Babinda Boulders

Blog Post

Day trip ideas for Southern Cairns

TNQ Writer

If you’re into adventure and nature, point your compass south and explore Cairns’ under-the-radar southern corridor – a region of breathtaking natural beauty with a whole lot of country charm.

Southern Cairns is the perfect place to dive into refreshing swimming holes, tackle epic hiking trails, sink a cold one at a country pub and discover untouched Great Barrier Reef Islands.

Leaving Cairns City, the further south you travel, the greener the scenery becomes. Seas of sugarcane give way to mountains on either side covered in thick World Heritage rainforest. As such, it should come as no surprise that this landscape is laden with spectacular swimming holes and epic hikes.

For the latter, make a beeline to Gordonvale to hike the iconic Walshs Pyramid, standing at 922m elevation. Soak in the panoramic views from mountain ranges to the tapestry of farmlands and all the way to the sea.

Behana Gorge

Hike Walshs Pyramid for epic views

At the base of Walshs Pyramid’s closest neighbour, Mount Bellenden Ker, Queensland’s second-highest peak, find the trailhead for the breathtaking Behana Gorge. This undulated track weaves through the forest and past lookouts to the stunning centrepiece, Clamshell Falls. After a 3.5km hike in, there’s nothing better than jumping into the icy waters to cool down.

For a more relaxed swim and one that’s wheelchair accessible, keep heading south the Babinda Boulders. Be sure to make a pit-stop at the famous Babinda Bakery to stock up on a picnic to enjoy on the grassy lawns or, if you’re lucky, at one of the picnic tables. The bakery has gained quite the reputation, particularly for their fluffy cream buns, but rest assured that there are plenty of tasty options for savoury lovers too. After satisfying your hunger, be sure to visit The Babinda Museum, where you can delve into the rich history and resilience of this vibrant community nestled between Queensland’s two highest mountains.

Spend your day floating around the emerald waters, and take the 1.3km return Devils Pool Walk to discover the tragic Dreamtime story of Oolana and Dyga, and admire the swirling waters of Devils Pool from two lookouts.

Tip: Explore Babinda Creek on a self-guided kayak or stand-up paddleboard with Babinda Kayaking.

Devils Pool Lookout at Babinda Boulders

Babinda Kayaking

For the active and adventurous, the southern trailhead for the Goldfield Trail leaves from Babinda Boulders. This 19km historic trail winds through lush rainforest and picturesque creek crossings. Find a campground with a swimming hole approximately halfway, and another at the northern trailhead at Goldsborough Valley (the latter accessible by car). Bikes are allowed on the Goldfield Trail on the Goldsborough to the causeway section, but not between Babinda and the causeway.

If you’re a little bit adventurous and a little bit chilled, head down to nature’s water park at Josephine Falls at the base of Queensland’s highest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere. An easy 750m stroll will take you to the cascading waterfall, the bottom swimming-hole section complete with its own natural water slide.

Swap freshwater for saltwater with Frankland Island Reef Cruises. This tour encompasses reef, rainforest and river environments, with the first part of your journey cruising down the Mulgrave River, rich with wildlife. From there, it’s a short cruise to picturesque Normanby Island, with stunning fringing coral and rainforest. Take a guided walk with a marine biologist and Master Reef Guide to understand how truly special these environments are.

This uninhabited archipelago is also renowned as one of the best islands to spot some iconic marine life including turtles, manta rays, giant clams and dugongs, best discovered on their optional snorkel safari tour.

Tip: Visit Bramston Beach for a relaxing, uncrowded beach getaway.

Frankland Islands

Fishery Falls Hotel

After a day (or two!) of exploring, wind down with a cold one at one of the many charming pubs peppered throughout this area. Discover a slice of history at the Babinda State Hotel – the only pub of its time constructed and operated by the Queensland Government, sip with a view overlooking the Little Mulgrave River at the Mountain View Hotel or soak in the country vibes of Fishery Falls Hotel.

Discover more

Your adventure doesn’t stop here. There’s plenty more to see and do

family islands great barrier reef safaris
Mission Beach & Cassowary Coast
8 islands south of Cairns to explore

The Sunshine State might have 900 tropical islands off its coastline, but there’s one stretch of coast that’s overrepresented when it comes to idyllic island-oasis. Enter Southern Cairns and the Cassowary Coast, whose offshore attractions are as much of a drawcard as its mainland namesake.

Read more
Cairns & Northern Beaches
50 must-do day trips from Cairns

While Cairns itself is known for its laid back city vibes and stunning esplanade, the Great Barrier Reef, rainforest, waterfalls and quirky townships are just a stone’s throw away. Grab a pen and paper and add these day trips from Cairns to your holiday bucket list.

Read more
Great Barrier Reef
10 Great Barrier Reef Experiences for Adventure Seekers

While most people come to the Great Barrier Reef for postcard-perfect swimming, snorkelling or scuba diving in the real-life World Heritage-listed aquarium, there’s plenty of ways to experience the reef and not all involve getting wet. Choose your own Tropical North Queensland reef adventure with this adrenaline scale ranging from sunset sails to vistas served at speeds of up to 200km per hour.

Read more
Cairns Adventure Group white water rafting
Rainforest Adventures in Tropical North Queensland

From mild to wild, there’s endless opportunities for rainforest adventures in Tropical North Queensland.

Read more
goldfields trail babinda boulders
Southern Cairns
Trail running the Goldfield Trail at Babinda Boulders

Trail runners and bushwalkers are spoilt for choice in Tropical North Queensland. It’s hard to put a figure on how many trails there are but trust me, there are hundreds. Situated in lush, heritage-listed rainforest, the Goldfields Trail, between Babinda and Goldsborough Valley, is one of the most iconic in the region.

Read more
Zoe Falls on the Thorsborne Trail - Hinchinbrook Islan
Incredible hikes you need to conquer near Cairns

Surrounded by national parks, World Heritage rainforest and the Great Dividing Range, find countless bush walks or hikes within a short distance of Cairns.

Read more
Emerald Creek Falls
20 waterfalls near Cairns

Mighty mountain ranges and Wet Tropics Rainforest create the optimum environment for a myriad of extraordinary waterfalls. Fall in love with these 20 waterfall wonderlands only a short drive from Cairns.

Read more
GoldField Trail river
Southern Cairns
Goldfield Trail: Crossing rivers and cane fields

You live for adventure on two wheels in exotic landscapes. And the most exotic landscape of all, the awe-inspiring World Heritage rainforest of Tropical North Queensland, is calling out to you.

Read more
outdoor bath tub at silky oaks lodge
10 relaxing ways to sleep in the rainforest

This summer, swap your inner city stresses for cool, rainforest rejuvenation, checking into one of these accommodation providers in the rainforest.

Read more
Cairns Botanic Gardens
Cairns & Northern Beaches
How to explore the rainforest near Cairns

Flying into Cairns, you can see the city’s close proximity to the rainforest so you know don’t have to go far to explore this wonder. In fact, you can even find it in an inner-city suburb.

Read more