Where the rainforest meets the reef… We came across this phrase numerous times on different websites as we were doing our research before the trip. We finally understood when we reached this beautiful city. From the famous Great Barrier Reef to the beautiful rainforests, Cairns has it all ?
Can’t wait to experience for yourself? Start packing your bags, we’ve got your 5D4N itinerary ready!
We took a direct flight on SilkAir’s MI811 from Singapore at 1.10am on Saturday morning and arrived in Cairns at 10am – the perfect time to kick start our trip!
P.S. SilkAir has 5 weekly non-stop flights (Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri and Sat) from Cairns to Singapore, with all flights on the new MAX 8 aircraft. Book your Cairns adventure now: http://bit.ly/HHWTcairns5d4n
Did you know SilkAir was the first to fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 to Australia? Besides Australia, you’ll be able to enjoy the new MAX 8 if you’re flying to Hiroshima, Kathmandu, Hyderabad and Bangalore on SilkAir!
Caption: Breakfast before we landed! SilkAir’s cabin crew were all smiles throughout the flight ? Fun fact: SilkAir started hiring male cabin crew in 2015!
Remember to request for a Halal meal at least 24 hours (for flights out of Singapore) prior to departure on SilkAir’s website, under “Mange My Booking”.
As Cairns airport is small and there were barely any flights arriving around that time, immigration was a breeze and we were out of the airport very quickly!
#HHWT tip: Certain food items cannot be brought into Australia, so remember to check out this list before packing for your trip.
We stayed at Pacific Hotel Cairns, a no-frills 4-star hotel located on Cairns Esplanade. As the city is pretty small, you can cover most of the city on foot.
You’ll find restaurants, the local supermarket (Woolworths, or Woolies, as the locals call it), Cairns Central (the major shopping mall), Chemist Warehouse (Australia's largest pharmacy retailer), Rusty’s Markets (open from Friday-Sunday) and the cruise departure point to the Great Barrier Reef all within walking distance!
However, the hotel is a bit dated and the walls can be a bit thin for certain rooms. Remember to bring your own room slippers as they aren’t provided!
Start your Cairns adventure at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures (2-4 hours)
- Meet some of the oldest living creatures on Earth at this wildlife park
- Enjoy a 25-minute boat cruise on Hartley’s Lagoon where you’ll enter the natural habitat of the Estuarine (Saltwater) Crocodiles. The most exciting part of this ride is the pole feed where you’ll see a croc (or two) in action!
- If there’s one thing you can’t miss, it’s the 3pm Crocodile Attack show where keepers get up close (like REALLY close!) with a huge saltwater crocodile ? Honestly, this show kept us at the edge of our seats!
- Cuddle a koala and have your photo taken too! Did you know you can only cuddle a koala in two states – Queensland and South Australia?
- The map which you’ll receive at the entrance has a summary of various presentations and shows throughout the day, so plan your day accordingly!
- Note: Lilies restaurant doesn’t serve halal food but there are vegetarian and seafood options available. We advise readers to dine at your own discretion.
#HHWT Tip: Discounted family prices (2 adults + 2 kids) are available at most attractions in Cairns, so do enquire at the entrance!
Dinner at Bagus Café (1-2 hours)
- Dig into yummy traditional Indonesian cuisine such as Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Sate Ayam (chicken skewers) at this casual café
- Halal Status: Halal ingredients used.
Kuranda – the village in the rainforest, is one of the most popular day trips from Cairns! If you’re visiting for the first time, we highly recommend booking a day trip. We went with TropicWings which included a pick up from our hotel.
Kuranda Scenic Railway – The train ride to Kuranda (2 hours)
- Get ready for the most beautiful 2-hour train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway up to Kuranda. This ride was one of our favourite moments in Cairns!
- Relax and take in the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains as you travel through the dense rainforest. Can you believe the rainforest is millions of years old??
Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
- Hop off when the train makes a stop at Barron Falls Station, you’ll want a closer look at the stunning Barron Falls
Kuranda Village (30 minutes to 1 hour)
- From Kuranda Railway Station, take a short 10-minute walk to the village which houses numerous shops including the famous local markets!
- You’ll find a vast array of local products from Australian gems to the Didgeridoo (a wind instrument developed by the Aboriginal people of northern Australia). If you want to bring home a local souvenir, this is the place! We were really intrigued by the Didgeridoo and considered bringing it home but it’s HUGE (and quite pricey too ?).
- Feeling peckish after all that shopping? There’s a vegan falafel store in the middle of the market.
- Halal Status: We’ve checked with the staff and all ingredients are halal!
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (1 hour)
- Visit the largest butterfly flight aviary in Australia where you’ll find over 1500 tropical butterflies! That’s if you don’t have Lepidopterophobia (fear of butterflies)… ?
- Challenge yourself and try spotting the famous electric blue Ulysses and the Cairns Birdwing (Australia’s largest butterfly) in the aviary!
- Complimentary guided tours are also available throughout the day so check with the staff for the timings
- Keep a look out from 11.30-11.40am daily as new butterflies will be released into the aviary then
- #HHWT Tip: Wear red, pink or white for a higher chance of a butterfly landing on you! While I didn’t wear these colours, my hat must have looked like an attractive flower ?
- Board the bus right outside the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary for your transfer to Rainforestation Nature Park
Rainforestation Nature Park (2-3 hours)
- Fuel up with a BBQ lunch at Rainforestation Nature Park’s restaurant!
- Halal Status: Halal meal upon advance booking. Do request at least 10 days in advance if you plan to have your lunch there as the restaurant needs time to order halal-certified meat. We’ve checked with the restaurant that the halal meal will be prepared on a separate grill.
- Watch the Pamagirri Corroboree (a traditional dance performance) where you’ll see the local indigenous Pamagirri guides perform a series of dances depicting aspects of their culture, including food gathering and the sound of animals. You’ll walk away with a move or two!
- After the show, follow your guides on a Dreamtime walk (Dreamtime is a term that describes the beliefs and stories held by the Aboriginal groups in Australia). You’ll learn how to throw a boomerang (it was so fun!), learn more about spear-throwing and the technique to play the didgeridoo!
- Next up, climb aboard an amphibious World War II Army Duck for your adventure into the tropical rainforest. We learnt so much about native plants and wildlife from our guide who has been working at Rainforestation for over 30 years! Our tour was truly fascinating and very educational. We now know what plants NOT to touch when you’re in Australia.
- P.S. To be safe, check with the locals or don’t touch anything!
Credit: @rainforestation on Instagram
- If you have extra time, drop by Koala and Wildlife Park (also in Rainforestation) where you’ll be able to get up close with the free-roaming kangaroos and wallabies. You’ll also be able to meet other native animals like the cassowary, wombats, snakes and more!
Kuranda Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Terminal (1-2 hours)
Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
- It’s time to head back to Cairns but at least the journey is beautiful!
- Glide above the canopy in your cable car as you enjoy a different view of the rainforest
- You have the option of getting off at the Red Peak and Barron Falls Rainforest stations to explore the forest floor. As we didn’t have enough time, we only alighted at Red Peak station where we joined a ranger guided tour.
- The guide pointed out a cleverly camouflaged friend. Can you spot it? ;)
Dinner at Ala Turka (2 hours)
- Look out for this Turkish restaurant among the stretch of eateries as you stroll along the Esplanade
- As we were really hungry that day, we ordered a mixed grill platter and chicken pide (Turkish pizza) to share. Tender chargrilled meat, warm pizza fresh from the oven… Dinner doesn’t get better than this on a cold winter night in Cairns ?
- Because no meal is complete without dessert, get a baklava paired with sweet and tangy Turkish apple tea to wrap up your night
- Halal Status: Halal ingredients, however alcohol is served. Do note that there are no halal-certified restaurants in Cairns.
Great Barrier Reef (full day)
Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
- The Great Barrier Reef has been on our bucket list for as long as we can remember and we couldn’t be more excited for our day trip out to the reef!
- There are numerous tour operators to pick from and we recommend that you pick one that suits your needs. For example, we went with Sunlover Reef Cruises which is great for people of all ages and abilities to experience the reef in comfort as the company has a pontoon on Moore Reef.
- Most tours depart from Reef Fleet Terminal and remember to set aside ample time for check-in as the queue can get very long.
- Don’t forget to take a motion sickness pill 30 minutes before you depart because the waves can get quite choppy, depending on the weather! It’s more expensive if you purchase this on board.
- It takes about 3 hours to get to the reef but it’ll be comfortable on board the air-conditioned catamaran.
Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
- The tour includes various activities such as a glass bottom boat tour with a marine expert, underwater observatory (where you can observe the fish without getting wet) and there’s even a slide right into the ocean!
- You can also join a snorkel tour, seawalker helmet dive, scuba dive, a scenic helicopter ride and more at additional costs. Do note that there are limited slots available so do book in advance.
- Our first activity was the seawalker helmet dive which we did right away when we docked at the activity pontoon at Moore Reef. This activity is suitable even for non-swimmers and you don’t even need to remove your glasses! The only minor complaint we have is the water was really cold that day. However, this is probably a one-off case because the locals shared that the water is usually not this cold, even in winter!
- Walking underwater and being so close to the marine creatures was such a surreal and memorable experience. We even met Wally, the famous gigantic Maori Wrasse!
- There’s a buffet lunch on the boat and while there are seafood and vegetarian options available, do note that it’s not halal. We recommend for readers to dine at your own discretion or pack your own lunch for this trip.
- As we’re avid snorkelers, we spent most of our time doing just that! Life jackets and snorkelling gear are provided so you don’t have to bring your own.
- The Great Barrier Reef has been in the media recently with the high temperature bleaching the corals and we were curious to find out for ourselves.
Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
- It’s no wonder that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world. Granted that there are some corals that there have been bleached, we saw corals in the prettiest pink, pastel purple and various other colours in the clear blue water.
- From Anemone Fish (Nemo!) to the colourful Parrotfish, you could stay underwater all day marvelling at life under the sea. Did you know the Great Barrier Reef is home to more than 1500 fish species?
- Thinking of bringing your kids? Not to worry! There are lifeguards on duty at all times and there’s even an ocean enclosed pool for the young ones.
Night Fire by Tjapukai Tour (2 hours)
- Meet the Bama, the Indigenous rainforest people and learn about the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture at Tjapukai!
- Join in the Lakeside Fire ceremony where you’ll be taught songs in their native language before the ceremonial fire is lit. Watch out for the surprise at the end!
- Note: There is a buffet dinner included in this package but do note that only the chicken is halal. We recommend that you dine at your own discretion. Alternatively, we recommend visiting Tjapukai in the day where there are admission passes with no meals included.
Cairns Central (2 hours)
- After your morning cuppa, you’re all ready to conquer Cairns Central, the largest shopping centre in Far North Queensland
- Check out local brands such as Typo (stationery), Witchery (clothing) and T2 (tea shop)!
- Don’t miss Kmart and Target for affordable shopping. You’ll find clothes, homeware, electronics and even cat supplies at really attractive prices!
Half-day Barron River Rafting (4-5 hours)
- It’s time for a rafting adventure on the Barron River! Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before. It was our first time too and the instructors were very reassuring and experienced!
- Get your adrenaline pumping as you paddle through rapids and hold on tight for drops!
- We were aching that night but it was so worth it ? Can’t wait to return to take on more challenging rapids next time!
Dinner at Bagus Café/ Ala Turka (1-2 hours)
- Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, treat yourself to a filling dinner at Ala Turka or Bagus Café which are both along the Esplanade!
Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome (3 hours)
- Pack a set of workout gear because you’re about to take on the world’s first challenge ropes course in a wildlife immersion exhibit!
- There are 4 main adventure activities:
- Dome Climb – Take a walk on the top of the Dome while enjoying a panoramic view of the city and Coral Sea
- Power Jump – A leap off the 13m tall tower
- Mid-Zoom – A series of elements including tunnels, climbing walls at a lower level of difficulty
- Hi-Zoom – A more complex course with crossings and 3 ziplines. How does ziplining across a 4-metre long crocodile sound? Yup, that’s part of the Hi-Zoom course!
- We tried all 4 and enjoyed the Hi-Zoom the most! As most of the animals are free-ranging, it was almost as if the birds were joining us on our course. In fact, we found a few them roosting on the high elements!
- Besides Goliath the crocodile (that we ziplined over), you’ll find a range of native animals from a laughing Kookaburra to the most adorable koalas (which you can take photos with)!
Lunch at Prawn Star (2 hours)
- The meal that we’ve been looking forward to – fresh seafood on the boat!
- From mud crabs, to oysters to the star of the eatery, prawns (of course ?), Prawn Star has it all!
- You can order ala carte but we recommend getting the Large Platter or Jumbo Platter, so that you can try a variety of seafood.
- We ordered the Jumbo Platter even though it’s good for 3 pax as we were ravenous from our morning workout
- Fresh salmon sashimi, creamy oysters, bugs (a type of lobster) and sweet, sweet prawns! Honestly, we lost track of how many prawns we ate ?
- #HHWT Tip: We spoke to the staff there and found out that prawns with a red dot are one of their favourite (and apparently one of the best)!
- Halal Status: Only seafood is served. However, do note that alcohol is served.
- As much as we were sad to leave on Wednesday, we were looking forward to our SilkAir flight (MI814) and we were already planning the movies we were going to watch on SilkAir Studio!
- P.S. Our SilkAir flight back to Singapore was at 6pm which is awesome because we were able to pack in more activities in the day so it was almost like a full day in Cairns. Plus, we were just in time for the beautiful Cairns sunset as we boarded the flight.
- As our flight was the only one departing at that time, immigration was a breeze!
- If you’re using an Apple device, don’t forget to download the SilkAir Studio app before the flight and if you’re an Android user, you can download the app inflight! You’ll be able to enjoy over 300 movies and TV shows on the SilkAir Studio app once you connect to the inflight Wi-Fi.
- Hooray for extra legroom because we were seated right at the front of Economy Class!
- Our dinner included bee hoon with chicken with a serving of fruits ? Remember to request for your Halal Meal on the SilkAir website at least 48 hours before flight departure. Do note that this is for flights out of Cairns.
- Besides dinner, the friendly cabin crew served us snacks and drinks frequently during the flight, keeping our tummies full and happy!
Are you ready for your Cairns adventure? Get your tickets to Cairns on SilkAir NOW: http://bit.ly/HHWTcairns5d4n
The reef and rainforest awaits!
This article was brought to you by SilkAir and TEQ (Tourism and Events Queensland).