Visiting Cairns? Discover some of the best non-touristy things to do in Cairns. From waterfalls, to islands, lookouts, and secret spots in the city, discover the best of Cairns hidden gems here.
1. Tully Gorge
Tully Gorge is one of the ultimate Cairns hidden gems. It is a place like no other and given its slightly off the beaten track in Cairns, you will often have the entire place to yourself. Tucked away on the Atherton Tablelands, approximately 2.25 hour drive south west from Cairns City, find this incredible lookout here: How to get to Tully Gorge in Cairns, Australia
2. Tchupala and Wallicher Falls
Often overshadowed by their more famous neighbour, Nandroya Falls, you shouldn’t miss popping by the lesser-known but very beautiful set of falls just a bit further down the road. The definition of Cairns hidden gems, Tchupala Falls and Wallicher Falls are two seperate waterfalls that you can visit from the same starting point. Find how to get to these magical two here: How to get to Tchupala and Wallicher Falls.
Suggested read: 10 things to do near Innisfail
3. Ponytail Falls
Ponytail Falls is one of my favourite places in the Cairns area and is one of the fully fledged Cairns hidden gems. Found in Tully, a 2 hour drive south of Cairns, you will not be disappointed discovering this spot for yourself. Suggested read: How to get to Ponytail Falls in Tully
4. Frankland Islands
While Fitzroy Island and Green Island are very well-known touristy spots in Cairns, discover a local’s favourite and non-touristy version of the Cairns hidden gems at Frankland Group National Park. Unlike the other islands in Cairns, Frankland Islands are undeveloped, meaning if you’re looking for a real island life adventure – this place is for you. If you don’t have your own boat, you can visit this spot with Frankland Islands Reef Cruises.
Suggested read: Frankland Islands: The Must Do Cairns Tropical Island
5. Souita Falls
Did you know there is more to Millaa Millaa than the big three waterfall circuit? While Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls are awe-inspiring in their own right, nothing quite beats escaping the crowds and finding lesser known waterfalls and Souita Falls is just that. Only 15 minutes from the Millaa Millaa township (Google Maps directions here), Souita Falls isn’t the only one of the Cairns hidden gems waterfalls found in the Millaa Millaa region – scroll on to discover more.
6. Glacier Rock
A hike without the crowds of tourists? Yeah, you can find that in Cairns. Glacier Rock is a hiking track, well-known to locals but less frequented by tourists. With views across Northern Cairns, Glacier Rock is extra special if you wake before the sun and see the sunrise from over the ocean (pictured below). While it is a local’s favourite, from a tourist point of view Glacier Rock is one of the best Cairns hidden gems hike spots.
Suggested read: How to get to Glacier Rock: The Ultimate Guide
7. Trinity Beach
When thinking of Cairns beachfronts it’s likely that Palm Cove and the Cairns Esplanade spring to mind, but have you heard of Trinity Beach? With a more local atmosphere, barbecue facilities, walking tracks, beaches and cute spots like this one below to find, be sure to add a visit to Trinity Beach to your Cairns hidden gems list.
8. Cairns Cane Fields
Cairns is known for the Great Barrier Reef and being home to the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, but did you know there are even more scenic landscapes here? Cairns is big on sugarcane farming, which means each year fields of gigantic sugarcane pop up all across Cairns. One of the best and less known of the Cairns hidden gems, you can find sugarcane in bloom like below from April to July each year – don’t forget to bring your camera!
9. Fairy Falls
It’s impossible to put together a list of Cairns hidden gems and not include Fairy Falls – but perhaps that it has been described as one of the Cairns hidden gems so often is a sign that it no longer quiteeeee fits the category. However, the path to this gorgeous waterfall can be found at the Crystal Cascades carpark in Redlynch and is a great alternative to the often populated Crystal Cascades. Suggested read: How to get to Fairy Falls
10. Cairns Chinese Friendship Garden
Turns out you don’t need to drive very far to see everyone of the Cairns hidden gems – the Cairns Chinese Friendship Garden is found just outside the Cairns CBD in Edgehill. A very calming and beautiful location and a must do if you’re looking for Cairns hidden gems.
11. Emerald Creek Falls
If you’re looking for a Cairns local favourite, you’ll find it at Emerald Creek Falls. Located just outside Mareeba (suggested read: Things to do near Mareeba: The Cairns to Mareeba Road Trip Must Do’s), rock hop your way to this Cairns hidden gem, where the majority of the people around you will be locals enjoying their day. Suggested read: How to get to Emerald Creek Falls.
12. Mt Hypipamee Crater & Dinner Falls
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Cairns really is out here to surprise you with a volcanic crater – or at least, a volcanic pipe. Discover one of the best Cairns hidden gems at Mt Hypipamee National Park. Look down 58m below the viewing platform at the vibrant green waters edge, but know it doesn’t stop there – the volcanic pipe continues 85m down below the water surface. While you’re here, you’ll also be able to stop by and view the glorious Dinner Falls.
13. Davies Creek Falls
The Cairns region has an awful lot of waterfalls, and unsurprisingly, that makes a lot of the Cairns hidden gems to be, well, waterfalls. Davies Creek Falls, sitting within Davies Creek National Park, is an example of a very popular local’s waterfall, that is lesser known to tourists in Cairns. It is one of the best spots to stop at when you’re exploring the Mareeba region (suggested read: Things to do near Mareeba: Cairns to Mareeba Road Trip Must Do’s).
14. Walshs Pyramid Road
Hello Instagram! Walshs Pyramid road is one of the most Instagrammable places in Cairns. However, as it is not on the tourist track, you’ll need to do a little bit of research to find this road – Find out more here: How to find that Walshs Pyramid Road in Cairns.
15. Graffiti Lane in Cairns City
The tourist side of Cairns city is restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and one gorgeous oceanfront lagoon – but there is more to Cairns city than what meets the eye. Just like the Cairns graffiti alley found just off Grafton Street. Wander around the city end of Grafton Street for a while and you’ll find this spot (hint: it’s near the Caffiend cafe) – one of the most central Cairns hidden gems you’ll find.
Suggested read: 101 things to do in Cairns.
16. Wrights Lookout in Kuranda
The Kuranda Village is definitely considered a Cairns must do (suggested read: Things to do in Kuranda), and as a result, you’ll find tourists flock to the village. Escape the hustle and bustle and pay a visit to the nearby Wrights Lookout – just a heads up, you’ll need a car to visit this spot from Kuranda Village.
17. Behana Gorge
Behana Gorge is one of my favourite places in Cairns. You’ll find Cairns locals here getting in their weekend cardio on the 40 minute (one-way) hilly walk from the carpark as well as swimming in the ultra-refreshing rock pools along the way. Be sure to continue to the end where you’ll be greeted with the powerful Clamshell Falls. Suggested read: Beautiful Behana Gorge.
18. Isabella Falls
A true Cairns local spot and a favourite of the Cairns hidden gems, Isabella Falls may look like it’s tucked away deep within the rainforest, but really, you’ll find this spot, at the back of the Cairns Edmonton suburb. A short pathway will take you to the bottom of these falls, with a small waterfall and swimming hole to greet you. Find the larger falls (like the one pictured here) by climbing and trekking through the undergrowth on the side. It’s worth the slightly extra effort!
19. Kuranda River Boat
As mentioned above, Kuranda can be busy and therefore, one of the best ways to escape the tourist crowds is to hop on the ultra-relaxing Kuranda River Boat. As you glide along the Barron River, keep your eye out for freshwater crocodiles in the water, cassowaries on the banks and the Skyrail gondolas sailing overhead. It’s one of the Cairns hidden gems, tucked away in plain sight!
20. Pepina Falls
Found in the Millaa Millaa region, but, just like Souita Falls (mentioned earlier), Pepina Falls is a lesser known Cairns hidden gem. You can find this spot just a 12 minutes drive from Millaa Millaa township or combine your visit with Souita Falls to see more of Cairns hidden gems in one day (they’re only an 8 minute drive from each other – see Google Maps directions here).
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