Boat off the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

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What to do in Cairns

Cairns used to be a rough, base-camp town where backpackers landed to explore northern Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Today, Cairns has stepped it up: Its population is booming, it’s a hub for travelers to both Queensland and the entire South Pacific, and it’s transforming into a cosmopolitan city. But Cairns is still all about outdoor adventure—from skydiving and scuba diving to rafting and bird-watching. Between reef charters and Daintree Rainforest expeditions, locals and tourists alike gather on the waterfront esplanade, where the swimming lagoon might make you forget the town lacks natural beaches. This 50,000-square-foot saltwater pool filters out the dangerous box jellyfish that seasonally plague the coastline. Plus, it boasts sandy beaches and calm seawater for a family-friendly spot to cool off under the tropical sun.

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Traveler Reviews of Cairns


s. rates Cairns
nothing special, not flashy. Small city one casino and many restaurants along the street by the sea. Jumping off point to catch boats to the Great Barrier Reef, or catch tours to Daintree or other points in the area. Many of the hotels are without bright signs. Just the opposite of Vegas. It's clean and safe to walk everyplace. Nice sovenier shopping good people. There's nothing flashy about Australia. It's just open and beautiful beaches.
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