Cheap Alternative Cruise Shore Excursions in Cairns, Australia (On Your Own)
Cairns, considered the gateway to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, is a city in tropical Far North Queensland. Its Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park tells the stories of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with music and dance. Cairns Esplanade, lined in bars and restaurants, has a swimming lagoon. Northwest of the city, Daintree National Park spans mountainous rainforest, gorges and beaches. The city center is more boardshorts than briefcases, and you'll find yourself throwing away all notions of speed and schedules here, thanks to heady humidity and a hearty hospitality that can turn a short stroll into an impromptu social event. Fittingly, Cairns is awash with bars, clubs, eateries and cafes suiting all budgets. With all of these fabulous attributes, Cairns is a great place to experience, and there are several options for exciting shore excursions and tours for while you are in port here.
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Your Great Barrier Reef shore excursion departs just a five-minute walk along the waterfront from the Cairns cruise liner terminal. Board your air-conditioned catamaran at the reef fleet terminal, and set off over the crystal-blue water to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef. During your hour-long cruise to Green Island, watch a snorkeling demonstration and an informative presentation on how to get the most of your time on this beautiful coral cay, just 15 nautical miles (27 kilometers) from Cairns. Landing at Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, see how the island is topped with emerald rainforest and surrounded by white sandy beaches and magnificent coral reefs. The marine life includes endless varieties of colorful fish, turtles, giant clams, shells, starfish and sea anemones. Spend a relaxing four hours on Green Island, and view the sea creatures on a glass-bottom boat tour or grab some snorkeling gear and dive into the water and see the marine life up close. A range of optional activities can also be organized on the day, including an introductory scuba diving, Seawalker Helmet Dive and semi-submersible coral viewing tours. While you're on the island, take a walk through the national park, following easy, short walking tracks. Or you might like to browse the shops and use the facilities at the Green Island Resort. The resort has showers, change rooms and restrooms, and canoes, surf skis, sailboards, shade umbrellas and beach lounge chairs are available for hire. Food and drinks can be purchased on board the catamaran and on Green Island. After spending a relaxing four hours on Green Island, enjoy the hour-long return cruise to Cairns, arriving at the terminal at 5pm.
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When your cruise ship docks in Cairns, jump on board this small-group tour of Cairns. Departing in the afternoon, your shore excursion begins with a drive in an air-conditioned minivan through the city center and to the waterfront, where you can explore the wharves and harbor with your experienced guide. Learn about Cairns' tropical environment on a guided walk through Flecker Botanical Gardens, and pay a visit to St Monica's Cathedral to admire the world's largest peace-themed stained-glass window. Next, enjoy an indulgent afternoon tea of scones and tea, coffee or hot chocolate at a local cafe; see the city from a hillside lookout that boasts fabulous photo opportunities; and take a walk past the ravines, rugged mountains and tumbling waterfalls of Barron Gorge National Park. Conclude your Cairns sightseeing tour by the water with a walk along Palm Cove Jetty or the beach, followed by drop-off at your cruise ship.
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You'll be picked up from the cruise port and taken to the Cairns' city-center heliport. A scenic flight is the best way to appreciate the scale and beauty of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef when you're in port in Cairns.
Choose the 30-minute scenic flight
to fly above Mission Bay and False Cape to Green Island, a picture-perfect getaway island on the Great Barrier Reef. You might spot whales and dolphins swimming in the turquoise water below you as your flight continues to the white-sand outlines of Arlington Reef, Middle Cay and Upolo Reef before returning to land back in Cairns.
40-minute Deluxe Outer Reef Helicopter Tour
: You'll follow the same route on a 40-minute flight to the outer reef, flying above Mission Bay and False Cape to Green Island, Arlington Reef, Middle Cay and Upolo Reef, but have more time to enjoy the amazing sight of the Great Barrier Reef from the air. Trace the reef's coral patterns and see the colors change through shades of brilliant azure as the water moves from the depths to the shallows.
60-minute Reef and Rainforest Tour
: Select the hour-long reef and rainforest flight to combine Cairns' most scenic attractions in one tour. Taking in more than 75 miles (120 km), and climbing to 2,500 feet (750 meters), you'll fly right over central Cairns, its lagoon and marina. Zooming over the hinterland, you'll see Copperlode Dam, the Redlynch Valley and Stoney Creek. Follow the outline of Barron Gorge to the hilltop market town of Kuranda before heading out over the water to the Great Barrier Reef. From the air, you'll see the white-sand outline of Upolo Reef and fly over the snorkeling havens of Vlassoff Reef, Middle Cay and Arlington Reef. See the sand-ringed perfection of Green Island before returning over the ocean to land back in Cairns.
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After your ship docks in Cairns, enjoy a cruise through Cairns' tidal estuary on the air-conditioned MV Crocodile Explorer. Follow the waterways of this stunning estuary, backed by the picturesque rainforest and mountains, and see magnificent views usually reserved for fishing boats. You might see crocodiles basking on the shore as your cruise boat makes its way through the mangroves, especially in the cooler mid-year months. Your knowledgeable crew will share interesting facts about the crocodiles' breeding habits and their mangrove environment. See points of interest on the Cairns waterfront, and learn about the harbor's history while you cruise. With a mix of indoor and outdoor viewing areas, the cruise suits all weather -- sit in the air-conditioned cabin or find a viewing area outside. Snacks and souvenirs are available for sale from the fully licensed bar on board, and afternoon tea is included on your cruise. Children can take a tour of the wheelhouse and all kids receive a Crocodile Certificate and crocodile coloring-in sheet.
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Meet your guide on arrival at Cairns City Cruise Ship Terminal or Yorky's Knob Cruise Ship Terminal, and jump aboard a 4WD to start your Cairns Shore Excursion. First, head north through the lower Barron Gorge National Park and stop to admire the beautiful waterfall of Surprise Falls, that cascades 797 feet (243-meters) into the Barron Gorge. Soak up the scenery as you climb through the Lamb Range and look out over Cairns city and Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Stop nearby to stroll around the gigantic Copperlode Dam, Cairns' water supply, and snap photos of Lake Morris from the dam wall. It's now time to head off the beaten track and make the most of your exclusive access permit. Venture off-piste as you explore little-visited rainforest trails and wind your way through the Great Dividing Range, Australia's largest mountain range. Along the way, hop out to spot exotic wildlife and unique flora like the Clohesy River Fig, in the heart of the rainforest. Keep your eyes glued to the road as the landscapes change from the lush Wet Tropics rainforest to the beginning of Australia's vast Savannah country, then take a detour to Kuranda Village. Continue to the Upper Barron Gorge National Park and pause at the Wrights lookout for a stunning photo opportunity, gazing out over the Barron Gorge and back towards the coastal plains and Cairns City. Then, take a short drive to the Barron Falls lookout to view possibly the most famous waterfall in Northern Queensland - the spectacular Barron Falls. Finally, turn back towards Cairns and follow the Wet Tropics World Heritage drive through the mesmerizing landscapes of the Kuranda range. Make one final stop at the Henry Ross Lookout, for a view of Cairns' northern beaches and the Coral Sea Coast, before returning to your cruise port in time to board your ship.
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