4 Days Weekend Trip around Cairns – Best things to do in North Queensland
Cairns in North Queensland has become a major spot with tourists. It is the gateway to one of Australia’s most precious locations, the Great Barrier Reef, thus attracts enthusiasts of scuba diving and snorkeling year round. Except of sublime marine life, this area has a lot more to offer. Stunning white sand beaches, turquoise waters, impressive rainforest and resort towns: all this can be found just within a short drive. In this guide, we will take you to all of Cairns & North Queensland highlights – just over a long weekend getaway trip.
- Day 1 – Devil’s Pool & Etty Beach
- Day 2 – The Great Barrier Reef
- Day 3 – Port Douglas
- Day 4 – Crocodiles & Rainforest Walk
- General Infos
- Best Time to Go
- Where to Eat
- Where to Stay
Day 1 – Arrival to Cairns
Take a flight to start your weekend trip to Cairns, North Queensland in the morning and pick up your rental car at the airport. Cairns is the biggest city in the region and the most popular with tourists for one reason: most of the day cruises exploring the Great Barrier Reef depart from here. And that’s your day 2 activity.
But for now drive south of Cairns to the world’s tallest natural pyramid: Walsh Pyramid.
↬ TIP : It’s was tricky for us to find the road with this view point. To save you from getting lost or conduct a detective search as we did, we pin the exact address here.
After this quick stop, continue your way south to Babinda Boulders to refresh yourself in cool, crystal waters. There is a river with huge rocks and natural pools, perfect to swim in. Relax here for a while before heading to your last destination of the day.
↬ TIP : From the parking lot you can walk along a beautiful path leading through the forest to Devil’s Pools.
Etty Bay beach is a stunning beach, perfect for a swim. Just make sure to stay within the designated area. Not to scare you, but be aware of seawater crocodiles that are very common in this area (especially at dawn and dusk). Etty Beach is also home to a few cassowaries- a striking bird with glossy black plumage, brown feathers, a vivid blue and purple neck. Those birds are beautiful to look at, but keep your distance: their cloves are very sharp and cassowaries get upset easily.
Stay at the beach for sunset and then drive back to your accommodation is Cairns.
Day 2 – Great Barrier Reef
Start your day early. Around 7.30-8 AM board a boat that will take you to explore one of the world natural wonders: the Great Barrier Reef.
If you are certified scuba diver, complete 3 absolutely amazing dives in those warm ocean waters. The marine life is sublime.
The Great Barrier Reef is also a great place to try out scuba diving for the first time. Alternatively, set for a snorkeling trip. Some of the most amazing reefs are at a maximum depth of 15m. You will be able to spot colourful marine life from the surface as well.
↬ TIP : Take only reef safe sunblock.
↬ Read : Simple hacks to be eco friendly why traveling
Once you are back on the mainland, drive to beautiful Palm Cove to your next accomodation.
Palm Cove is one of the most beautiful areas of north Queensland. Relax on the beach and have dinner in one of cute restaurants facing the sea.
Day 3 – Port Douglas
To continue this long weekend trip north of Cairns in Queensland, you could start your day by kayaking to the nearby Double Island. If possible, rent the kayak the day before. Try to make arrangements with the rental company to give you the first kayak of the day. It will allow you to explore the island without many people around.
↬ TIP : Don’t forget your snorkeling gear. The reef around the Double Island is stunning.
After your active morning, get back in the car and drive for lunch to Queensland’s ultimate resort town, Port Douglas.
↬ TIP : Stop at Thala Lodge for a quick picture at their coconut tree grove.
In the afternoon, explore the area of Port Douglas and hike the view point of Four Miles Beach.
Spend the night in Port Douglas.
Day 4 – Crocodile Spotting & Rainforest Walk
Start the last day of your weekend trip to Cairns, Queensland with a morning cruise on the Daintree River. Look out for crocodiles warming up their bodies in the sun at the edge of the water.
After the cruise, head to Mossman Gorge. This centre was built to preserve the heritage of the indigenous Aboriginal people. Set for a short walk in the beautiful Daintree Rainforest, oldest rainforest in the world.
Drive back to Cairns. If you have some time left embark on a fascinating journey over Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
↬ Note : We decided to skip this activity after arriving at the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and finding out that the return trip costs 82 AUD (50 EUR) per person. We decided it was too expensive, even if must be a beautiful experience.
Later in the evening board your return back.
Getting to Cairns
The easiest way to arrive to North Queensland for your weekend trip is to fly Cairns international airport. There are multiple flights coming in everyday from most of Australian cities as well as from abroad.
There are 7 daily arrivals from Sydney and the flight lasts 3h. The tickets can cost as low as 130 AUD (80 EUR).
↬ Note : Don’t forget to pay your carbon footprint while purchasing the flight ticket!
The best way to discover North Queensland is by renting a car. There are many car rental companies located right at the airport. The rental is also very cheap. We payed 43 AUD (26 EUR) for a small Toyota for 3 days.
↬ Read : How to save money on your travel bookings
Best Time to Visit
There are 2 seasons in North Queensland. May to October is the dry season with shorter days, cooler temperatures (around 20 degrees) and blue skies. November to April is considered the wet season. The days are longer, temperatures higher (30 degrees and over) but there is a higher chance of rain.
We highly recommend traveling in October/November/beginning December (the second part of December is very busy due to the holidays) and again in March/April/May. Those months are considered a lower season, thus you will be able to get good deals with high chance for good weather. We visited at the end of November and had blue skies every day. ?
Food and Restaurants
There are many great restaurants in North Queensland. Every city has a great selection and you can choose from modern cuisine, Australian, Italian or Asian.
- Cairns Night Markets, where you can get a delicious (and huge) dish for as low as 10 AUD (6EUR).
- Boatshed modern restaurant located at the docks. Try the daily catch.
- Pantry 15 is a great choice for breakfast or lunch. Delicious egg & avocado toast.
- Chill Cafe Palm Cove is a great place for lunch or dinner. Nice terrace with views on the beach.
- Reef House Restaurant Palm Cove a beautiful, elegant restaurant.
- Cafe Fresq is a perfect place for breakfast or lunch. The acai bowl was amazing.
- Hi Tide Café- Bar- Restaurant located a step away from the famous 4 Miles Beach, this restaurant is serves high quality, modern food.
There are hotels and airbnb’s in North Queensland that can accommodate any traveller type, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. However, if choosing the basic option, do not expect more than a bed and a bathroom. Our hotel in Cairns (cairns Queens Court) was only 72 AUD (44 EUR) per night, but it was very simple, outdated and not well located.
We recommend you to stay 1 night in Cairns, 1 night in Palm Cove and 1 night in Port Douglas.
↬ Find all the best deals for Cairns, Palm Cove & Port Douglas combined on booking.com
We recommend: Pacific Hotel Cairns – Imagine Drift Palm Cove – Mantra on the Inlet (Douglas)