Australia Destinations Queensland

5 Great Reasons to Embrace Summer in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef

From lush rainforests to dreamy reef expeditions, there’s a lot to love about summer in Tropical North Queensland.

Summertime in the tropics is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets. Between December and February, rainforests are green and lush, the Great Barrier Reef is spectacular and wildlife is roaming thanks to abundant food, resulting in truly memorable moments.

Here are our top five reasons to spend your summer in the tropics.

1. Go For: The Rushing Waterfalls

Summer in Tropical North Queensland is go-time for anyone who loves waterfalls. Warm summer rain results in thunderous cascades across Tropical North Queensland. Listen for the gentle roar of a waterfall at full force while following a walking track through a verdant forest. For the ultimate ‘chasing waterfalls’ experience, pack a picnic, your swimmers, and hit the iconic Waterfall Circuit. The trail begins in the Atherton Tablelands, less than two hours from Cairns, and you’ll pass beauties including Millaa Millaa Falls and Zillie Falls.

Ready to escape? Check out our Cairns escapes.

Summer is also a great time for white-water rafting as the rivers are raging. If you want to ramp up the thrill factor, get up close and personal to some of the tropic’s waterfalls on an epic canyoning adventure across a range of gorges including Crystal Cascades and Behana Gorge with Cairns Canyoning. Follow a guide along a free-flowing river, climbing, swimming and scrambling across sublime terrain.

Read more: 9 Waterfalls and Swimming Holes Worth Chasing near Cairns 

Abseiling at Behana Gorge

2. Go For: The Lush Rainforests

Tropical North Queensland is home to the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest. During summer in Tropical North Queensland, increased rainfall means the rainforests are extra green and lush.

Fifteen minutes north of Cairns, you can admire the leafy canopy of the World Heritage Wet Tropics Rainforest from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Skim the treetops aboard your cable car, looking out over Barron Gorge before descending beneath the tree line to explore this ancient rainforest on foot. Combine this Skyrail adventure with the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway and follow rail tracks through the rainforest to Kuranda village, passing waterfalls and ancient trees along the way.

More rainforest adventures: A day in the Daintree Rainforest 

Kurunda Scenic Railway, Tourism and Events Queensland

3. Go For: The Unique Wildlife

Summer in the tropics arrives like a breath of fresh air after long, dry winters. Listen for the symphony of bird calls as our feathered friends emerge from the thick tree cover of the rainforest. Look out for a cassowary, keep your eyes peeled for tree kangaroos and listen for the ribit ribit of a lime green tree frog.

If you’re curious about Queensland’s more deadly creatures, head to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures for a heart-racing croc experience. Located between Cairns and Port Douglas in the coastal town of Wangetti, turn off the Great Barrier Reef Drive and join a lagoon cruise. Spot the slant-eyed gaze of a croc looking back at you, before witnessing an exciting feeding show or encounter a few friendlier critters, from cute koalas and wombats to a wide range of reptiles.

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.

4. Go For: The Crystal-Clear Reef

You know what a little rain won’t ruin? A snorkel or diving expedition on the Great Barrier Reef. Calm seas and exceptionally clear and warmer waters make the summer a perfect time for snorkelling and diving in the Great Barrier Reef. As one of the world’s seven natural wonders, it would be remiss to skip a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef.

Head out on a superyacht with Down Under Cruise & Dive for a full-day outer reef tour departing from Cairns, armed with snorkel or diving equipment. Marine life is more active in the warmer months, with nesting turtles and coral spawning occurring in early summer. Look out for the beady-eyed gaze of a sea turtle, find Nemo wriggling through a flowering anemone and spot huge manta rays gliding along the reef floor.

Snorkelling Mackay Reef. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.

5. Go For: The Fresh Produce

Summer in Tropical North Queensland signals the return of sweet tropical fruit. Juicy pineapples, mangoes, sweet slices of watermelon and creamy avocados can be found across local markets (including the iconic Kuranda or Rusty’s Markets in Cairns) and on restaurant menus, as well as exotic varietals including mangosteen, rambutan and jaboticaba.

The best way to experience this treasure trove of stellar produce? Join a Port on a Plate Food Tour through Port Douglas. Visit local farms including Scomazzon’s Farm and Shannonvale Winery with a personal guide and chef. You’ll sample fruit wine, freshly churned ice cream and Daintree barramundi before a delicious, locally sourced three-course lunch.

Rusty’s Markets. Image courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.

Check out our Port Douglas escapes.

This summer, embrace the warm summer rain and witness Tropical North Queensland’s ancient rainforests, reefs and wildlife that thrive in these lush conditions. Plus, fewer tourists mean less crowds – so, you can enjoy this spectacular corner of the country all to yourself.

Discover more about summer in the tropics