Cairns Aquarium

What to do in Cairns when it’s raining

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.

Cairns’ endless summer is prone to downpours – 154 days of them to be precise. But if the weather gods have thrown a wet, windy curveball at your holiday plans, you’ll soon see when it rains in Cairns, it pours with activities.

With this handy list, you’ll know what to do in Cairns when it rains.

ZOOM through a dome

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

You’ll be quite literally high and dry, as you zipline across the wildlife sanctuary, and directly over Goliath, a four-metre saltwater crocodile.

You can leave your brolly at home, under the glass-roof dome you’ll find over 65 challenge elements including three ziplines, viewing walkway and power jump (a 13m freefall jump). A sense of adventure is the only thing you need in your day pack.

Walk through the pages of history

Cairns Museum | what to do in CairnsIf 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 – walking distance if you find your reef tour postponed on a wet, windy day.

Fuel inspiration at exhibitions

There’s few things in life that go together as perfectly as salted butter on warm bread, but an art gallery, gift shop and great cafe are a close fit.

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 natural palette found in Cairns’ World Heritage-listed wonders.

The onsite Perrota’s Cafe is just as artful with its plating. Here, you can enjoy breakfast until 3pm with a contemporary Mediterranean menu that’s been feeding Cairnsvillians for more than 20 years.

Hide out in the hinterland

Pack your appetite, not your poncho, to discover the food bowl of Tropical North Queensland with a guided tour of the Atherton Tablelands with Outback Tasting Tours.

With stops at Gallo Dairy, Mount Uncle Distillery and Jaques Coffee Plantation, every important food group (booze, coffee and cheese) will be covered.

Throw in red claw, fresh veggies and fruit wine and you’ll start to see why you should wear something comfortable for this delicious day tour.

And not even rain will dampen your spirits once you try some of Mount Uncle’s award-winning ones.

Sleep with the fishes (the Cairns Aquarium way)

Cairns Aquarium | what to do in CairnsNo time for the reef? See the creatures of the deep without leaving the CBD, squeezing into your bathers or getting your hair wet at Cairns Aquarium.

Replicating the waterways of Tropical North Queensland, this aquarium will take you on a journey through 10 different ecosystems from mangroves, shoreline to the outer reef.  

Inside its glass walls, there’s over 15,000 animals representative of 71 habitats – condensing 1100km of landscape into one city block.

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

If the only time you’ve heard the words “sleep’s with the fishes” was in the Godfather, Cairns Aquarium gives you a good excuse to bring it into regular vernacular with their Sleep with the Sharks experience.

You can also have your own Night at the Museum to see what the animals get up to at night, before curling up in front of the Coral Sea habitat.

See rain in the rainforest

Cairns Skyrail | what to do in CairnsDon’t rule out a rainforest discovery just yet. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway doesn’t let a bit of rain get in the way of their journey from Smithfield Terminal to Kuranda.

In fact, the views just get all the more Jurrasic as you glide over the canopy and through the mist, with stops at Red Peak Station and Barron Gorge Station to get amongst the foliage and see this impressive waterfall.

To up the view ante, upgrade to a Diamond View gondola for the best views of the plants and animals that existed long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Gain a deeper connection with culture

Tjapukai | what to do in CairnsIf you thought you were resourceful, wait ‘til you see the performances at Tjapukai.

From fire-making to traditional hunting techniques, you’ll walk away with some serious appreciation for UberEats, along 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?

Try the fruits of your storm-watching labour

Weather out the storm like a fruit bat 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.

Expect to line up if you want to wrap your laughing gear around a Vietnamese coffee – sweetened to perfection with condensed milk.

Take the little ones to Inflatable Kingdom

Inflatable Kingdom | What to do in CairnsKids 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.

The only packing essentials are a pair of socks and a sense of adventure.

Looking for other rainy day ideas?

What are your tips for doing Cairns in the wet?