Tropical North Queensland & The Great Barrier Reef
Tropical North Queensland is home to some of the most amazing landscapes known to man kind. Its diversity and beauty is inexplainably remarkable, and something everybody must experience in their lifetime! Here you can explore the magic of the oldest and most protected rainforest in the world, experience the underwater wonders of the Great Barrier reef, take a dip in Australias ‘best beach’ voted 2018, and adventure to endless waterfalls upon waterfalls.
This part of Australia has been high on my bucket list for years, so when we were deciding on a location to create our very first youtube travel video/vlog, we knew TNQ was the perfect place! Today I am writing this blog, not only to share with you my personal experiences, but to also help assist you in planning your trip to the beautiful North coast of Queensland, and map out the best spots for those instagram shots!
How we got there
Best option is to fly into Cairns, which is super easy from any main airport in Australia. We flew from Brisbane return for $250. Bargain I say. Best money you’ll ever spend! We always search and book flights through Sky Scanner.
How we got around
I recommend either hiring a camper van or car to get around, which is super easy to organise in Cairns. We hired a Jucy Campervan which is a super popular and affordable Australian owned camper van company. Highly recommend! Otherwise there are plenty of care hire companies in Cairns to enquire within
Areas we explored
Time to share my favourite segment! These are the areas we explore (in order).
SOUTH OF CAIRNS AND THE ATHERTON TABLELANDS
After arriving mid afternoon and picking up our Jucy Van, we decided to drive 2 hours south to Mission Beach to catch the sunset. If you are running short of time, I would recommend skipping Mission Beach, as there are plenty of beaches with Palm trees you can explore that aren’t that far south. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and we witnessed an insane sunset!
If you are feeling up for a super rewarding adventure/hike, YOU MUST visit Windin Falls. Located in a remote area of the Atherton Tablelands, this waterfall has an enchanting uniqueness to it, a uniqueness that initially drew me towards it in the first place! This waterfall is like no other. In fact, it isn’t actually the enchanting part, but instead a natural infinity pool located at the waterfalls peak, overlooking a world heritage lush tropical rainforest. So after hiking for an hour, you will be rewarding with the earth greatest natural bath!
The hike is relatively easy, and takes around 45 mins - 1hr each way. Find directions here.
Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls is another beautiful waterfall located in the Atherton tablelands that I recommend visiting whilst in the area. There are also plenty other waterfalls in this area, that can be explored on a waterfall circuit through the tablelands. Find more information here.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit all, so instead spent the afternoon swimming and showering underneath the light flow of Millaa Millaa waterfall. As it was dry season (May - Oct), the water wasn’t flowing heavily, thus allowing us to actually stand underneath and take a phenomenal natural shower. It was utter utter bliss! Of course, if you visit in the wet season you won’t be able to stand underneath as it will be too heavy. Don’t stress about that though, as It is way more beautiful to look at from the waters edge when it is flowing. Millaa Millaa is the most iconic waterfall in the area due to its wonderful fairytale like setting.
Extremely easy 2 minute from the car park.
cairns & the great barrier reef
TNQ is blessed with the breathtaking natural wonder if the world, the earths largest coral reef/living thing on earth (visible from outer space), and a world heritage UNESCO protected site; The Great Barrier Reef. It was my first time visiting the reef, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect after hearing about the damages caused by global warming and bleaching. I half expected to leave feeling disappointed, but can I just say how wrong I was, and how wrong the media portrays the reef look like. It is an unbelievably, heart stopping, remarkable sight that honestly brought me to tears. In saying this, the reef is still suffering and in danger from coral bleaching, so please do some research and choose a diving and snorkelling company that is ecologically sustainable and certified. You are looking for this badge within a company to ensure they are eco friendly. You can read more about choosing a high standard tourism operation here.
I highly recommend Divers Den as a tourism operation. They offer intro dives at a low cost, snorkelling day trips, PADI courses, all out of Cairns and Port Douglas. We did 2 intro dives out of cairns and 2 intro dives out of Port Douglas. We visited some of the GBR best dive sites including Fish Bowl (Cairns) & AginCourt (Port Douglas). Both experiences were a 10/10! After my personal encounter with the reef, I had an instant instinct to protect it from any further harm! Each individual can help make an impact in the perseveration of the reef and heres how. All of these suggestions are simple steps you can implement in your daily life and if you ever decide to visit the reef. Lets all make a positive impact as individuals!!
How YOU can help save the reef!
Follow reef etiquette when diving. Choose operators that are eco certified
follow the three Rs, reduce, recycle, reuse
Help reduce plastic waste. Buy food with less packaging, buy in bulk, buy loose vegetables instead of packaged, switch to reusable shopping bags
Reduce meat consumption, dairy and seafood consumption as much as possible! This is super important to try implement into your daily life.
Support conservation organisations and marine parks through donations, volunteering, paying visitor fees. Just by visiting the reef you are helping the conservation from paying a mandatory Environmental Management Charge aka “reef tax” which contributes to the day-to-day management of the Marine Park.
Reduce Fossil Fuel emissions: drive less, walk, cycle, skate, use public transport, combine errands, car share.
Educate yourself. Do more research and learn more about the reef. That way it can help you understand why it needs saving.
Read more information about saving the reefs through the link below:
If you are planning a trip to Cairns, you MUST NOT miss Fitzroy Island. It was by far, one of my favourite spots on our whole trip. You wouldn’t want to skip out on the best beach in Australia would you?! Didn’t think so!
This island is the definition of PARADISE and can easily be accessed by a short 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns. CLICK HERE to find out all information on prices, tours, times etc. A return ticket is $79AUD per adult and $39AUD for child. You can organise a day trip or stay the night (which I recommend). You won’t want to leave!
There is only one resort on the island, that can easily be booked through this link BOOK HERE. The resort was only finished in 2010 so the rooms are really clean, and also accommodate a full kitchen. So if you want to cook and save a bit of money (as the restaurants are a little expensive), bring some of your own groceries over.
Now you are probably wondering what there is to do over the course of two days on such a small island? Well, there is plenty! Spending the entire time on Nudey Beach would have been sufficient enough for me!
Heres what you can do during you stay on Fitroy Island.
Explore and swim in the aqua water of Nudey Beach. Voted the best beach in Australia 2018, you will see why once you catch sight of it with your own eyes! You have to take about a 20 minute walk/hike (easy) to get to the beach from the resort.
Book a sailing trip around the island for a couple of hours. We took the scenic sail trip and absolutely loved it! Please keep in mind you will have to bring your own alcohol on board, and they don’t really cater to vegetarians or vegans with snacks. More information and booking details here.
Go snorkelling or diving. Fitzroy island has amazing lively colourful reef with plenty of turtles hanging about. We are pleasantly surprised with how colourful the reef was. The best spot to snorkel is out around the white rock which is located at Welcome Bay on the North end. You can also snorkel at Nudey Beach.
Enjoy a number of Watersports offered up by the Dive and Adventure centres on the island. More info here.
Visit the turtle rehabilitation centre. Although we didnt have time to visit, it is highly recommended activity to do whilst on the island. Read more information and make bookings here.
Hike to the summit of Fitzroy. Fitzroy has a national park hiking trails and one that leads to the summit with 360 views of the island and its surroundings. Read more information here.
Only a 40 minute drive from Cairns, Palm Cove is a beautiful, quiet, relaxing area that is abundantly crowded with hundreds of palm trees lining the entire esplanade. I recommend watching the sunrise from the front of the Absolute Beachfront at Alamanda 41 (see photos). Its a stunning spot for photos.
That morning, we were approached by two couples that followed us on instagram. We were honestly so humbled by it, to have someone come up and say they love your work is something that would make anybodys day! We ended up sitting for coffee with one of the couples we had been chatting with. They were incredibly friendly, and secretly paid for our drinks. Sweethearts! Follow their account here. They are about to embark on a trip around Australia!
NORTH OF CAIRNS - PORT DOUGLAS/DAINTREE RAINFOREST/CAPE TRIBULATION
Port Douglas is a great base if you are interested in visiting Mossman Gorge, Daintree rainforest, Great Barrier Reef & Cape Tribulation. If you are looking into either port Douglas or Cairns as a base during your holiday I would recommend staying in Port Douglas as it is a quieter and more scenic area.
We took a day trip with Divers Den out to the reef for a day whilst staying in Port Douglas, and I highly recommend! The reef is spectacular out of Port Douglas and offers some of the greatest dive spots along the GBR.
Thala Beach Nature Reserve
Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a resort near Port Douglas, but the main attraction of this place is actually the grand palm tree entrance! We visited this nature reserve at sunset to capture a unique perspective beneath the palms at golden hour. Was so beautiful!
located in the south of of the world heritage Daintree Rainforest, Mosman Gorge is one of the biggest tourists attractions in North Queensland. People are drawn here for the crystal clear, pure water and dramatic granite rock formations perched beneath the older rainforest in the world. We unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit so I don’t be sharing any personal photos from here.
You can read more information about Mossman Gorge through this link.
Daintree Rainforest (where the rainforest meets the reef)
Take a guided tour through the oldest living rainforest in the world; 135 million year old rainforest that is said to put the Amazon to shame! One of the most incredible and unique aspects of this rainforest is that it backs straight onto the ocean. There are plenty of tours that allow tourist to immerse themselves into hidden water holes, croc sightings, overnight stays at rainforest bungalows & much more!
Our last stop on your week road trip, Cape Tribulation. We only had 1 day left to explore what TNQ had to offer so we decided to take the day to road trip from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation. We drove straight to Cape Tribulation beach, but there are plenty of other amazing locations to stop and visit on the way. I recently stumbled across this blog post that has a great list of road trip stops including beaches, cafes, lookouts etc. LINK TO BLOG HERE.
I absolutely LOVED Cape Tribulation and recommend taking the drive up, even if you only have a day to spare. The drive is incredibly scenic, taking you through the heart of the Daintree and along the coastline. Cape Tribulation beach looks like a scene out of Jurassic Park, with its complete isolation from civilisation and the thick jungle mountain peaks lining the very rim of the ocean.
Please don’t go swimming or fall asleep on the beach here though! They ocean is full of crocodiles! Like I said, this place is something out of Jurassic park haha!
I have included a fun road trip map from Port Douglas to Cape tribulation, including all the spots to stop along the way
All photos have been edited with my custom made Lightroom Presets.