Green city destination Cairns, Australia
View of Cairns harbor

Looking for eco-friendly accommodation and things to do in and around Cairns, Australia? Here are our top tips for environmentally friendly Cairns hotels, hostels, nature tours and activities in Tropical North Queensland.

Cairns is well known and popular as the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in tropical North Queensland. Equally well-known is Daintree Rainforest National Park, easily reachable from Cairns. Flight connections to all mayor Australian cities and near Asian destinations such as Bali and Singapore as mayor travel hub make otherwise remote Cairns easily accessible.

Eco-friendly hotels in Cairns

Thala Beach Nature Reserve

Thala Beach Nature Reserve in Port Douglas north of Cairns offers eco-friendly accommodation options that are sensitively positioned among the resort’s 145 acre property. Unique on site experiences are included in the room rate to make your stay with us extra memorable.

Check availability and rates

Silky Oaks Lodge

Spectacularly situated on the Mossman Gorge River, the Silky Oaks eco luxury lodge near the resort town of Port Douglas (just north of Cairns) in Tropical North Queensland, Australia, is the ideal location to appreciate the natural tropical environment with a choice Tree house accommodation, all with individual and personalized touches.

Check availability and rates

Cairns Central YHA Backpackers Hostel

Cairns Central YHA review
Winner of the 2014 Best Backpacker Awards in the Queensland Tourism Awards, Cairns Central YHA Backpackers Hostel has all a backpacker needs for a comfortable stay. YHA’s Backpacker hostel in Cairns has 59 rooms including dorm, twin/double and family rooms.

There is a FREE Hot Spot (Wifi Plus also available), and a free airport shuttle bus is available for arriving guests. Cairns Central YHA’s commitment to sustainable practices makes it our top suggestion for budget travellers.

Read our review or check availability and rates. More about YHA Australia and sustainability in this interview with Jon Kane by the Sustainability Leaders Project.

Cairns tours, activities & urban adventures

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Skyrail Rainforest Cablway - eco friendly activity Cairns, Australia

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway in Cairns is a world first in environmental tourism taking you on an amazing experience over Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest canopy and deep into the forest. Spanning 7.5kms over pristine rainforest, Skyrail allows you to explore the wonders of an ancient tropical rainforest and learn about one of the most botanically fascinating and diverse areas on earth.

Read our review. More about Skyrail and sustainability in this interview with Marni Barnett by the Sustainability Leaders Project.

Wait-a-While Wildlife Tour

Wait a While Tour, spotting platypus, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Absolutely recommend the Wait a While experience, a boutique half day tour ideal for anyone interested in Australia’s amazing and sometimes bizarre wildlife. Join Paul on a tour up to the Atherton Tableland for a chance to spot tree kangaroos, platypus, green tailed possums and so much more. 80 per cent of Australian wildlife are nocturnal, and this is one of very few – if not the only – tour to take you to the rainforest at dark.

Read our review

Passions of Paradise – Great Barrier Reef

Passions of Paradise Great Barrier Reef sailing snorkeling Cairns

Join locally owned family business Passions of Paradise aboard their modern catamaran for an unforgettable tour from Cairns harbor out to the Great Barrier Reef, where you’ll get a chance to try scuba diving, spend a couple of hours snorkeling, and marveling at the yummy lunch buffet freshly prepared by the on board chef.

Read our review

Destinations around Cairns

As a Gateway city, Cairns is the ideal starting point for exploring both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Here are some ideas and recommendations for things to do and places to stay around Cairns.

Traveling North: Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest

Cape Tribulation with Daintree Rainforest - day trip from Cairns

Cape Tribulation is easily one of the most breath-taking places we have seen during our tour through Queensland, Australia. It is the only area where two UNESCO world heritage sites overlap – the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Daintree Rainforest. The result is thick forest which reaches all the way down to the beach. Endemic Cassowaries call this magical place home, which they share with abundant wildlife, including crocodiles and a small community of people.

More about Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest.

Where to stay and what to do in Cape Tribulation:

Cape Trib Beach House

The Cape Trib Beach House, a YHA Australia associate, offers accommodation ranging from basic to very comfortable, catering to both backpackers, families and those on a larger budget. The restaurant/bar has a huge open terrace surrounded by lush rainforest.

Sea Kayaking with PaddleTrek

PaddleTrek Sea Kayaking starts at the private (at least that’s what it felt like) beach directly in front of the Cape Trib Beach House, and takes you around the sheltered bay. The tour, which is suitable for beginners, gets you close to turtles, small (harmless) reef sharks and other wildlife. Check availability and rates

Other popular activities at Cape Tribulation include Ocean Safari, which is similar to the Ocean Rafting tour around the Whitsunday Islands.

Tip: Active Tropics Explorer Overnight Tour

A very convenient way to see all the highlights between Cairns and Cape Tribulation is to arrange an overnight trip with Active Tropics Explorer. You’ll be picked up from your Cairns accommodation and the friendly, entertaining minibus driver will tell you lots of useful information about the region as you make your way up to Mossman Gorge, Daintree River (crocodile river cruise!) Cape Tribulation – and back down via Port Douglas, among other highlights.

Check availability and rates

Traveling South: Mission Beach, Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach

Koala on Magnetic Island, Australia
Koala on Magnetic Island

If driving south towards Brisbane, we recommend stops in Mission Beach (stay at the Sanctuary Retreat for a healthy break high up on a hill, overlooking the rainforest and sea) and Townsville, gateway to Magnetic Island with its many eco-friendly activities.

On Magnetic Island (the modern SeaLink ferries provide regular services between Townsville and Magnetic Island), we stayed at one of the comfy little huts at Bungalow Bay Koala Village and just loved the location near Horseshoe Bay.

Insider Tip: Skip the “wildlife experience” on site and hike up to the fort (Forts Walk) for magnificent views and a good chance to spot koalas in the wild. Nearby Radical Bay is a swimmer’s paradise (avoid jellyfish season).

Further south lies Airlie Beach, from where you can hop on a cruise around the Whitsunday Islands (we went with Ocean Rafting and loved it).

Weather in Cairns & other travel info

For the latest news on weather in Cairns, check

Traveling from Cairns down to Brisbane is a popular route. We used the Greyhound Bus Hop on Hop off ticket, which was convenient and comfortable.

For all sorts of useful information about Cairns as travel destination, check out

Need travel insurance?

Still need travel insurance for your upcoming trip to Australia? Here’s why World Nomads is our favorite travel insurance for city trips.

Like our tips and recommendations of eco-friendly hotels, tours and activities in and around Cairns in Tropical Queensland, Australia? Spread the word!

Cairns: Hotels, Tours and Urban Adventures for Eco-Smart City Travelers
Tagged on: