The gateway to Queensland's tropical north
Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region are exciting and exotic, offering visitors the chance to explore not one but two World Heritage-listed areas. Snorkel or dive in to the waters of The Great Barrier Reef to take in the astounding sight of the corals and marine life. Then explore Daintree National Park – the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest. Brave a bungee tower jump in cosmopolitan Cairns or relax in the coastal townships of Mission Beach, Palm Cove or Port Douglas. While you’re at it, head over to the Tropical Tablelands, venture across the Savannah Way or learn about the history and traditions of the area’s original inhabitants at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. You can also trek to the tip of Australia’s northernmost point, the Cape York Peninsula.
Things to do
Dive, snorkel, helmet dive, “Scuba Doo opens in new window” (personal submarine) or cruise about in a glass-bottomed boat. Whatever your preferred discovery mode, you’ll soon see and understand why the Great Barrier Reef opens in new window is considered the most spectacular coral reef system and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. You can even take to the skies in a seaplane for aerial views of deserted sand cays. Adventure can be found at every turn – from diving with Minke whales, parasailing off remote island beaches, or spying on baby turtles making their first dash for freedom on the Coral Sea. Tour operators depart daily from Cairns, Mission Beach and Port Douglas, offering certified, introductory scuba, snorkelling and live-aboard courses, as well as glass-bottomed cruises, helmet diving and motorised underwater scooters.
It takes a village
Discover the coastal villages of Palm Cove opens in new window (pictured) and Port Douglas opens in new window. Palm Cove is quiet and relaxing with ancient “paperbark” (Melaleuca trees) lining its esplanade. You’ll cherish your tropical getaway in the serene yet sophisticated surrounds. Port Douglas is a tropical oasis, one hour’s drive north of Cairns, via a spectacular route encompassing forest and the Coral Sea. Despite its location, Port Douglas offers worldly comforts with a disarming friendly village atmosphere. It’s a place of transformation, where people come to refresh, restore and revitalise. Spend time in the aquamarine waters of the Coral Sea, the crystal creeks of Mossman Gorge or the palm-fringed golden sands of Four Mile Beach.
Journey into the past
Tropical North Queensland is home to Australia’s ancient evergreen rainforests steeped in Indigenous heritage and mystery. The cascading waterfalls and giant Kauri pines are part of the surroundings known as “home” to one-quarter of the country’s frog population, one-third of mammals and freshwater fish and nearly half of the nation’s birdlife. A must-see and do on any would-be Northern Queensland traveller’s list, Mossman Gorge opens in new window is an absolute highlight.
Leap of faith
AJ Hackett Bungy opens in new window offers 16 different jump styles including the Minjin Jungle Swing – a user-controlled contraption that allows for three people to jump and swing through the jungle, travelling 45m per 3.5 seconds at a speed of up to 120km per hour. There’s a bar and viewing deck for those who’d prefer to sit this one out.
McGregor Road, Smithfield, tel: +61 (7) 4057 7188
The sky’s the limit
Venture deep into the forest onboard the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway opens in new window. A world first in environmental tourism, the cable-operated gondolas will have you suspended for either a 90-minute (one way) or 2.5-hour (return trip) tour above Australia’s World Heritage-listed rainforest. Choose to begin or conclude your journey at the Caravonica or Kuranda. Better still, the Skyrail can be combined with other attractions (including the Kuranda Scenic Railway) for the ultimate half- or full-day regional tour.
Travel time 10 minutes
Taxi Approx AUD $25
Sun Palm Shuttle Meets all flights. Adults AUD $16 to Cairns; from AUD $27 to Nth Beaches, on to Port DouglasBack to top
When to go
Cairns is best described as having two seasons: wet and dry. The wet or “green” summer season begins in December and runs through to February or March. The cool, dry winter season arrives in April or May and generally lasts until September. October and November, which are regarded as “in-between months”, are the peak period for diving as the conditions are typically ideal.
Water temperatures on the reef range from 22°C (winter) to 29°C (summer) so there’s really no bad time to go. The same holds true for the rainforest, which is never more lovely than when it’s in full bloom. July and August offer the chance to see Minke and Humpback whales as they migrate up the coast and November marks the annual coral spawning, a spectacular sight.Back to top
The main taxi rank is located on Lake Street in the city centre. Call 131 008 or visit Black and White Cabs opens in new window. Sunbus opens in new window is a cheap and reliable mode of transportation. It travels to the suburbs, northern beaches and Palm Cove, with additional services to the smaller towns of Atherton Tablelands, Cooktown, Kuranda, Mission Beach and Port Douglas.Back to top