When thinking about Australia, the red sand of the outback is one of the first things coming to mind and talking about the tropics may sound weird. However, Australia’s northeastern tip is home to a tropical area like no other in the world: rainforests, large rivers, golden beaches, lakes and waterfalls, palm trees, and a unique flora&fauna characterize the surrounding of Cairns, the major city in the north of Queensland, better referred to as Tropical North Queensland (TNQ) or Far North Queensland (FNQ). Indeed, we are located far from Australia’s biggest cities, Melbourne is about 3.000 km away…
WHAT TO DO IN CAIRNS, TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND
The weather in TNQ is warm all year round, with a hot rainy season in Summer (November to February) and a lovely Winter at 25°C of average (June to August). For all these reasons, Cairns is a trending holiday destination, let’s see the best things to do and see around.
CAIRNS & NORTHERN BEACHES
Dozens of tours and activities are available daily leaving from Cairns. The Wet Tropics Rainforest is few km’s away, don’t miss the chance to glide over it thanks to the spectacular Skyrail Cableway, alternatively you could ride right trough it hopping on board the Kuranda Scenic Railway Train. Diving and snorkeling lovers, how does the Great Barrier Reef sound to you as your swimming place? If you prefer bathing into freshwater, Crystal Cascades are a short drive from the CBD too. For the more relaxed of you, reach one of the beautiful beaches few minutes North to Cairns, where you can enjoy both sunrise and sunset facing the ocean under the palm trees.
TIP: Cairns Lagoon on the Esplanade is a city free public swimming pool open everyday, ideal to cool down during hot sunny days.
EXTRA TIP: Rusty Market opens to public every weekend starting on Friday, if you visit on Sunday late morning you can grab great deals on the best tropical fruits!
The 45 minute drive leading to Port Douglas is worth alone the trip: the winding road offers sights of the rainforest on the left and the Coral Sea on the right, with amazing viewpoints. You will find your spot on popular Four Mile Beach, don’t miss the view from above via a short trek. Pay a visit to Mossman Gorge to enjoy cool waters in the middle of the jungle, whilst Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat will allow you to meet Australia’s most famous fauna, including koalas, crocs and kangaroos.
DAINTREE & CAPE TRIBULATION
The Daintree Rainforest is a massive 180 million years old, that’s more than the Amazon! Daintree is with no doubt the best area to witness the rainforest ecosystem in all its wilderness. In this remote region you will immerse yourself in nature: see crocodiles in the Daintree River, spot the iconic cassowary, and keep your head up to admire the unbelievable tree formations. Appreciate the view at Alexandra Lookout and finish your day at Cape Tribulation Beach, a long strip between the forest and the sea. Checkout Jungle Tours and Trekking to know more about day trips to Daintree.
For a glimpse of aboriginal culture, stop by the colorful village of Kuranda, in the heart of the rainforest. Here you’ll find art galleries and exhibitions, quirky shops showcasing boomerangs and didgeridoos, traditional ornamental and decoration objects. Tropic Wings Tours have a wide range of activities including a visit to Rainforestation Nature Park, where you can attend Aboriginal Dance performances to get a deeper understanding of local traditions, other than coming closer to Australian fauna. For a complete experience in Kuranda, head to the majestic Barron Falls, Queensland’s most visited waterfall.
The Atherton Tablelands are located one hour inland from Cairns, at a few hundreds meters altitude, which creates a much cooler climate compared to the coast. Nature plays the leading role again: national parks abound, including Wooroonooran and Crater Lakes National Park, and you can choose between Milla Milla, Zillie and more falls for a dip at the 17-km-long Waterfall Circuit. Moreover, explore the surroundings for an opportunity to spot rare animals like the tree-kangaroo and the peculiar platypus. Home to thousands of farms, the Tablelands are popular for foreign Working Holiday Visa makers looking for a farm job. The sweetest tropical fruits like mangoes, papayas, avocados and bananas are grown widely, together with some of the best coffee of Australia.
HOTELS – WHERE TO STAY AROUND CAIRNS?
- You can book all accommodation in Australia with free cancellation here.
- Pacific Hotel Cairns: excellent value at this 4-star-hotel located at walking distance from the Esplanade. Modern sea view rooms, great breakfast and dining options too. Read our full review post here.
- Janna Rooms on Airbnb, Cairns: this has been our first home in Australia for a few weeks. A nice Queenslander house, ideal for longer stays. The owners are a lovely couple of young Australians, say hi to them if you go! Check deals here, up to 55$ off.
- Grand Barron Lodge Kuranda: experience staying in a classic wooden lodge with high ceilings, immersed in the rainforest overlooking the Barron River.
- Port Douglas: hundreds of accommodation are available in Port Douglas, from backpackers hostel to high end beach resorts. We suggest Ramada Resort by Wyndham for a great value for money at walking distance from Four Mile Beach.
HOW TO GET AROUND?
- Car: rent your private car to be free to create your schedule and reach any place in Tropical North Queensland. The cheapest options start from 19€/day, and fuel in Australia in only 1€ per litre! (1.50AUD)
- Public bus: local buses are a good way to go in Cairns and Northern Beaches. Buses ride everyday between Cairns and Palm Cove, fares are from 2$/ride or 7$/day.
- Tours/Private bus: you’ll be impressed by how well organised tour operators are up here. In one day only you can see the beach, the ocean, the rainforest and the outback all together. Prices may seem expensive at first, but considering they include meals, transfers and entry tickets to parks and reserves, which are not cheap, they are really worth the money if you don’t drive a car yourself. We recommend Tropic Wings Tours and Jungle Tours and Trekking
- Train: distances in Australia are so big that is definitely more convenient to fly from one region to the next. However, Kuranda Scenic Railway is a historic route not to be missed when staying in Cairns.
- Airplane: Cairns is well linked to all Australian destinations, plus it is only 1h30 flight away from Bali, Indonesia. We actually touched ground in Australia our first time landing in Cairns flying direct from Denpasar Bali.
WEATHER – WHEN TO GO TO TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND?
TNQ couldn’t have but a tropical climate: Summers (Nov-Feb) are hot and extremely humid, it is indeed rainy season in Cairns: thunderstorms are a daily matter and temperatures reach 40°C when the sun is shining. Winter (May-Sep) is the perfect time to visit Tropical North Queensland, it is also peak season for tourism: the average temperature is 25°C, mostly sunny and dry, and you may need a sweater for the cool nights.
April and October may be your best option to avoid extreme hot and big tourist crowds.
DO I NEED A TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes you do. Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.