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14 Best Rainforest Walks Near Cairns

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Gabby Boucher
Updated Mon 19 Feb 2024

There are so many gorgeous rainforest walks near Cairns that are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels! Cairns is such a special place because it is sandwiched between two of the world’s most incredible natural wonders: The Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest

After spending some time snorkeling and scuba diving through the colorful underwater ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, make sure you explore the rainforest as well! Cairns is surrounded by lush tropical rainforest that is full of exotic plants, fascinating wildlife, and incredible walking tracks. From islands off the coast, to the oldest rainforest on the planet, to waterfalls, gorges, and everything in between, here are some of the best rainforest walks near Cairns!

aerial view of dense rainforest with river rushing through

14 Rainforest Walks Near Cairns

There are lots of amazing rainforest walks near Cairns, from the Atherton Tablelands to the offshore islands to the Daintree Rainforest. A short day trip out of the city will bring you to some of Australia’s most stunning natural scenery. There are lots of protected and beloved national parks, islands, waterfalls, and gorges where you can walk, hike, swim, and breathe in that fresh, humid, tropical rainforest air. 

Here are 14 rainforest walks near Cairns that are sure to leave you speechless! Whether you’re a family traveling to Cairns with kids and you want a leisurely, scenic stroll, or you’re an adventurous traveler who wants a challenging trek through the wilderness, there is a Cairns rainforest walk that is perfect for you. 

aerial view of tropical beach and rainforest near Cairns

Curtain Fig National Park 

Located about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Cairns, Curtain Fig Tree National Park near the Atherton Tablelands protects a local endangered forest known as Mabi Forest. The park is also home to a famous Fig Tree that is estimated to be over 500 years old!

  • Curtain Fig Tree Walk: This short, 10-minute walk is very easy and suitable for people of all ages. The elevated boardwalk brings you to the famous Curtain Fig Tree, which is 50 metres high and whose above-ground roots drop about 15 meters to the forest floor, forming a natural curtain!

girl looking at massive tree with heaps of roots

Barron Gorge National Park

Barron Gorge National Park is a rugged and historic rainforest area that encompasses coastal lowlands and the Atherton Tablelands. It is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and includes many hiking trails that were originally created by the Dyabugai Aboriginal People. The Kuranda Skyrail is a fun way to sail over the scenery of the national park!

  • Barron Falls Canopy Walk: This short circuit walk is easily accessible from the town of Kuranda. Follow the boardwalk and you’ll eventually find Barron Falls Lookout where you can see the majestic, tumbling waterfall, Barron Falls. If you’re visiting Cairns during the rainy season, this is a great activity because the boardwalk is safe in wet weather and the waterfall will be pumping! Just bring waterproof gear to wear!

  • Douglas Track: An incredible highlight of Barron Falls National Park is the Douglas Track. Suitable for more fit walkers, this historic trail is about 7 - 8km one way. The walk is moderately difficult and generally takes 4 to 6 hours to complete. On your journey, enjoy the serenity of the dense rainforest and keep your eyes peeled for native birds like the elusive cassowary!

aerial view of waterfall and railway

Mossman Gorge

This stunning area of natural beauty and Aboriginal culture is located in the Daintree Rainforest and is a top day trip from Cairns. Mossman Gorge is just over an hour drive from Cairns. Learn about the local history and traditions at Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre, and then catch the shuttle bus over to the heart of the gorge. 

  • Baral Marrjanga: This is the easiest rainforest walk at Mossman Gorge, at just 270 meters long. It takes about 5-10 minutes and is suitable for people of all ages, including those with wheelchairs or disabilities. The path leads to a beautiful lookout over the Mossman River and the distant mountains.  

  • Rainforest Circuit Track: At 2.4km, this circuit track takes about 45 minutes to complete and offers some of the best lookouts and views of Mossman Gorge. Take in the views of the lower rainforest canopy from the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge and go for a dip in the calm pools dotted with granite boulders. 

girls walking on suspension bridge

Wooroonooran National Park

Another gorgeous national park that is just about an hour away from Cairns is Wooroonooran National Park. This location is perfect for adventurous travelers who love to go hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, camping, and anything else you could ever dream of!

  • Mount Bartle Frere Trail: Bartle Frere is Queensland’s highest mountain at 1,611 meters tall. Experienced and fit hikers can access the summit via this 15km return trail through the rainforest! The trail can be done in one epic day, or you can camp overnight at Eastern Summit Camp and watch the sunrise on the mountain. This hike is only recommended for the drier months as it can be slippery and dangerous when it rains. 

  • Josephine Falls Walking Track: A family-friendly rainforest walk near Cairns is the Josephine Falls Walking Track. Josephine Creek begins at Mount Bartle Frere and trails down the mountain to create the picturesque Josephine Falls. The walk is 1.2km return and has multiple scenic viewing platforms.

  • Walshs Pyramid: The epic Walshs Pyramid hike is for fit, experienced hikers only! But those looking for a challenge and an epic view will have a blast on this Grade 5 hike that takes around 5-6 hours to complete. 

  • Windin Falls: This 11.5km round-trip hike through the jungle is one of the best rainforest walks near Cairns. It's a very remote trail with no facilities that is quite long and rated Grade 4. But the best part is the gorgeous waterfall at the end of the trail! Windin Falls has a picturesque swimming hole located right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley. 

girls sitting near a waterfall in the atherton tablelands

Fitzroy Island

One of the best day trips from Cairns is definitely Fitzroy Island. This stunning destination on the Great Barrier Reef is made up of at least 97% rainforest which is a protected national park, and it’s only a quick 45-minute boat ride from Cairns! There are some amazing rainforest walks to try before hitting the water for snorkeling and swimming. 

  • Fitzroy Island Summit Track: For the ultimate trek through Fitzroy Island National Park, take on the 3.6km Summit Track! This challenging hike takes about 1.5 hours and provides you with the best panoramic views of the tropical island scenery. 

  • Nudey Beach Trail: One of the absolute best rainforest walks near Cairns is the Nudey Beach Trail on Fitzroy Island. It is short and easy at just 1.2km return, and most people complete it in 45 minutes. Soak in the rainforest views along the way and bring your swimmers so you can dive in the turquoise water when you arrive at Nudey Beach. 

  • Secret Garden Walk: This peaceful walk is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in the serenity of the jungle. At just 700 meters long, this lovely stroll takes about 30 minutes to complete and is ideal for families. Be sure to read all the informational signs for fun facts about the native flora and fauna. 

people going to the beach on fitzroy island

Cape Tribulation 

About 3 hours north of Cairns is Cape Tribulation, a remote village hidden deep in the Daintree Rainforest. Most travelers prefer to spend a couple of days visiting Cape Tribulation since it is pretty far from Cairns, but you can also do it as a day trip. There are some great multi-day tours from Cairns that take you to all the best stops along the drive north! Here are some of the best rainforest walks to try when you get there. 

  • Dubuji Boardwalk: Suitable for visitors of all ages and fitness levels, the Dubuji Boardwalk weaves in and out of the mangroves that are so vital to the ecosystem in Cape Tribulation. There are lots of interesting signs that educate viewers about how all the different species intertwine in this special area. The walk is 1.2km return and takes about 45 minutes. 

  • Mount Sorrow Ridge Trail: Experienced hikers who want a challenge can take on the hike up Mount Sorrow! This 7km return walk takes about 6 hours to complete, so it is not for the faint-hearted. But the views from the top are worth it! You can overlook the vibrant green rainforest below you and even see out to the fringing reefs of the Great Barrier Reef.

girls walking on a deserted beach next to the rainforest

How To Get To The Best Rainforest Walks Near Cairns

If you’re staying in Cairns, you can access these awesome walking trails by either renting a car or booking a guided tour! There are some great car rental companies in Cairns where you can drive yourself out to all these magical destinations and get hiking. If you plan on tackling any of the more intense hikes like Mount Bartle Frere or Mount Sorrow, renting a car is the best option as most tours don’t include these treks. 

There are also a few fun and convenient day tours or overnight tours from Cairns! Tours are ideal for solo travelers or backpackers who want to meet people, or for families who don’t want to deal with the hassle of planning their excursions. From waterfall day tours, to Fitzroy island boat tours, to Kuranda day trips, to multi-day Cape Tribulation adventures, guided tours are a great way to access the best rainforest walks near Cairns with ease. 

couple at the curtain fig tree

Check out our Fitzroy Island day trips, Waterfall day trips, and Cape Tribulation tours where you can take on the best rainforest walks near Cairns!

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