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3-day itinerary: Dip a toe into the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

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Short on time? In just three days, you can dive the outer Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, sail the turquoise Coral Sea, and wine and dine in award-winning restaurants in Palm Cove and Port Douglas.

What are you waiting for? Follow this itinerary (ex Brisbane) for a long-weekend escape.

Day one

9am/9:30am: Spot the impressive mountains of the Great Dividing Range and World Heritage-listed rainforest as you land on an early-bird flight into Cairns.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

9:30am: Hire a car and head 10 mins north to Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for views out to the reef and a walk through the rainforest. Take the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway back at 2pm.

3:30pm: Jump in the car and head a further 50 minutes north on the Captain Cook Highway along the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns cycle route to Port Douglas arriving just in time for a 1.5-hour sunset tour with Aquarius Luxury Sailing. (Departs 4:45pm, Returns 6:15pm).

Salsa Bar and Grill

7pm: Rock up to Salsa Bar and Grill for an a la carte dinner or keep it casual with a counter meal at The Court House Hotel on Macrossan Street.

Looking to splash out? Book ahead for a six- course Flames of the Forest meal and show in the rainforest canopy by candlelight. (Available on select nights only).

Day two

AM: Head out for a full day on the outer Great Barrier Reef with Quicksilver Cruises or Calypso Reef Charters. Complete an introductory dive, snorkel ‘til you’re pruny or just ogle the marine world through the underwater viewing platform. Alternatively, step aboard a full-day or half-day sail to Low Isles with Sailaway.

5pm: Feed George the resident grouper who comes in for dinner right on happy hour at On The Inlet, then stay to wine and dine yourself.

Day three

Four Mile Beach Port Douglas

Photo by Max Coquard

AM: Use your morning wisely. Jog along Four Mile Beach with other fitness buffs before breakfast, or tee off early for nine holes of golf at the Palmer Sea Reef.

12pm: Drive 40 minutes south to Palm Cove for lunch at the award-winning Nu Nu. Once the food settles, get wet on a hobie cat, paddle wheel bike or jet-ski, or just stroll the palm-lined beach before heading back to Cairns.

PM: Fly home.

Inspired for your next holiday in Queensland? Check out these hot deals!

Have we missed something? What else would you squeeze in with 3 days in Cairns?