Is it worth going to the Cairns Aquarium? By the time we had finished our most recent trip to north Queensland, we had dived or snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef 5 times and seen sharks, rays, turtles and colourful little clown fish.
So, when we went to the Cairns Aquarium on our last day in town, we weren’t sure if we would enjoy it. Check out our Cairns Aquarium review and why we think it is worth a visit even though you are on the doorstep to the Great Barrier Reef.
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Where is the Cairns Aquarium?
The Cairns Aquarium is in the heart of Cairns, just a short distance from the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon Pool. You will find it on the corner of the Abbott Street and Florence Street right next door to the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort. It is an easy walk to the Cairns Aquarium from many of Cairns’ hotels and apartments.
Cairns Aquarium Opening Hours
Be aware, the Cairns Aquarium closes quite early. Opening hours are 10.00am to 3.00pm and last admission is at 2.00pm. The Cairns Aquarium is open 7 days a week.
Cairns Aquarium Entry Fee
There is adult, child, family (2 + 2), and concession general admission rates with adults starting at $52 and family tickets $147. We say starting from because you can pay extra when you book to include the Cairns Turtle Hospital Tour. The turtle tour is great, people of all ages will love this behind the scenes look at the conservation efforts to protect one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most loved creatures.
Avoid the queue and book your general admission here
5 Top Reasons to visit the Cairns Aquarium
These are the things we most liked about the Cairns Aquarium and why you might want to put it on your list of things to do in Cairns. At first, we thought the admission price was on the high side but after a couple of hours we decided it was fair value. Here is why we rate the Cairns Aquarium 5 stars!
See 10 Different Aquatic Habitats
There is a lot more to the Cairns Aquarium than what you might see on the Great Barrier Reef. The idea is that you follow a drop of water from creeks and streams in the wet tropics, down into rivers and billabongs, swamps and mangroves to the Great Barrier Reef and, finally, the Coral Sea. Along the way you go past a range of exhibits featuring fish and reptiles from all these ecological zones – and it is really well done.
While eventually getting to the big sharks and rays of the Coral Sea was spectacular, it was also fantastic seeing what lives in the rivers and streams that you might cruise along or swim in around Cairns or Port Douglas. From a freshwater fish including some enormous catfish to frogs, pythons, monitors and lobsters, the variety of wildlife at the Cairns Aquarium is brilliant and a real highlight of the visit here.
Excellent Viewing Areas
We arrived first thing in the morning and the Cairns Aquarium was soon quite busy – but it was still easy to get a look at everything as you walk around the displays. The beauty of aquariums is that they can be tall and at the Cairns Aquarium they make great use of their space to ensure you get a good look at each exhibit, the Deep Reef Tank spans both floors of the building – it’s huge! And the water is crystal clear so seeing things swimming around was easy. Even in the reptile area where you sometimes struggle to spot a frog, they were well designed, and everything was easy to see.
Of course, the highlight of the Cairns Aquarium is the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea exhibits – the Oceanarium is enormous and includes a tunnel walk where huge rays and sharks seem to be swimming all around you. We also loved seeing the moray eels, jelly fish and freshwater turtles. Kids will have no trouble feeling close to the action.
Wildlife Educator Presentations
There is a rolling schedule of talks at five of the different habitats including the river monsters, sharks and rays, denizens of the deep and the marine touch tank. The presentations, which are about 10-15 minutes long begin as soon as the doors open. Our favourites were the River Monster talk, Denizens of the Deep and Life of Sharks and Rays which run one after the other at different tanks. This series of talks happens twice a day starting at 10.15 then again at 12.30pm.
Kids will also enjoy the Marine Touch Tank Presentations at 10.00am right on opening or again at 3.00pm. The presenters are knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining and despite there being 16,000 fish at the Cairns Aquarium, they seem to know the name of everyone. A couple of the presentations occur in little amphitheatres which makes it easy to hear and see what is going on.
Easy & Convenient & the Visibility is Always Excellent!
Cairns might be on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef, but it still doesn’t make it accessible for everyone. And when you snorkel on the reef you might have your heart set on seeing a little clown fish and anemone or turtle or reef shark but with wildlife there are never any promises. You might strike some bad weather too and have poor visibility. So, thank goodness for the Cairns Aquarium!
Sure, it is not the same as seeing marine life in the wild, but if for some reason you can’t get onto the reef or you don’t see something you had your heart set on seeing, the Cairns Aquarium is a great option. It is easy to get to, there is a huge amount to see, the weather is always great, and there is no need to pop a sea sickness tablet. The Cairns Aquarium takes just a couple of hours to look around and you can get a meal at Dundee’s Restaurant.
Cairns Aquarium Tours & Packages
There aren’t many wildlife parks now that don’t offer, for an extra price, experiences and packages and the Cairns Aquarium is no different. There is quite a list of extras you can pay to do at the Cairns Aquarium which include the following:
Cairns Turtle Hospital Tour
We mentioned this 2 hour tour at the start, it is a great chance to learn about the good work being done to protect the reef’s sea turtles. Tickets to this tour can be booked when you buy your general admission ticket.
Beat the crowds and see the reef come to life as fish come out of their nighttime hides at the start of the day.
Aquarium by Twilight Tour
See a different side of the reef as darkness falls and reef predators lurk in the shadows. You get after-hours access for a 2 hour guided tour.
Aquarium by Twilight Tour with Dinner
To take your Twilight tour to another level, after your guided tour, stay and have a 3 course chef prepared meal while surrounded by the reef’s creatures of the night.
Marine Life Encounter
This is the ultimate VIP Cairns Aquarium experience, go behind the scenes to see how the Cairns Aquarium runs, see food prep, visit the turtle hospital and see the Coral Biobank. To top it off you get to hand feed some the aquarium’s biggest creatures. It’s a unique and unforgettable Cairns Aquarium Experience.
Aquarium, Lunch & Cairns Guided Tour
This is a brilliant combo package. See the amazing exhibits at the Cairns Aquarium and the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, have lunch at the aquarium’s Dundee Restaurant then go on a guided coach tour of the city which includes the lower Barron Gorge and Botanical Gardens and a tour of Cairns museum. It’s a sensational day seeing some of Cairns’ best sights.
Avoid the queue and book your general admission here
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