North Queensland: it’s the epitome of tropical Australia, with sweeping coastlines, lush forests and endless natural wonders. This area covers diverse landscapes from the tropical hub of Cairns to the cool Atherton Tablelands to the fishing haven Karumba.
Whether you love road trips along the coast, exploring national parks or wandering from one regional town to the next, there are countless free and fabulous things to do in tropical North Queensland that will let you make memories without blowing your holiday budget.
The Great Barrier Reef drive
Spanning from Cairns all the way up the coast to Cape Tribulation is one of the most scenic road trips in the world. With the Great Barrier Reef on one side and stunning tropical rainforests on the other, you’ll be able to see why people travel from all over the world to catch a glimpse. You can fly into Cairns Airport and then road trip up the coast at any pace you see fit, taking in Port Douglas, the Great Barrier Reef, Mossman Gorge and Daintree Rainforest.
For those wanting to venture out to sea, download The 60-plus’ Essential Guide to Tropical North Queensland for 40% off Fitzroy Island transfers and get your toes wet on the Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re loading up the van and driving all the way from home, take a look at these caravan hotspots for the best places to stay.
Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation coastline drive
Home to Four Mile Beach, resorts, restaurants and boutiques, Port Douglas is the place to be for a taste of luxury. The drive from this seaside town to Cape Tribulation takes just under two hours, but allocate a couple of days so you can explore the Daintree River, the Jindalba Boardwalk, Cow Bay and Cape Tribulation fully.
Keep in mind that you will have to take the ferry across the Daintree River to reach Cape Tribulation if you are travelling this holiday season: while the ferry operates from 6.00am to midnight every day, it will be closed for Christmas Day. It takes about 10 minutes to cross the river and costs $30 return.
If you’re an animal lover, download this e-Guide and claim your free entry to Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome when you’re next in Port Douglas.
Who says that tropical North Queensland is just for beach lovers? If waterfalls, rural towns, wineries and rainforests are your thing, the Atherton Tablelands can’t be missed. Drive from the famous Paronella Park to the Crystal Caves and take in Millstream Falls National Park and Golden Pride Winery. A road trip through the Atherton Tablelands takes in tropical North Queensland’s gorgeous inland wonders.
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Discovering castles hidden deep in the rainforest at @paronellapark ???????? Set on 5 hectares beside Mena Creek Falls Jose Paronella built his castle, picnic area by the falls, tennis courts, bridges, a tunnel, and wrapped it up in an amazing range of 7,500 tropical plants and trees (now a lush rainforest!). Photo by @tourismindex #exploreTNQ
Barron Gorge National Park
Barron Gorge National Park can be accessed from either Lake Placid or from a higher perspective, right near Kuranda, with the cable car Skyrail. You’ll want to bring your camera on this journey! If there has been rainfall in the days leading up to your visit, the waterfall will be in full force, with impressive amounts of water cascading down to the lower basin. If you drive up to the National Park, entry is free, but if you decide to try the Skyrail, it will cost $55 for an adult (one way).
If you’re planning to visit soon, download this e-Guide and save money on a one-way Skyrail Experience.
Mossman Gorge National Park
Did you know that Mossman Gorge is part of the Daintree Rainforest, which is 135 million years old? Home to one of the most popular waterholes in Australia, this national park is filled with countless walking tracks that are well maintained. It can be accessed by a shuttle bus for a small fee of $11.80 per adult. You can park your car at the Mossman Gorge Centre and then hop on the bus, which takes you into the heart of the park.
Daintree National Park
Daintree National Park backs onto the Great Barrier Reef, which means that you’ll be able to see two UNESCO world heritage sites as you venture into the national park. The park’s highlight is the richly varied flora and fauna, with 30,000 species per 120,000 hectares of forest. If you venture to the Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre, you can explore countess circuits and a canopy tower from just $35 for an adult.
Looking for a secluded beach, but don’t want to venture too far from the convenience of Cairns city? Ellis Beach is for you! Just 35 minutes from Cairns by car, this is the place to be if you’re wanting to relax. There’s a swimming net and calm tide, which is perfect to experience a classic Aussie day at the beach.
Four Mile Beach
Perfect for sunrise and sunset walks, Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas encapsulates the essence of tropical North Queensland, with palm trees, rolling mountains and blue water. To top it off, at the north end of the beach you will find magical rockpools perfect for exploring.
Nestled in between Cairns and Port Douglas is Palm Cove. Resorts line cobblestoned esplanades that back onto the beach. This place is a classic tropical paradise and is perfect for those looking to surf, swim or sunbathe daily off the beaten tourist track, without sacrificing the conveniences of a good hotel or resort.
If you’re planning to stay in Palm Cove, take advantage of the deal on page 15 of this e-Guide and enjoy a free breakfast for 2 and late checkout at Hotel Grand Chancellor Palm Cove.
Searching for more discounts, deals and everything in between? Download The 60-plus’ Essential Guide to Tropical North Queensland e-Guide now!