The North Queensland city of Cairns is best known as the gateway to two World Heritage listed icons, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree. With an abundance of natural beauty in and around the populous areas, it’s easy to see why the city is a haven for adventure-seeking local and international backpackers. Visitors flock from all corners of the globe to snorkel or dive on the reef, skydive over stunning beaches or head out to explore the lush rainforests and waterways one of the region’s lush national parks.

If you’re craving a little adventure in the great outdoors, check out these top activities and be inspired to book your next holiday to Cairns.

Cruise the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns offers visitors an eye-watering number of options for exploring the world’s largest living reef system. Experience this Australian icon from several perspectives; head out on a diving or snorkel expedition to get up close and personal with the marine life making home amongst the reef or take a scenic helicopter flight to truly appreciate the breathtaking enormity of this natural wonder. There’re also several islands to explore off the coast near Cairns along the way; be sure to check out Green Island, Dunk Island and Fitzroy Island to name a few.

Hike through the Daintree

The World Heritage listed Daintree National Park is a breathtaking expanse of ancient rainforest stretching from Mossman Gorge through to Cape Tribulation and beyond. The park can be explored with numerous self-guided walks departing from various entry points throughout the region of various lengths and difficulty levels. Some walking trails meet the Great Barrier Reef coastline, providing hikers with the opportunity to marvel at two World Heritage listed sites in one trip. The Daintree is home to the largest number of threatened or rare species of animals and plants in the world; visitors wanting to learn more about the crucial role the rainforest plays in the world's ecology can also embark on guided tours with expert locals.

Skydive over the beach

Adrenalin junkies will relish the opportunity to take the plunge (literally) with numerous skiving experiences on offer over Cairns. Experienced skydivers and first-timers alike will be blown away by stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef and World-Heritage listed rainforest before landing on the golden sands at their beach drop-zone. Some operators also offer packages combining a skydive with other activities such as a Great Barrier Reef cruise, white-water rafting or canyoning to accommodate those looking to jam-pack their day with adventure.

White-water raft down the Tully River

If you’re looking for a real North Queensland adventure, you can’t beat a white-water rafting experience down the spectacular Tully River. The river flows through the Tully Gorge National Park, where rafters are surrounded by spectacular ancient rainforest scenery that forms part of Queensland’s World Heritage listed Wet Tropics site. One of Australia’s best locations for white-water rafting, the Tully offers up grades 3 and 4 rapids and is not for the faint of heart.

Four-wheel drive through Kuranda and Barron Gorge national parks

Cairns is surrounded by exceptionally beautiful rainforest landscape, with the national parks of Kuranda and Barron Gorge offering visitors a glimpse into the region’s ancient geological past. Four-wheel driving is a great way to see large sections of the rainforest, experience highlights of the parks like the majestic Barron Falls and spot beautiful wildlife such as kangaroos, platypus and cassowaries. There are an array of tracks cutting through the parks that are best tackled by experienced off-terrain drivers only. If you’re not a 4WD pro, tour operators provide either full or half-day experiences with expert guides and access to some sections of parks that are otherwise restricted to visitors.

Ready to take the plunge and book your next adventure holiday? Virgin Australia offers great value fares to Cairns from Brisbane and Sydney, with domestic and international connections.