Should I spend 3, 4, or 5 days in Cairns?

Should you spend 3, 4, or 5 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 3, 4, or 5 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 3 days enough time in Cairns?

Cairns offers plenty of activities and attractions and remains a top choice for tourists. So with three days, 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 three days or less, we still have some great ideas for what to do while you're here.

How to spend 3 days 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.

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 ($152)
  • Ocean Free Green Island and Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise ($179)
  • Ocean Freedom Great Barrier Reef Luxury Snorkel and Dive Cruise ($171)

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.

The beautiful beaches await you in Cairns, so spend the day (or several, if you can) relaxing on the sand or swimming in the water. Near town you'll find stunningly beautiful beaches that range from hubs of activity to quiet coves. Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is the closest beach to the city center and it has a sandy beach and plenty of amenities. For a quieter setting, head north to Holloways Beach or to the family-friendly Yorkeys Knob Beach. Do take note that if the beach doesn't have a stinger net, then it's recommended you wear a stinger suit (to avoid jellyfish stings).


A few tour suggestions include:

  • Kayak Turtle Tour from Palm Cove ($81)
  • Ocean Free Green Island and Great Barrier Reef Snorkel Cruise ($179)
  • Green Island Day Trip from Cairns with Beaches Transfers ($113)

There are plenty of restaurants you haven't tried yet, so don't miss another amazing meal at local places for lunch and dinner. Try to go out of your way to find the small, locally owned places that offer the charm and ambiance that can only be found in Cairns.

Is 4 days enough time in Cairns?

Four days is the perfect amount of time in Cairns, as many visitors like to spend around three to five days here. You'll be able to go scuba diving or snorkeling, relax at the beach, go hiking, and take advantage of the local nightlife. We have some suggestions for what to do and where to start your adventure below.

Cairns, Australia Cairns, Australia

How to spend 4 days in Cairns

With 4 days in Cairns, you'll have a bit more time to enjoy everything that the city has to offer.

Known for it's hiking, Cairns sees plenty of visitors looking to get outdoors. Spend a day exploring the natural beauty and scenery on a nearby hike. Near town you'll find wonderful national parks, lush rainforest, and beautiful mountain ranges. There are countless bush walks and hiking trails in the area. Head into the countryside and you'll get lost in nature and breathtaking views.

Because the nightlife scene is so popular here, you'll want to take full advantage of it more than once. From the bars and pubs to the nightclubs, there's something for everyone. Or, get some tickets to another show at the theatre such as a ballet or opera.

Is 5 days enough time in Cairns?

Five days is more than enough time to enjoy the beach and other activities in Cairns. You can move at your own pace and relax at your hotel and on the beach. You could also use Cairns as a base for exploring the nearby destinations. You'll find some great day trips in the region worth doing.

The Great Barrier Reef The Great Barrier Reef

How to spend 5 days in Cairns

If you have more than 5 days in Cairns, you'll appreciate the added time for everything the city has to offer.

Shopping in Cairns is very popular, and it's easy to see why. Spend time exploring the many shops and boutiques to find the perfect gift, souvenir, or outfit. There's plenty of shopping around town in the form of shopping centers, markets, and boutique shops. Whether you're looking for trendy fashion or a fun souvenir, there are many places to explore.

There are plenty of restaurants you haven't tried yet, so don't miss another amazing meal at local places for lunch and dinner. Try to go out of your way to find the small, locally owned places that offer the charm and ambiance that can only be found in Cairns.

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.

Some of the links on this website are sponsored or affiliate links which help to financially support this site. By clicking the link and making a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but this does not affect the price of your purchase.