The Great Barrier Reef
It’s the common denominator for the thousands of tourists who flood the region each week. Everyone wants to get out and see the Great Barrier Reef. With bloody good reason too!
You may have seen photos or a doco on television, but nothing comes close to seeing the bewildering colours which form this extraordinary wonder. There are dozens of operators in the region which run diving and snorkelling trips which will have you floating among the bright coral and even brighter fish.
It is also a popular destination to learn to dive but it might be worthwhile getting your ticket before you arrive in the north to save yourself a few dollars and to ensure you can make the most of your time exploring rather than worrying about your buoyancy. Don’t feel like you’re being ripped off if you can’t dive. Snorkelling on the reef is also top-notch because the coral sits just below the surface.
If it’s an adrenaline rush you’re after head two hours south to Tully and go white-water rafting on the Tully River which is in a world heritage listed rainforest. Most of the operators run day tours to take on the grade 3-4 rapids and cost about $150.
Spot a croc
This won’t be too much of a challenge in this part of the world. North Queensland is literally crawling with crocodiles but there are some good operators which will allow you to get up close safely. One of the best is Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures about 30 minutes north of Cairns which is a commercial crocodile farm. Not only do they have crocodile but there is also plenty of other native fauna for you to check out.
You can also see crocodiles in the wild on the Daintree River with a Bruce Belcher Daintree River Cruise.
It’s more resort-style, but Port Douglas is a pretty little town which is popular with visitors. If you’re just dropping in for a day-trip make it a Sunday for the local markets and then take a wander along Four Mile Beach. There’s also a couple of decent golf courses to have hit on.
Walk in the forest
For all the hype that the Great Barrier Reef gets, the Daintree Rainforest is also incredibly impressive. You’ll see trees thousands of years old and spiders the size of your head.
Daintree Rainforest has the largest range of flora and fauna on the planet and with an array of walks you could spend days exploring it.
The Atherton Tablelands is a beautiful place to go for a drive. About 600-1100 metres above sea-level the area is a mixture of farmlands, forests and rivers.
Mossman Gorge is a beautiful place to take a picnic and sit among the Daintree Rainforest. Water flows down the Mossman River over huge boulders making it a great spot for a swim – free from the crocodiles.
About 2 hours and 30 minutes north of Cairns by car, you’ll find Cape Tribulation. Affectionately known as “Cape Trib” it is basically the end of the road. While it is possible to head further north to Cooktown from here, you’ll need a 4WD to go beyond Cape Tribulation and go in the dry season, because the roads are often impassable in the wet.
Up at Cape Tribulation you can join dive boats, though they’re expensive, go sea kayaking, do night-time jungle walks, and there’s a bat zoo.
Kurand cable car
For a spectacular view in the region take a ride on the Skyrail at Kuranda. It is a 7.5km cable car across tropical rainforest and is situated about 20 minutes from Cairns.