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The Best Live Music Venues, Festivals And Cultural Experiences To Check Out In Tropical North QLD

There’s something for everyone when it comes to music, art and culture in Tropical North Queensland.

tropical north queensland

Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Tropical North Queensland is a land that is rich in arts and culture, showcasing an array of live music venues, festivals, cultural experiences and indigenous tours.

We’ve rounded up the best that Tropical North Queensland has to offer for you to check out during your next visit, including some tips from Cairns local and musician, Jelly Oshen.

Live Music

Tropical North Queensland has endless live venues on offer, with Jelly explaining, “The vibe is pretty different every time but it’s usually very homely if that makes any sense.”

“It’s hard to feel pressured or judged in that atmosphere, you can dance your heart out or just unwind on the sidelines and no one really cares.”

jelly oshen north queensland

Cairns native Jelly Oshen gave his top tips when it comes to checking out live venues, music, culture and indigenous activities in Tropical Far North Queensland. Credit: Supplied

Elixir Bar

Another favourite recommended by Jelly, Elixir Bar is located in the heart of Cairns and boasts a wide variety of music most nights of the week. Be sure to also check out the menu, which features delicious authentic Mexican cuisine.

Salt House

A favourite among locals, Salt House is an epic joint that always brings something a little new while keeping one thing the same, live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 pm. 

Salt House

Salt House brings live music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5 pm. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Kickstart your evening with fantastic local and travelling interstate musicians on the deck. 

The venue is also known for its gourmet dishes, its extravagant cocktail menu and a spectacular view over the Cairns marina.

McGinty’s Irish Bar

McGinty’s Irish Bar is an authentic Irish pub in the middle of Cairns that emanates an awesome chilled-out vibe.

McGinty’s Irish Pub has been dubbed “Cairns’ best little bar”. Credit: Instagram

McGinty’s is often described as Cairns’ best little bar where the Guinness and Kilkenny are nurtured and served to the highest of standards, with local live music providing the vibes in the evening. Sounds perfect to us!

Bar 36

Located in the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, BAR36 is a sophisticated venue, combining high-end sound design with state-of-the-art lighting, making it the perfect spot to catch great live music and unwind with friends.


Speaking of the area’s rich lineup of festivals, Jelly said, “I think the best way to describe it is multicultural, respectful and maybe a little wild too.” 

“Most of the festivals if not all of them are done through the proper process of getting the blessing and permission of the custodial land owners so almost all events are generally family-friendly.”

“I personally think the best festivals are Reggae Town Festival, Kuranda Roots Festival or pretty much any festival that happens in Kuranda because I prefer more relaxing dance vibes.”

Cairns Summer Sounds Festival

Having kicked off earlier this month, the five-event program that concludes on March 4 is spread across two venues and features performances from a stellar cast of live acts, including Thundamentals (feat. Horrorshow), The Cat Empire, Dami Im, Jessica Mauboy, Eric Bibb, and Stella Donnelly.

Image of Jess Mauboy

Jessica Mauboy is set to perform at Cairns Summer Sounds Festival. Credit: Georges Antoni

The artists are set to perform across five different events in Cairns, bringing the tropics alive with big beats and vibrancy.

Cairns Ecofiesta

Held Sunday, June 4, 2023, Ecofiesta is a sustainable festival with free entry held in the city’s lush tropical Munro Martin Parklands.

Ecofiesta is a sustainable festival with free entry held in the city’s lush tropical Munro Martin Parklands. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

It’s basically a music festival, a food festival, a children’s festival and an environmental expo all rolled into one big smorgasbord of fun.

With an amazing line-up of bands, eco-conscious consumers can also get their spend on with a huge array of green tech and sustainable living solutions available for sale at the festival.

Kuranda Roots Festival

Taking place from July 14-16 at the beautiful Emerald Creek Falls, Kuranda Roots Festival is Australia’s longest-running reggae, roots and culture event that celebrates the abundance of culture, art, music and nature that flourishes in Tropical North Queensland.

Some of the artists seen in previous years include Mad Professor, Mungos Hifi, Tippa Irie, Opiuo, JStar, King Tide, The Bird, Oka, Cornerstone Roots, Dub Terminator, and many more.

Cairns Festival

The Cairns Festival is an annual event taking place Friday 25 August – Sunday 3 September 2023 which highlights arts and culture across the Cairns community. 

Cairns Festival

Cairns Festival. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Last year, Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said festival highlights included the spectacular Reef Light at the Esplanade, which depicted the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef through light and laser installations.

The event even saw a record-breaking 35,000 attendees at the signature Saturday night Grand Parade along the Esplanade.

You can see what was included in last year’s program for an idea of the kind of things that are part of the festival. 

Cultural Experiences 

Tropical North Queensland is rich in cultural experiences, whether it be showcasing the works of local artists, or taking in the stunning beauty of the area.

Asked about his experiences in checking out the area’s cultural offerings and Indigenous tours, Jelly said, “Hells yeah I’ve been, they have them at the very least once a month and not just Australian Indigenous culture but a worldwide variety of cultural celebrations.”

Flames Of The Forest

Flames of the Forest is a magical event located in Port Douglas that is so relaxing and uplifting you will never want to leave. 

Flames of the Forest creates an unforgettable memory at an extraordinary venue. Credit Flames of the Forest

A completely intimate, natural experience set within the candle-lit rainforest under a black silk canopy highlighted by crystal and budlight chandeliers, Flames of the Forest creates an unforgettable memory at an extraordinary venue.

Showcasing a tropical-inspired menu accompanied by a selection of quality Australian beverages, attendees will enjoy the remarkable experience of dining amidst the sounds of the tropical rainforest at night.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair

Taking place July 13-16 at the Cairns Convention Centre, the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair offers an opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of Indigenous cultures from Tropical North Queensland and other parts of the state. 


the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair offers an opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of Indigenous culture. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

CIAF is an unparalleled celebration of Indigenous art, dance, fashion, and music, and fosters an environment where ethical cultural custodianship is paramount, in working with both commercial art galleries and Indigenous art centres to promote and sell creative works.

Tanks Arts Centre

Set in the leafy Edge Hill at the base of Mt Whitfield, Tanks Arts Centre is a unique venue that is steeped in history, full of atmosphere and set in converted WWII oil tanks.

tanks art centre north queensland

Tanks Arts Centre is a unique venue that is steeped in history. Credit: Tanks Art Centre

Three Tanks are utilised, with Tank 5 predominately featuring live music, while Tank 4 has an art gallery.

Tank 3 has an outdoor amphitheatre that’s used for private events, performances, and children’s events.

Indigenous Tours

Learn about there area’s rich Indigenous heritage with educational guided tours led by the local Indigenous community set among the breathtaking scenery.

Mossman Gorge

The Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre is an award-winning ecotourism facility conveniently located at the entrance to the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest.

Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre

Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre is an award-winning ecotourism facility conveniently located at the entrance to the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest. Credit: Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre

Visitors can take part in a range of self-guided walks through the Daintree, or to seek a deeper understanding of the Kuku Yalanji land and culture, can experience guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, led by the local Indigenous community. 

There are also plenty of opportunities to learn about local Indigenous art and culture at the onsite gallery, as well as taste some of the Daintree’s delicious local ingredients at the Mayi Café.

Rainforestation Nature Park

Located just outside Kuranda on the Kuranda Range Road, Rainforestation Nature Park is about a 40-minute drive from the heart of Cairns.

Rainforestation National Park is home to the Army Duck Rainforest Tours. Credit: rainforest.com.au

Home to the Army Duck Rainforest Tours on land and water, the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience and the iconic Australian animals in the Koala & Wildlife Park, visitors can experience traditional dance, music and customs while exploring the rainforest wildlife of Kuranda.

Green Island Wunyami tour

Discover the Indigenous stories, legends and traditions of Wunyami (Green Island) from the Gungganji and Yidinji people as you join them on a guided island tour and learn about their cultural traditions, ceremonies and life with Wunyami Tours.

Indighenous Tours Far North Queensland

Guides demonstrate how to start a fire using traditional methods. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

As part of a small group, your guides will explain the symbiotic relationship of these warriors, the cultural ceremonies of these two tribes and the connectivity of this iconic island to the ancient seascape. 

The Indigenous guides have been given special approval from their elders to share this story with all who come on this tour.

The tour takes approximately 1 hour and you can choose from a morning or afternoon tour.

Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours

On a three-hour eco-cultural tour with Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours, you’ll journey into the ancestral lands of the local Mandingalbay Yidinji Aboriginal people with a short boat ride away from Cairns.

A guided walk in Grey Peaks National Park will teach visitors how to forage for edible and medicinal plants. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

The experience begins with a traditional Welcome to Country in the form of a smoking ceremony, before a guided walk in Grey Peaks National Park where you’ll learn how to forage for edible and medicinal plants that the Mandingalbay Yidinji people have used for thousands of years. 

The tour concludes with a delicious coconut damper and tea, before taking the boat back to Cairns.

Rolling Stone is giving you and a plus-one the chance to live it up in Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most beautiful areas – and all you have to do is enter the draw here to win!

If you’re keen to get dreaming about your next holiday in Tropical North Queensland, head to cairnsgreatbarrierreef.com