Cairns travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE HOTEL

In a time of economic hardship and a tourism downturn, luxury hotel brand Crystalbrook has opened three major properties in Cairns in the last 18 months, completely changing the accommodation landscape. The newest of those is Flynn, Crystalbrook's "fun and energetic" hotel, a smart, modern space with rooms overlooking the ocean, and plenty of on-site drinking and dining. See crystalbrookcollection.com

THE ONE BAR

Cairns is a city that has outdoor, rooftop socialising written all over it. The weather is warm and the twilights are long – why not spend an evening catching some breeze and enjoying the view? Oak & Vine is a rooftop bar and restaurant above the newly refurbished Oaks Hotel, a pleasant venue that makes the most of its views over ocean and esplanade via glass barriers and an open roof. The perfect place for a pre-dinner drink. See oakshotels.com

THE ONE RESTAURANT

CC's Bar and Grill is nailing it. This is an international-quality restaurant in a city that, it's fair to say, has not previously been known for its fine-dining scene. But CC's, set in the Bailey Hotel, is getting everything right. The design of the restaurant is beautiful, the service is excellent, the wine list could rival any in Sydney or Melbourne, and the steak, of course, is top-notch. See crystalbrookcollection.com

THE ONE RIVER

Think back to some of your most cherished memories from childhood, and there's a good chance that tucked away there will be a vision of jumping into a river from a great height, sharing a day with friends leaping and splashing and kidding around. Just south of Cairns, at Behana Gorge, you can get back in touch with those memories. Here, Cairns Canyoning offers half-day trips with old or new friends, leaping and splashing and kidding around. You jump off cliffs into the cool water. You throw yourself through rapids. You do somersaults off boulders. It's all good family-friendly fun. See cairnscanyoning.com

THE ONE REEF TRIP

xxCairnsoneonly Cairns One and Only ; text by Ben Groundwater ; SUPPLIED handout ; credit: Divers Den ; 

You've come all the way to Cairns, so of course you want to see one of the wonders of the natural world. The Great Barrier Reef begins just off the coast, easily accessible via a day-trip, which opens up a host of snorkelling and scuba-diving opportunities for those keen to get intimately acquainted with one of Australia's biggest tourism drawcards. Divers Den runs scuba-focused trips from Cairns to Norman Reef, about 90 minutes away, which allows time for three dives before you need to head back to Cairns – or three snorkelling outings, if that's preferred. See diversden.com.au

THE ONE FOREST TRIP

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway HeroShot - Lead Image
satmay16fnq far north queensland qld ; text by sue williams ; SUPPLIED via journalist ; no photo credit provided ; xxCairnsoneonly Cairns One and Only ; text by Ben Groundwater ; Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Here's another classic Cairns experience that still has plenty to offer contemporary visitors. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, a gondola ride that whisks visitors from Smithfield at the foot of the Atherton Tablelands, up via Red Peak and Barron Falls to Kuranda, has been up and running since the 1990s. The views are as spectacular as ever – even more so if you go for a "Diamond View" gondola with a glass floor – and the stops include the chance to get up close to the flora and fauna before continuing on your merry way. This is one of the Cairns area's great excursions. See skyrail.com.au

THE ONE MICRO-BREWERY

You're in Far North Queensland, so you could always do as most locals do and have yourself a XXXX Gold. For a cleansing ale with a little more flavour, however, you could also make your way over to Sauce Brewing, the Cairns outlet of the well-loved Marrickville (Sydney) establishment. In Cairns you'll be able to taste all of Sauce's classic and seasonal beers – their "Hop Sauce" pale ale, the "Extra Hop Sauce" IPA, the "Bubble and Squeak" New England IPA – as well as grab a burger or a schnitzel. See sauce.beer

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THE ONE RAINY DAY

Even if it's not raining, this is a good idea. The Cairns Aquarium is dedicated entirely to the ecosystems of tropical north Queensland, taking visitors on a tour from the rivers and lakes of the inland, to the reef and then the outer Coral Sea, with detours available via the turtle rehabilitation facility. For those planning a dive or snorkelling trip, this is the perfect preparation. For those simply trying to escape a rainy day and keep the kids occupied, an aquarium visit is also ideal. See cairnsaquarium.com.au

THE ONE LEAP OF FAITH

You know you want to. The AJ Hackett bungy jump is one of Cairns' classic experiences, a plunge into the unknown that has been up and running since 1986. Set deep in the rainforest just outside city limits, the bungy is conducted from a platform 50 metres above a natural lagoon. You can see all the way out to Green Island from up there. But really, all you're thinking about is that jump. Go on.

See skyparkglobal.com

ONE MORE THING…

Just an hour up the road from Cairns along the scenic Captain Cook Highway, lies Port Douglas, a major tourist destination in its own right, with plenty of activities to choose from. One of the best of those is a day out with Walkabout Cultural Adventures, a local Indigenous tourism company. Kuku Yalanji man Juan Walker takes guests for the sort of day he used to spend with his grandfather in the Mossman area, hunting for mud crabs in the mangroves, swimming in the Mossman River, and learning the secrets of the local area. See walkaboutadventures.com.au

The writer travelled with assistance from Tourism Tropical North Queensland

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