Two World Heritage Sites for the price of one? Australia it’s time you ticked Cairns off your 2021 travel bucket list!

With its tropical tranquility and vibrant hinterland, it’s no surprise that Cairns has been awarded Wotif’s 2021 Aussie Town of the Year. And how can we blame them! With not one but two of the World’s top Heritage Listed sites, there truly is no greater place to soak in Australia’s beauty than far North Queensland.

This annual award creates a definitive ranking of the top 10 Australian destinations based on data such as affordability, accommodation quality and traveller satisfaction. The awards, now in their fourth year, encourage Aussies to spend more time exploring and supporting our local communities.

The 2021 announcement brings hope for Australian tourism, especially after the toll taken from the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 60 percent of Aussies now recognising just how much there is to discover in our own backyard.

And what better place to start than Cairns! Dying to find out how this tropical hinterland earned 2021’s Aussie Town of the Year?  If these five reasons don’t have you booking the next flight to FNQ, we don’t know what will!

Scroll through to discover our top five reasons to visit Cairns in 2021!

When is the best time to visit Cairns?

Located in far North Queensland, it’s no secret that Cairns experiences hot, humid temperatures, torrential rain fall and the occasional cyclone in the summer season. Therefore, the best time to visit Cairns is during the months of April and May as well as August and September! With temperatures rarely dropping below 24 degrees Celsius, these transitional seasons are the best time to explore this gorgeous tropical hinterland.

1. Dive into the Great Barrier Reef

You simply cannot explore all that Cairns and North Queensland has to offer without seeing the wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef. As the largest coral reef in the world, running at 2300 kilometres long, this reef is home to over 1625 species of fish, including 1400 species of coral, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 133 species of sharks and rays, a variety birds, sea snakes, turtles and so much more! As the largest underwater ecosystem in the world, the reef also provides a safe haven to many rare and threatened species such as the dugong, manta ray, green turtle, mantis shrimp and blanket octopus.

Visitors to the Great Barrier Reef are welcome to swim, snorkel, dive and sail through at any time, though the best time to visit is typically between June and October – this ensures you won’t experience the harsh wet season or encounter any of the dangerous box jellyfish during your snorkel. If you are looking to explore the reef in style, check out the Ocean Spirit, a 32 metre catamaran which travels from Cairns to Michaelmas Cay daily! From here you can enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour, a deep dive snorkel of the vibrant reef or explore the vast array of bird species, unique to Michaelmas Cay. Plus, you’ll be served an onboard buffet lunch and afternoon tea. Talk about luxury!

2. Explore the Daintree Rainforest

An ancient wonder like no other! The Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest rainforest, spreading over 1200 square kilometres and is home to thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles and even the infamous cassowary. But, what truly makes this place a wonder is its diverse and complex ecosystem. Barely scathed by infrastructure, the Daintree Rainforest – which is part of Kuku Yalanji Country – has remained a striking landscape of flowing streams, mountain ranges and dense forestry for over 180 million years.

To help preserve its natural beauty, there are only a limited number of tours available. Visitors can opt from a combination of walk and cruise tours or even more specific tours like the Grand Fan Palm Gallery Tour, Cooper Creek Wilderness Extension or the Greater Wilderness Experience. Each tour not only showcases the natural beauty of the rainforest, but also provides information on the surrounding flora and fauna encountered. The Daintree Rainforest is easily accessible from Cairns too, just a short two-hour drive which can be done via charter bus, 4WD or your own hire car. To truly experience all that the Daintree Rainforest has to offer, it is recommended to visit between May and September to avoid the heat, humidity and rain.

3. Discover Fitzroy Island

A tropical wonder in itself, is there more reason to visit Cairns then for the chance to see Fitzroy Island? Whether it’s just a day trip or perhaps for even longer, Fitzroy Island is the perfect tropical stop on your North Queensland getaway. From lazing on the beach to snorkelling in the deep, or even exploring the rainforest under your feet, there is so much to see both on land and sea at Fitzroy Island. Trek to the Secret Garden or soak up some rays at Nudey Beach. With the reef at your feet you may even be able to spot a whale or two during migration – just be sure to get there between July and September! A quick hour from Cairns Airport, Fitzroy Island is easily accessible by charter flight or perhaps even a private yacht if that tickles your fancy! Be sure to check out this slice of paradise on your trip, it’s definitely one for the bucket list.

4. Soar through George Barron Falls on the Skyrail

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway through George Barron Falls is a must do on your getaway in Cairns. Located just a short half an hour drive outside Cairns, in the town of Kuranda, George Barron Falls lies within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and winds over 60 kilometres creating one of Australia’s highest rainforest belts.

The Skyrail takes tourists on a unique experience through the falls, which are part of Djabugandji Bama country, gliding metres above the pristine jungle canopy before diving right into the heart of the hinterland. Half-day or full-day trip options are available, with a secondary trip on Kuranda’s Scenic Railway through the lower parts of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area also on offer. If you’re looking to skip the hike and head straight to the sky though, be sure to book, limited spots are open daily.

5. Stroll along Cairns’ beloved Esplanade

And who can forget the beloved Cairns Esplanade which lies in the heart of this great town! The perfect place to soak some rays, meet some mates and enjoy some of the finest foods on offer, the famed Esplanade is the ultimate hangout for your Cairns getaway. With a man-made swimming lagoon – safe from all those crocodiles and stingers – surrounding picnic and park grounds and a plethora of nearby restaurants and cafes, there’s no better place to relax and unwind in this vibrant tropical town. Located right by the Trinity Harbour, you can enjoy all the best ocean breezes and magnificent sunsets as you walk along the Esplanade’s boardwalk too, maybe even with a cheeky ice cream cone – we heard that Gelocchio has the best flavours!

Interested in last year’s winner? Check out these 5 reasons to visit Australia’s best town of 2020: Coffs Harbour! Or, if you are interested in more Australian travel checkout these 7 unique travel experiences you can have in Australia!

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land mentioned in our article, the people of the Yidinjdji Nation, and we recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Feature image: Supplied via Tourism and Events Queensland.