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Guide to White Water Rafting in Cairns (Barron River)

Guide to White Water Rafting in Cairns (Barron River)

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 Cairns White Water Rafting Trip on the Barron River.

Ever wanted to try white water rafting? Perhaps you’re visiting Cairns and looking for an action-packed half-day activity that won’t break the bank.

You’re in luck! The Barron River is one of the best places to go rafting in Queensland, and the departure point upstream from Lake Placid is only 20 minutes from Cairns!

In this quick blog post, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about the Cairns white water rafting trip in the Barron Gorge. I’ve included a short review and a section with photos and videos, plus a breakdown of my experience to help you know what to expect.

Cairns White Water Rafting Video

Check out my quick video below that I captured from my trip!

YouTube video

About the White Water Rafting Trip From Cairns

Barron River rafting from Cairns offers a thrilling adventure suitable for both beginners and experienced rafters, featuring Grade 2 and 3 rapids set amidst the stunning rainforest landscape of the Barron Gorge National Park.

The rafting trip includes 2 hours of rafting led by professional guides. What I loved about this tour is that it's suitable for both beginners and experienced rafters.

Here are the inclusions:

  • 2 hours of white water rafting on up to grade 3 rapids
  • Hotel pickup/drop-off in Cairns or Northern Beaches (pay $20 more from Port Douglas)
  • Incredible views of the Barron Gorge
  • All safety equipment
  • Instruction and training by professional and certified river guides

As you can see, this trip is pretty bang-for-buck right off the bat.

Barron river rapids
Barron gorge white water rafting

How to Book the Whitewater Rafting Trip

Before we get into what's involved, let me help you out with advice on how to get a great deal on rafting trips from Cairns.

After a fair bit of shopping around, I found that BackpackerDeals currently has the best deal on this white water rafting trip in Cairns.

Go to: and use code OLLY5 for $5 off your booking

BackpackerDeals is owned by Travello, one of the world's most trusted booking websites. I've partnered with these guys after shopping around for the best rate so that I guarantee that my readers get the best deals.

Due to special partnerships and with the promo code above, booking this way works out cheaper than booking directly!

Barron river white water rafting tour from cairns

My Experience on the Cairns White Water Rafting Tour

Since I had a temporary base in Cairns and my own car, I decided to skip the transfer and drive straight to Lake Placid myself to meet the team.

Lake Placid is located near the suburb of Caravonica, a beautiful section of the Barron Gorge just 15 minutes from Cairns CBD. Confusingly, this isn't technically a lake at all, but instead, just a wide section of the Barron River before it continues down to the Coral Sea.

Barron gorge national park
Barron gorge national park

Bus Transfers to the Barron River

Right on time, the crew rocked up with the rest of the white water rafters to pick me up and continue up to the top of the Barron River.

Cairns adventure group bus

The trip starts from the hydroelectric power station. Consequently, these station dams accumulate freshwater and release it daily. This is when the excitement really begins! It also allows for this trip to run year-round, even in the dry season!

I was pretty impressed with how efficient this Cairns white water rafting trip ran. The team ran a detailed safety briefing on the bus, which meant we were all ready to gear up as soon as we arrived 15 minutes later.

White water rafting guide in cairns, australia
Preparing whitewater rafting in cairns

After a detailed run-down and instruction from the river guides, we grabbed our life jackets, helmets and paddles and headed down to the river.

Preparing for a whitewater rafting trip on the barron river

Rafting on the Barron River Rapids

The Barron Gorge is one of the most scenic regions you'll find near Cairns. Dense, tropical rainforest vegetation drapes down from the towering cliffs into a deep, rich river. Just a bit further upstream you'll find the mighty Barron Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Cairns, so I knew I was in for a treat!

Barron river whitewater rafting

The white water rafting trip started off quite tame, which was good as we all were just warming up to our paddles and getting our raft legs. One thing that our guide Andy really stressed is that it's important to listen to his command at all times.

White water rapid rafting in cairns

It's important to work together as a team and he mentioned he'd had some heroes onboard before who thought they'd ignore his calls and help steer the boat themselves. Andy says, don't be like that guy!

Barron river white water rafting tour cairns

Our boat was quite confident, so as we continued downstream, we tackled some of the bigger rapids sideways, backward and bouncing off large boulders!

White water rafting on the barron river

In between the larger drops, we were able to hop out of the raft and drift. This was fairly relaxing and definitely one of the most unique ways to take in the scenic sights of the Barron Gorge National Park.

River rafting on the barron river in far north queensland, australia

After about 2 hours, we tackled the final rapids and cruised back down to Lake Placid. We were really stoked with our guide Andy, who was not only really skilled but also a great, down-to-earth person– thanks mate!

Barron river white water rafting cairns
White water rafting in cairns

Tips & Things to Know About this Cairns Rafting Tour

  • The bus will be your locker and change room
  • There is a toilet and restaurant at the bottom of the river near Lake Placid
  • Wear solid shoes that you don't mind getting wet like Teva's or old runners
  • Bring a cap or hat but not one with a "button" as it can get uncomfortable under the helmet
  • Sunscreen is a good idea on a hot day, just don't apply any on your legs and it can make it slippery
  • If you bring a GoPro, bring a short handle
Safety rafting equipment and life jackets
White water rafting in cairns

Verdict: Is Cairns River Rafting Worth It?

As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of the Cairns white water rafting tour on the Barron River. This trip to me offers serious bang-for-buck and is definitely one of the best half-day tours in Cairns.

Everything ran really smoothly. I found that this trip would work well for both beginners and those with a bit of rafting experience. While I've done a few tours in other parts of the world, it was refreshing to jump on a trip as professional as this one!

White water rafting tour in far north queensland

Where to Stay In Cairns

Visiting Cairns? The best places to stay are near the Cairns Esplanade or on the sunny Northern Beaches. Below are the top 4 options for varying budgets.

Alternatively, check out my Port Douglas accommodation guide for more ideas on where to stay in Far North Queensland.

Girl sunbathing at crystalbrook riley resort in cairns

1. Crystalbrook Riley Luxury

If luxury and location are what you're after, you can't beat this 5-star resort right in the heart of Cairns Esplanade.

Fitzroy island wharf

2. Fitzroy Island Resort Mid-Range

Sleep out on one of the picturesque Great Barrier Reef Islands! Staying at Fitzroy often works out cheaper than staying in town & means you get more time to explore the reef, beaches, and rainforest walking trails.

Gilligans backpacker resort

3. Gilligan's Backpackers Budget

The best backpacker option for a great vibe in Cairns. Great place to meet like-minded travelers & features a pool, air-con rooms, a huge shared kitchen, & a great common area.

Peppers beach club four mile beach port douglas

4. Pepper's Beach Club Palm Cove

Stay at the best beach resort in the heart of Palm Cove on Cairns's Northern Beaches!

More Things to Do in Cairns & The Tropical North

And... that wraps up this quick travel guide/review of the popular Barron River white water rafting experience from Cairns.

I really hope that you got some value from this article and that it helps you on your visit to Cairns. Before you go, check out my list of more travel guides and blogs to Far North Queensland!

Barron river white water rafting
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.