Should I spend 1 or 2 weeks in Cairns?

Should you spend 1 or 2 weeks in Cairns?

Many travelers spend at least 3 or as many as 5 days in Cairns during their visit. After all, the tropical 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 weeks 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 week enough time in Cairns?

One week is more than sufficient for a beach trip to Cairns, giving you the freedom to set your own pace. Go scuba diving or snorkeling, relax at the beach, go hiking, and take advantage of the local nightlife on your own schedule. Then, unwind at your hotel or use Cairns as a hub for some nice day trips in the surrounding area.

How to spend a week 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.

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.

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.

After you've explored most of Cairns, take a day trip to one of the many beautiful destinations nearby.


A few tour suggestions include:

  • Fun, Falls and Forests Day Trip from Cairns ($101)
  • Green Island Day Trip from Cairns with Beaches Transfers ($113)
  • Chillagoe Caves and Outback Day Trip from Cairns ($155)

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.

With plenty of hiking trails and viewpoints around Cairns, you'll need another day to experience the gorgeous hiking trails that you haven't seen yet. Either head out in a different direction, or pick up where you left off before.

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 2 weeks enough time in Cairns?

Two weeks is more than enough time to see the activities and enjoy the beach in Cairns. Many visitors prefer to spend three to five days here, so more time would allow you to experience scuba diving and snorkeling, the beaches, the hiking, and the nightlife scene at your own pace. We have a few suggestions of things to do while you're visiting, and then take a day trip if you're looking to explore further around the area.

The Great Barrier Reef The Great Barrier Reef

How to spend 2 weeks in Cairns

With 2 weeks in Cairns, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy everything the city has to offer at your own relaxed pace. You'll want to spend plenty of time snorkeling or scuba diving, relaxing on the beach, hiking, and hopping around the bars and clubs. You can also relax at your hotel, or casually explore this city looking for hidden gems. Also, consider taking some day trips to nearby destinations where you can explore more of the region.


A few trip suggestions:

  • Fun, Falls and Forests Day Trip from Cairns ($101)
  • Green Island Day Trip from Cairns with Beaches Transfers ($113)
  • Chillagoe Caves and Outback Day Trip from Cairns ($155)
  • Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and Daintree Rainforest Day Trip ($124)
  • Hartley's Crocodile Adventures Day Trip from Palm Cove ($75)

More Info

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

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