Tropic Weekender: Our guide to the best events and things to do in Cairns

The weekend antics start today with the launch of CIAF!

After this evening’s Opening Night Party, there’s four days filled with First Nations art, performance and culture from every corner of Queensland. All the highlights are listed below, but you can find the full program here.

Don’t forget to check out some of the satellite events too. You’ll find artist talks, exhibitions, comedy, live music, storytelling and more at venues like Cairns Art Gallery, NorthSite Contemporary Arts, Bulmba-ja, and the Tanks, to name just a few.

Non-CIAF events this weekend include some outdoor cinema (take two!), comedy, and seaside markets, while further south the Innisfail Show is on.


Thursday 7 July

Today marks the public opening of the CIAF Art Fair and Art Market in the event’s home at the Cairns Convention Centre. It’s free to visit and is open from 9am to 5pm until Saturday, while Sunday’s opening hours are 10am to 3pm.

Thursday also brings two cultural dance performances by Lockhart River Dancers – winners of last year’s Laura Dance Festival – while in the Court House Gallery, you can view the CIAF Fashion Story exhibition from 10am. Both are free events.  

Bulmba-ja Arts Centre tonight hosts the first From Campfire to Stage Light – a series of theatre shows which tell of the epic journey toward self-determination and Indigenous pride through the lens of local Ewamian/Western Yalanji artist, David Bindi Hudson. Tickets start at $43.30.

The Innisfail Show also starts today, bringing together animals, local produce, arts and crafts and food a-plenty, as well as the Banana Packing Championship! The show finishes up on Friday. Head here for tickets.  

Friday 8 July

Continuing CIAF’s buzz of activity, CURE by Zane Saunders is on at CPAC this afternoon, as well as a Saturday matinee. It’s set to be a captivating theatrical performance that Saunders has spent over a decade writing the manuscript for. Free event.

At the Tanks, you can also enjoy one of the Fair’s highlight events – the CIAF Fashion Performance. Featuring emerging and established models, and 14 designer collections and a vivid program of dance and storytelling, it’s set to be an extraordinary presentation of wearable and performing art. The ticketed performance shows twice on Friday night.

The party kicks on at the Tanks with Aboriginal Comedy Allstars, featuring Sean Choolburra, Kevin Kropinyeri, Andy Saunders, and Steph Tisdell for some thought-provoking stand-up comedy. 10pm start, tickets are $33.80.

Saturday 9 July

The Mareeba Markets are on this morning, boasting all the usual local fares and wares from 7.30am to midday.

After last weekend’s wet weather, Starry Night Cinema’s ‘dry season’ return was postponed to be held this Saturday. Held in the Botanic Gardens, the heart-warming family flick Paddington 2 starts from 6.30pm. Tickets are $20 or less.

A hop and a skip away CIAF’s Music in the Tank is on, featuring an eclectic line-up of First Nations musical talent, both emerging and established. 6.30pm start, tickets are $44.20.

Sunday 10 July

The Holloways Beach Markets are up again, featuring all things handmade, upcycled, recycled and repurposed, along with divine food and coffee. 8am to 1pm.

Travelling musician Rhyley McGrath is making his way to Cairns this weekend to play at Sauce. You can expect plenty of finger-picking blues, acoustic folk and plenty of grooves. 3.30pm, free event.   

A night of comedy is in store at Three Wolves with the wickedly funny Mel Buttle. The event’s sold out – we hope it’s fun for all those going!

Cycling event Tour of the Tropics carries on throughout the weekend before wrapping up on Sunday. There’s a bunch of events on – head to their website for all the details and road closures.