Insider tips: What to do when it rains in Cairns

Summer rain shouldn’t stop play. In fact, as former local Carla Grossetti discovers, there are many ways to have a happy holiday while visiting the Tropical North Queensland. Here are her insider tips on Cairns wet weather activities. 

In my hometown of Cairns, in Tropical North Queensland, you can distinguish the locals from the tourists because the locals don’t carry umbrellas.

Cairns wet weather
Cairns is spectacular when the sun is shining. Picture: Shutterstock

If rain is forecast, they know only too well that it is likely to be over shortly after it has begun. Even when the skies are truly chucking down buckets, said locals can be seen darting across rain-lashed roads minus an umbrella and raincoat. Of course, not everybody is a weather-hardened Ninja Warrior and, after a recent visit to my hometown, I realised I’d outed myself as an outsider by choosing to wield a brolly during a downpour rather than resemble a drowned rat. But what I was also reminded of was that the warm air means you can choose between the romance of being outdoors when the tropical rain falls in torrents or remain high and dry under shelter.

Many of my favourite childhood memories involve the sweet smell of wet earth and the feeling of being consumed by Jurassic foliage during my regular forays into the forest.

Cairns Rain Forest
It is called RAIN Forest. Picture: Shutterstock

Fast forward a few decades and I now have a husband and two teenage city boys in tow, who require a little more convincing to get out of their comfort zone and join me on a jaunt into the jungle as the rain hammers down. We have been here a few days and there has been a deluge of rain, so we don our hiking boots and weatherproof jackets and dive straight down the boardwalk that snakes through the pristine swamp forest and melaleuca wetlands of Centenary Lakes.            

The boys are quick to agree: there’s no better place to be when it rains than in the middle of a rainforest. While the sky above has a depressing grey pallor, down here it’s a Dulux colour chart showcasing 77 shades of green. We spot green tree frogs, moss-carpeted over every surface and fungi sprouting out of fallen logs.  

The Tanks Arts Centre is nearby and, after wriggling out of our wet-weather gear, we lope around the exhibition space housed in concrete tanks, which the Royal Australian Navy built in 1944 to use for the storage of crude furnace oil.    

When we realise it is forecast to drizzle again on day three, we book a half-day trip to Fitzroy Island where we jump right in again, flippers first. As the clouds momentarily part, the colours bloom: we see sea turtles, trigger fish, parrot fish, grey reef sharks and – my favourite – manta rays. Snorkelling in warm tropical seas is exhilarating.

Cairns wet weather
In Cairns the rain can come thick and fast. Picture: Shutterstock

Over the next few days, we decide to take shelter from the rain, enjoying a decadent high tea at Coco’s Restaurant at the Pullman Cairns International and a visit to Cairns Zoom, where we join our fellow thrill-seekers zip-lining over resident wildlife including the giant crocodile, Goliath.

Regardless of whether the sky is blue or grey, one of the hottest attractions in Cairns is Rusty’s Market, where you will find a hodgepodge of stalls, vendors singing in Italian, fruity smells wafting through the humidity and a crush of backpackers, bikers and hippies. It’s here at the market that you’ll understand that a bit of wet weather in Cairns doesn’t stop play and the city is lovely, rain or shine.

Here are some great rainy-day activities around Australia that will help beat your weather woes.  

Scitech, Perth, Western Australia

Beat the rainy-day blues at this interactive science museum, which includes a planetarium.

Spring Hill Baths, Brisbane, Queensland

Conquer cabin fever with a few lazy laps at Brisbane’s first in-ground pool, built in 1886.

Mona, Hobart, Tasmania

Eat yourself stupid at The Source while watching the rain hit the wall-sized windows and then tumble down the rabbit hole into the Museum of Everything.

Adelaide Central Markets, South Australia

Rain, schmain. South Australia’s premier food hub is undercover and a great place to while away the day.

Cage of Death, Darwin, Northern Territory

Australia’s only crocodile-dive experience will make you forget all about the grey skies.

Higher Ground, Melbourne, Victoria

Keep the family high and dry at this shrine to good food and coffee, which is housed in an old power station.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney, New South Wales

The mood is always sunny during the Creative Play activities aimed at little artists held during the school holidays.

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