Cairns Outback Places, Tours & Info

Cairns Outback. Cairns is the gateway to Australia’s northern frontier lands, the Gulf Savannah, Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait Islands beyond. Places that are rich with history and culture, offering an abundance of natural attractions and destinations of raw, wild beauty. This is country that has only lightly been touched by the hands of man but bears the traces of Australia’s prehistoric past. A place which calls to the adventurer within and provides memories to last a lifetime. We heard that call and have traversed the long red roads to prepare the Ultimate Cairns Outback Visitor Guide.

We love the outback. It’s a place to explore gorges, lava tubes and caves, climb craters, fossick for treasures and experience ancient culture. There’s adventure at every turn, but where to start? Our Ultimate Outback Guide will help. Local tips based on our trips and experiences.

I Love CairnsOutback Adventures.

The Cairns outback is a place of big blue sky days and million star nights, with adventure around every turn. If you head west into the Gulf Savannah, there’s a wealth of natural attractions awaiting your discovery. Hot springs, ancient craters, lava tubes, caves, gorges, gemstones, gold and agates. If you head north and keep driving, you’ll eventually find yourself at the Tip of Australia – Pajinka – on Cape York Peninsula, looking towards the Torres Strait Islands beyond. There’s long red roads, rocky headlands, waterfalls, rivers and golden beaches with clear blue waters. There’s something for everyone and our Ultimate Cairns Outback Guide will help you plan your own adventure.

Cairns’ Outback Head West

The Gulf Savannah is one of our favourite places in winter. We love the vast open country and getting away from the crowds. The outback is somewhere you can breathe in the bush and breathe out your stress. You do not need a 4WD to get to a lot of western destinations and you don’t need to camp either, as lots of places have accommodation. That being said, we do have a 4WD and a caravan (which you can hire), so you can do offroad road and offgrid adventures too. We will cover all the options on the pages we will be loading into the site, in due course.

So, what are some of the places you can visit when you head west into the Cairns Outback? If you’re into finding treasures, there’s gemstones at Mount Surprise and O’Briens Creek, the chance of gold at Forsayth and Georgetown and fossicking for agates at Agate Creek. The must do attractions are Cobbold Gorge and Undara Lava Tubes, but Copperfield Gorge is worth a look as is Talaroo Hot Springs. If caving is more your thing, then the Chillagoe Caves are world class. If you are planning a Cairns Outback adventure, our top tip is to book early to secure your spots as it does get busy.

Cairns Outback Tracking North

The Tip of Australia – also known as Pajinka – is a bucket list destination for many Australians, and the gateway to this iconic location is Cairns. Heading north you’ll drive down many long red roads, encounter historic communities and sites, have the chance to refresh in waterfalls, catch some really big fish, beachcomb and explore Aboriginal rock art and contemporary art practices. Along the way, the vast remoteness of the northern frontier is evident, everywhere – there are more termite mounds and cattle than people living here.

Tracking north you can explore the eastern and western coastlines of the Gulf of Carpentaria. On the west, the fishing is epic, especially around the mining township of Weipa. On the east coast the fishing is also awesome and we definitely recommend stopping in to check out Chilli Beach. To get to ‘The Tip’ you walk over rocky headlands, find the sign and get that photo. Definitely make the time to take a tour to the nearby Torres Strait Islands too, they are place of remarkable beauty, historic and cultural significance. You can do this trip accommodated or you can camp. We will be adding more information on this destination to our website, in the weeks to come.

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Questions About The Cairns Outback

What is the Cairns Outback?

The Cairns Outback we write about on this website is the areas to the west and north of Cairns. They are characterised for their remote locations, small populations, rugged terrain and lack of what is considered ‘town facilities’ (being large grocery stores and convenience stores, cafes and amenities).

Is it worth visiting the Cairns Outback?

Yes – we love visiting the Cairns Outback. It is vast and beautiful. A place to escape and relax. There are lots of things to see, places to visit and tours and attractions to do.

Where is the best place to visit in the Cairns Outback?

Hard to say – it all depends on what you are interested in doing and seeing. The Gulf Savannah – to our west – is more accessible than Cape York Peninsula. The roads are better (you do not need a 4WD to visit many destinations and attractions) and they are generally ‘closer’ to Cairns than destinations on the Cape. As such, it is easier to plan a quick visit to the Gulf Savannah (quick meaning at least 3 days) and still do lots. If you want to visit the Cape and Tip of Australia, then you need at least a week and need to do a lot of planning. Any visit to any Cairns Outback destination should be planned and booked in advance, especially the tours and accommodation. They do get busy and you’d hate to drive all that way and miss out.

Do I need a 4WD to visit the Cairns Outback?

No – you do not need a 4WD to visit a lot of places in the western outback. We do recommend having a 4WD for a Cape York Peninsula trip.

Is there any accommodation in the Cairns Outback?

Yes, there are campgrounds and camp sites, hotels and motels and even some resorts. So if you research and book ahead, you can stay accommodated.

What’s better - the Gulf Savannah or Cape York Peninsula?

This could be open to interpretation and personal opinion, but, in our opinion there is more ‘to do’ in the Gulf Savannah – in regards to tours, activities and destinations. Cape York Peninsula – especially if you are going to The Tip is more remote and requires more planning and more time. Both are amazing!! We’ve done both – so I’m not saying one is better than the other – just trying to tease out the main difference, in our opinion.

Are there any attractions in the Cairns Outback?

Yes – lots of attractions in the Cairns Outback. In the west you have Undara Lava Tubes, Talaroo Hot Springs, Cobbold Gorge and Copperfield Gorge. In the north you have amazing National Parks – Lakefield and Iron Range – Chili Beach, the Laura rock art, Lockhart River Art Centre, Weipa, The Tip and the Torres Strait Islands.

What are the best attractions to see in the Cairns Outback?

We have just covered those above. The best attractions in the Cairns Outback, in our opinion, are Cobbold Gorge, Copperfield Gorge, Undara Lava Tubes and the Chillagoe Caves.

What is the best time of year to visit the Cairns Outback?

The only time of year to visit the Cairns Outback is in the ‘dry season’ – which generally speaking is April to October. During the ‘wet season’ the conditions become too hot and when the rains come, the roads become unpassable. A lot of attractions, tours, facilities and accommodation providers are only open seasonally.

Is it safe to swim in the Cairns Outback?

Generally speaking – no – it is not safe to swim in the Cairns Outback due to the presence of saltwater crocodiles in most river systems. That being said, there are always exceptions to that rule. You can swim at Talaroo Hot Springs, Copperfield Gorge and at the lake at Cobbold Gorge. In the north, you can swim at Fruit Bat and Elliott Falls.

Are there crocodiles in the Cairns Outback?

Yes – there are crocodiles in the Cairns Outback – saltwater and freshwater crocodiles. To be safe – unless there are signs saying otherwise – assume there are crocodiles and stay away from the water and water’s edge.

Is it dangerous in the Cairns Outback?

It can be dangerous in the Cairns Outback – but it can also be dangerous driving your car to work. Danger is all relative. If you plan, dress and act appropriately to the conditions, you should be OK. But it is a natural environment and there are dangerous animals – saltwater crocodiles, venomous snakes and more – so be aware and be careful.

What measures are in place to ensure the safety of travelers in the Outback?

Safety measures include well-marked roads, emergency call devices in remote areas, and the promotion of safe travel practices by local authorities and tourism operators. There are also lots of signs, indicating the presence of any dangerous animals, locations and threats.

What wildlife might you encounter in the Outback near Cairns?

You might encounter kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, various bird species, emus, cattle and assorted reptiles including monitor lizards, crocodiles and snakes.

What are the main industries in the Outback regions from Cairns?

The main industries include cattle, mining, tourism and agriculture in more fertile areas.

What are the challenges of living in the Outback near Cairns?

Challenges include isolation, limited access to services and amenities, extreme weather conditions and managing land sustainably.

How do local communities manage water resources in the Outback?

Water resources are managed through conservation practices, rainwater harvesting, and careful allocation to ensure sustainability in the arid environment.

What are the main challenges for conservation in the Outback?

Challenges include managing invasive species, protecting native wildlife and habitats, and balancing development with environmental preservation.

How do Indigenous cultural practices contribute to the management of the Outback?

Indigenous cultural practices contribute through traditional land management techniques, such as controlled burning, which maintain the health of ecosystems.

About the Author

Julie was born in Cairns and grew up running around in the cane fields south of the city. She has explored, breathed and loved everything about our amazing Cairns region her whole life. Excited to be able share this wonderful place with our son and see it all again through ‘new’ eyes. Watch this space for more info on the people, places, destinations and things you can do up here.

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