Wondering what to do in Cairns when it’s raining?
The wet season in the unofficial capital of the Great Barrier Reef can be quite a drag. Most tours get called off if the weather is particularly crappy, so you might find yourself waking up to a cancellation email instead of going on your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
I remember working as a tour agent in Cairns and had to help many disappointed tourists with refunds for rained-out activities.
I know most of these things aren’t the same as snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or hiking in the Daintree Rainforest, but if there is bad weather in Cairns, don’t worry. The whole day doesn’t need to be a wash.
What to do in Cairns when it’s raining
There are still plenty of indoor activities in Cairns to do when the weather is bad. Here are just a few of my favorites from my time living there. They really helped me get through the wet season.
Cairns City Sights Tour
This has got to be the best “all in one” solution for saving a rained-out tour in Cairns. It doesn’t start until around noon, so if you wake up to a cancellation email and book it right away, you can go have breakfast knowing your afternoon is sorted.
It takes you to
- St Monica’s Cathedral showcasing the world’s largest themed stained-glass windows
- Cairns City Museum
- Surprise Creek Falls
- Palm Cove Beach
- Cairns Flecker Botanic Gardens
Plus, you can enjoy a Devonshire Tea at a local cafe before visiting a Cairns scenic lookout
The demographic does tend to skew a little bit older, but if you like history, local culture, and friendly guides, this is the tour for you.
Book your tickets now and relax knowing your vacation is saved.
Open daily — times may vary
If you can’t see the fishes on the Great Barrier Reef, the Cairns Aquarium is the next best place to check them out. There is a 30-foot tank featuring all the same marine life you would see on a snorkeling tour. There are also daily keeper talks, so you can learn more about the reef and its ecology.
It was right across from my old office and I spent a lot of my time wishing I was in there instead of working.
Skip the line and buy your ticket ahead of time.
Friday and Saturday: 5am to 6pm
Sunday: 5am to 3pm
If you’re looking for something to do in Cairns while it’s raining on the weekend, stop by Rusty’s. I used to love buying a handful of fresh lychee from one of the vendors here and having a stroll around the other 180 stalls. They sell tropical fruits and flowers, sweet treats, locally-made souvenirs, and more.
Closed Sundays and Public Holidays.
Dive into the history of Far North Queensland at the Cairns Museum.
Cairns started as a bit of a frontier town. The Museum’s five galleries tell the story of the Bama Traditional Owners, the local sugar cane industry, tourism development, the ecology of living in the tropics, and the weather, too. If you love storm stories, the museum has plenty about Cyclones.
If you are interested in learning more about the history (good and bad) surrounding the area, as well as a bit more science of the reef, stop in. You could probably spend a good two hours here taking it all in.
Cairns Botanical Garden
Open daily — times may vary
The Cairns Botanical Garden is a little north of town, but if you have an umbrella or rain poncho, you can still take in the lushness of these tropical gardens. If you don’t have a car, don’t worry. The local bus (Sunbus) stops on Collins Avenue directly outside Flecker Gardens.
You can take a guided walk of Flecker Gardens, as well as a tour of the gardens plus the Tanks Precinct (which has some cool installations).
Be sure to stop by the visitor’s centre to speak with a friendly volunteer if you need any more information about the plants. Admission is free.
If you were still hoping for a little bit of adventure while it’s raining in Cairns, book into the Cairns Zoom. It’s a high-flying Challenge Ropes Course in a wildlife exhibit and is a unique all-weather experience. While there you can see sweeping 360-degree views of Cairns from the Dome Climb, Zipline over a giant 4.5-meter Crocodile on the Hi-ZOOM, and can even cuddle a Koala!
Skip the line and buy your ticket in advance.
Cairns Night Markets
Open daily — times may vary
I always loved stopping into the Night Markets after a long shift at work. Much like Rusty’s Markets, this is the perfect place to grab a snack and a souvenir….and even a massage. I got a head, neck, and shoulder massage here once that was so good it made my nose run.
There’s always something interesting to have a look at here and the best bit is that it’s all indoors.
Dinner on the Esplanade
Looking forward to a great dinner out can really turn a rainy day in Cairns around. Take the wet weather as an excuse to get dressed up and venture out onto the town for a nice meal. Most of the best restaurants in Cairns are along the Esplanade.
Dundee’s, Hemingways, and Ochre were some of my favorites while I was a local.
Get a Massage
Even if you don’t get a massage at the night markets, treat yourself to one if it’s raining in Cairns! There are DOZENS of legit, inexpensive places around town. I must have been to all of them while living there.
If you are upset about not going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, getting a massage is going to go a long way to making you feel better.
See a Movie
If you just want a break from your vacation since it’s not working out, go see a movie! There is a movie theater in the Cairns Central shopping center right down the back of town. It’s only about a ten-minute walk away from most of the hotels.
Buy a large popcorn and snack your sorrows away.
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Doing a ropes course (zoom option) seems scary in the rain!! Is it safe?!
It’s inside a big glass dome! Totally safe.
Some great tips here! It’s never fun when it rains on holiday, but I always feel like if I stay indoors doing nothing I’m wasting my time haha. Thanks for sharing these Cairns tips.
Yes, we had so many people in tears in the tour office because of the weather. I hope this helps someone 🙂