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Visitors Get Up Close & Personal With North Queensland’s Natural Wonders At Cairns’ Newest Attraction

October 9, 2017 Attraction No Comments Email Email

In the two weeks since $54 million Cairns Aquarium and Reef Research Centre opened its doors more than 30,000 visitors have experienced Queensland’s newest attraction, viewing up close and personal, 10 life-like ecosystems, 71 live exhibits and 15,000 creatures, great and small.

Owned and operated by founding directors, Daniel Leipnik and Andrew Preston, Cairns Aquarium is the first attraction of its kind to open in Australia in 18 years and introduces many world firsts that significantly enhance Tropical North Queensland’s range of visitor experiences promoting its two most precious assets, World Heritage listed Reef and Rainforest.

Cairns Aquarium General Manager Julie Cullen said what is truly special about the attraction, is not just its size and scale or that it is brand new, but that every one of the inhabitants is native to North Queensland.

“Our amazing collection of weird and wonderful rainforest animals and marine life are without doubt, the stars of our show.

“We have been overwhelmed and delighted with the enthusiasm being shown by visitors who simply cannot wait to see what’s inside and in these very early days, it’s impossible to declare any one favourite animal or exhibit,” Ms Cullen said.

“Every visitor has their own particular fascination or interest but for us, witnessing the look of joy on people’s faces as they make their own personal discovery, is a giant tick of approval for Cairns Aquarium,” she said.

Ms Cullen also commented that beyond the aesthetics and showcase there is a strong value for the environment that she believes will become the biggest legacy of Cairns Aquarium.

“It is our belief that in order to instil the importance of respecting, protecting and conserving our precious reef and rainforest environments, we must first of all interest and engage people by providing experiences that promote understanding.

“This is particularly important in terms of creating awareness among visitors for those animals and plants that are critically endangered or rarely seen such as the emerald green tree monitors, freshwater sawfish, Jardine River painted turtles and the Oceanarium exhibit’s highlight – scalloped hammerhead sharks.”

What can visitors to Cairns Aquarium expect?

Once inside, visitors enter into an immersive, two-and-a-half-hour journey that follows the path of a drop of rain as it travels from the rainforest clad mountain range before joining creeks and streams that flow through the tropical rainforest, across the flooded plains and billabongs into the mangroves and the Great Barrier Reef and finally, the Coral Sea.

One of the most memorable visitor highlights is the Aquarium’s 300,000 litre Deep Reef exhibit, which is the first of its kind in Australia, and only one of three in the world.

This 10m-metre high x 8.5-metre-wide exhibit replicates the reef “drop off”, providing visitors with a view of an incredibly beautiful ecosystem coupled with the diversity of the marine creatures that call it home.  This is a view that is usually reserved for the eyes of highly experienced scuba divers, far offshore.

A 1.8 million litre Oceanarium exhibit is home to a school of scalloped hammerhead sharks and other large ocean predators that can be seen through a 20 metre, 270-degree underwater viewing tunnel and a 360 degree, five-metre-deep, viewing room.

The 400,000 litre River Monsters exhibit will house the Gulf Savannah’s critically endangered freshwater Sawfish and other imposing giant freshwater creatures.

The Tropical Rainforest zone features a collection of the region’s rarest and most incredible snakes, lizards, and frogs along with spiders and insects that are some of the biggest and meanest rainforest giants alive.

A Life in the Mangroves exhibit hosts a world of unique creatures with important biological functions including fish that live out of water, fighting crabs, baby crocodiles, sharks and rays.

Dangers of the Reef features species of marine life that can be potentially fatal to humans; stone fish, sea snakes, lionfish, jelly fish and a host of venomous or poisonous creatures are found here.

Specially designed Touch and Talk exhibits in the Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef galleries offer visitors of all ages the ability to touch, and in some cases, hold creatures in complete safety.  These include blue sea stars, sea cucumbers, insects and lizards while under the supervision of a trained aquarist.

Regularly scheduled talks by passionate and knowledgeable staff take place every half hour that outline the amazing adaptations and behaviours of the creatures on display and inspire the desire to conserve these important natural assets.

The Cairns Aquarium’s restaurant, Aqualuna, is a 220-seat contemporary Italian restaurant which features a magnificent 70,000 litre floor to ceiling Under the Pier themed marine tank inside while outdoors there is a rainforest themed Daintree Deck.

Restaurant patrons can sit back and watch a school of black tip reef sharks swim back and forth while enjoying the finest cuisine available in the Cairns CBD.

Aqualuna also caters for events within the restaurant and can also be arranged in the Aquarium’s atmosphericOceanarium and River Monsters’ exhibits.

Opening Hours and Prices

Open 365 days a year, Cairns Aquarium is air-conditioned, wheel chair accessible with free Wi-Fi access.

Saturday – Thursday 9.00am – 5.00pm with last entry at 4.00pm.

Friday 9.00am – 7.00pm with last entry at 6.00pm

o    Adult (15 years +) – $42

o    Child (3-14 years) – $28

o    Senior/Concession – $34

o    Single Family (1 Adult + 2 Children) – $88.20

o    Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) – $126

o    Additional Child on Family – $25.20

o    Infant under 3 years – Free

Tickets can be purchased in person at General Admission and Online at

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