From the Daintree Rainforest to the Great Barrier Reef
We are now in Tropical North Queensland, a region with one of the most richest ecosystem in Australia. In this area you will see the most ancient rainforest of the world as well as spectacular reefs and marine life, fascinating inland mountains with gorgeous waterfalls and steep escarpments, white sandy beaches and strechtes of Australia’s inland outback .Cairns is the hub of this area. Flocks of visitors arrive in Cairns for exploring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and see its tropical natural gems.
How to get there
Flying is the best way of reaching North Tropical Queensland, it’s easy and fast, thanks to Cairns’ international airport which is well connected to the major Australian cities and towns, as well as to international airports.
If you are travelling around Australia for several weeks, you might prefer hiring a car or a campervan and drive yourself from Brisbane or from Sydney up to Cairns. The travel distance from Brisbane is about 2000km and from Sydney 3000km, so you can estimate a 3-4 days to get to Cairns, allowing several stops along Queensland’s beautiful coastal area.
How to get around in Tropical North Queensland
Hiring a car and going on a road trip to visit Tropical North Queensland far the best way for exploring the Tropical North of Australia. The advantage of hiring a car is the possibility of entering remote outback areas too, and thus get a picture of how vast and diverse Queensland is, moreover you have the freedom to adjust the travel distances and stop as you like. Alternatively, you can use public transport, buses run the route from Sydney to Cairns, stopping all the way up to Cape Tribulation. This way of transport is very popular among backpackers and solo travellers.
I travelled the coastal area by bus from Cairns up to Cape Tribulation and from Cairns to Brisbane. It took me 3 weeks, and I can say it was the nicest route during my 3 month trip to Australia. Tropical North Queensland is a great destination, if you love the beach, swimming, snorkelling and diving, this is the place. Queensland has truly all of Australia’s distinguishing landmarks.
Where to stay in Tropical North Queensland
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What to see in Tropical Tropical Queensland
I would not say Cairns is an attractive town but its location and its infrastructures make of Cairns for an excellent base for exploring and enjoyng the Australia’s tropical scenery. The major city attraction is its promenade as well as the saltwater lagoon, where you can swim! The long esplanade walking trail is popular for cycling, blade rolling and jogging. The city provides an excellent offer of facilites for all tastes and budgets. The variety of water activities ranging from snorkeling, scuba-diving, sky-diving, bungee jumping, white-water rafting down the Barron Falls, to name a few, will spoil you for choice. If you are staying in Cairns for a few days visit the Tjapukai Cultural Park, featuring the aboriginal creation legend, through various aboriginal arts and crafts. The Botanic Gardens and the Cairns Regional Gallery are also worth a visit. Cairns also offer great shopping and dining venues!
- Great Barrier Reef Tours
You can access the Great Barrier Reef either from Cairns or from Port Douglas. The best think to do is to visit the information visitor centre, find orientation among the huge options and choose the reef tour that more suits you. You can choose from a day-tour, on a bottom glass boat, to 3-4 day scuba-diving or sailing tours. Some of the tours companies also hold lectures about the Reef, so if you want to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef biodiversity and its amazing marine and coral life. From Cairns you can also set out to the Fitzroy Island and to the Green Island.
Kuranda is also a must see place while you are staying in Cairns. Known also as the “forest village” in the mountain, Kuranda is located in the hearth of the Atherton Tableland and it’s really a fascinating place to visit. The journey to Kuranda is an experience of itself: the Kuranda Scenic Railway winds its way through dense rainforest, terrific mountain scenery with the Barron waterfalls and steep escarpments. In Kuranda you can take several walks in the forest to reach lookouts over the Barron Gorge National Park, or you can take a 45-minutes cruise along the Barron River. The village is popular also for its great Kuranda Markets. Get maps and leadlefts about Kuranda from the Kuranda Visitor Centre.
- Cairns Northern beaches
Cairns Northern Beaches are nice and long stretches of white sands with calm crystal clear water. If you are heading north to Port Douglas and to the Daintree National Park, a stop at these beaches is worthwhile for a break and a good swim. Check out: Holloways Beach, Trinity Beach, Wangetti Beach.
- Port Douglas
is a nice town one hour drive north of Cairns, with an elegant setting, beautiful beaches and all the features of a tropical resort town. If yo do not like the hubbub typical of Cairns, Port Douglas is a good alternative, here you will find a more relaxed atmosphere with great dining and shopping venues. Being the closest town to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as on the doorstep of the Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation National Park, Port Douglas is an ideal base to explore the area on day tours. Port Douglas highlights are the beautiful palm-fringed Four Mile Beach, the Flagstaff Hill Lookout with spectacular views and the Port Douglas’ Marina.
- Mossman and the Daintree Rainforest
When visiting the surrounding area of Cairns there are a few must see places. Mossman is one these. It is located in the wilderness area of the Daintree Natonal Park. Mossman is owned and protected by the local aboriginal community of the Kuku Yalanji people. Great tours are offered by Park Rangers as well as Aboriginal Guides to the stunning Mossman Gorge and a few beautiful boardwalks. Mossman’s major industry, besides tourism, is the sugar cane settlements, if you ar there during the harvest season it is worth visiting the historic sugar mill. If you are heading north to Cape Tribulation, Cooktown and Cape York, Mossman is the major service centre providing visitors with all kinds of shops, from supermarkets, to banks and newsagencies.
- Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is 2 hours drive from Cairns. Where the rainforest meets the beach. Cape Tribulation is the real jewel in the Daintree Rainforest and of the entire area in Tropical North Queensland. To get there you will have to cross the Daintree River with the ferry. Crossing the river is in fact the only access to the north area of the Daintree Rainforest. If you intend self-driving you’d better hire a 4WD car since there are no sealed roads past Cape Tribulation beach. In Cape Tribulation you can do excellent daily rainforest walks, as well as guided night walks. Some of great walks in the forest worth mentioning are: Maardja Botanical Walk and the Myall Beach walk with the Cape Tribulation Lookout as well as the Mt Sorrow viewpoint for experienced walkers ! Bird watching and crocodile spotting tours as well as exotic fruits farm tastings and tours are also offered on the Daintree River. And obviously you can enjoy snorkeling, diving, swimming in the lovely beaches of Cape Tribulation.
I would recommend spending at least 2-3 days to enjoy this area of extraordinary beauty. As for acccommodation the choice is good, ranging from fine spa hotels, to budget accommodation as well as camping. For everyone something to fully enjoy the tranquillity of this untouched area!
Want to learn more about Tropical North Queensland ?
Check out this post about the National Parks in Tropical North Queensland
If you want to ask any question or want to add your tips and experience in Tropical North Queensland please feel free to contact me and I will be pleased to add your contribution.