Explore Tropical North Queensland

Instead of sleeping on the airport floor for 5 hours as I had planned to do, my partner and I, after the red-eye flight that was Tokyo to Cairns (then to Melbourne and to Auckland) decided to grab a rental car and hoon around the great tropical city! It was my first time in Cairns and my oh my, was it the best thing ever.

The lady at Thrifty, after hearing our eager plans to make the most of the layover suggested a place called Palm Cove – which I found out to be a tiny enclave of fine dining, luxury resorts and spectacular pools beside a palm fringed beach. We drove whilst it was still dark, trying our very best to catch the sunrise. And catch the sunrise we did. After that soul-satisfying moment we had brekkie at a really delicious cafe called Underground Palm Cove and spent the rest of the hours chilling at the beach. The time out of the airport was priceless and absolutely made the long trip back home a lot easier to deal with.

It sounds super obvious but 5 hours is certainly not enough to explore Queensland (its so big it can fit the United Kingdom into it seven times!) but instead, whet my appetite to come back for more. Over this last week I asked friends (and Facebook) for recommendations so that next time I’ll be ready to go. Below is what I have researched, which includes a world heritage listed rainforest, a trove of world-class beaches as well as what others have suggested I need to try. So pack your bags and enjoy my TOP TEN! x

 

1) Experience the largest natural wonder of the world

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest, world heritage-listed coral reef in the world where you can dive with turtles and manta rays off Lady Elliot Island, snorkel the spectacular Low Isles coral cay off Port Douglas, take a romantic scenic flight over the iconic Heart Reef, or make it your mission to find the Great 8. This reef contains a bounty of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems, coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands. And to top it off, it is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space!

2) Discover the oldest lava tubes on Earth

If you’re looking for something off the beaten track for your next long weekend road trip, the Undara Volcanic National Park is for you. How does exploring caves carved out by volcanic lava over 190,000 years ago sound?

A destination in and of itself, you can easily tackle the 3.5 hour drive to Undara Volcanic National Park in one day from Cairns. But what makes this road trip so awesome are all the other natural attractions en route. Where else can you see lava tubes, dormant volcanic craters, and waterfalls all in one weekend?

 

3) Dive with Minke whales

For six weeks of the year, Queensland offers one of the most life-changing experiences in the country.  During June and July, minke whales come to play in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North Queensland. Live-aboard vessels head out for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive and snorkel with these curious and amazing sea creatures.

4) Explore a world-heritage listed rainforest

What’s been described by Sir David Attenborough as “the most extraordinary place on Earth”, the Daintree Rainforest is special for more reasons than one.

Spanning over 17,000ha (that’s roughly 162 Sydney Harbours), the Daintree is the most famous of the six precincts that make up the Wet Tropics eco-system. In fact, this rainforest is the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest in the world, thought to be 165 million years old – trumping even the Amazon when it comes to seniority.

 

5) Get some island-time

Switch off and escape to one of Queensland’s islands. Sail the x, see the giant clams on Orpheus Island or visit the eco-friendly Heron Island off the coast of Gladstone.

Pack the car and go on a 4WD adventure on the three largest sand islands in the world. Swim in the pristine waters of Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island, surf down the sand dunes on Moreton Island and spot whales along the Gorge Walk on North Stradbroke Island.

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Heaven on earth 🌊 Via @whitsundaymonday

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6) Visit Australia’s best beach

Yep – They’ve got bragging rights. Nudey Beach in Tropical North Queensland was awarded the best beach in 2018.

And in 2017, the Trip Advisor crowned Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays as Australia’s best beach. So, Queensland has really gone back-to-back on taking out the top spot.

With squeaky white sand and piercing blue water, Whitehaven Beach even has celebrity status and has been featured in blockbuster movies such as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

7) Dive the wrecks

Queensland is home to a number of incredible dive sites and wrecks. From the SS Yongala in Townsville to the Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island, experienced and novice divers can snorkel and scuba dive around these sites. You’ll see the inhabitants of these sites come to life; from schools of fish, and reef sharks to underwater ecosystems.

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#queemsland #Repost @queensland ・・・ Hailed as one of the best dives in the world year after year, the SS Yongala is – without a doubt – a dive you need to tick off your bucket list. 🙌🐟 The #SSYongala, located off the coast of @townsvillenorthqueensland, is a 110m steamer that capsized during a storm in 1911 and remained undiscovered for nearly half a century. These days it’s one of the largest, intact shipwrecks in the world, lying 28m beneath the surface and to a myriad of marine life and vibrant soft corals.  Here you'll find manta and eagle rays, bull sharks, turtles, barracudas and a number of large pelagics. Even whale sharks have been reported to pass by during certain times of the year. #thisisqueensland by @andrewwatsonphoto with @yongala_dive #townsvilleshines

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8) Explore natural parks

Follow a walking trail or camp under the stars surrounded by nature in a National Park. Springbrook National Park is a popular attraction and just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Located in the Gold Coast Hinterland, you can explore rainforest circuits and see the picture-perfect Natural Bridge. At night, it lights up with incredible glow worms.

Or, check out Lamington National Park on the outskirts of the Scenic Rim region, it has incredible mountain views and is home to Morans Falls.

9) Watch the sunrise with wallabies

Causarina Beach a.k.a “Cape Hillsborough” in the Mackay region is a must-do for Kangaroo and Wallaby lovers. On dusk and dawn mobs of roos and wallabies venture onto the salty sand to feed, play (and sometimes box). And, you can join them to watch the sun rise or set over the water.

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Is there anything that says #Australia like a wallaby hopping along a beach at sunrise? Located just 52km from @visitmackay, is Causarina Beach in #CapeHillsborough, a National Park along the #EastCoast. You'll need a 🚙 to get to #CapeHillsborough. So, if you’re flying to #Mackay, be sure to hire a car. If you’re driving north from #Brisbane, take the #PacificCoastWay and treat yourself to unforgettable road trip. Before you arrive, book your Wallaby Tour with @rangersam_ to get up close with the wallabies at sunrise. Sam will take you the best spot on the beach to see the wallabies, teach you about the Cape Hillsborough natural ecosystem and the resident wallabies and kangaroos that visit daily. #thisisqueensland by @adventure.man.dan

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10) See turtle hatchlings

Visit the Mon Repos Turtle Centre in Bundaberg and join the wildlife rangers on a guided tour to watch the life cycle of majestic sea turtles. If you visit from November to January, you’ll watch mummy turtles nesting and if you return from January to March, you’ll be able to watch the little hatchlings emerge from the sand and scurry down to the sea.

 

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