3 Day Cairns Itinerary – How to Plan a Trip to Cairns

3 Day Cairns Itinerary – How to Plan a Trip to Cairns

3 Day Cairns Itinerary – How to Plan a Trip to Cairns

3 Day Cairns Itinerary – How to Plan a Trip to Cairns


Planning a trip to Cairns and looking for a 3 Day Cairns Itinerary?


Great! you made it to our latest article On how to plan a 3 Day Cairns Itinerary! Read on to learn how to choose the best Cairns Tours.


Let’s jump straight into it shall we!




Visit The Great Barrier Reef! Ok, so you have probably guessed this is something you should do when you come to Cairns. But have you ever asked the question why! Why should you visit the reef from Cairns?


The answer: The reef is at it’s closest to the mainland of Australia at Cairns! That’s right Cairns is the main gateway city for visiting the Great Barrier Reef!


You can get to the reef in the shortest amount of time possible. At just under 20klm from Cairns the Great Barrier Reef is closer to Cairns than at any other point on the East Coast of Australia!


How do you choose a Reef Trip?


Ok so now we get that out of the way, how do you choose a trip? Well that’s easy if you ask yourself 3 simple questions:


1 – Can you swim?
2 – Do you have Children?
3 – Do you get sea sick?


Let us start with can you swim? If the answer is yes, great; you can pretty much choose any Cairns reef tour and you will have an awesome day!


If you are really comfortable in the water look at the day snorkel dive boats. They carry smaller numbers and move around up to 2 and 3 different locations in the once day. Cheak out Cairns Snorkel Diver Tours.


If the answer is no, you cannot swim. No problem you should be looking at either an island day tour or a pontoon company.


Both will offer stable platforms for you to relax on and enjoy semi-submarines, glass bottom boats, and underwater observatories. Check out our Great Barrier Reef Tours for non-swimmers.


Next on the list do you have children? If the answer is yes! You should also look at the Cairns Pontoon companies or the Island Day Cruises. Most companies have family packages where the 2nd child travels free. This will help with the budget. Island are great because they have nice shallow water. Easy to get in and out and relax on the beach.


Pontoons are also a great option because they usually have children’s play areas, and once the kids get a bit tired they can try the Semi-Submarines, glass bottom boats, underwater observatories and of course snorkel as much as you like.


There is a great day tour that combines both Green Island for 2 hours in the morning and the outer barrier reef pontoon in the afternoon. Thes best of both worlds. Check out Green Island & Outer Barrier Reef Adventure.


If the answer is no, you are not traveling with children than the world is your oyster! You actually have the total freedom of choosing pretty much any day cruising company and you will have a fantastic time. Just imagine yourself either sitting on a white sandy beach at Michaelmas Cay. Perhaps you are the adventurous type and like to be active?


You should look at the day snorkel dive boats from Cairns. Silverswift Dive & Snorkel is very good and visits 3 outer reef locations in the one day.


Last bot not least, do you get sea sick? If the answer is yes! then you should look at the larger pontoon operators like Quicksilver Cruises Port Douglas. Quicksilver have the largest ocean-going twin catamaran. This boat is very large and has wave like piercing spikes at the front.


So this boat basically just plows thru the waves and not over them like a conventional boat. This makes it very stable in the water, especially when the conditions are not so favorable.


The large outer reef platforms make it nice and stable. So once you arrive on the outer reef systems you can enjoy snorkeling, underwater observatories, and semi-submarines. All from a nice stable platform that keeps your feet and head feeling very comfortable.


Day – 02


So one of the second most famous things to see and do in Cairns is to visit the small quaint rainforest village of Kuranda. Kuranda was originally our small out back hippie town from the late 1970’s. John Lennon and Bob Marley playing in the background with puffs of blue smoke immitting from the local residence houses in the rainforest!


There where mud markets, when it rained and it was very primitive but amazingly beautiful. Fast forward 20 years and now you have a modern eco-village. Beautiful gardens, parks, small petting zoos like the Koala Gardens, The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and Bird World to name a few.


The original markets are still there and definitely worth a look to get a taste of what it would have been like 20 years ago.


Now you have beautiful coffee shops, restaurants, photographic studios, art galleries and pottery studios. About 12 years ago they installed a Skyrail cable car system. This is called the Skyrail Cairns. It offers magnificent views of Barron Gorge National Park, Barron Waterfalls and there are two stations you can get off and walk around.


The other highlight of visiting Kuranda is by Kuranda Scenic Train. This is a Government run scenic railway line. It also offers magnificent views as it meanders all the way up the Barron George. Stopping at Barron falls for 10 min you can get off the train and take pictures of the falls.


Day – 03


The third most popular place to visit while you are in Cairns, is Cape Tribulation National Park. This is very different to Kuranda, it is a coastal rainforest region located about 2 hours drive north from Cairns city. Cape Tribulation and The Daintree are World Heritage listed National Parks.


Pristine rainforest covered mountains extending all the way down to the beaches. Visiting this area is like taking a walk back in time. You can either hire a car and drive yourself or try one of the many day tour operators that service this region.


One of the highlights is joining a Daintree River Crocodile Cruise. The Daintree river is full of wild saltwater crocodiles and offers a great opportunity to see one in the wild. Apart from the amazing natural beauty the Daintree and Cape Tribulation rainforests are full of wild Australian Animals.


So if you’re lucky and are in the right spot at the right time you can experience encounters with wild Cassowary.


A flightless bird that lives deep in the jungle. The are nearly the size a grown man standing and have a giant spike on their front foot like a Velociraptor from Jurassic Park! But not to worry these birds are generally harmless unless they have young chicks following them around. If this is the case, just keep a safe distance as not to disturb the mother.


Most Cape Tribulation Day Tours offer similar services and show you all the must see highlights. They generally have highly experienced enthusiastic guides that are only too happy to answer any question you may have. Also keep in mind doing a day tour ensures you don’t miss something.


Unless you have extensively researched the region you could just drive past that most important view or thing to see. So don’t knock the day tours they do serve a purpose, especially if it is the very first time you are visiting this region.




So in conclusion the top 3 things to see and do in Cairns are Visit the Great Barrier Reef, try snorkeling or diving, Visit Kuranda by Scenic Train & Skyrail and last but not least experience the World Heritage listed Cape Tribulation National Park.


There are many more things to see and do in and around Cairns, but these cover the top 3 things. If you’re short on time check out our Cairns 3-Day Tour Package, these are hand selected day tour companies that offer excellent customer service and value for money.


Or if you have your own plans and ideas and would like to build your own 3 Day Cairns Itinerary try Tour Builder  a FREE custom tour package building service to save you time and money booking 3 Cairns tours together.


We hope you found this article helpful, if you have any further questions please feel free to leave a comment in the comments field below.


Enjoy your research and have a fantastic time when you come to Cairns!



Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll is the Manager of Cairns Tour Advice & Booking Centre. An adventure travel enthusiast, travel blogger, avid scuba diver and founder of Greenbuddy.com.au. based in Cairns, Australia. Connect with Clint on Twitter.

Visit The Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

Visit the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns with a full day cruise, snorkeling equipment, glass bottom boat, semi-submarine, underwater observatory, hot and cold buffet lunch, morning & afternoon tea.


Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll - Chief Travel writer and Scuba Diving enthusiast at Cairns Tour Info. Follow him on Twitter.

Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.


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