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Tropical North Queensland

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Tropical North Queensland is the perfect destination to explore some of Australia’s best natural wonders. The region is home to both the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, as well countless waterfalls and tropical beaches. Whether you are looking for a relaxed tropical holiday, or are up for some adventure, North Queensland has something for everyone.

I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in North Queensland, so you can really make the most of your time in the region.

The Best Things to do in Tropical North Queensland

Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef

If you’ve ever wanted to swim next to a sea turtle or amongst a massive school of fish, then snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef is a must do experience. The reef is one of the seven Wonders of the Natural World, and can even be seen from Space. It is home to more than 1500 species of fish, as well as colourful corals, sea turtles, giant clams, sting rays and reef sharks.

Tours to the reef depart from Cairns, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation in North Queensland. They range from half day tours, to longer full day experiences. Tours include masks, flippers, and stinger or wetsuits, as well as flotation devices. This means that everyone can enjoy the reef, even if you have never snorkelled before. Be sure not to touch anything or stand on the coral whilst out on the water to protect both you and the vulnerable corals and marine life.

things to do in cape tribulation snorkel with turtles
Turtle up close in Cape Tribulation

Visit a Waterfall

North Queensland has no shortage of waterfalls, and best of all they are free to explore. Josephine falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, and is just an hour drive from Cairns. The falls require a gentle 1.2km walk through the rainforest, which leads to a decked viewing area. Ensure that you only swim in the designated swimming area, as conditions elsewhere can be hazardous.

Another great option is to follow the Waterfall Circuit, which includes Milla Milla Falls, Zillie Falls, and Ellinjaa Falls. Milla Milla Falls is said to be one of the most photographed falls in Australia, so make sure you bring your camera. The falls have a swimming safe pool at the bottom, as well as a grassy picnic area for you to enjoy.

millaa millaa falls atherton tablelands
The famous Millaa Millaa Falls in Atherton Tablelands

Free or Cheap Things To Do in Cairns

Take a dip in a water hole

Swimming holes are great way to cool off from the hot Queensland sun, and are also budget friendly. There are two beautiful swimming holes in Cape Tribulation, both of which are safe to swim in.

Masons swimming hole is located at the back of the Masons Café. The swimming spot is just a minute walk from the café, and they ask for a gold coin donation to assist in the upkeep. Once there, enjoy the clear green water and fish swimming around your feet before grabbing lunch at the café.

Another 15 minutes up the road you will find Emmegan Creek. To the left of the crossing there is a path that will lead you to the swimming hole. This deep pool also has crystal clear water, as well as a rope swing.

Visit a Tropical Island

Fitzroy Island, located off the coast of Cairns, is the ultimate island paradise. The island has multiple hiking tracks, a turtle rehabilitation centre, and abundant wildlife. If you’re up for a bit of adventure, snorkelling gear, stand up paddle boards, and sea kayaks can be hired from the dive centre. The Island is also home to Nudey beach, which was named Australia’s best beach in 2017. This secluded beach is just a 15 minute walk through the rainforest from the Island’s pier. After a busy day of exploring you can grab a cocktail from the poolside bar and settle in for a spectacular sunset.

Fitzroy Island is accessed via a 45 minute ferry ride from the Marina in Cairns. The Island can be enjoyed on a day trip, or you can opt to stay overnight at the resort or campground.

fitzroy island walks
The views from the walking tracks on Fitzroy Island

Walk through the Daintree Rainforest

Wandering through the oldest rainforest on Earth is a highlight of visiting Tropical North Queensland. The Daintree is 180 million years old, and is the largest rainforest in Australia. There are many ways in which you can experience this incredible wonder, from Indigenous led tours, to self-guided walks.

The Mossman Gorge centre offers a self-guided walk through the rainforest, and is a great budget way to experience the Daintree. At the end of your walk you can take a dip in the clear waters of the Gorge. For a unique perspective of the Daintree, take a zip lining tour with Jungle Surfing in Cape Tribulation. The tours go for two hours, and offer great views of the rainforest as well as the Great Barrier Reef.

dubuji boardwalk daintree rainforest
Dubuji Boardwalk Daintree Rainforest Walk

Relax on the beach

An hour north of Cairns lays Port Douglas, a relaxed beachside town. Port Douglas is home to Four Mile Beach, which features a huge expanse of golden sand and turquoise water. The large stretch of sand is perfect for bike riding, walking or simply relaxing on.

Walking up to the Flagstaff Hill Lookout is another highlight of the area. The short walk offers stunning views over Four Mile Beach and the surrounding islands. Port Douglas also has a vibrant café scene, as well as many boutique shops.

Make sure you also check out Cairns northern beaches.

Top North Queensland travelling tips

  • It is important to be aware of crocodile and stinger safety when swimming in North Queensland. Pay attention to signage at beaches and swimming holes, and ask locals for advice if unsure.
  • The wet season runs from November to April, so expect bursts of rain throughout the day during these months.
  • If travelling up to Cape Tribulation, be aware that there is little phone reception. This is all part of the adventure, but grabbing a map in Cairns or Port Douglas will make your stay easier.
  • The area is home to many Indigenous communities, so be sure to respect the local culture.

Author: Tessa is a travel and nature lover from Australia. She shares all of her best travel tips on her blog See You There Travels.

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