When I looked for things to do in Cairns other than exploring the Reef, I was surprised to find out there are a few opportunities for whitewater rafting near Cairns. But choose carefully: they all offer different types of experiences. This article will help you figure out which activity is the best for you to tick rafting off your adrenaline bucket list!

Whitewater rafting on the Barron River

Group of people in a boat watching another boat going down rapids while whitewater rafting near Cairns on the Barron River

Whitewater rafting on the Barron River has two huge advantages:

  • It’s the closest to Cairns and you can get a bus transfer from your accommodation.
  • It’s on a group raft so you don’t need to understand paddling to enjoy it.
  • It’s only a half-day trip so you can combine it with another activity that day.

It’s a much bigger operation than the other white water rafting experiences as multiple boats with seven customers and a guide go down the river following each other. Don’t expect a secluded place and a small group with this one. The place is beautiful, but the tour is more about the sensations than the surroundings. It was fun to follow the directions of a very experienced guide. Check it out here*!

Whitewater rafting on the Tully River

Unfortunately, they had to stop running white water rafting activities at the top of the Tully River when we visited. It was a sad decision as it was the most reputed whitewater rafting destination in the region.

There was still an option to explore the beautiful gorge and get a thrill rafting the lower part of the river in a small two-people raft. Having your own raft is perfect for more sensations. However, it can be a bit impressive for those with no paddling experience at all. Check it out*! You’ll have to drive to Tully Gorge Camping and Day Use Area to join this tour. It which is a bit more than 2 hours south of Cairns. I highly recommend visiting Mission Beach while you’re in this region.

Whitewater rafting at the top of the Tully River should soon be available again. It’s a long day trip from Cairns (12 hrs), but it’s exhilarating. Transport is organised so you can rest on the bus. It could be a great alternative to the Barron River whitewater rafting experience if you’re looking for extra thrilling sensations.

Whitewater rafting on the Millstream River

Three boats going down rapids while whitewater rafting near Cairns

This is perfect for those looking to go off the beaten track in a smaller group. We loved the opportunity to visit this secluded place and meet with the local inhabitants: we saw many birds and even a platypus!

We were on our own raft, which we found very fun. You are in control of your boat, so you can stop and relax when you want and learn the tricks to take on the rapids. While in this area, take a detour to check out Little Millstream Falls and Big Millstream Falls.

If you want to book a tour to go whitewater rafting on the Millstream River, keep an eye on Savannah Adventures in Ravenshoe.

Have you been white water rafting in Cairns? Share your experience in the comments below!

Map of places to go whitewater rafting in Cairns


Eloise is the creator and writer of MyFavouriteEscapes.com. She writes about her experiences exploring exotic destinations and finding hidden gems closer to home. Her goal is to share tips and stories to inspire and encourage others to go on their own adventures. She loves outdoor and nature-based activities like scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and sailing. She grew up in France and has lived in England and Turkey before calling Australia home for the past decade. So let's get ready for another adventure!

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