Find your true north: Australia’s best tropical holidays

Swap your four walls for waterfalls and explore Australia’s tropic wonders.

Palm Cove beach with sand, palm trees and water in the foreground, island in the background.
  • Jetstar
  • September 2020

Diving under a waterfall, snorkelling a coral reef. Hiking through ancient rainforest, sundowners by the sea. A mango smoothie from a market stall, a nap in a beachside hammock. An excuse to wear loud prints.

Whatever a trip to the tropics means to you, we have you covered.

Cairns

Go for: rainforest and reefs, outdoor activities, island getaways

Palm-fringed beaches, coral reefs, lush rainforest. Cairns is a tropical-holiday box checker.

A quick boat ride will see you snorkelling, diving or underwater-scootering the Great Barrier Reef opens in new window. And ambling at an island pace on Green opens in new window or Fitzroy opens in new window islands – perhaps staying a while.

A short drive will lead you to the ancient, equally great, Wet Tropics Rainforest. Take the Kuranda Scenic Railway opens in new window to rattle past spectacular waterfalls, and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway opens in new window to see World Heritage-listed fronds from a gondola.

And if those heights don’t terrify you, outdoor adventure opens in new window opportunities abound: bungee jumping, jungle swings, sky diving, white-water rafting… name your white-knuckle ride.

Or, hide away in a rainforest retreat on the Mossman River, in the Daintree Rainforest. Make a treetop cabin your base, and explore the lush Mossman Gorge opens in new window at your own pace.

If relaxed, upscale beach tropical is more your style, book a stay in a Port Douglas opens in new window or Palm Cove opens in new window beachfront resort. Think fine dining and boutique shopping along with long, white-sand, palm-fringed beaches.

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Boardwalk surrounded by tropical rainforest in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland.
Tropical rainforest boardwalk, Cairns

Darwin

Best for: sunsets, outdoor adventure, nature and wildlife, food

Sunsets over the Arafura Sea, magnificent food, a history hub and gateway to spectacular national parks.

Immerse yourself in local art, history and legends (meet Sweetheart!) at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory opens in new window. Or with crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove opens in new window. You can even cage dive, if nightmares are your thing. Swim safely at the Recreation Lagoon opens in new window on the waterfront, and if you have little tackers in tow, don’t miss the Wave Lagoon opens in new window.

Take in the Territory’s finest hour on a sunset harbour catamaran cruise, or with a sundowner on the lawn of the laid-back, fairy-lit Darwin Ski Club opens in new window. Time your visit with the Mindil Beach Sunset Market opens in new window for a picnic on the beach with the locals, and the best Southeast Asian food you’ll ever get without crossing a border. Settle in to see all the stars at Deckchair Cinema opens in new window.

Beyond the city, explore famous, fascinating Kakadu National Park opens in new window. Take a tour or pack your own canvas to explore ancient land and Indigenous culture here. Take in sweeping views from escarpments, explore wetlands, plunge pools and waterfalls. Closer to town, spend outdoorsy days at Litchfield National Park opens in new window, where hikes are rewarded with safe swimming holes crowned with waterfalls. Angling for some reel excitement? Book a bluewater fishing opens in new window charter.

If you aren’t lying about being the outdoors type, Darwin is your town.

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People swimming at Florence Falls swimming hole in Litchfield National Park.
Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park

Townsville and Magnetic Island

Best for: island getaways, nature and wildlife, beachfront family fun

Tropical reefs, historic shipwreck, secluded beach coves, hikes, and the largest living reef aquarium.

In Townsville, head straight to The Strand opens in new window to immerse yourself in beachfront life. Stroll the boardwalk, make a splash in the sea or SUP. Take littlies to rockpools, the waterpark and playground. Wander out to the jetty, where you can see the Museum of Underwater Art’s Ocean Siren opens in new window – and plan your snorkel or dive tour to explore its coral greenhouse.

Snorkel or dive the S.S. Yongala, Australia’s largest intact shipwreck and one of the world’s top-rated dive sites. Or wade out to the S.S. City of Adelaide at low tide.

Stay dry exploring the Great Barrier Reef at Reef HQ Aquarium opens in new window, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. Hike (or drive) to Castle Hill opens in new window for 360-degree views of Townsville and across to Magnetic Island opens in new window – your island getaway.

A 20-minute ferry trip will see you on your tropical island holiday. Hire a ‘topless’ car or an old-school Mini Moke to explore secluded beach coves (23 in total), walking tracks and wildlife. Follow a self-guided snorkel trail at Geoffrey or Nelly bays. Hike the Forts Walk for spectacular island views and koala spotting. Meet the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay and more wildlife at Bungalow Bay Koala Village.

Swim, snorkel, sail and kayak, or just choose your favourite patch of sand and dive into a good book. Bunk down in hostel dorms, holiday homes or five-star resorts, and give yourself time to take it all in.

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The Strand beach, Townsville, white sand and palm trees in the foreground, ocean, jetty and Magnetic Island in the background.
The Strand, Townsville, and Magnetic Island