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Cairns in itself is not a very interesting city. It has a relaxed feel to it, but most of Cairns' attractions are located outside the city, such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Nevertheless, there are still a few things you can do in the city itself.
The Cairns Regional Gallery is housed in an old building and holds a fine collection of modern art made by local (i.e. from northern Queensland) artists. In addition they have temporary exhibitions with work by artists from the rest of Australia.
On the rooftop of the Reef Hotel Casino there is a dome which is home to the Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome. It's a very special zoo with koalas, snakes and other animals. Its top attraction is a four meter long saltwater crocodile.
The Cairns Museum looks somewhat old-fashioned, but it does have an interesting exhibition about the city's history, including weapons and hunting gear of the Aboriginals and the remains of a Chinese temple which used to be in the city center but was demolished.
In the north of Cairns lies the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. It's Australia's first park that was dedicated to the life and culture of the original inhabitants. Here you can not only experience traditional music and dancing, but you can also try throwing a boomerang or spear for yourself, or play the didgeridoo.
Cairns' main attractions are the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Both natural wonders are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of course, the Great Barrier Reef stretches out over a much longer distance along Australia's East Coast, but it can be easily reached form Cairns as the coral reef is relatively shallow here and close to the coast. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse maritime ecosystems around the world. There are several ways to admire this spectacular natural beauty from the port of Cairns.
The starting point of the Skyway Rainforest Cableway is only fifteen kilometers north of Cairns. The cableway is no less than 7.5 kilometers long and takes you over the jungle of the Daintree Rainforest with beautiful views of the gorges and Barron Falls, ending in the village of Kuranda.
The jungle and the sea meet each other at Cape Tribulation. The mangrove forest is full of life and there are unique possibilities to discover the beauty of this area. One way is by jungle surfing on cables that run through treetops. In addition, night walks are organized. You will be amazed by the noises that are produced by the jungle at night. When driving from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, make sure to stop at the Daintree River. It is a unique opportunity to see saltwater crocodiles in the wild.
West of Cairns lies Atherton Tableland, a beautiful mountainous region with many tropical waterfalls which are ideal for swimming.
Around the city there are various routes that you can explore in your rental car. You can for example drive north to discover the landscape of Cape York Peninsula. Another route leads to the west, along the Chillagoe Caves and to the volcanic area at the foot of the Great Dividing Range, where you will find many hot springs.
Finding a parking space in Cairns is easy and rates are low. When your car is parked out on the street, the interior can get very hot. We therefore recommend parking your rental car in one of the city's parking garages.
Cairns Airport is located 7 kilometers north of the city center. Besides domestic flights, there are international flights, mainly to countries in the region (New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Papua New Guinea). You can easily reach the airport in your rental car: Sheridan Street runs from the city center to the airport.