The grandeur of the scenic coastline and the beautiful Tablelands are a magnet for visitors throughout the year. With a population in excess of 120,000, it is the gateway to the two remote wilderness areas of Far North Queensland - Cape York Peninsula and the Savannah Hinterland. The rainforests of the Daintree and Cape Tribulation are heritage areas, recognized for their beauty and are easily accessible from Cairns.
Don't plan surf-and-sun fun while in town -- Cairns has mangrove mudflats rather than beaches. However, look for long unspoiled beaches between Cairns and Port Douglas (44 mi/70 km north), a once-sleepy fishing village that now has posh resorts.
For a road less traveled, push north past Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation, where the rain forest extends all the way to the coastline. Other area attractions include the Atherton Tableland and the Great Barrier Reef.
Take the half-day Kuranda Barron Gorge Tour (by Train and Skyrail) through sugar-cane fields and past Barron Falls, over the gorge and into jungle and mountains. Kuranda itself has a butterfly farm and a great street market (local crafts). Don't miss the Tjapukai Dancers, a world-famous Aboriginal dance troupe, which performs a one-hour show of legends, music and dance. We liked the full-day trip to the Atherton Tableland, passing the Mulgrave Valley, tobacco and peanut farms, and the crater lakes of Barrine and Eacham.
Plan a three-night stay in Cairns. 1,220 mi/1,963 km north of Sydney.
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