Great Barrier Reef Itineraries

Suggested reef itineraries from Cairns/Port Douglas & the Whitsundays for 3 to 7 days.
Planning a trip to the Great Barrier Reef but not sure how to best allocate your time? In this section, we take a look at some suggested itineraries for experiencing the best of the reef (and other regional highlights) for those basing themselves out of each of the key reef locations: Cairns, Port Douglas, and the Whitsundays. Simply choose a destination to view a breakdown of each itinerary below.
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Cairns/Port Douglas Itineraries

Suggested reef itineraries from Cairns/Port Douglas & the Whitsundays for 3 to 7 days.
Itineraries for Families

Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy?

Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.

Day 1

1. Morning & Afternoon – Visit Green Island

What? Visit one of the reef’s most popular family-friendly islands.

Why? Green Island is one of the most popular islands on the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef and is a great quick getaway to satisfy your entire reef needs.

Make your way over to Green Island for a day filled with relaxing on the golden sand, snorkelling around the vibrant coral and exploring the bushy mainland. The island also features a glass bottom boat for you to get a clear, dry view of the reef – ideal for kids who aren’t confident in the water.

Green Island for Kids

Located approximately 45 minutes from Cairns, Green Island is a 6000-year-old coral cay providing great snorkelling and scuba opportunities for reef lovers. There are more activities on the island (for an additional fee) such as parasailing, helmet diving, scuba diving or jumping aboard a scenic helicopter flight over the cay.

Meals aren’t included in the price of the transfer, so be sure to pack a lunch or bring money to buy from one of the cafes. Cruises depart Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal three times a day at 8:30am, 10:30am and 1pm and return at 5:20pm. Hotel transfers are available for guests staying in Cairns ($22 pp) and Northern Beaches ($28 pp).

 

 

2. Evening – Dinner at Dundees Restaurant

What? Enjoy a beautiful view over the water while you indulge an Aussie meal.

Why? Taste the flavours of Australia with a large, impressive menu featuring some well-known Aussie natives. Dig into a dish of crocodile, kangaroo, emu or buffalo for a unique culinary experience.

If you’re not feeling adventurous, browse their delicious, ‘normal’ menu with a range of popular dishes including steak, pasta and seafood.

Dundee is in a prime location, looking out onto the water with a choice of open-air or inside dining. Visitors to Australia will love the chance to stomach some of these traditional meals.

Day 2

1. Morning & Afternoon – Day trip to Kuranda & the Rainforest

What? Experience the beauty of the rainforest and visit Kuranda, a village in the rainforest, for an entire day.

Why? Board the scenic railway for a spectacular journey through the dense rainforest with stunning views of steep ravines and picturesque waterfalls. The journey up the mountain takes just under two hours, but the time flies past as you’re swept away in the beautiful views.

Once in the village there is so much to explore. If you want to get up close to some cuddly, fluttery or slithery Australian animals head to the various wildlife parks. Birdworld, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Kuranda Koala Gardens provide great opportunities for guests to get up close to some amazing wildlife.

Birdworld Kuranda

Birdworld showcases a large collection of rare birds from around the world in an interactive sanctuary. The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary features multiple different species of these fluttering friends, each showcasing a collection of mesmerising colours. Kuranda Koala Gardens will let you cuddle up to a cute koala and get to know some other Aussie favourites including kangaroos, wallabies and wombats.

Open daily from 9:30am to 3pm; the Kuranda Markets are a great way to spend your day. Enjoy browsing the large variety of stalls selling a range of colourful products including clothes, jewellery and traditional Australian souvenirs.

After you’ve explored all Kuranda has to offer make your way down the mountain via the scenic Skyrail. Travel over the lush rainforest for a unique view of the area.

SkyRail Kuranda

Kuranda is located approximately half an hour from Cairns and can be reached by car and public bus charters; Trans North Bus Service and John’s Kuranda Bus, from Cairns. Visitors travelling from Port Douglas have a longer trip ahead, approximately 1 hour, and can drive themselves or jump aboard a bus charter with Port Douglas Bus.

 

 

Day 3

1. Morning – Experience Tjapukai cultural centre

What? Immerse the whole family in the culture of the traditional landowners.

Why? Spend the whole morning wandering around the park, the kids will love the wide range of activities on offer.

Begin the day with some welcome face painting, learn the art of the Djabugay people and their creation story, watch a traditional oven demonstration, dance performance and didgeridoo show, learn how to throw a boomerang and spear and feast on a delicious traditional lunch.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Park

The whole family will love the cultural centre and enjoy learning about the history and culture of the Aboriginal people.

Tjapukai is located at the base of Kuranda, right next to the Skyrail. It can be reached by car, public transport (Bus Route 123 from Cairns City Place Bus Stop) or by complimentary shuttle to and from your Cairns and Northern Beaches accommodation.

 

2. Afternoon – Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure

What? Spend the afternoon getting up close to some of Australia’s scariest and cuddliest animals at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. The kids will love the educational wildlife presentatins on snakes, cassowaries, koalas and crocodiles (to name a few).

Why? The whole family can also board the boat to cruise through Hartley’s Lagoon for an up close look at crocodiles and a range of other wetland creatures. One of the most popular attractions the kids always love is the crocodile farm. You’ll learn how the farm operates from their experience guides on tours held twice a day at 10am and 1:30pm.

Hartleys Crocodile Adventures

An education and entertaining visit, Hartley’s Gondwana Gateway is a great way to learn about the evolution of Australian wildlife. Set in a beautiful forest, you’ll be surrounded by living descendants of Australia’s ancient animal history.

Lilies Restaurant is open to visitors to grab a bite to eat overlooking the lagoon. The park is open from 8:30am to 5pm, giving you more than enough time to experience the whole park.

 

Day 4

1. Morning & Afternoon – Fitzroy Island

What? The kids will love exploring the reef surrounding Fitzroy Island for the day.

Why? Experience as much of the reef as you can with this quick trip to Fitzroy Island. Reached by a fast boat ride, you will be at your destination in around 45 minutes – perfect for fidgety kids.

While on Fitzroy Island you can enjoy all of the activities on offer such as snorkelling over the reef, bouncing on the ocean trampoline and going on a bushwalk to relaxing beaches. You can spend the whole day relaxing on the golden sand, exploring the vibrant coral reefs by snorkelling or riding on the glass bottom boat or learning to sea kayak or paddle ski – there is so much to choose from.

Fitzroy Island Tour

Families can choose to take a tour over to the island, which includes lunch, snorkelling and/or a glass bottom boat tour. Other options include just a ferry transfer over to the island where you can do as you please and hire water equipment for an additional fee.

The ferry departs Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal at 9am and returns around 5:15pm. Just a short walk from most accommodation in Cairns, check-in is open to customers from 8:15am.

 

2. Evening – Cairns Esplanade

What? Splash in the refreshing lagoon and enjoy a bite to eat at a local restaurant.

Why? There’s nothing better than just relaxing with a great view after a busy day on the reef. The esplanade provides visitors with the best views, great eateries and a refreshing lagoon.

Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

The kids will love going for a night time dip in the lagoon before or after dinner (or both!).

The lagoon is open until 9pm daily.

Day 5

1. Morning – Jungle Surfing in the Daintree

What? Glide through the canopy of the world-famous Daintree Rainforest.

Why? Feel like Tarzan and Jane as you swing from tree to tree in Cape Tribulation. The whole family will enjoy this unique experience as you glide through the rainforest with spectacular views that are a must-see.

You’ll be strung 20-metres up in the air accompanied by an experience guide who know this rainforest like the back of their hands. With six platforms spread out around the rainforest, this 2-hour guide is suitable for all ages and abilities. Children as young as 3 years will love it as will adults as old as 103.

Jungle Surfing Daintree

Jungle Surfing operates eight tours a day; 7:45am, 8:45am, 9:45, 10:45am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm. The Snake House is the departure point of the tours and is located approximately 1 hour 45 minutes from Port Douglas and approximately 2.5 hours from Cairns. It can be reached by car or by organised tours that operate daily from both Cairns and Port Douglas.

Back Country Bliss’ day tours run from Port Douglas for small-groups to Jungle Surfing. Also featuring the Alexandra Range lookout, Daintree River Ferry and Rainforest Guide, the cost is $200 per person. This tour runs for 5.5 hours, perfect for those with little time to explore the area.

Tropic Wings’ package departs Cairns at 7am, Northern Beaches at 7:30am and Port Douglas at 8am (approximately) and returns between 5:30pm to 6:30pm in reverse order. Costing $239 per adult and $205 per child (aged 4-14), this all inclusive tour includes entry to Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, Daintree River cable ferry, Alexandra Lookout and Daintree River Cruise.

 

2. Afternoon – The Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas

What? Have lunch with the lorikeets and get up close to some interesting wildlife.

Why? Enjoy homemade soups with fresh baked breads, barbecued meats, salads and tropical fruits as you’re immersed in the lorikeet habitat. Lunch with the Lorikeets runs daily from 12pm until 2pm. The young ones will love getting up close to these approachable, active birds as well as koalas and kangaroos.

Depending on the time you arrive at the centre, you can have Breakfast with the Birds from 8am to 10:30am or a Picnic with the Parrots. The picnic is available any time throughout the day, however the basket must be collected from the Curlew Café by 2pm.

Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas

There are a range of guided tours through the rainforest, wetlands and grasslands throughout the day from 9:30 until 3:15pm. The experience guides also conduct wildlife presentations during the day; Koalas at 10:30am and 2:15pm, Crocodiles and Snakes at 11am and 2:45pm and Wildlife Keeper Presentations at 8:30am, 9:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm.

Wildlife Habitat is located on Port Douglas Road and provides shuttle buses for visitors to be dropped from Port Douglas to their front door. The park is only a 50-minute drive north of Cairns and is easily reached by car.

Day 6

1. Morning – Visit Paronella Park

What? Visit this historic Spanish castle in the heart of Far North Queensland.

Why? Wander around the stunning, lush gardens of the park for a romantic excursion. You’ll feel at peace exploring the beautiful gardens and old-time buildings.

Guests will have to make their own way to the park, which is located approximately 1.5 hours away from Cairns and just over 2 hours from Port Douglas. If you have access to a car, it will be an easy drive along the coast, however those without a car will need to book a seat on a local bus charter.

Paronella Park QLD

Spend as little or as much time as you want exploring the magical grounds. If you choose to take part in a tour, you will be given a certain amount of time to explore as well as a guided tour through the grounds.

 

2. Afternoon & Evening – Relax at the Esplanade

What? Take some time to relax as a family in this Cairns hotspot.

Why? Don’t tire the family out, take a moment to relax and take in the beautiful scenery around Cairns.

With plenty of facilities such as toilets, playgrounds, barbecues and more, there are a number of ways to take it easy while enjoying a waterfront atmosphere.

Day 7

1. Morning – Explore the Botanic Gardens

What? Wander around the exceptional grounds and admire the immaculate flora and fauna on display.

Why? Pack a picnic and follow some of the hidden walkways that lead to secluded, shaded areas in the grounds.

Take it easy on your final day with an easily-accessible trip to this hub of tropical botany near Cairns city. There are little cafes to grab a bite to eat or a morning coffee while the kids run around the beautiful gardens – the perfect way to end an already seamless holiday.

Cairns Botanic Gardens

Itineraries for Couples

Visiting the reef with your significant other? We’ve put together a suggested 3, 5 and 7 day itinerary for you and your partner to enjoy.

Whether you’re based in Cairns or Port Douglas, these activities and experiences are suitable for couples as opposed to more general trips for families and other larger groups. Select a stay duration below to view details on each suggested itinerary.

Day 1

1. Morning & Afternoon – Day trip to the Outer Reef

From Cairns

What? Take a trip out to the Agincourt Reef with Quicksilver for a day filled with activities off their large, moored activity platform.

Why? Experience the outer reef the right way, aboard Quicksilver’s activity platform on the Agincourt Reef. Enjoy a full day out on the ribbon reef doing as much or as little as you want. You can snorkel and dive the reef, stay dry with the semi-submersible and underwater observatory, or take to the sky with a scenic helicopter flight over the area; the opportunities are endless.

Cairns Outer Reef Tour

All food is supplied on the day trip including morning tea, a full buffet lunch and afternoon tea. Departing at 10:30am from Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, you will spend 3 hours exploring this beautiful part of the world until you return to the mainland by 5:30pm. Hotel pick-ups are available for an additional cost from Cairns ($22 pp) and Northern Beaches ($28 pp) hotels.

From Port Douglas

What? Silversonic gives those staying in Port Douglas the convenience of a cruise to the outer reef without having to travel down to Cairns.

Why? Tour operator Silversonic cruises offer guests a 5-hours on the picturesque Agincourt Reef aboard a luxurious catamaran. Snorkel around the beautiful reef with an experienced reef guide, dive down to get to know some of the deep sea residents.

Port Douglas Outer Reef Tour

All meals throughout the day are included including muffins and focaccias for morning tea, a hot and cold tropical buffet for lunch and cakes, cheese and biscuits for afternoon tea. Return coach transfers to your Port Douglas accommodation is included in the price, however a $6 Environmental Management Charge must be paid on the day.

Both platforms, Silversonic and Quicksilver, provide guests with the best facilities and amenities, making your long trip to the outer reef a comfortable and memorable experience.

 

 

2. Evening – Dinner at Dundees Restaurant

What? Enjoy a beautiful view over the water while you indulge an Aussie meal.

Why? Taste the flavours of Australia with a large, impressive menu featuring some well-known Aussie natives. Dig into a dish of crocodile, kangaroo, emu or buffalo for a unique culinary experience.

If you’re not feeling adventurous, browse their delicious, ‘normal’ menu with a range of popular dishes including steak, pasta and seafood.

Dundee is in a prime location, looking out onto the water with a choice of open-air or inside dining. Visitors to Australia will love the chance to stomach some of these traditional meals.

Day 2

1. Morning & Afternoon – Day trip to Kuranda

What? Experience the beauty of Kuranda, a village in the rainforest, for an entire day.

Why? Board the scenic railway for a spectacular journey through the dense rainforest with stunning views of steep ravines and picturesque waterfalls. The journey up the mountain takes just under two hours, but the time flies past as you’re swept away in the beautiful views.

Once in the village there is so much to explore. If you want to get up close to some cuddly, fluttery or slithery Australian animals head to the various wildlife parks. Birdworld, Australian Butterfly Sanctuary and Kuranda Koala Gardens provide great opportunities for guests to get up close to some amazing wildlife.

Birdworld showcases a large collection of rare birds from around the world in an interactive sanctuary. The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary features multiple different species of these fluttering friends, each showcasing a collection of mesmerising colours. Kuranda Koala Gardens will let you cuddle up to a cute koala and get to know some other Aussie favourites including kangaroos, wallabies and wombats.

Kuranda Railway Tour

Open daily from 9:30am to 3pm, the Kuranda Markets are a great way to spend your day. Enjoy browsing the large variety of stalls selling a range of colourful products including clothes, jewellery and traditional Australian souvenirs. After you’ve explored all Kuranda has to offer make your way down the mountain via the scenic Skyrail. Travel over the lush rainforest for a unique view of the area.

Kuranda is located approximately half an hour from Cairns and can be reached by car and public bus charters; Trans North Bus Service and John’s Kuranda Bus, from Cairns. Visitors travelling from Port Douglas have a longer trip ahead, approximately 1 hour, and can drive themselves or jump aboard a bus charter with Port Douglas Bus.

2. Evening – Experience Tjapukai Night Fire

What? Experience the culture of the traditional land owners, the Djabugay people, in this incredible night time dinner show.

Why? Immerse yourself in the traditional culture of the Djabugay people (also known as Tjapukai) with this interactive and interpretive evening. Your night will begin from 7pm with welcome canapés, followed by a range of shows and performances from the Tjapukai people.

Experience the Didgeridoo Journey, Night Fire Dance and Fire-making Ceremony as you enjoy a delicious buffet dinner. The Fireside Farewell concludes your journey to the Tjapukai cultural centre, after a long evening of culture, history and entertainment.

Visitors have the option of booking transfers to and from accommodation in Cairns and Northern Beaches, or organising their own transport to and from with their own car.

Day 3

1. Morning – Hot Air Balloon

What? Rise early for a memorable glide over the scenic Atherton Tablelands.

Why? Experience the beauty of the Atherton Tablelands from above with a half hour to an hour ride in a hot air balloon. One of Cairns’ most popular activities, Hot Air gives visitors an unforgettable flight over this idyllic area.

Cairns Ballooning

This romantic activity, despite the early morning, is the perfect way to finish off a 3-day stay or keep the fun flowing with a 5 or 7-day stay. You will receive expert interpretive commentary about the area as well as a commemorative certificate for your ride. Hotel transfers are included in the price with pick-ups beginning at 5am and returning at 9:30am for both flight lengths.

2. Afternoon – Relax at Cairns Esplanade

What? Spend the afternoon lazing around the popular esplanade.

Why? Take the afternoon off to enjoy the beauty of Cairns at this popular hotspot. Providing visitors with a range of things to do including wading in the refreshing lagoon, relaxing around the water or indulging at one of the various cafes, restaurants and bars in the area.

Cairns Esplanade

If your trip to the esplanade falls on the weekend, you can browse the Esplanade Markets for a wonderful range of local products. The markets run every Saturday from 8am until around 4pm in the afternoon.

3. Evening – Flames of the Forest

What? Indulge on a delicious meal in a picturesque, romantic setting.

Why? Held every Saturday, Flames of the Forest conducts a romantic dining experience for couples wanting an intimate dining experience in stunning surroundings. Settle in for an evening of culinary delight under the Daintree Rainforest canopy just an hour north of Cairns.

Complete with chandeliers, candelabras and candles, guests can enjoy sparkling wine and beer with as they’re served a 6-course tropical tasting menu. The romantic evening is made complete with a solo acoustic guitarist setting the adoring mood. This is an unforgettable memory for couples seeking a romantic evening set in an extraordinary natural setting.

There is no self-driving to the venue, it is reached only by hotel transfers. Dinner is from 7:30pm until 10:30pm with pick ups commencing at 6pm from Cairns, 6:40pm from Palm Cove and 7pm from Port Douglas.

Day 4

1. Morning & Afternoon – Visit Green Island

What? Visit a closer reef to make the most of your trip to Far North Queensland.

Why? One visit to the reef isn’t enough so make your way over to Green Island for a day filled with relaxing on the golden sand, snorkelling around the vibrant coral and exploring the bushy mainland. The island also features a glass bottom boat for you to get a clear, dry view of the reef.

Cairns Ballooning

Located approximately 45 minutes from Cairns, Green Island is a 6000-year-old coral cay providing great snorkelling and scuba opportunities for reef lovers. There are more activities on the island (for an additional fee) such as parasailing, helmet diving, scuba diving or jumping aboard a scenic helicopter flight over the cay.

Meals aren’t included in the price of the transfer, so be sure to pack a lunch or bring money to buy from one of the cafes. Cruises depart Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal three times a day at 8:30am, 10:30am and 1pm and return at 5:20pm. Hotel transfers are available for guests staying in Cairns ($22 pp) and Northern Beaches ($28 pp).

2. Evening – Sunset Dinner Cruise

What? Cruise the Cairns area and watch the sun descend on another beautiful day in tropical north Queensland.

Why? Boarding between 6pm and 6:45pm the Spirit of Queensland embarks on a 2.5 hour cruise around the beautiful Trinity Inlet and along Cairns’ waterfront precinct.

Cairns Sunset Cruise

Watch day transition into night over a delicious hot and cold buffet sourced from local produce including fresh seafood. Guests will receive a complimentary drink on arrival to set the relaxed mood for the evening. Enjoy on board entertainment as the boat sets sail every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening from 7pm until 9:30pm.

If you’re wanting an earlier evening, Big Cat’s sunset cruise departs at 5:30pm and docks back at 7pm. You’ll receive a complimentary drink on arrival to accompany the savoury nibbles. Dinner is on land at the popular Dundees Restaurant, serving a three-course dinner right on the waterfront.

Big Cat’s Sunset Cruise runs daily throughout the year except for Christmas Day and Good Friday. Unfortunately coach transfers are not available, but the cruise departs from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal with boarding commencing from 5pm.

Day 5

1. Morning & Afternoon – Day tour to Cape Tribulation

What? Visit this world-famous rainforest beach for a day filled with beautiful scenery and delicious food.

Why? Explore the world-famous Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation’s wilderness area aboard a purpose built 4WD. You’ll be guided through the Daintree and Cape Tribulation for a big day of beautiful scenery.

With a wide range of activities on the schedule for the day there will never be a dull moment. You can admire the rainforest-fringed coastline from the Kulki Lookout, enjoy a tropical lunch on a private rainforest property, gaze over the Daintree River estuary rom Alexandra Lookout, cruise along the famous Daintree River and catch one of the last cable ferries back across the river.

Cape Tribulation

This tour gives you great access to this world-famous area as well as the chance to get up close to some native Australian wildlife. Visitors will also experience a welcome to the country smoking ceremony at Mossman Gorge Centre, access to the Aerieal Walkway and the Rainforest Canopy tour all under the leadership of a professional guide and driver.

Tours depart daily a 7am and return at 6pm, giving you a full day of adventure.

2. Evening – Relax!

What? Spend the evening relaxing in your room or by the water on the esplanade.

Why? Everyone needs a little time to relax and rejuvenate after a big few days on the reef.

If you and your partner want to experience the Cairns nightlife, head out for a drink or two (or three) at one of the popular bars in the city.

Day 6

1. Morning & Afternoon – Visit Michaelmas Cay

What? Take full advantage of your proximity to the reef with another trip around the area, this time visiting the gorgeous Michaelmas Cay.

Why? This unique reef environment is a must-see! Michaelmas Cay is an incredible natural wonder boasting with beautiful marine life and corals. The perfect snorkelling getaway located not too far from the Cairns port.

Visitors will be given 4-hours to explore the Michaelmas Cay reef and surrounding reef. All equipment is provided and those who require can take part in a snorkelling tutorial or demonstration. Those looking for a little extra can learn to scuba dive for an additional fee.

Michaelmas Cay Cruises

If you’ve seen enough reefs you can explore the cay with a scenic nature walk, relax on the vessel or lounge on the beach. There is also a semi-submersible boat giving visitors a clear view looking down on the vibrant reef and a fish feeding presentation.

Morning and Afternoon tea is included as is a delicious hot and cold lunch buffet with fresh seafood. The vessel departs at 8:30am from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal and returns at 5pm.

2. Evening – Cairns Esplanade

What? Wander around the popular waterfront precinct for the evening.

Why? Everyone needs a little time to relax and rejuvenate after a big few days on the reef.

Spend your evening relaxing and exploring the bustling esplanade. Dine in at one of the various restaurants overlooking the water or grab some take out for a night in – the choice is yours.

Day 7

1. Morning – Paronella Park

What? Visit this historic Spanish-style castle in the heart of Far North Queensland.

Why? Wander around the stunning, lush gardens of the park for a romantic excursion. You’ll feel at peace exploring the beautiful gardens and old-time buildings.

Travellers will have to make their own way to the park, which is located approximately 1.5 hours away from Cairns and just over 2 hours from Port Douglas. If you have access to a car, it will be an easy drive along the coast, however those without a car will need to book a seat on a local bus charter.

Paronella Park QLD

2. Afternoon – Scenic flight over the reef

What? Experience the reef one last time; this time from the air.

Why? Glide above the Great Barrier Reef with a scenic 45-minute or 80-minute flight. With guaranteed window seats and in-flight commentary from your experience pilot, this is the perfect way to finish your trip to this wonderful part of the world.

Cairns Scenic Flights

You will have amazing views of Cairns, Green Island, Arlington Reef, Upolu Reef, Double Island and Palm Cove. Flights depart three times a day, however for the final afternoon flight is perfectly suited to those visiting Paronella Park in the morning.

Flight times are from 8am, 11am and 1pm for both flight durations. Departing from Cairns Airport, GSL Aviation provides customers with courtesy bus transfers to and from Cairns city.

Itineraries for Adrenaline Junkies & Backpackers

Both Cairns and Port Douglas are fantastic areas to holiday for backpackers and adrenaline junkies – the region is renowned as Australia’s “adventure hub” for a reason. Whilst Cairns is the more popular location to base yourself out of if you fall into this demographic, Port Douglas provides a more laid-back and upmarket alternative – and most activities include pickups from both. If you’re searching for a holiday itinerary that balances sightseeing with adrenaline inducing experiences, check out our recommendations here.

Day 1

1. Morning and Afternoon – Visit the Great Barrier Reef

What? Trip to the Outer Reef

Why? Let’s face it: this is the main reason you’re here, and this is one of the most well-rounded tour options for exploring the Great Barrier Reef.

In this Outer Great Barrier Reef Tour departing from either Cairns or Port Douglas, you’ll experience the full magic of this much-loved part of Tropical North Queensland. Visiting the spectacular Agincourt Reef, you’ll travel by Quicksilver’s modern vessel to the outer reef activity platform. Here you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel the vibrant underwater realm, and simply relax in this tropical paradise. For an extra cost, travellers can also attempt ‘Scuba Doo’ a personal underwater scooter, scuba dive (PADI certificate required to take part), explore with a scenic helicopter flight and much more!

Outer Reef Tour

All travellers will be provided with a delicious buffet lunch as well as a morning and afternoon tea to ensure you have the energy to keep exploring! Cairns tours depart from Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal boarding at 10.10am for a 10.30am and return at 5.30pm. Hotel transfers are available at an extra cost. Port Douglas tours depart from Marina Mirage boarding at 9.30am for a 10am departure and return at 4.30pm. Hotel transfers are available at an extra cost.

Cairns

2. Evening – Cairns Night Markets

What? A long-running and popular place to grab fresh produce.

Why? For the perfect way to discover the charm and culture Cairns has to offer look no further than the Cairns Night Markets. Allowing an interesting night to be had at a very low cost, the markets are the perfect option for anyone on a tight budget.

Cairns Night Markets

Offering a variety of stalls selling different types of products, there will be enough diversity to keep you entertained for hours. Try some of the delicious cuisines on offer at several stalls, purchase a memento or keepsake to forever remember your trip by, or even grab a massage, after all Cairns Night Markets are home to some of the cheapest massages in Australia!

Perfect after a busy day, the markets don’t require a lot of energy or attention to enjoy!

Port Douglas

2. Night – Dinner at Port Douglas waterfront

What? Enjoy quality food with a top view

Why? Providing excellent waterfront views, dinner at one of the restaurants located along the Port Douglas boardwalk is an absolute must! The perfect way to wind down after a day packed with exploring, you’ll be thrilled with the calming views of wide-open waters.

With a number of fabulous places such as Lure Restaurant & Bar and On the Inlet just to name two, you are sure to find one that takes your fancy. With inexpensive options also available, dinner at the waterfront won’t necessarily damage your budget either.

Day 2

1. Morning and Afternoon: Jungle Surfing

What? Fly through the treetops of the rainforest

Why? With transfers available from both Cairns and Port Douglas, there’s absolutely no reason why Jungle Surfing shouldn’t be on your must do list!

On this unique journey you’ll soar through the trees of the Daintree, flying along on zip lines making your way to 5 different platforms offering breathtaking views over the treetops and out to the Great Barrier Reef. Combining sightseeing with an action filled activity, this is the perfect way to discover the Daintree Rainforest for backpackers and adrenaline junkies!

Jungle Surfing

After arriving at Cape Tribulation, travellers with cruise down one of the Daintree’s rivers providing one of a kind scenery before arriving at the harnessing area. Once you’re all harnessed up, this is where the fun really begins! Soaring through wildlife-rich canopies and above crystal clear streams with views of the reef into the distance, you will be completely lost for words! All travellers are provided with a picnic lunch and morning and afternoon tea also.

Cairns tours depart from you assigned hotel at 7.30am and return at 7.30pm. Port Douglas tours depart from your assigned hotel at 8.15 and return at 6.30pm.

2. Evening – Down time

What? Take it easy this evening

Why? After a long day Jungle Surfing we suggest simply grabbing some takeaway and having a quiet night to recover and rejuvenate.

Day 3

1. Morning: Explore the town

What? Take some time to stroll around either Cairns (Esplanade) or Port Douglas (Four Mile Beach)

Why? W This day consists of an afternoon White Water Rafting tour departing from Cairns at 2pm and Port Douglas at 1.15pm. Therefore, this gives you a morning free to experience whatever you like!

Our suggestion would be to use your time to explore the Cairns Esplanade and Lagoon and the local art galleries! With a number of excellent restaurants located along the waterfront, you can easily grab a delicious bite to eat for breakfast or an early lunch perfect for keeping you full for your afternoon of adventure. Cairns esplanade is beautiful for bike riding, offering stunning views out over the water. Here you’ll also find the popular Cairns Lagoon, a man-made swimming lagoon free from any stingers making it the perfect year round swimming area!

Cairns Esplanade

For those staying in Port Douglas, we suggest a similar itinerary of exploring the beautiful waterfront and Marina. Here you’ll find a number of great cafes and restaurants, gorgeous ocean views and plenty of little areas just waiting to be discovered. Take it as easy as you like, or put your comfiest shoes on and set out for a morning of intense exploring, ultimately it’s up to you.

2. Afternoon – Barron River Rafting Adventure

What? A half day Barron River rafting tour full of watery fun

Why? Perfect for the more adventurous backpackers and obviously the adrenalin junkies, this Barron River Rafting Adventure is one of Cairns and Port Douglas’ must do’s!

Travelling along the Barren River, you’ll be faced with alternating smooth and bumpy waters to ensure a challenging environment that is bound to get your heart racing!

Departing from you designated Cairns accommodation at 2pm and returning at 5.30pm, or your designated Port Douglas accommodation at 1.15pm and returning at 6.30pm, you’ll spend two hours exploring the Barron Gorge National Park and its beautiful surroundings.

Barron River Rafting

With no experience necessary, and all safety instructions and equipment provided, all you need to bring along is your sense of adventure and youre in for an awesome afternoon. Located close to both Cairns and Port Douglas, reaching Barron Gorge National Park is only a short bus ride away also. There is however a $25 rafting levy that is payable when you arrive. Simply wear some swimmers, bring a towel, and get ready to get drenched!

3. Evening – Night Out

What? Take advantage of Cairns’ nightlife

Why? What better way to spend your final evening (if only staying for 3 nights), or even just your third night than a night out embracing Cairns and Port Douglas’ nightlife! Whilst Cairns nightlife is known for being a lot better than what Port Douglas has to offer, both of these towns can guarantee you a great evening out.

For the Cairns holidaymakers, simply head down to the Esplanade and you’ll find a number of happening bars and clubs located within a very close vicinity of this area. You’ll come across tamer options where you can grab one or two drinks, or if you’re after a big night, you’ll also find a number of great clubs including Lyquid and Gilligan’s. You can also join a pub-crawl for only $35 if you’re interested!

Cairns nightlife

Port Douglas on the other hand offers a much quieter nightlife scene with only a couple of bars. You’ll find most travellers will head to the Central Hotel or Paddy’s Irish Pub for a drink. If you are really searching for a huge nightlife scene, we suggest making an hour trip to Cairns or rethinking where you choose to settle at for your holiday.

Day 4

1. Morning & afternoon: Take an island Tour

What? Get another taste of the reef at a reduced price

Why? On the cards for this day, we suggest adding a more budget-conscious reef trip onto your itinerary – after all, the Great Barrier Reef is what this region is famous for. For Cairns holidaymakers we suggest the Green Island Day Tour and the Low Isles Sailing Cruise for Port Douglas travellers.

Cairns

What? Green Island tour

Why? Located only a short 45 minute boat ride from Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, Green Island is a must visit for anyone staying in Cairns.

Similar to islands you only see on post cards, this beautiful part of the Great Barrier Reef showcases a number of magnificent snorkelling sites, and a combined reef and rainforest experience waiting to be discovered.

Green Island tour

In this Green Island Day Trip tour you’ll be provided with snorkelling equipment so you can explore the magical underwater world the Great Barrier Reef is famous for, as well as a glass bottom boat experience and a self guided Eco Island walk.

Whilst this tour might not provide any adrenaline-inducing points, it is one of the more budget-friendly and accessible ways to discover all the of the uniqueness the Great Barrier Reef has to offer and much more.

Port Douglas

Low Isles Sailing Cruise

What? A laid-back, slow-paced cruise to a nearby islet

Why? Situated far closer to Port Douglas than the Outer Reef and provides a balance of relaxation and snorkelling

What better way to discover the beauty of the Low Isles of the Great Barrier Reef than with a full day tour that embraces luxury and comfort. Travelling to unspoiled areas of the reef, passengers will have the opportunity to snorkel the waters, witnessing the beauty that waits below.

Included is also a Coral Viewing Glass Bottom Boat opportunity, a tropical smorgasbord lunch, a reef presentation by a marine biologist and a guided snorkelling tour.

Low Isles Cruise

With all snorkelling equipment included and amazing scenery available at every angle, this Low Isles sailing cruise from Port Douglas lasts for 6 hours and ensures that you cover the best of this part of the reef while also getting a dose of an idyllic, postcard-perfect island environment.

Departing from Marina Village at 10am and returning at 4.30pm, passengers are guaranteed a full day of sailing and exploring the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

3. Evening – Dinner at the Cairns or Port Douglas Waterfront

What? Enjoy some waterfront dining in town

Why? What better way to spend your final evening (if only staying for 3 nights), or even just your third night than a night out embracing Cairns and Port Douglas’ nightlife! Whilst Cairns nightlife is known for being a lot better than what Port Douglas has to offer, both of these towns can guarantee you a great evening out.

For the evening we suggest simply enjoying a bite to eat at one of the fabulous restaurants located along the Cairns Esplanade. With a diverse variety of different restaurants offering a range of cuisines, you are sure to find something that tempts your taste buds. With different price ranges available also, you can make your evening as cheap or as expensive as your budget allows!

Providing dream-like views, dinner at one of the restaurants located along the Port Douglas boardwalk is an absolute must! The perfect way to wind down after a day packed with exploring, you’ll be thrilled with the calming views of wide-open waters.

With a number of fabulous places such as Lure Restaurant & Bar and On the Inlet just to name two, you are sure to find one that takes your fancy. With inexpensive options also available, dinner at the waterfront won’t damage your budget either.

For some Port Douglas recommendations, check out our Best Port Douglas Restaurants guide:

Day 5
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 6
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 7
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.

Whitsundays Itineraries

Suggested reef itineraries from Cairns/Port Douglas & the Whitsundays for 3 to 7 days.
Itineraries for Families

Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy?

Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.

Day 1
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 2
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 3
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 4
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 5
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 6
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 7
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Itineraries for Couples

Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy?

Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.

Day 1
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 2
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 3
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 4
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 5
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 6
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 7
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Itineraries for Adrenaline Junkies & Backpackers

Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy?

Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.

Day 1
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 2
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 3
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 4
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 5
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 6
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.
Day 7
Planning a family trip to the reef? Unsure of how to split up your time in order to keep both you and the kids happy? Here, we’ve compiled some suggested itineraries for families looking to visit the Cairns and Port Douglas region. With the aim of giving a balanced and comprehensive Tropical Queensland trip with experiences that can be enjoyed while staying in both of these locations, simply choose a holiday duration to view a breakdown of each day’s activities below.

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