G’day, my name’s Catherine and I’ve lived in Tropical North Queensland for the last 20 years. I’m an author and travel journo, so I spend pretty much all my time exploring my backyard. One thing I’ve learned is that if you can do it outside, you can do it in Cairns and Tropical North Queensland. And this list of top freebies is oh-so-budget-friendly (ie, they are all free). Packed with plenty of free things to do in Cairns, this list will fill your days and mothball your wallet. All you need is a couple of lazy days.
If these things whet your appetite, grab a copy of 100 Things To See In Tropical North Queensland, which I wrote for people like you. It’s all my favourite places after living here for 20 years. Order it below, or get it from all good bookstores and travel centres in TNQ.
100 Things To See In Tropical North Queensland
Written by people who’ve lived in and explored the region for over two decades, this is the only guide you need if you want to find the places locals love. Steer clear of the crowds and get to know the real TNQ. Explore Tropical North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef like a local!
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1. Chill with music on the ‘nard: Spread a blanket by the lagoon on the Cairns Esplanade and groove to free afternoon music sessions, every Saturday and Sunday from 2-5pm.
2. Get tanked: There’s an ever-changing program of exhibitions, festivals, art shows and music gigs to enjoy at Tanks Art Centre, many with free entry. Find it in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.
3. Free Workouts: Head to the Cairns Esplanade for pilates, Sahaja yoga mediation, boxfit, beach volleyball, bouldering, zumba, aqua aerobics and more (head to cairns.qld.gov.au for daily session times).
4. Catch a free festival: Join in the fun of Cairns Festival (August), Cooktown Discovery Festival (June long weekend), Reef Feast Palm Cove (October), Chinese New Year in Cairns (February) and more.
5. Taste-test exotic tropical fruits: Snack on free samples at Rustys Markets in the Cairns CBD (open Friday to Sunday) and snare the biggest bargains as the market closes at 3pm Sunday.
6. Get Arty: Changing exhibitions, free entry and lots of interesting art classes gets the Cairns Art Gallery onto this list.
7. Join a Bat Chat: Distinguished by the pale fur that rings their eyes like a pair of spectacles, the beautiful spectacled flying foxes that roost in large numbers in Cairns are the focus of Bat Chats – free information sessions that set out from the City Library on Abbott Street.
8. Peer into a pitcher plant: Get up close and personal with pitcher plants, vibrant tropical orchids and lots and lots of fluttering butterflies released into the Conservatory in Cairn’s Botanic Gardens.
9. Kids’ Play at Muddy’s: Burn off energy at this free water and play park on the Cairns Esplanade with a café and free gas barbecues on site, and a skate bowl and rock bouldering park close by.
10. Tap into free Wi-Fi: Log-on anywhere in the Cairns CBD or at any of the city’s libraries.