Cairns Walking Tracks amazing rainforest, Esplanade and Island Walks
Most people visit Cairns in Tropical North Queensland to experience the “rainforest and the Reef.”
We’ve rounded up the best walks in Cairns to make it easy for you.
Cairns, located in tropical North Queensland, Australia, offers a variety of stunning walking trails that showcase the region’s natural beauty.
Here are some of the best walking trails in Cairns:
Cairns Esplanade Boardwalk:
This scenic 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) boardwalk stretches along the waterfront, offering beautiful views of the Coral Sea. It’s a leisurely walk suitable for all fitness levels, and you can enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze, picturesque parks, and various amenities along the way.
Red Arrow Track:
In the Mt. Whitfield Conservation Park, the Red Arrow Track is a popular 1.5-kilometre (0.9-mile) loop trail that provides a moderately challenging walk through the rainforest. It offers panoramic views of Cairns City, Trinity Inlet, and the surrounding mountains.
Blue Arrow Circuit:
Also situated in Mt. Whitfield Conservation Park, the Blue Arrow Circuit is a longer and more challenging trail than the Red Arrow. This 5.4-kilometre (3.4-mile) circuit offers a steep uphill climb, leading to spectacular views of the coast, Cairns City, and the rainforest.
Crystal Cascades Track
Located about 25 minutes from Cairns, Crystal Cascades is a natural freshwater swimming hole surrounded by lush rainforest. The walking track to Crystal Cascades is approximately 1.2 kilometres (0.7 miles) and takes you through beautiful scenery with multiple waterfalls.
Centenary Lakes Botanic Gardens
This tranquil botanical garden in Cairns offers a network of walking tracks that wind through various themed gardens, including a freshwater lake, a rainforest boardwalk, and a mangrove boardwalk. It’s a great place to explore the diverse flora and fauna of the region.
For those seeking a challenging Cairns hike, Walsh’s Pyramid is a distinctive natural landmark located south of Cairns in Gordonvale. The 6.2-kilometre (3.8-mile) trail to the summit involves steep inclines and is considered quite demanding. However, reaching the top rewards you with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
One of the best walks in Cairns is right in the city centre! The Cairns Esplanade is about a 2.5-kilometre walk that shows off the city’s best bits.
If you follow its curve around, you’ll pass the Pier Bar, a favourite gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.
You’ll also pass the Cairns Lagoon, a popular spot for swimming, lounging, and fun community events like water aerobics.
There are plenty of lovely green spaces along the Esplanade, and you’ll often see local workers taking their lunch break in the shade, backpackers grabbing a nap, or families enjoying the sunshine (we are in Far North Queensland, after all).
You’ll find plenty of places to eat along the Esplanade, which is another reason this is one of the best walks in Cairns. However, the real reason we love to stroll here is the views.
It’s great people-watching, and the views of the Trinity Forest Reserve in the distance are unmatched on a sunny day.
You’ve decided to hop on one of the boats at the Marina and find yourself on Fitzroy Island.
Since it only takes about 45 minutes to get to the sandy beaches of this inner-reef paradise, we feel like we can include it in our best walks in Cairns round-up as it’s an easy day trip.
While there are plenty of fun things to do on the island like snorkelling or visiting the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, a can’t-miss activity for all avid walkers is to trek to the top of the island on a 3.6-kilometre return summit hike.
But don’t let the shortness of the walk fool you. You’ll need at least two hours to complete the loop at an average pace, but it’s well worth it.
The views of the mainland, nearby Green Island, and the beautiful Coral Sea are unmatched.
If you’re up for a detour on this Cairns walking trail you can check on the lighthouse on Fitzroy Island.
Cairns Botanic Gardens
Another of the Cairns walking tracks and best walks in Cairns is through the Cairns Botanic Gardens. We shouldn’t say “one of” as there are many different walks to choose from here.
Four main trails wind through the lush gardens, ranging from just over a kilometre to about 5.5. So, no matter your fitness level or how much time you’d like to spend on your walk, there is something for you at the gardens.
Along the way, you’ll enjoy immersing in a tropical rainforest without leaving the city.
Visitors can enjoy several guided walks in the Cairns Botanical Gardens if they prefer.
These tours are free of charge. You can enjoy them with a volunteer guide if you feel like you might have questions to ask or prefer a more personalized time, or you can also use an audio guide instead if you choose to go at your own pace.
Barron Gorge National Park
Exploring Barron Gorge National Park is one of the Cairns best walks during the wet season, as it will give you a chance to see the waterfalls along the way when they are genuinely roaring!
The park is about a 20-minute drive from Central Cairns and well worth it. There are plenty of walks, depending on your time and fitness level.
One of the most popular options is the Din Din Barron Falls Lookout walk, which only takes about 40 minutes to return and is an incredible 1.2 kilometres.
It’s an elevated, wheelchair-accessible (with assistance) boardwalk that winds through the tops of the trees.
You’ll see Barron Falls, the Barron Falls railway platform (the famous Kuranda Rail stops at), and the beautiful, green rainforest for kilometres and kilometres.
There are even toilets in the car park!
Walsh’s pyramid is the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world! Because of this (and the fantastic views at the top!), we include it in our best walks in Cairns round-up, when really, it’s a pretty challenging hike.
You’ll drive about 25 minutes south of Cairns to Gordonvale to get there.
On the Bruce Highway, about 800 meters south of the Mulgrave River, a small road on the right called Moss Road.
Once you’ve turned, take the road about 100 meters, and you’ll see a narrow gravel track that heads off to the right.
If you’re unsure, look for the one marked by a red rectangle.
Take this road for about 100 more meters, and you’ll see the parking area where the track begins.
Allow at least five to six hours for a return trip, and bring plenty of water!
We hope you enjoy these best walks in Cairns.
Some great walking tracks on Lizard Island can be made on our day tour of Lizard Island.