 20 minutes outside of Cairns for more restaurant options by the beach.
On day 4, go on a Great Barrier Reef cruise to an Outer Reef pontoon, where you can enjoy snorkelling the reef.
If you’re lucky, you might even get to swim alongside sea turtles as we did.
There are several pontoon experiences from Cairns, each offering different onboard activities. Each includes snorkelling equipment and instruction, with lifeguards on duty, lunch and a range of optional activities as well, such as scuba diving.
This is an incredible experience and one we highly recommend. You can do this day trip with children, however, it would be more enjoyable with older children who are confident swimmers, so you can all make the most of the experience.
Lifejackets are provided, along with full-body stinger suits for sun and stinger protection.
For dinner, head down to the Marlin Marina for dinner at Dundee’s Restaurant, as the sun sets over the harbour.
Day 5 – Paronella Park, Josephine Falls & Babinda Boulders
On day 5, head south of Cairns and visit one of Queensland’s most popular attractions -Paronella Park.
The Spanish castle in the Queensland rainforest has been one of the most visited attractions for many years. It is located approximately 2 hours south of Cairns near Innisfail.
While it has suffered a lot of structural damage over the years it is still an incredible place to visit and it was one of our favourite day trips in far North Queensland.
Take the guided tour and hear the history of Paronella Park and the visionary that created it. Afterwards, explore at your own pace. There are loads of rainforest walkways to discover and you can easily spend a few hours wandering around the park grounds.
You are also provided fish and turtle food to feed the local wildlife in Mena Creek.
There is a cafe here where you can enjoy lunch.
Afterwards, make your way back towards Cairns, stopping at Josephine Falls. Follow the rainforest walk for approximately 15 minutes to the waterfalls and watering hole where you can have a swim.
Families love visiting here for the natural rock slides.
Then, the last stop of the day, Babinda Boulders. Here you can also take a swim in the waterhole. There are picnic and BBQ facilities, a playground for the kids and roaming peacocks.
Don’t miss the Devil’s Pool walk where you can get great views over the incredible rock formations that have been carved out by water over the years.
Travel Tip: There are campgrounds at both Paronella Park and Babinda if you are visiting Cairns by campervan or caravan. There is also a night show. Check out photos of Paronella by night from my niece’s North Queensland road trip.
For dinner, head down to the Marina to Prawn Star where you can enjoy fresh seafood on a fishing trawler.
Start your final morning in Cairns with a waterfront breakfast at one of the many restaurants along the Marlin Marina, such as The Backyard Cairns, at the Shangri-La Hotel.
If you are flying out (or driving) later in the day, you can use the morning to fit in a visit to Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome for an adrenaline-fuelled zip line over wildlife enclosures, or just to enjoy the Aussie wildlife.
Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. Check out SafetyWing to make sure you’re covered!
Staying Longer In Cairns?
If you have more time to spend in Cairns, there are so many more attractions and day trips you can experience while enjoying Tropical North Queensland.
Here are some more ideas that you might want to incorporate into a longer Cairns itinerary:
You need at least 1 week in Cairns to make the most of the many day trip opportunities in far North Queensland, or a minimum of 3 days if you plan to just explore the attractions in Cairns itself.
When is the best time to visit Cairns?
The best time to visit Cairns is during the dry season from May to September. The average temperature is milder, around mid-20 degrees Celcius.
When is the worst time to visit Cairns?
The worst time to visit Cairns is during Stinger season. Stinger season in Cairns is typically between November and May when there is a high risk of box jellyfish in the water before they migrate north.
Book Your Cairns Trip
Book your flights – We use WayAway or Skyscanner to research and book flights. You can set up a price alert for your travel dates, plus it compares most major airlines in one place.
Book your tours & attractions – Our favourite attraction and tour booking services are Get Your Guide and Viator. Booking ahead will mean you don’t miss out on popular tours!
Find the best Cairns Airbnb private rentals for your stay – perfect for families and larger groups! You could even stay in a treehouse in the rainforest!
Ready to plan your own 1 week Cairns Itinerary? Or a longer stay perhaps. Cairns is one of the most family-friendly destinations in Australia and a perfect place to spend a relaxing break or an adventure-filled week like ours.