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FREE things to do in Cairns

Cairns may lure all kinds of visitors, but it’s still a show stopper for those on a shoestring. Unlike cities that revolve around art galleries, espressos and expensive experiences, Cairns is home to an abundance of free-for-all natural delights. Some of the very best sights and spots are completely free: here’s a round-up of our favourites.

Pull out your hiking shoes

bushwalk, cairns

If there’s one thing Cairns does best, it’s greenery - and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the lush, ancient rainforests than to walk them. From Crystal Cascades to Red Arrow and Earl Hill Summit Track, there’s a plethora of renowned hiking trails to dig your heels into. 

Conquer Walsh’s pyramid 

walshs pyramid, vanlifearoundaustralia
Photo by @vanlifearoundaustralia

If you’ve got a spring in your step, you might want to level up with your hiking adventure and set your sights on the peak of Walsh’s pyramid. It’s the tallest freestanding natural pyramid in the world, and the steep, upwards hike takes you 922m to the peak. It’s best known for its incredible panoramic views, scrubby bushland and humble eucalyptus forest.

Go waterfall hopping

waterfall, cairns

The towering mountain ranges and ancient rainforests surrounding Cairns create an incredible environment for waterfall hopping. You’ll need a car and a tank of fuel for this one, but if you can rustle that up you’re in for a jam-packed day of nature’s best. Begin with a local favourite, Crystal Cascades. It’s just a 25 minute drive out of Cairns CBD, and is renowned for its impressive falls and shady pools. Pop on down to the beloved Josephine Falls for the water slide of your dreams, or pitch a tent and wind down at the incredible natural infinity pool at Davies Creek Falls. 

Wind down at the Esplanade 

cairns lagoon
Photo by Pete Ingram.

You can’t swim offshore at Cairns CBD, but Cairns City Council has got you covered. The Lagoon is a huge well-maintained outdoor swimming pool that caters to everyone’s swimming style. From the shallow ends for families to deep diving pools for those wanting a little more, it’s a great place to relax and unwind after a crazy day of exploring. Best of all, it’s free entry and often the host to groovy local live music gigs and mini-food festivals. The stroll down the Esplanade boardwalk is also a great way to spend a balmy afternoon without spending a dime.

Sweat it up with free exercise classes 

Photo by Cairns Regional Council.

If you’re looking to sweat it up before a dip in The Lagoon, look no further than the myriad of free fitness classes hosted on the Esplanade. Every day of the week there are free classes, including yoga, boxing, aqua zumba, beach volleyball, pilates and more. You can find the timetable here

Cool down in the Botanical Gardens

cairns botanical gardensPhoto by Cairns Botanical Gardens

Looking to cool down without splashing about? The Botanical Gardens in Cairns are a sight for sore eyes, featuring luscious tropical foliage and a cool and calm microclimate to boot. Renowned for having one of the country’s best tropical plant exhibitions, you could spend an entire day in the gardens without getting bored or paying a cent! There are trails to hike, a Rainforest Boardwalk, the Aboriginal Plant Garden and the Bamboo Collection to explore.

Peruse the free art galleries  

cairns art gallery
Photo by Cairns Art Gallery.

Galleries often cost an arm and a leg - but not in Cairns. There are a plethora of free art galleries in and around the city, including NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Cairns Art Gallery and Tanks Art Centre. If you’re interested in diving a little deeper into Aboriginal art, head to Janbal Gallery in the nearby town of Mossman.

(Go)ne fishing!

cairns fishing jetty
Photo by Pedro's Fishing Hire.

If you have a mate with a rod or are looking to make friends with the locals, head on down to the designated fishing jetty at the southern end of the Esplanade (near Figtree playground). It’s kitted out with cleaning benches, rod holders and charts to measure your catch, as well as barbecues to cook your feed after the hard work is over.

Get amongst it at the night market

cairns night market
Photo by Cairns Night Market.

The Cairns night market is renowned nation-wide for its lively spirit and atmosphere. With over 70 different stalls featuring international food and beverages, out-of-this world souvenirs, and of course, freezing cold beer, it’s one of the best places in Cairns to mingle with travellers and locals alike. You can easily soak up the action without spending a cent - but who can resist a cold beer on a hot night?

And there you have it! Chat to our local team of travel experts to start planning your trip to Cairns today!

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