When people think of adventure in Australia, they imagine trekking through the dry outback in rough conditions. But Australia also has an exotic, tropical side, for adventurers seeking more water-related or rainforest activities.
Tropical North Queensland offers myriad of nature and activities that surpass all others, laying claim to the world’s longest reef, the oldest rain forest in the world, and the world’s oldest civilization. How can you top that?
You’ll run out of time before you run out of things to do in northeast Queensland. Here is a pictorial journal of 28 that should not be missed.
1. Yikes! First of all, get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road…and don’t hit any kangaroos!
ON THE ISLAND
Fitzroy Island is “where the rainforest meets the reef,” reachable by a 45-minute ferry from mainland Cairns. The 833-acre private island freely accessible to the public.
The crystal clear water at Welcome Bay is perfect for snorkeling and for underwater photography. Sharks are not a problem, but jellyfish sometimes are, so consider wearing a stinger suit.
97% of the island is covered in tropical rainforest and perfect for hiking to the summit for a stunning birds’ eye view of the beach or to the Secret Garden where you can commune with hundreds of butterflies.
Sea kayaking is a great way to explore remote and hidden beaches and coves along the calm waters in front of the island over to Little Fitzroy Island.
5. Nudey Beach
Aha! Fooled you, didn’t I? Once a clothing optional beach, Nudey is no longer a naked beach. Strewn with huge boulders giving it an otherworldly look, it is worth the hilly trek from Welcome Bay.
AT THE ESPLANADE
6. Night markets
The night markets are the best place to find your Australian souvenirs. They have the largest variety and cheapest prices than you’ll find in other venues.
7. Eat a “hop, skip, swim, and jump!”
Don’t miss this opportunity to sample the tastes of Australia in one dish! The entree includes kangaroo, crocodile, barramundi, and emu.
8. Swim in the lagoon
The large, open-air, man-made saltwater swimming lagoon is located right on the Cairns Esplanade. The lagoon is surrounded by a sandy beach and tropical gardens, and looks out to the Great Barrier Reef.
OVER, UNDER, AND AROUND THE REEF
Stretching 1800 miles, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s longest coral reef system.
The reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, teeming with some of the best ocean life. Deep Sea Divers Den leaves out of Cairns and offers eco-friendly diving and snorkeling excursions to several of the reefs.
A spectacular way to get a grasp of the magnitude of the reef is from the air, on a seaplane or helicopter. The flight over the Whitsunday Islands and nearby reef system is unsurpassable in beauty and will be seared in your memory.
There are many opportunities to cruise to the islands around Cairns, or the Whitsundays off Airlie Beach. The islands are stunning, each with its one charms such as Fitzroy (above) or Whitehaven, one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.
STAY: While exploring the Cairns part of Queensland, stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton with stunning views of the Coral Sea. The location could not be more convenient. It’s right on the Esplanade – just walk out the door and you have access to a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars, the lagoon, shops and the night markets.
IN THE RAINFOREST
Gliding over the tropical canopy, the the Skyrail gondolas engage all your senses in the pristine ancient rainforest.
Grab Perry from Rainforest Journeys, whose family has lived in the rainforest for generations, and explore the wetlands on your own all-terrain vehicle.
14. Wildlife encounter
Don’t be surprised if a curious Australian cassowary comes out of the forest.
15. Stink fruit
If you have the courage, try the durian fruit that grows here. It has been described as “eating custard out of a toilet.”
Kuranda is the colorful little village in the rainforest with markets, restaurants, walking paths, butterfly sanctuary and wildlife exhibit.
17. Scenic Railway
The restored train is one of two scenic modes of transportation to/from Kuranda. It is recommended that visitors take the Scenic Railway one way and the Skyrail the other way. The rail goes through mountain vistas and stops for photos at Barron Gorge.
INTO THE CULTURE
At Tjapukai Cultural Center, visitors can explore the rich history of the world’s oldest living culture, dating back over 40,000 years.
18. Tribal dancing
Aborigine history and culture come alive with traditional music and dance. Participation encouraged at end of the presentation.
Visitors are taught the Aboriginal method of throwing a boomerang, a weapon which was used for hunting.
20. Spear throwing
The center offers a demonstration on ancient spear throwing, followed by hands-on lessons.
21. Play a Didgeridoo
This “natural wooden trumpet” was developed by indigenous Australians of northern Australia and still in widespread use around the world. Visitors can give it a try, although it takes many years of practice to produce the authentic sounds.
STAY: After trekking around the rainforest and culture park, stay at the luxurious Park Regis Piermonde Apartments. The large, self-service penthouse apartments are spacious, ultra-modern, and have with panoramic views of the Cairns marina.
ON THE ROAD
Tropical Queensland has much to offer beyond Cairns. Take a drive north to Trinity Beach and Palm Cove, or head south to Airlie Beach.
22. Trinity Beach
This sweet little beach town is a favorite with both tourists and locals alike for its laid-back atmosphere, sandy beach with shade trees, and waterfront restaurants.
23. Palm Cove
North of Trinity Beach and more established, Palm Cove is home to its own esplanade with waterfront resorts, restaurants and shops.
24. Mission Beach
Heading south to the Cassowary Coast Region, Mission Beach covers almost nine miles of beach, passing through four beach towns.
This friendly beach town is in the heart of the Great Green Way and offers outstanding views of the Coral Sea and the world famous Hinchinbrook Island, Australia’s largest Island National Park.
26. Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach, hit hard by Cyclone Debbie, is the gateway to the legendary Whitsunday Islands.
27. Paronella Park
Eco-accredited, Paronella Park is a lush rainforest and lost village beside Mena Creek Falls with ruins of a castle, picnic area by the falls, bridges, a tunnel. The park boasts 7,500 tropical plants and trees.
STAY (north): If you can imagine it, an igloo right on the beach. It’s the most quirky fun place you’ll ever stay!
STAY (south): The Cardwell Beachfront Motel is approximately halfway between Cairns and Airlie Beach. The hotel sits right on the beach with wonderful views and sunsets.
AGAINST YOUR BETTER JUDGEMENT
28. Of course, you can’t leave without trying this ubiquitous foodstuff. “He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich…” Need I say more?