When it rains, activities pour in Cairns. See why Cairns shines all summer long with this wet weather activity guide.
With a name like Tropical North Queensland, you can expect “tropical” conditions to appear at some point on your holiday forecast. Every now and then, the glorious Tropical North Queensland weather puts on a show, serving to keep the waterfalls flowing, creeks full and reef conditions crystal-clear.
If you do find it raining in Cairns during your visit, this article is your sign to go outdoors and start exploring. Here’s 10 reasons why you should experience another side of Cairns when it rains.
Embrace the rain
There’s something undeniably magical about the rainforest in the rain
Make like a local and embrace the rain in Cairns. See how seasonality and changing weather conditions play an important role in the growth and development of the world-famous forest, the Wet Tropics, by visiting it when mother nature puts the ‘rain’ into ‘rainforest’.
For a wet-weather rainforest experience, explore the Wet Tropics with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway whose gondolas connect Cairns with Kuranda, rain or shine. In the wet, the views go from magical to mythical, making it easy to envision a time when dinosaurs roamed this land and ate the very-same Jurassic plants you see today.
Hit the boardwalks
Barron Falls really puts on a show after the rain
Replace boredom with boardwalks and let a thick canopy of trees shelter you from the weather. Many of Cairns’ rainforest boardwalks are best experienced in the wet, enveloped by misty conditions and glistening rainforest leaves.
If you’re thirsty for adventure, take a walk in the wet along some of our most famous boardwalks, such as Barron Falls, Botanical Gardens or Mossman Gorge, each of which will put you amongst the scenery without getting your boots (too) wet. If you’re lucky enough to see Barron Falls in or after a big wet event, prepare yourself for a transformation of reality TV proportions, as the falls change from a slow trickle into a magnificent, thunderous gorge-fall.
Bars & breweries
Three Wolves delivers those snug bar vibesStorm watch the Tropical North Queensland way, settling into one of the local bars and breweries in Cairns. What could be better than weathering out a storm cosied up in one of Cairns’ laneway bars like Three Wolves or The Conservatory Bar? If it’s views you seek, watch the clouds roll in over the reef, from a rooftop vantage point like Oak & Vine or Rocco.
Storm watch the Tropical North Queensland way, settling into one of the local bars and breweries in Cairns. What could be better than weathering out a storm cosied up in one of Cairns’ laneway bars like Three Wolves or The Conservatory Bar? If it’s views you seek, watch the clouds roll in over the reef, from a rooftop vantage point like Oak & Vine or Rocco.
The impressive Tully Falls can be seen flowing after rain
You won’t be the first waterfall chaser to make the pilgrimage in the rain to watch some of Cairns’ favourite local falls transform from single drop to rushing waterfall when it rains.
Grab an umbrella and see why summer is the best time to explore waterfalls. While some falls will turn from a trickle to thundering with heavy rains (we’re looking at you Barron Falls), it’s important to remember in your exploring that no two falls are the same.
Keep a look out for seasonal waterfalls popping up in every crevice, such as Surprise Creek Falls, which makes its show-stopping appearance at Barron Gorge after rain. Or if there’s been a large downpour, head to the Atherton Tablelands to catch a glance at the gigantic Tully Falls.
If you fancy a swim, make sure it’s safe to do so and head to one of the many swimmable waterfalls in the area. Always follow the advice from Queensland Parks and never venture into out of bounds zones, flooded waters or dangerous areas to prevent serious injury or death.
Shop ’til the rain stops
Embark on a treasure hunt at local shops & boutiques
It’s always perfect weather for shopping, and Cairns doesn’t disappoint with boutiques, markets and fresh produce vendors. Swap mainstream stores and shop local by adding these retailers to your holiday itinerary.
Start your day with a visit to the popular and completely undercover Rusty’s Market in the Cairns CBD, picking up breakfast and an Annee’s Caphê Sua Da to go. While Rusty’s might be most famous for its fresh produce, you’ll also find handmade jewellery, pottery and homewares too if you’re chasing a thoughtful souvenir from the trip too.
Go underwater without getting wet
Discover an underwater wonderland at Cairns Aquarium
See the reef in the comfort of dry clothes at the Cairns Aquarium, which packs 10 of Tropical North Queensland’s diverse ecosystems and over 15,000 animals into one city block. With half a day on your side you can explore 71 different exhibits, which would otherwise take more than 2300km of travelling to cover.
This aquarium packages up the best of the world’s oldest rainforest and the world’s largest coral reef into one highlight reel. Feeling brave? Don a scuba suit to swim with the sharks with the aquarium’s shark diving experience.
Chase live music
Vera Blue is one of the many acts you can catch in Cairns
Although the sound of rain hitting a tin roof is a favourite soundtrack of summer in Australia, if you want to mix up what you’re listening to – try one of the live music venues across Cairns. There’s always something onin the capital of the tropics, whether it’s a local band live at the pub on a Friday or more famous faces like Ocean Alley and Kate Miller-Heidke at Cairns Performing Arts Centre or Tanks Arts Centre.
Dive into a freshwater pool
The pool is always open in Tropical North Queensland
See why they call it the “Wet” Tropics by timing your visit to one of Cairns’ freshwater pools and creeks for a rainy day. You can follow the thick, jungle-clad paths to some of the best freshwater swimming holes in the country and pepper your Instagram feed with some of nature’s finest swimming holes. For pools landscaped by mother nature, check out the Crystal Cascades and Stoney Creek, close to Cairns. Or, for a dip in inky blue water with a volcanic past, Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tablelands is where you want to be.
Soak up a spa day
Relax and unwind with a massage
Float away on a cloud of pampering next time it rains in Cairns, by treating yourself to a day spa instead of outdoor pursuits. In Cairns, indulge in a spa service at either the Eleme Spa at Crystalbrook Riley or Banyan Spa at Hilton, while further north, spas in Palm Cove like Alamanda, Pullman, Reef House have your name written all over their treatment menus. If you’re looking to make wellness your whole holiday focus, nourish your mind, body and soul at these day spas and yoga retreats while you’re at it.
Take a ride to the reef
Get wet on the Great Barrier Reef
While it might be raining on the mainland, there’s a good chance the sun is shining at the Great Barrier Reef as the mountains of Cairns tend to attract the rain. That’s the beauty of putting a couple of hours of cruise-time between you and the coast. Even if it is raining at the reef, you’re going to get wet anyway.
Natural baths are best
With the reef, waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes, there’s plenty of ways to get wet in the tropics.