Should I spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Cairns?

Should you spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Cairns?

Many travelers spend at least 3 or as many as 5 days in Cairns during their visit. After all, the outdoorsy city has plenty to explore such as scuba diving and snorkeling, the beaches, and the hiking.

Cairns is a huge tourist city and is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The city is popular with backpackers and luxury vacationers alike. There are world class beaches and high end resorts that make this a major destination for tourists. There are also scuba diving trips and snorkeling excursions that will let you experience the marine environment first hand.

Do you have one or two days to visit Cairns? Here's our comprehensive breakdown of how much time you might need for your trip along with some suggestions for things to do.


Is one day enough time in Cairns?

Cairns offers plenty of activities and attractions and remains a top choice for tourists. So with one day, you'll probably feel rushed to go scuba diving or snorkeling, relax at the beach, go hiking, and take advantage of the local nightlife. You really need more time to appreciate everything that the outdoorsy city has to offer. Many visitors prefer to have at least 3 or as many as 5 days to enjoy the beach and other sights. If you have one day or less, we still have some great ideas for what to do while you're here.

How to spend a day in Cairns

When visiting Cairns, you absolutely can't miss the Great Barrier Reef as it's one of the most famous places in the world. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to fully experience it.

The nightlife scene is very popular here. After dark, head out to one of the many venues around town. For such as small city, the nightlife scene is incredibly vibrant, particularly during the peak tourist months. Backpackers are at the heart of the action, with many bars and clubs filling up each night with a young crowd. There are dance clubs, all night parties, cocktail bars, and beach side venues that are sure to offer a good time.

The public transit in Cairns is fast and efficient. Over the course of a few days, you should be able to explore the city quite easily and affordably. Sunbus operates a public bus service that travels through the city center and to many beaches. Most routes start at Cairns City Mall.

Is a weekend (two to three days) enough time in Cairns?

A weekend is generally not enough time to experience the beach and other activities of Cairns. A shorter schedule may leave you with a sense of urgency to enjoy the most popular activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling, the beaches, the hiking, and the nightlife scene. To genuinely appreciate the outdoorsy city, a longer visit is recommended so that you can have more time to relax at the beach. Many tourists opt for at least 3 or as many as 5 days here, after all. After all, The very popular city of Cairns has many activities and attractions for visitors. However, if you're working with limited time, we have some great ideas for making the most of your stay below.

The Great Barrier Reef The Great Barrier Reef

How to spend 2 days in Cairns

With a weekend (two to three days) in Cairns, you'll have a bit more time to enjoy everything that the city has to offer.

Scuba diving and snorkeling around Cairns is world-class, and is one of the main reasons why so many visitors come here. Spend a day exploring the beauty of the surrounding underwater world. It's access to the Great Barrier Reef make this one of the world's top scuba diving and snorkeling destinations. The undersea world is filled with colorful coral, diverse tropical fish, graceful sea turtles, and a truly magical setting.


A few tour suggestions include:

  • Great Barrier Reef with Cultural Guides-Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel ($154)
  • Ocean Free Green Island and Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise ($182)
  • Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise ($173)

The restaurant and food scene here is top notch, so make sure you spend time at one of the local restaurants where you can taste the delicious cuisine. Waterfront dining with a view is what makes the restaurant scene special. Seafood is everywhere and you can enjoy the catch of the day while you relax on a beachfront terrace. There are also international restaurants that have everything from Spanish tapas to Japanese noodle bowls.

More Info

If you're looking for more information about Cairns, we have even more advice to help you plan your journey.

Budget Your Trip is all about finding out how much everything costs so that you can travel cheaper and longer. Created by avid travelers Laurie and Bryan, our goal is to help you plan your next trip on the right budget. With average daily travel costs that are calculated from the budgets of real travelers, plus an analysis of hotel and tour prices, you can find out how much money you need to plan your next adventure. We also have plenty of travel advice, accommodation reviews, and activity suggestions.

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