What’s New in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef




Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours have launched ‘Deadly After Dark’, a two-hour experience operating every Friday night. From Cairns, guests will cruise across Trinity inlet at sunset, learning about the cultural landscape before arriving at the specially built Yulu (stingray) Shelter. Here they’ll be introduced to the incredible story of how the local Indigenous people reclaimed country and regenerated the badly damaged environment, while enjoying canapes and refreshments made from locally sourced native ingredients.


Discover the unique culture of the Torres Strait islands and the Kaurareg Aboriginal Nation on a weekend away with Strait Experience, the Torres Strait’s own travel company. The three-day ‘A Strait Escape’ tour for just 10 people visits Waiben (Thursday Island) and Ngurupai (Horn Island) to see local performance art and discover the history of the region.


Strait Experience have introduced a three-day ‘Wings and Wonders’ tour to Northern Cape York, Horn Island and Thursday Island combining bird watching with cultural experiences. Perfect for avid twitchers, the tour runs from December to January to coincide with the arrival of PNG migratory birds and summer breeding events.

Tusa Reef Tours has relaunched with a new focus on sustainability and exclusivity for divers and snorkellers with just 40 passengers on the day tour. Tusa has partnered with Reforest to support reforestation of the local Mabi forest, which is home to tree kangaroos, and offset carbon emissions.


On 14 June, the Forever Reef Project unveiled the world’s first living coral biobank facility at the Cairns Aquarium. The facility will help educate about the importance of coral and the need to maintain and preserve the biodiversity of coral populations. Visitors can book a 30 minute tour to experience the biobank.


Fitzroy Island Resort is offering guests the unique experience of helping to care for injured turtles and assisting with monitoring the Great Barrier Reef as part of a new citizen science program. The full-day tour is the first opportunity for guests to go behind the scenes at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre to help care for the sea turtles and to assist with the Reef Restoration Foundation’s coral restoration work.


Kuku Yalanji Elder CJ welcomes guests to his country in a remote part of the Daintree rainforest on the new Back Country Bliss Unseen Daintree Heli-Experience for just five guests. The 30-minute helicopter flight over World Heritage rainforest lands at Yindilli Campsite where CJ shares his life story and rainforest knowledge on a guided walk followed by a fresh barramundi lunch. Guests return to the coast for a River Drift Snorkelling Tour floating beneath the rainforest canopy.


Dive into the eco-certified excitement of Fitzroy Island with Sunlover Reef Cruises. Included in their Fitzroy experience is a 45-minute ride in their air-conditioned catamaran to the island where you can rent paddleboard and kayaks or do a snorkel tour. Glass bottom boat tours also offer an opportunity to get up close and personal with the fascinating marine life around the island.


Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel has launched a series of Reef Recovery Days where travellers can participate in assisting marine biologists and cultural guides in making and attaching the MARRS Reef Stars at Hastings Reef. Offered just once a month, the next Reef Recovery Day is 11 July.


Have fun on a natural rock slide at stunning Josephine Falls and see the famous Babinda Boulders on the Waterfall Wanderers Splash & Slide Tour with Cairns Adventure Group. Timed for those who like to sleep in and be back in time for happy hour, this guided tour includes free time for swimming and a tropical picnic lunch.

Only 12 guests can explore the Great Barrier Reef with ABC Snorkel Charters which visits low-use reef sites where numbers are capped to 15 people. The Port Douglas-owned family business has an onboard marine biologist who guides the snorkelling activities and makes sure passengers see extraordinary marine life.


In the Year of Accessible Tourism, Quicksilver Dive in Port Douglas has become the first PADI Adaptive Service Facility in Queensland, and proudly the only facility of its kind on the Great Barrier Reef to hold this accreditation. Opened in 2018, Quicksilver Dive’s state-of-the-art diver training centre is now one of only four facilities in Australia with PADI Adaptive Service Facility accreditation.


Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef have launched innovative technology built on citizen action to scale up conservation outcomes for the Great Reef Census. Any individual can take part in this global effort simply by picking up their phone or tablet and logging on to greatreefcensus.org. By donating just 10 minutes of screen time, you can analyse five reef images taken during the Great Reef Census. This information will help coral scientists and reef managers to understand changes on the reef and better manage risks.


The Daintree Discovery Centre is blending technology with the world’s oldest culture to create a special 3D hologram attraction that will give visitors an immersive experience of Kuku Yalanji country in the comfort of a new theatre. New interpretive cassowary signage has also been added to the upper boardwalk which runs through a natural cassowary corridor.


Try the excitement of catch and release fishing on the Great Barrier Reef with East Coast Angling. Recognised as a Reef Guardian Fisher through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Port Douglas-based sports fishing specialist assists with research and practises sustainable fishing.


The mysterious and terrifying creatures of the Midnight and Abyss Zone, some 1,000m-6,000m below the surface of the ocean, have been brought to life in a new major visitor journey expansion at the Cairns Aquarium called: “The Abyss: Creature of the Deep”. The curatorial team have created a series of electronic interactive displays and educational signage of key fish and animal species that live in perpetual darkness at crushing water pressures within the Coral Sea.


Work is about to start on a multi-million-dollar overhaul of the Cairns Airport’s international terminal, the first major upgrade since it opened more than 30 years ago. The first stage will include new escalators, elevators, bathrooms, paint, artworks and furnishings. Four glass airbridges will give passengers panoramic views.




An easy guide for more restful sleep has been curated for guests at the Reef House Boutique Hotel and Spa as part of the adults-only wellness resort’s 21 plus Signature Inclusions. The Reef House team worked with PhD candidate Sabine Christelli who is researching sleep science to create Sleep Easy, an online selection of blogs, videos and music to help guests achieve the perfect night’s sleep.


An ancient Japanese massage technique that gives an instant facelift has been introduced to the spa menu at the Reef House Boutique Hotel and Spa. The new Visage Intense Marine Facial is a 60-minute personalised workout for the facial muscles that includes a deep cleanse, exfoliation and nourishment with marine-based Phytomer products to blur facial lines and stimulate the production of collagen.





Lagoon House Restaurant has opened within the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas with a menu that heroes the very best local produce and a focus on share style dishes that encourage guests to experience the joy of connecting through communal dining. Nestled between the resort’s sparkling blue lagoons, and sheltered by swaying palms, the breakfast menu is inspired by the tropics. For lunch and dinner, the menu heroes locally sourced seafood with a clear Asian influence.


Internationally renowned Bushfire Flame Grill Restaurant has returned to The Esplanade firing up a tantalising three-course experience, matched with iconic beverages. The all-you-can eat Brazilian inspired BBQ brings the theatre of the kitchen to the table for a memorable and mouth-watering spectacle, iconic to Cairns. On Friday and Saturday nights, the heat is turned up a notch, with live entertainment from 6pm.


The new Mountain Groves Distillery has opened within Rainforestation Nature Park in Kuranda. Initial flavours include Passionfruit and Pepperberry, Mango and Chilli, Pineapple and Cinnamon, and Lemon-Myrtle-Cello, with the intention to expand the range to more than 10 options with some of the region’s unique bush tucker flavours included.




Feel the ground shake, see the dust fly and move to the rhythm at Queensland’s longest-running Indigenous event, Laura Quinkan Dance Festival. Held from 7-9 July, the atmosphere of this dance festival is the stuff of goosebumps with up to 1,000 performers from 20 different Aboriginal communities for three days of cultural celebration.


In 2023 CIAF celebrates a decade of showcasing Queensland’s vibrant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fashion industry with ‘Woven’ – a series of three, ticketed performances in the atmospheric round of Tank 3, Tanks Arts Centre on Thursday 13, and Friday 14 July 2023. Showcasing Queensland’s contemporary Indigenous wearable art, elaborate headdress, neck and body adornments, the collections of 15 designers will be exhibited by models in a creative and culturally rich choreographed performance by Miriki Performing Arts alumni.


Taste Port Douglas is one of Australia’s premier culinary events and showcases the region’s best produce over an action-packed festival celebrating nothing but world-class food, beverage and talent. From 10-13 August, food lovers can immerse themselves in a dynamic four-day program curated by event founder and culinary director, Spencer Patrick. The drool-worthy schedule normally includes a festival village with food stalls from iconic local restaurants, live cooking demonstrations, masterclasses and live music.


Cyclists from across Australia and around the world will be arriving in Port Douglas and Cairns to participate in the Port Douglas Gran Fondo Festival from 8-10 September. A new addition to the program this year is the Hartley’s to Port 40km Mountain Bike Race. This event will be held on Saturday 9 September, with the start located right outside the front doors of Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures in Wangetti. Additionally, the Lexus of Cairns Criterium will also be taking place on 9 September, with $5,000 in prize money up for grabs, spread across the Open and Women’s races.


Grab your cowboy hat and head to Mareeba for the annual Savannah in the Round festival in October. This multi-day country music festival features Jimmy Barnes, Kasey Chambers, Daryl Braithwaite and The Black Sorrows. With camping and glamping options available onsite, it’s the perfect excuse to keep the party going all weekend.

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