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Visiting the Cattana Wetlands in Cairns for Walking Tracks & Wildlife

Visiting the Cattana Wetlands in Cairns for Walking Tracks & Wildlife

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Everything you need to know about the beautiful Cattana Wetlands near Smithfield, just north of Cairns, Australia

The Cattana Wetlands is an 80-hectare reserve containing regionally significant forests and a diverse range of bird species and wildlife.

In this quick guide, I’ll outline everything you need to know about the Cattana Wetlands near Cairns. I’ll also include some photos that I took on my visit that I hope will inspire yours.

About the Cattana Wetlands

Situated on 80 hectares of land that originally belonged to the Yirrganydji people as an important fishing and hunting area, and was once used by the sugarcane industry, the Cairns Catanna Wetlands is now a protected reserve.

It's managed by the Cairns regional council and is very popular with morning walkers and wildlife photographers.

Here, visitors will find several large fresh and saltwater lakes, which were dug out by Cairns Regional Council and revamped at a cost of $1.5 million.

The Catanna Wetlands is a symbol of hope that devastated land and habitats can be restored as important habitat sites for native wildlife and plant species.

There are also facilities including:

  • Toilets
  • Sheltered BBQs
  • Bird Hides (undercover)
  • Viewing Platforms
  • A raptor tower.

The Cattana Wetlands Environmental Park is a free attraction and one of the best things to do in Cairns if you're looking for a relaxing walk with great wildlife spotting opportunities.

Bird at cattana wetlands cairns
Wallabies at cattana wetlands cairns

How to Get to the Cattana Wetlands from Cairns

The Cattana Wetlands are located 16 kilometres (15-20 minutes) north of Cairns near the suburb of Smithfield. If you're visiting Cairns and have your own car, I'd highly recommend taking a short morning drive to spot birds and even the possibility of a saltwater crocodile!

Unfortunately, there aren't any tours or direct public transport options to the Cattana Wetlands from Cairns. However, you can get the bus towards Smithfield and hop off at Dunne St near Sunbus Depot, where you'll need to walk for 800 metres to reach the wetlands.

Bird at cattana wetlands cairns

Wildlife & Walking Tracks

Below I've included a map to help you navigate and check out the several Cattana Wetlands attractions and bird watching locations.

Cattana wetlands map
Image Source: Cairns Council

All of the walking tracks are flat and very easy. You can loop around several lakes to see different habitats and check out the several bird hides. On our recent trip, we combined the Jabiru Lake Circuit, Cuckoo Lake Circuit and the trail out to Kingfisher Pool for a longer walk.

Below are some of the images of birds and wildlife that I captured on my recent visit.

Bird at cattana wetlands cairns
Bird at cattana wetlands cairns
Bird at cattana wetlands cairns
Bird in the cattana wetlands cairns

Best Cairns Outdoor Experiences

Not sure which outdoor experiences & natural attractions to visit for your next adventure to Cairns?

I've visited Cairns a dozen times, have been on over 20 different tours and worked with countless tour operators. This is a summary of my favourite tours & bookable experiences in Cairns.

Fitzroy island ferry

1. Fitzroy Island Full Day Trip

Fitzroy Island is the closest (and cheapest) Great Barrier Reef Island to visit from Cairns. Check out the world-famous famous Nudey Beach and hike to the island summit.

Scuba diving on the great barrier reef tour cairns

2. Great Barrier Reef by Catamaran Top-Pick

Visit the outer reef and snorkel or scuba dive at two pristine reef locations. You might even get lucky and meet the local Maori Wrasse like we did in the photo.

Cairns helicopter tour over the great barrier reef

3. Scenic Helicopter Flight

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef from above on a scenic helicopter flight from Cairns city.

Travel tip: By far, the best islands for snorkeling in Cairns are the Frankland Islands (pristine reef). There is only one boat trip allowed to stop on these islands and you can book this directly with BackpackerDeals + use code OLLY5 to get $5 off.

More Things to Do in Cairns

I really hope that this quick guide to the Cattana Wetlands in Cairns has been useful for planning your trip. While you're here on my blog, make sure to check out some of the many other articles I've written to the area!

Cattana wetlands cairns
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.