Day Trips From Cairns By Car

Day Trips From Cairns By Car
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Are you ready to embark on a thrilling adventure exploring the natural wonders surrounding Cairns? Look no further! Get ready to hit the road and discover the best day trips from Cairns by car.

From stunning waterfalls and lush rainforests to charming coastal towns and breathtaking beaches, there’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping activities or a peaceful getaway, these day trips will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Buckle up and join us as we unveil the hidden gems and must-visit destinations just a short drive away from Cairns. Get ready for a journey filled with excitement, beauty, and the opportunity to create cherished moments. Let’s start exploring together!

Day Trips from Cairns by Car

Discover the stunning natural beauty and hidden gems of Queensland with day trips from Cairns by car. Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure enthusiast, or history buff, there are plenty of exciting destinations within driving distance of Cairns.

From lush rainforests and cascading waterfalls to picturesque coastal towns and ancient Aboriginal sites, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Grab your car keys and embark on an unforgettable journey through the tropical paradise of Far North Queensland.

Exploring the Daintree Rainforest

Immerse yourself in the world’s oldest living rainforest, the Daintree Rainforest. Just an hour’s drive north of Cairns, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a treasure trove of biodiversity and natural wonders. Start your day trip with a scenic drive along the Captain Cook Highway, marveling at stunning coastal views. As you enter the Daintree Rainforest, be prepared to encounter unique flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth.

Take a guided walk through the Mossman Gorge, where crystal-clear waters flow through majestic granite boulders. Learn about the traditional culture and heritage of the local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people.

For an adrenaline rush, soar through the treetops on a zipline tour or cruise along the Daintree River, spotting crocodiles and other wildlife. Experience the serenity of Cape Tribulation Beach, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, and enjoy a refreshing swim in the turquoise waters.

Remember to pack your insect repellent, as the rainforest is home to some buzzing friends. Also, make sure to support the local businesses and communities by purchasing indigenous art or enjoying a meal at a traditional restaurant during your visit to the Daintree Rainforest.

Marvels of the Atherton Tablelands

Escape the tropical heat and explore the refreshing wonders of the Atherton Tablelands, located just an hour’s drive west of Cairns. This fertile plateau is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering an array of unique experiences.

Begin your journey by visiting the mesmerizing Millaa Millaa Falls, where you can take a dip in the cool waters or capture Instagram-worthy photos against the backdrop of cascading waterfalls and lush greenery.

Embark on the Waterfall Circuit and witness the beauty of Zillie Falls, Ellinjaa Falls, and Mungalli Falls. Take a break at the charming town of Yungaburra and visit the Curtain Fig Tree, an impressive strangler fig that is over 500 years old. The Crater Lakes National Park is a must-visit, with its twin volcanic lakes, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. You can explore the lakes by taking a boat cruise or even paddling on a kayak.

For a touch of adventure, head to the Undara Lava Tubes, a geological marvel that was formed by ancient volcanic activity. Take a guided tour through the underground tunnels and marvel at the unique rock formations. Don’t forget to savor local produce and artisanal products at one of the many farmers’ markets or roadside stalls along the way.

Tropical Bliss on the Great Barrier Reef Drive

Embark on an unforgettable road trip along the Great Barrier Reef Drive, a picturesque coastal route stretching from Cairns to Cape Tribulation. This scenic drive offers breathtaking views of the Coral Sea and allows you to explore some of the most beautiful spots along the coast.

Start your journey by visiting Palm Cove, a tranquil beachside village known for its white sandy beaches and palm-fringed esplanade. Enjoy a leisurely stroll or indulge in a beachfront brunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants.

Continue your drive to Port Douglas, a vibrant town with a laid-back atmosphere. Explore the local markets, take a dip in the iconic Four Mile Beach, or venture out on a snorkeling or diving trip to the outer reef.

Further north, you’ll reach the stunning Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef. Explore the Cape Tribulation section of the Daintree National Park and take a guided tour to visit the pristine outer reef. Go on a crocodile-spotting adventure along Cooper Creek or simply unwind on the palm-fringed beaches.

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The Charming Coastal Town of Cooktown

Journey back in time and visit the historical town of Cooktown, located approximately 330 kilometers north of Cairns. This coastal town holds significant historical and cultural importance, as it was the site of Captain James Cook’s landing in 1770, making it one of Australia’s oldest European settlements.

Take a walk along the Captain Cook Highway, which offers breathtaking views of the coastline. Explore the James Cook Museum and learn about the fascinating history of the town. Visit the Cooktown Botanic Gardens, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the endangered Cooktown orchid.

Don’t miss out on visiting the iconic Grassy Hill Lookout, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Cooktown, the Endeavour River, and the Coral Sea. For a unique experience, take a 4WD tour to the mysterious Black Mountain, where ancient volcanic formations create an eerie landscape.

Discovering the Undiscovered: Chillagoe Caves

Journey inland and uncover the hidden gem of Chillagoe, located approximately 200 kilometers west of Cairns. This small town is famous for its limestone caves, majestic geological formations, and fascinating mining history.

Explore the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park, home to over 600 caves. Take a guided tour into the depths of the caves and witness the stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique rock formations. Marvel at the Cathedral Cave, known for its grandeur and acoustics, or venture into the Trezkinn cave system, an extensive network of interconnected caves.

Learn about the town’s mining history at the Chillagoe Smelters, which once processed copper ore and played a significant role in the development of the region. Don’t forget to sample the local delicacies, including the famous Chillagoe cheese and enjoy the tranquility of this off-the-beaten-path destination.

An Aboriginal Cultural Journey to Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks

Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous culture of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks in Mossman Gorge. This unique experience allows you to learn about the traditions, customs, and stories of the local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people.

Explore the rainforest as your Aboriginal guide shares their deep connection to the land. Learn about traditional bush foods and medicines, try your hand at traditional weaving, and listen to Dreamtime stories passed down through generations. Take a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Mossman Gorge and experience the healing powers of this ancient landscape.

By participating in the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks, you not only support the local community but also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the indigenous culture and their ongoing connection to the land.

The Coastal Paradise of Mission Beach

Escape to the coastal paradise of Mission Beach, located approximately three hours south of Cairns. This unspoiled stretch of coastline offers a tropical paradise with pristine sandy beaches, lush rainforests, and the opportunity to spot unique wildlife.

Take a relaxing stroll along the palm-fringed shoreline or go on a nature walk through the nearby Clump Mountain National Park. For adventure seekers, skydiving above Mission Beach provides unparalleled views of the Great Barrier Reef and the lush green landscapes. Explore the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by booking a snorkeling or diving tour or simply relax and soak up the sun on the golden sands.

With a mix of adrenaline-pumping activities, stunning natural beauty, and a laid-back atmosphere, Mission Beach is the perfect destination for nature lovers and those seeking a beachside getaway.

Key Takeaways: Day Trips from Cairns by Car

1. Explore the Great Barrier Reef on a day trip from Cairns by car and experience the wonders of this natural wonderland.

2. Take a road trip to the Daintree Rainforest and immerse yourself in the beautiful wilderness and unique wildlife.

3. Visit the Atherton Tablelands and discover stunning waterfalls, lush rainforests, and charming country towns.

4. Drive to Kuranda and ride the famous Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for breathtaking views and a memorable experience.

5. Head to Port Douglas for a relaxing beach day and enjoy the crystal-clear waters and golden sands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to our FAQ section where we answer frequently asked questions about day trips from Cairns by car. Whether you’re interested in exploring the Great Barrier Reef or venturing into the lush rainforests of Tropical North Queensland, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find the answers you’re looking for!

1. What are some popular day trips from Cairns by car?

There are several exciting day trips you can take from Cairns by car. One popular option is to drive to Cape Tribulation, where you can explore the stunning Daintree Rainforest and relax on picturesque beaches. Another great choice is the Atherton Tablelands, known for its waterfalls, wildlife, and charming rural towns. If you’re a diving enthusiast, you can drive to Port Douglas and catch a boat to the outer Great Barrier Reef for an unforgettable underwater experience.

Remember to plan your day trips ahead of time and check for any necessary permits or closures. It’s also a good idea to have a reliable map or GPS to navigate your way through this beautiful region.

2. How long does it take to drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation?

The drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation takes approximately two hours. However, this may vary depending on traffic conditions and how many stops you choose to make along the way. The journey itself is incredibly scenic, taking you along the picturesque Captain Cook Highway, offering breathtaking coastal views.

Keep in mind that Cape Tribulation is located within the Daintree Rainforest, and some sections of the road are unsealed. It’s important to drive with caution, especially during wet weather. Take your time to enjoy the journey, and don’t forget to stop at popular spots like Mossman Gorge or the Daintree Discovery Centre.

3. Can I do a self-guided day trip to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns by car?

While it’s possible to do a self-guided day trip to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns by car, it’s recommended to join a tour for the best experience. The outer reef locations where you can snorkel or dive are often accessed by boat from Port Douglas, which is around a one-hour drive from Cairns.

Joining a tour allows you to make the most of your day by providing expert guides, equipment, and access to the best snorkeling and diving spots. They also ensure your safety and give you the opportunity to learn about the incredible marine life and ecosystems that make up the Great Barrier Reef.

4. Are there any restrictions or specific requirements for day trips to national parks from Cairns by car?

Some national parks near Cairns do have restrictions and specific requirements, so it’s essential to plan ahead and check the guidelines for each park. For instance, certain parks may require you to purchase a permit or park entry pass before entering.

Additionally, some parks have limited visitor numbers, especially during peak times, so it’s advisable to arrive early or book in advance to secure your spot. It’s also important to respect the parks’ rules and regulations, such as staying on designated tracks and disposing of waste properly, to help preserve these natural treasures for future generations to enjoy.

5. What wildlife can I expect to see on day trips from Cairns by car?

When exploring the diverse landscapes surrounding Cairns by car, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter a variety of wildlife. In the rainforests, you may spot vibrant birds, unique reptiles, and even the elusive cassowary. Along the coast, keep an eye out for marine life such as dolphins, turtles, and even humpback whales during their migration season.

Remember to always observe wildlife from a safe distance and refrain from feeding or touching them. This ensures their natural behaviors are not disrupted, keeping both you and the animals safe. Don’t forget your camera to capture these incredible encounters with nature!


Thinking of taking a day trip from Cairns by car? Here’s what you need to know. There are plenty of amazing destinations within a few hours’ drive, such as the beautiful Atherton Tablelands. You can explore waterfalls, lakes, and even try some delicious local produce. Want to see the Great Barrier Reef? Port Douglas is your gateway, with its stunning beaches and snorkeling opportunities. If you’re up for an adventure, head to the Daintree Rainforest and discover unique wildlife and ancient plants. Lastly, don’t forget the charming Kuranda Village, where you can ride the scenic Skyrail or Kuranda Scenic Railway. So, grab your car keys and get ready for an unforgettable day trip!

Hi, I'm Md Abid Hasan. The owner & content editor of is a travel blog that covers road trips, day trips, and destinations guide.

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