Fitzroy Island Cairns Australia Sarah Latham

Whether you’re a Cairns local or a visitor exploring Tropical North Queensland, Cairns is one of the best placed cities to see a variety of landscapes in just a few day trips. From reef, to islands, to beaches, to rainforest, to waterfalls, to castles, and views galore, there are so many great (and easy!) day trips accessible from Cairns. Ready to learn more about the best easy Cairns day trips? Read on.

Suggested read: 101 things to do in Cairns

1. Paronella Park

Starting off the list of Cairns day trips with a little spot you wouldn’t expect to find in Tropical North Queensland – a Spanish castle. Tucked away just a 90 minute drive south from Cairns city, you can spend a day wandering through the castle grounds, that have now become overgrown with plants and greenery. Be sure to check out Kauri Avenue and the impressive waterfall while you’re here.

Suggested read: Paronella Park – The Dream Continues

Two girls standing in castle ruins at Paronella Park Sarah Latham

2. Fitzroy Island

The best thing about Cairns day trips? You’re not just limited to land. Thanks to its proximity and, you know, being the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, a trip to this World Heritage site is only a few hours away from Cairns – making the Great Barrier Reef one of the best Cairns day trips you can do! Now you can explore the Great Barrier Reef by helicopter, small plane, dive boat, pontoon, the list goes on… however, one of the best ways to spend a day out on the reef is at a tropical island. Fitzroy Island is only a 45 minute boat ride from Cairns city and with room to spread out, gorgeous beaches, clear water, and even a bar on the island, you’d be mad not to visit on a Cairns day trip.

Fitzroy Island Cairns Sarah Latham 1

3. Millaa Millaa

Millaa Milllaa on the wall… We know this township in Atherton Tablelands is the fairest of them all (although competition is tough!). Head 90 minutes south west from Cairns city to discover the Millaa Millaa area. Home to rolling green hills, gorgeous waterfalls (hello the famous Atherton Tablelands waterfall circuit of Millaa Millaa Falls, Ellinjaa Falls and Zillie Falls are all found here) and beautiful views, visiting Millaa Millaa is one of the best (and easy!) Cairns day trips.

Suggested read: The best Cairns waterfalls

Millaa Millaa Falls Cairns Drone Sarah Latham

4. Cardwell Spa Pool

Just when you think Cairns can’t get any better in its natural beauty, it presents you Cardwell Spa Pool. Just over 2 hours south of Cairns, you cant go past the township of Cardwell without visiting this vibrant blue geological wonder. A popular spot with both locals and travellers alike and one of the cooler Cairns day trips (don’t forget your camera!) Please note that the road between the Cardwell and the Cardwell Spa Pool isn’t sealed (although it is less than 10 minutes).

Suggested read: 10 things to do near Innisfail

Sarah Latham Cardwell Spa Pools Cairns

5. Vlasoff Cay

Get ready for this Cairns day trip to knock your socks off. Vlasoff Cay is a sand cay situated in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef and is as picture perfect in real life as you’ve seen in photos. The whitest sand and the clearest blue water you’ll find, this is one of the best Cairns day trips. How to get here? There are two ways to visit Vlassoff Cay on a Cairns day trips: private boat or helicopter. If you’re not in the boating friendship group, I’d highly recommend the helicopter option and for that you’ll need to contact Nautilus Aviation who do scenic flights to and from the cay. This truly is the crown jewel of all Cairns day trips.

Vlasoff Cay Great Barrier Reef Cairns

6. Wallaman Falls

Cairns day trips but make it spectacular? Then you’ll want to put Wallaman Falls on your list. Located just over 3.5 hours south of Cairns (so you really are committing to a fairly long Cairns day trip), you’ll find Wallaman Falls – Australia’s tallest permanent single drop waterfall. You can admire the waterfall from above or take the track down to the bottom to take in the full force of these magnificent falls. If you want to really make a day of it, include a stop at Cardwell Spa Pool on your way down or back up! That’s two Cairns day trips rolled into one.

Suggested read: How to get to Wallaman Falls in North Queensland

Wallaman Falls Sarah Latham
Wallaman Falls

7. Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is one of the most well known day trips from Cairns. At just over 90 minutes north of Cairns, the Daintree Rainforest is a bucket list destination for thousands of people across the world (and did I mention it’s one of David Attenborough’s favourite places on Earth?). Cairns is surrounded by rainforest which makes rainforest one of the very obvious and well loved Cairns day trips. While visiting the Daintree Rainforest on a Cairns day trips be sure to include a visit to Walu Wugirriga Lookout, Cow Bay and Cape Tribulation. Suggested reads: Places in the Daintree you must visit and Your Cairns to Port Douglas itinerary.

Alexandra Lookout Daintree National Park Sarah Latham
Walu Wugirriga Lookout

8. Frankland Islands

Given Cairns literally sits along the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, it wouldn’t be a list of the best and easy Cairns day trips without including more than one reef option. Frankland Islands sits just south of Cairns and is one of the lesser known Cairns day trips you can take. This is a collection of islands that have not been developed, meaning you’ll be able to spend the day exploring the islands exactly as they are as their natural beauty. Find out more about when I went on a Cairns day trips to Frankland Islands here: Frankland Islands: The Must do Cairns Tropical Island

Frankland Islands Cairns Sarah Latham

9. Kuranda Village

Kuranda Village, one of the more touristy of the Cairns day trip options. Found just 45 minutes outside of Cairns, spend a day trip here wandering through the markets, shops and wildlife parks. Take your day to the extra level though by arriving and leaving from Kuranda Village by Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and the Kuranda Scenic Railway. Both options will take you from Cairns to Kuranda (and back) and both are spectacular in their own right. Find more things to do on Kuranda day trips from Cairns: Things to do in Kuranda

Sarah Latham standing on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Red Peak boardwalk looking at Kauri
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

10. Windin Falls

One of the most Instagrammable Cairns day trips is Windin Falls. A 90 minute drive and 70 minute hike will take you to the top of this waterfall with gorgeous views across the rainforest and the valley below. This spot has become increasingly popular over the last few years and makes for one of the best (and most active) day trips from Cairns!

Suggested read: How to get to Windin Falls

Windin Falls Sarah Latham Cairns Australia

11. Ponytail Falls, Tully

On a list of Cairns day trips, a personal favourite of mine is Ponytail Falls in Tully. Located about 35 minutes inland from Tully (although you’ll need to follow instructions for how to get to this waterfall: How to get to Ponytail Falls in Tully) this is one waterfall in the Cairns region that truly blew me away with its beauty. It might be at the end of this Cairns day trips list but you should add it to very top of your Cairns day trips list.

Ponytail Falls Tully Sarah Latham

When planning your list of Cairns day trips it may be important to note that hiring (or having access to) a car is likely to provide you with a lot more options for your day trips. Otherwise if that’s not an option, there are numerous tour companies providing many Cairns day trips for you to choose from! If you’re short on time and not sure how to prioritise all the different Cairns day trips you can do, I’d suggest picking one from the Reef options and one from the waterfall/rainforest options. Enjoy your Cairns day trips!

Green Island Cairns Sarah Latham

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