Queensland conjures images of the iconic Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder synonymous with the region. Beyond the azure seas and the Reef’s splendor, the northern expanse of Queensland unfolds into a breathtaking tapestry of landscapes. Here, the lush Daintree Rainforest reigns as one of the world’s oldest rainforests, creating a captivating contrast. Welcome to Tropical North Queensland, stretching from Mackay in the south to Cape York in the north, a realm where the reef seamlessly converges with the rainforest. In this guide, you will find what to do in Tropical North Queensland.
On the occasion of my friend’s birthday, just ahead of ANZAC Day, we seized the opportunity to extend the celebration into a five-day holiday. His coveted wish was to explore the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. Our journey led us through the vibrant locales of Cairns, the enchanting Kuranda, and the coastal beauty of Port Douglas, marking an unforgettable adventure in Tropical North Queensland.
PIN for later reference | What to do in Tropical North Queensland
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About Tropical North Queensland
Stretching from Mackay in the south to Cape York in the north, Tropical North Queensland in Australia is a captivating region that unfolds a diverse tapestry of natural wonders and adventures. The region is renowned for its iconic landscapes, seamlessly blending the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef with the ancient charm of the Daintree Rainforest.
The Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, steals the spotlight with its mesmerising blue oceans and vibrant coral ecosystems. Beyond the reef, the Daintree Rainforest stands as one of the oldest rainforests globally, showcasing lush greenery and unique biodiversity.
Tropical North Queensland is where the reef meets the rainforest, creating a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike. From the bustling city of Cairns to the scenic Kuranda and the coastal allure of Port Douglas, the region offers a myriad of experiences. Whether diving into the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, exploring the ancient rainforest, or unwinding on pristine beaches, Tropical North Queensland promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Australia’s tropical paradise.
How to Get to Tropical North Queensland?
Offering many modes of transportation, the Tropical North Queensland is an exciting part of the journey.
You can fly into two airports, one at Cairns and then at Townsville.
- Cairns International Airport is the gateway to the Tropical North in Queensland. The airport acts as an international and domestic airport. There are frequent flights between Cairns and major Australian cities, and has direct international flights between Cairns and Auckland, Hong Kong among others.
- Townsville Airport is the airport to fly in if you wish to explore the southern part of Tropical North Queensland.
Tigerair andJetstar are the budgeted airlines to domestically travel in Australia and internationally travel to New Zealand.
You can easily hire a self-driven car and drive along the east coast of Australia. The road trip from Cairns to Cape Tribulation offers spectacular and stunning coastal views.
By Public Transport
- Bus – There are plenty of buses that connect Cairns and other places in the region. Greyhound is one of the operators that run buses.
- Train – You can take a scenic train journey, operated by the Spirit of Queensland, from Brisbane to Cairns.
Cairns is one of the ports in Tropical North Queensland for some cruise lines.
Where to Stay in Tropical North Queensland?
Tropical North Queensland offers a range of accommodation options that cater for various preferences and budgets. Whether you prefer the bustling city vibe of Cairns, the laid-back atmosphere of Port Douglas, or the immersive experience of staying in the heart of the rainforest, Tropical North Queensland has plenty of options for every taste and style.
- Luxury Resorts – With stunning waterfront views, Cairns has upscale resorts. You can consider staying at the Shangri-La The Marina Hotel or the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.
- Boutique Hotels – With a personalised and stylish stay, you can consider staying at boutique hotel like Crystalbrook Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort.
- Budgeted Hotels and Hostels – For budgeted-friendly options, you can consider Cairns Plaza Hotel, Cairns Youth Hostel Association (YHA) or Global Backpackers Cairns. Opting for a budget-friendly choice during our one-night stay in Cairns, we selected Cairns Central YHA as our accommodation.
- Luxury Resorts – Indulge in luxury resorts by staying at Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort or Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa.
- Boutique Hotels – Offering an intimate and serene atmosphere, discover boutique stays like the Peninsula Boutique Hotel.
- Budgeted Hotels and Hostels – For budgeted-friendly options, you can consider spacious holiday apartments or villas for a more independent stay, like the Oaks Port Douglas Resort.
- Our accommodation for a delightful three-night stay was at Ramada Resort by Wyndham, a truly picturesque property. Opting for a studio apartment, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality and ambiance of the space. The friendly staff added to the overall positive experience, ensuring a warm and welcoming atmosphere throughout our stay. Ramada Resorts offers a plethora of activities, with highlights including a refreshing pool and a relaxing spa. The amenities provided enhanced our overall enjoyment, making it a memorable stay in a setting that perfectly complemented the tropical charm of North Queensland.
Palm Cove is known for its beachfront resorts and boutique accommodations with lovely views of the ocean.
- Beachfront Resorts: You can consider staying at Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore or Peppers Beach Club and Spa.
- Relaxed Boutique Accommodations: For a relaxed boutique accommodations, consider staying at Reef House Boutique Resort and Spa.
Offering a unique rainforest experience, immerse yourself in nature with eco-friendly lodges like the Daintree Ecolodge.
Providing a tranquil rainforest retreat, consider staying close to the Mossman Gorge with options like Silky Oaks Lodge.
Travel Around in Tropical North Queensland
For your travel, consider securing a hired car. Opt for comprehensive coverage with zero AUD excess and include roadside assistance. Remember to return the car with a full tank on the last day. Don’t forget to inquire with the car hire agency about the specific type of fuel required for refilling to avoid any issues.
What to do in Tropical North Queensland?
Offering a blend of natural wonders, cultural experiences, and adventurous pursuits, Tropical North Queensland is a treasure trove of diverse activities and attractions. Here are some of the key things you can do in Tropical North Queensland:
- Snorkel or Scuba Dive at Great Barrier Reef to discover the vibrant colourful reefs and marine life.
- Take a guided walk to explore the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree Rainforest. Ensure to explore and take cultural tours at Mossman Gorge.
- Visit Kuranada village and take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for breathtaking views.
- Kayak, paddleboard or jet ski in the local river.
- Attend the cultural performances and workshops at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
- Trek through the Atherton Tablelands and explore its waterfalls. Undertake the challenging hikes like the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island.
- Visit wildlife sanctuaries like Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.
- During the whale migratory season (between May and October) see the humpback whales.
- Unwind on the pristine beaches of Port Douglas or Palm Cove.
- Savour fresh seafood and tropical fruits at local restaurants. Experience the flavors of indigenous ingredients in unique dishes.
- Take a hot air balloon ride for a stunning aerial perspective of the landscapes.
- Go bunjee jumping at Cairns.
Places to See in Tropical North Queensland
Embarking on our journey, Kuranda village became our initial destination, situated about 25 kilometers from Cairns. This quaint village is renowned for the Skyrail cableway, providing panoramic views of both the rainforests and the ocean. Kuranda offers a myriad of activities, but given time constraints, we explored only two notable places:
- Bird Sanctuary: Home to the most extensive gathering of Australian birds, Kuranda Bird Sanctuary proudly boasts the largest collection of these diverse and vibrant avian species.
- Cost for an adult: AUD 19.
- Timings: 9 AM to 4 PM (every day except Christmas and Anzac Days).
P.S. Be aware of the birds as they are inquisitive about the things that you carry or wear.
- Butterfly Sanctuary – Established in 1987, the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary stands as a testament to the beauty of Australian butterflies, housing an extraordinary collection within its premises.
- Cost for an adult: AUD 20.
- Timings: 9:45 AM to 4 PM (every day except Christmas and Anzac Days).
- Skyrail – Don’t miss the breathtaking experience of exploring the lush rainforest through the Kuranda Skyrail, a must-do Gondola ride spanning 7.5 kilometers over the captivating canopy.
- Cost for an adult from Kuranda (return): AUD 85.
- Timings: 8:45 AM to 2:45 PM (every day except Christmas and Pre-maintenance).
Our next destination, Port Douglas, has captured my heart with its sheer beauty. This town, located just 68 kilometers away from Cairns (an approximately 1-hour drive), is a haven renowned for its stunning beaches and its close proximity to the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
Port Douglas exudes a captivating charm, offering a picturesque escape that goes beyond the ordinary. The allure of its coastal landscapes and the allure of the world-famous reef make Port Douglas a truly breathtaking destination that leaves an indelible impression on all who have the privilege of experiencing its natural splendor.
- Mossman Gorge: Situated approximately 22 kilometers from Port Douglas, Mossman Gorge is an absolute essential when exploring the Port Douglas region. Mossman Gorge boasts numerous accessible walks, allowing visitors to witness the marvels of the Daintree forest in this captivating region. Our chosen experience was the ‘Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk‘, a guided trek of 1.5 hours covering 4.7 kilometers. Led by one of the knowledgeable indigenous guides, this walk offers exclusive access to Kuku Yalanji Country. The immersive journey through Mossman Gorge provides a unique perspective, delving into the rich cultural and natural heritage of the region, making it a must-do for those seeking a deeper connection with the enchanting landscapes surrounding Port Douglas.
- Scuba diving and snorkeling at Great Barrier Reef: Skipping snorkelling or scuba diving at Great Barrier Reef (GBR) while in Cairns or Port Douglas feels like a missed opportunity. I suggest choosing Port Douglas for diving over Cairns, as it offers a less crowded and more pristine underwater experience. Opting for two dives and one snorkel, we chose the ‘Calypso’ tour operator, and they exceeded expectations. The crew was truly awesome, ensuring the well-being of each participant, and the staff’s approachability enhanced the overall experience. Excitement peaked when we encountered Nemo and his family, along with captivating pipefishes, making our underwater adventure with Calypso an unforgettable exploration of the wonders beneath the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
Cairns, a Queensland city, stands as the primary gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Renowned for the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture, it echoes with rich stories and traditions of the indigenous people. Dive into the vibrant culture and natural wonders that Cairns has to offer, embracing the unique blend of Aboriginal heritage and the awe-inspiring beauty of the Great Barrier Reef.
Situated approximately 30 kilometers (a 45-minute boat ride) off the coast of Cairns, Fitzroy Island proves to be an ideal day tour destination. A day trip from Cairns provides ample time to discover the paradisiacal beauty of Fitzroy. During our visit to the island, we embarked on the 7-kilometer return summit walk, reveling in the breathtaking views.
Additionally, we indulged in a mesmerizing snorkeling experience, immersing ourselves in the vibrant underwater world surrounding Fitzroy Island. The convenience of a day tour allowed us to unravel the island’s wonders, making Fitzroy a perfect escape for those seeking a day of exploration and natural splendor just off the shores of Cairns.
How Much Did it Cost for a Trip to Tropical North Queensland?
Note: Ensure to check the up-to-date expenses on individual websites.
- Tigerair flight from Sydney to Cairns – AUD 175 (USD 133)
- Jetstar flight from Cairns to Sydney – AUD 140 (USD 106)
- Ramada Resort (Studio apartment) – AUD 340 for 3 nights (USD 258)
- Cairns YHA – AUD 94 for 1 night (USD 71)
- Hertz Car hire – AUD 371 for 4 days including super cover and roadside assistance (USD 281)
- Fuel cost – AUD 32.63 for ~250 kilometres (USD 25)
- Bird Sanctuary entry fee – AUD 16 (USD 12)
- Butterfly Sanctuary entry fee – AUD 19.5 (USD 15)
- Mossman Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk – AUD 75 (USD 57)
- Scuba diving and snorkelling – AUD 348 (USD 264)
- Reef tax – AUD 6.5 (USD 5)
- Photos and videos of our dives – AUD 75 (USD 57)
- Fitzroy Island day tour – AUD 109 (USD 83)
- Skyrail – AUD 79 (USD 60)
- Food – extra expenses and it depends on the traveller.
- Miscellaneous – AUD 15 (USD 11)
A total expenses of AUD 1895.63 (USD 1438) per person.
Is Tropical North Queensland Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Tropical North is a remarkably safe haven for solo female travelers. Having explored the region multiple times myself, I can attest to its safety. Throughout my journeys, I have encountered no issues, affirming the overall security of the area.
Nevertheless, as is wise in any destination, exercising caution, particularly during the nighttime, remains essential. Embracing the stunning landscapes and cultural richness of Tropical North is a delightful experience, and with a mindful approach to personal safety, solo female travelers can fully relish the wonders this region has to offer.
For those venturing to Australia, an absolute recommendation is to explore the Tropical North of Queensland. This region unfolds with stunning, largely untouched landscapes, providing a captivating blend of natural wonders and cultural richness. Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of indigenous culture, journey through lush rainforests teeming with biodiversity, and embark on an unforgettable adventure to experience the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef. The Tropical North offers a unique and enriching encounter with Australia’s diverse offerings, promising a journey marked by the pristine beauty of its landscapes and the profound cultural heritage embedded in its attractions.
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