The Thrill of the Barron River: White Water Rafting, Cairns

This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.

You know you’re in North Queensland when the hotel information book has cyclone procedures and stinger safety precautions. And you have to worry about crocodiles.

Lucky for us, we were visiting Cairns out of stinger and cyclone season.

We were heading into winter, the perfect time to experience Tropical North Queensland, with warm temperatures minus the stifling humidity.

After a fun day of adventure in the region that enhances an adrenaline junkie experience, we were relaxing for the evening at Peppers Beach Club & Spa in Palm Cove, just north of Cairns.

Peppers Palm Cove Resort (1)

Peppers Palm Cove Resort (2)

Peppers Palm Cove Resort (3)Peppers at Palm Cove was tropical paradise, and we enjoyed the ocean views with a 9-course degustation menu.

The German head chef came out to explain each of the gourmet dishes to us, all made from fresh local produce from the reef and rainforest. We sat under the towering melaleuca trees, the ancient and mystical air wrapped us in health and well-being.

Far North Queensland was quickly shooting up my list of Aussie favourites. It puts you in the mood for relaxing, good food, and of course adventure.

We spent the morning gorging ourselves on banana chocolate smoothies, fresh dukka crusted ocean fish, and sweet potato fries with lemon aioli at the Paleo Cafe in Cairns, a destination in its own right.

What else do you do after rolling yourself out of a feast like that?

Go white water rafting of course! IT’s a popular Cairns tour! Hope you can fit your life jackets on!

White water rafting Barron River Cairns

I swear our guide Marty, Mr White Water Rafting, from Raging Thunder Adventures knew we had some serious food removal to do as he seemed to make our gentle swim in the “normal” waters of the river a bit further than the other boats.

The normal part being where the rapids stopped and the crocs homes started.

I’m not sure what it is about rapid rivers and the absence of crocs in places you know the crocs would just love. We had a similar experience white water rafting the Nile River.

“You guys can jump in now and swim,” our guide said after we reached a long, still stretch of water.

“What do you mean? Isn’t this the part where the crocs are?” We knew it wasn’t where the rapids were as the ancient beasts are scared of them.

“Trust us, it’s safe here.”

I can’t believe I actually jumped in and swam, just like I was doing this time on the Barron River in the beautiful Barron Gorge National Park.

White water rafting Barron River Cairns

Apart from the odd joke, Marty assured us there were no crocs in this river, even though a few signs on the river bank of Lake Placid warning people to be careful.

Apparently, it’s a friendly one and not to be worried about. As always when you travel listen to the locals! (Seriously, no need to be freaked out about this, it’s all good!)

It was an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon through the pretty jungle ending at Lake Placid – just the kind of name that signals man-eating crocs.

There were no rapids on the level of the Nile’s notorious Bad Place, which I have labelled, The Most Dangerous Rapid in the World, guaranteed to turn your legs to jelly, and your stomach to mush just looking at it.

But, there were a few thrills on the Barron River rafting through rapids called The Meat Cleaver, The Suckhole and the Rooster.

Raging Thunder adventures white water rafting Cairns (2)

“White water rafting guides are always crazy and great fun!“

Craig commented after leaving Marty, a local plumber turned rafting guide. He was lots of fun: full of life, quick with a joke and a wry smile. His loud booming laughter echoed off the steep ravines and towering trees wrapped in vines amid dense undergrowth.

You’d have to be a little crazy to work with raging rivers every day. Well, maybe it’s more the crazy tourists coming through each day that would send you on the edge a bit.

A rafting trip is always made that much more special by the guy steering your boat safely through the danger zones and sometimes amping it up with a quick flick here and there.

I remember one serious guide we had rafting the Upper Gauley, in West Virginia. She wanted no nonsense and we all copped a stern word when we fell about in hysterics when our friend went overboard and we were too weak to pull him back to safety.

Come on, you need a little crazy on the rapids.

White water rafting Cairns (3)

White water rafting Barron River Cairns (9)

Raging Thunder adventures white water rafting Cairns (1)

White water rafting Barron River Cairns (13)

Marty let us jump out for the final rapid to body surf it feet first. I twisted and turned, smashed into the jagged rocks, and desperately tried to stop myself from being sucked under by the man-eating rocks.

How on earth did I ever have the nerve to tackle the grade 5 Bad Place when this grade 2 was freaking me out? Man, I was hard core back then. Motherhood has made me soft.

If you’re heading to North Queensland soon, and want to go white water rafting in Cairns, check out Raging Thunder Adventures. It’s a fun day and makes a good day trip from Cairns. Say hi to Marty for us!

More tips for your Cairns Holiday

Highly recommended Raft Tours in Cairns

Plan your trip to Cairns

We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:


  • has 700,000+ hotels, apartments and hostels worldwide. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. Airbnb also has unique local homes to rent


  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

Have you rafted on the Barron River before in Cairns?

Where’s your favourite place to go rafting?

Disclaimer: We travelled as guests of Tourism Queensland

You may also like

You may also like

13 thoughts on “The Thrill of the Barron River: White Water Rafting, Cairns”

  1. Looks like a really fun rafting trip! We’ve not been to Australia yet, but I think Queensland is first on my bucket list. Love all the adventure activities you can do there!

  2. Oh I really wish I’d done this while I was in Queensland – this looks awesome! To be honest, back then I was probably too scared for something like this. Since then, though, I’ve done black water rafting in New Zealand so I definitely think I’d find white water rafting fun 🙂

    Looks like you guys had an awesome time!

  3. Looks like an amazing and fun trip! Love the look on your faces! Yip, motherhood makes us darn soft, I’ll vouch for that. Peppers at Palm Cove, what a spot … we nearly stayed there in August, but Port Douglas was calling 🙂

  4. I’ve got a fear of falling into the water and never getting out, so I wanted to say “no” when my friend wanted me to go with her on a white water rafting trip. Needless to say, it was one of the most memorable adventures I’ve ever done and I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear get in the way. It was only up to Grade 3, but it was exciting enough for me. Cheers Caz! 🙂

  5. I did whitewater rafting with Raging Thunder Adventures on the Tully River. First time I ever did whitewater rafting. Lots of fun although somewhat scary at times.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top