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Your Guide to Cairns Aquarium

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Tom Linkins
Updated Tue 28 Mar 2023

Girl resting hand on glass of marine tank

More than 16,000 marine species call the Cairns Aquarium home, making it a worthwhile visit for all tourists in the region. Get a crash course on all the exotic creatures that call the reefs and rainforests of Cairns home. Visit rehabilitating turtles in the Turtle Hospital, hand-feed a cownose ray, and follow the lifecycle of a single drop of rain as it flows from the waterfalls of ancient rainforests, through brackish creeks and rivers hemmed with mangroves, all the way out to the Great Barrier Reef and the stunning deep blue of the Coral Sea. 

This is one of the best ways to spend the day for families. Introduce your kids to the teeming marine life and ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, and learn how you can play your part in conserving our ancient rainforests and the largest living structure on earth!

What animals can I see at Cairns Aquarium?

Crocodile approaching glass of tank

With nine key ecosystems on display, there’s a vast variety of wildlife to be observed at Cairns Aquarium. From pig-nosed turtles, eel tail catfish, freshwater whiptail stingrays and mangrove jacks in the Freshwater Stream exhibit, to keelback snakes, pythons, forest dragons, tarantulas, white lip tree frogs, and even giant burrowing cockroaches in the Wet Tropics exhibit! Move onto the Mangroves exhibit for an intimate encounter with estuarine crocodiles, giant mud crabs, and upside-down jellyfish.

As the exhibits flow on from freshwater and estuarine species to sea creatures that thrive in the saltwater of the reef, you’ll find big boys like the humphead Maori wrasse and epaulette sharks, vibrant blue spot rays, butterfly fish, clownfish, sea horses and a smorgasbord of technicoloured tropical finned friends. The Coral Sea tank displays a stunning array of sharks, including white tips, black tips and grey reef sharks, as well as open-water giants like the giant QLD grouper, bluefin trevally and coral trout.

This is as intimate as you can get to the reef’s creatures without donning a stinger suit and plunging into the depths and shallows of the Great Barrier Reef. You can even score an up close and tactical encounter with sea stars, sea cucumbers and carpet sharks at the Marine Touch Tank, all the while receiving expert guidance and commentary from knowledgeable marine educators!

How much does Cairns Aquarium cost?

Two girls standing out front of Cairns Aquarium

General admission to the Cairns Aquarium will set an adult back $52, a child $30 and a concession card holder $42, whilst infants two years and under gain free admission. Family passes for two adults and two children can be purchased for $147. Additional costs are incurred for extra special experiences.

Cairns Aquarium experiences 

Patron taking photo of shark in tank

Go behind the scenes like a VIP on the Marine Life Encounter. Spend three hours on a guided tour with the experts who help feed the fish and keep the tanks clean and safe for their finned friends, visit the Turtle Hospital and coral propagation centre, and score the rare opportunity to hand-feed a cownose ray! This ultimate marine experience costs $299 for adults and $149 for children.

Check out the on-site Turtle Hospital tour to see some of the injured turtles in rehabilitation prior to being released back to the ocean. Learn about the threats and impacts that turtles experience, and ways we can help. All proceeds from your ticket to the turtle hospital are used to aid their recovery! General Admission is $52 for adults and $42 for children. 

Take a peek behind the aquatic scenes with the Living Coral Biobank tour. Established as a conservation program for corals, this is the only place in Australia that houses all 400 species of hard coral from the GBR!  These specimens are grown so that they can be transplanted back on the reef if it’s in need of restoration. The 30 minute guided tour shows off the beauty of coral and is great to help you recognise the different species while out exploring the reef! General admission is $52 for adults and $42 for children.

Arrive at the aquarium with the rising sun to spend two hours watching the reef and rainforest creatures stir to life! Catch an exclusive glimpse at how the animals adapt from their nighttime habits to daytime survival tactics. The Aquarium by Sunrise encounter costs $79 for adults and $49 for children.

On the other end of the spectrum, return to the aquarium after hours for an intimate twilight experience. Chow down on a delicious three-course meal as shivers of sharks and schools of tropical fish swim overhead. The Aquarium by Night experience with the three-course meal costs $179 for adults and $79 for children, and $79 and $49 (respectively) without dinner.

How to get to Cairns Aquarium

Schools of tropical fish dancing between coral gardens in an aquarium tank

You'll find the Cairns Aquarium in the main hub of Cairns' CBD, at 5 Florence Street. There's ample three-hour free street parking and metred parking spaces close by, as well as a drop-off option for wheelchair access. The aquarium is also accessible by bus, with a terminal within walking distance on Lake Street. The Cairns Aquarium is open daily from 10 am to 3 pm.

Experience Queensland's endless summer and start planning your tropical getaway to the reefs and rainforests of Cairns today! Consult our friendly 24-hr travel experts for insider info to make this the best holiday yet!

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