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The number one priority for most visitors to the Cairns region is to do a reef trip but there are also some really excellent river activities available.

In the hot summer months of tropical north Queensland, the local residents usually head inland to cool off and mess about in the freshwater creeks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and swim holes. There are also some really good tours available that enable you to see and explore a different side to the region that is often under-estimated.

If you’re coming in the summer, we would definitely recommend adding one of these river activities to your itinerary:


1. white water rafting


White Water Rafting has been one of the most popular river activities in FNQ for many years. It is a thrilling way to spend a day and definitely for the more adventurous traveller.

There are two operators offering rafting trips from Cairns.

  1. Raging Thunder do full day tours on the Tully River (grade 4)
  2. Foaming Fury do half day tours on the Barron River (grade 3).

2. stand up paddle boarding


windswell paddle boarding port douglasStand Up Paddle Boarding is easier than it looks so don’t worry if you’ve never done it before because its fairly easy to pick up and it’s great fun.

You can hire SUP’s off the beach at Palm Cove, Port Douglas or Mission Beach or at Copperlode Dam in Cairns.

Alternatively, Windswell in Port Douglas, do tours in various inland places.

One of the places he takes tour groups is to the Mossman River. The trip last for 2-3 hours depending on how hard you choose to paddle and it’s a fantastic ways to enjoy the rainforest.


3. river kayaking



There are a couple of tour operators that offer river kayaking:

Babinda Kayaks, about 45 minutes south of Cairns, off self guided tour with a pick up at the end along Babinda Creek, which is a beautiful creek with fantastic views.

A bit further afield, Ingan Tours do a really good guided tour on the Bulgan River near Tully, which is a good daytrip if you’re staying in Mission Beach.


4. river tubing


river tube rapidsIf you don’t want to paddle too hard, river tubing is a good alternative, especially for families with younger children.

All you need is an inner tube and a sense of fun!

Foaming Fury do half-day tours on the Mulgrave River just south of Cairns in the picturesque Goldsborough Valley.



5. river drift snorkelling


This unique river trip is run by Back Country Bliss Adventures on the clear pristine waters of the Mossman River, north of Port Douglas.

It’s a half day tour that starts on private property and flows downriver through rainforest canopy. You snorkel through the deep areas and lie on a river slider across the shallow parts.

Masks and snorkels and wet suits (inc. booties) are provided. You can take a camera along – the tour guide carries it in a dry bag.


6. canyoning


Adventure tour with Behana DaysCanyoning is the newest activity to become available in the creeks of North Queensland.

It is heaps of fun and a fantastic way to enjoy our local environment but its definitely not for the feint-hearted.

There are two operators offering canyoning tours: Behana Canyoning offer tours on at Behana Gorge and Cairns Canyoning (Raging Thunder) operate at Crystal Cascades.

travel nq fast facts:

  • These activities are safe from crocs since they are all done upstream well away from estuaries.
  • Most of these river activities are available all year round but the optimal time is March-May just after the wet season when the weather is still hot.
  • If you want a cheap alternative, find yourself a beautiful freshwater swim hole and just go swimming.