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Free Things To Do in Cairns

Updated Sat 30 Jul 2022

Two women with flowers in their hair and arms raised, palm trees in the distance

A lively tropical town where the lush rainforest meets the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is located on Australia’s brimming East Coast

Renowned as the getaway to one of the seven wonders of the natural world, Cairns is also home to an abundance of iconic places to explore and free things to do. Unlike cities that revolve around long queues and expensive experiences, Cairns is a hotspot for sights that are completely free - here’s a round-up of our favourite Free Things to Do in Cairns.

So hop aboard, the sun is shining and the good vibes are here to stay!

1.   Go on a hiking adventure

Women wearing a backpack and hat at the Alexandra Lookout, 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 are a plethora of renowned hiking trails to dig your heels into. Explore our favourite hikes and bushwalking tracks in Cairns here.

2.   Conquer Walsh’s Pyramid 

Person sitting on the road with Walshs Pyramid in the distance

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!

3.   Chase waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands

Person standing in front of the Millaa Millaa Falls, 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, Millaa Millaa Falls. Located a scenic hour and 40 minutes from the Cairns CBD, Millaa Millaa is renowned for its impressive natural amphitheatre and 18.3 metres tall waterfall. Afterwards, pop on down to the beloved Josephine Falls for the waterslide of your dreams, or pitch a tent at the incredible infinity pool at Davies Creek Falls.

4.   Relax at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

Two women strolling into the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, Cairns

You can’t swim offshore at Cairns CBD, but Cairns City Council has got you covered!

The Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is a vast, 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, boasts a number of public barbeques, often hosts groovy live music, and is fully patrolled by lifeguards! The stroll down the Esplanade boardwalk is also a great way to spend a balmy afternoon without spending a dime.

5.   Sweat it up with free exercise classes 

Group of people partaking in an outdoor exercise class, Cairns
Image: Cairns Regional Council.

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

6.   Cool down in the Botanical Gardens

Person taking a photo of plants in the botanical gardens

Looking to cool down without making a splash? The Cairns Botanical Gardens are a sight for sore eyes, featuring luscious tropical foliage and a cool 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! In addition, there are trails to hike, a Rainforest Boardwalk, the Aboriginal Plant Garden and the Bamboo Collection to explore.

7.   Picnic along Palm Cove

Two women holding glasses of wine on a picnic rug at Palm Cove, Cairns

A tiny beachside village where every holiday dream comes to life, Palm Cove is located a short 30-minute drive north of Cairns. With an esplanade lined by swaying palm trees, public barbeques right on the beach, and great fishing spots around every corner, Palm Cove is the ideal location to spread out the picnic rug, laze with a wine in hand and enjoy a Great Barrier Reef sunset!

8.   Visit Kuranda on a day trip

Two women pointing at the Kuranda Village Skyrail signpost, Cairns

A charming combination of quirky shops and picturesque mountain backdrops, the colourful village of Kuranda is a must-visit during your Cairns trip! Located just 25 kilometres northwest of Cairns, Kuranda Village is a popular tourist town renowned for its eclectic shops, tasty dining options, and of course the Kuranda Scenic Railway. For those on a budget, Kuranda is surrounded by the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest so there is an abundance of exciting hikes nearby and exploring fun to be had!

9.   (Go)ne fishing!

cairns fishing jetty
Image: 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 Cairns Esplanade (near the 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. Happy fishing!

10.   Explore the Night Markets

Cairns Night Market entrance and signpost

The Cairns Night Market is renowned nationwide 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?

Who's ready for the best of Cairns and Great Barrier Reef adventures?

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