Things to do in Cairns when it rains

Raincheck: things to do in Cairns when it rains

Considering Cairns is a holiday destination with just two seasons – wet and dry – it should come as no surprise that a towel is a packing essential.

Here up north, our endless summer is somewhat prone to downpours – 154 days of them to be precise. So if the weather gods have thrown a wet, windy curveball at your holiday plans, don’t stress. 

When it rains in Cairns, it pours with activities.

Check out this list of things to do in Cairns when it rains.

Zoom through an indoor wildlife park

Walk on the wild side at Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome, which transforms the rooftop of Pullman Reef Resort Hotel into a wildlife park right in the heart of the Cairns CBD.

Leave your brolly at home: under this glass-roof dome you’ll find over 65 challenge elements including a ropes course and three ziplines (one flying you directly over Goliath, a four-metre saltwater crocodile). There’s also a viewing walkway and power jump (a 13m freefall jump).

The only thing you need in your day pack is a sense of adventure. 

Fuel your inspiration

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

Get to know Cairns’ culture through art with a visit to the Cairns Art Gallery, a free public gallery tucked inside one of the few remaining heritage buildings.

With the reef and rainforest as local artist’s muse, it goes without saying the art here is colourful. And the take-home canvases, ceramics, sculptures and photography in the gift store are as vibrant as the World Heritage-listed wonders you’ll see in Queensland. 

There are fantastic Indigenous art galleries all around Cairns that are worth a visit. And if you’re looking to pick up the paintbrush yourself, make your way to Janbal Gallery in Mossman for a workshop with gallery owner and resident artist Brian (Binna) Swindley.

Hide out in the hinterland

Of all the things to do in Cairns when it rains – this is the most delicious. 

Pack your appetite and your poncho to discover the food bowl of Tropical North Queensland with a guided tour of the Atherton Tablelands.

Outback Tasting Tours will introduce you to the produce and smallgoods that make this region famous on a very indulgent day tour. With taste-testing stops at Gallo Dairy, Mount Uncle Distillery and Jaques Coffee Plantation, every important food group (booze, coffee and cheese) will be covered.

Sleep with the fishes

Sleep with the Sharks Cairns Aquarium

Photo by @downundertravel

Come face to face with creatures of the deep  – no snorkel required – at Cairns Aquarium.

Replicating the waterways of Tropical North Queensland, this aquarium takes you on a journey through 10 different ecosystems from mangroves, shoreline to the outer reef.  There’s over 15,000 animals representative of 71 habitats to discover.

If you’re looking not just to see animals but help save them, you can also take a guided tour to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

And the fun continues after dark, with night tours as well as a Sleep with the Sharks experience. This is a fascinating Night at the Museum peek at what the animals get up to at night, before curling up in front of the Coral Sea habitat.

See rain in the rainforest

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Don’t rule out a rainforest discovery just yet. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway doesn’t let a bit of rain get in the way of its journey from Smithfield Terminal to Kuranda.

The rainforest here existed long before dinosaurs roamed the earth. And the views just get all the more Jurrasic as you glide over the canopy and through the mist. The cableway stops at Red Peak Station and Barron Gorge Station to get amongst the foliage and see the impressive Barron Falls in all its glory.  

Walk through the pages of history

If you’re only familiar with Cairns’ natural history, it’s time to get schooled in the stories of Australian exploration, Aboriginal history and early Australians toiling away in the heat and humidity of the tropics at Cairns Museum.

This is one museum that doesn’t dance around the tough stuff – toads, mould and mozzies all make an appearance in this playful look at life in the tropics.

You’ll find it two blocks from the Cairns Esplanade.

Gain a deeper connection with Indigenous culture

Tjapukai | what to do in Cairns
From fire-making to traditional hunting techniques, you’ll walk away from Tjapukai  with a deeper connection with Aboriginal culture.

Completely undercover, watch as the world’s oldest living culture is brought to life before you through performances and live demonstrations.

After trying your hand at spear throwing and didgeridoo playing, replenish your efforts with a buffet lunch of native tastes from the Flame Tree Restaurant.

Did we mention it’s kid-friendly too?

Go rafting

White Water Rafting on Tully River near Cairns

If you’re gonna get wet, do it properly – and with a few thrills.

A little rain just adds to the excitement of tackling the rapids of Tully River with Raging Thunder.

With grade 3-4 rapids and front row seats to the beauty of Tully Gorge National Park, this is an experience you’ll remember forever.

Try the fruits of your storm-watching labour

Rusty's Market Cairns

Weather out the storm with a trip to Rusty’s Market.

This undercover market on Grafton Street won’t have you running from stall to stall trying to stay dry.

Held on Friday, Saturday (5am-6pm) and Sunday (5am-3pm), you can load your basket with exotic fruit, vegetables and fresh bread. It’s a health foodie’s paradise, with over 180 stalls.

Don’t skip the queue for the Vietnamese coffee either – it’s sweetened to perfection with condensed milk.

Take the little ones to Inflatable Kingdom

Inflatable Kingdom | Things to do in Cairns when it rains

Kids and rain go together like cats and the car, so keep this one up your sleeve if Cairns is being particularly tropical.

Inflatable Kingdom in the inner-west suburb of Manoora is just as it sounds – a world of jumping castles, inflatable slides and obstacle courses.

Need other things to do in Cairns when it rains?