Whether it's an adventure packed holiday, some R&R or a fascinating lesson in culture and history - North Queensland packs a lot into a small space. Here, we show you the top destinations and things to do in North Queensland.
Ancient rainforests, majestic waterfalls, glittering beaches fringed by world-heritage reef - sound like some exotic, far flung destination? Nope, it's right on our doorstep. Eat, fall in love and become immersed in all that North Queensland has to offer.
1. Eat your way through Atherton Tablelands
The fact that it’s known as the “food bowl of the tropics” would be enough to tempt most travellers, but it’s when you start to see the sheer array of farms, roadside stalls, cellar doors, providores and restaurants offering up gourmet fare that your mouth really starts to water.
Foodies – and anyone else for that matter - could easily spend a few days criss-crossing the region, fortified with caffeine from one of Australia’s oldest coffee plantation, Skybury. When you’re full up to the eyeballs, cool off in the 10,000 year old volcanic crater lakes of Barrine and Eacham and then retire for the night in your own rainforest retreat.
2. Follow the footsteps of early explorers from Cooktown to Cape York
If you’re a history buff with a hankering for adventure, then you can’t go past the journey from Cooktown to Cape York. Best navigated by a 4WD, the endless jolting down dirt roads, red dust, flies, arid bush land and blistering heat are just part of the epic adventure.
Connect with the local aborginal culture through ancient rock paintings, trace Cook’s footsteps after he arrived banks of the Endeavour River in 1770, stalk the stories of lawless bushrangers and stop for a beer at one of the many historical pubs, and let the colorful locals regale you with tales of yesteryear. Exploring what is one of Australia’s true last frontiers will definitely give you a few stories to write home about.
3. Fall in love with Mother Nature in the Daintree
No visit to North Queensland is complete without experiencing the famed world-heritage listed rainforest. Be dwarfed by towering trees and magnificent palms and awestruck by the astounding biodiversity that’s been refined for over 170 million years - the Daintree is home to a third of Australia’s mammals, a quarter of its frogs and nearly half the country’s bird species.
The best way to see it is to lace up your comfiest hiking boots and explore the area by foot with a guide, or jump on one of the many four wheel and eight wheel drive tours. You can even catch a ferry to more remote parts of the rainforest. Venture out of your tree house at night when the forest will really put on a show - nocturnal birds, frogs and mammals join an ear-splitting chorus of nightlife.
4. Get your history lesson on Thursday Island
Nestled in the Torres straight between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, Thursday Island is a hotbed for cultural exploration, fusing a fascinating blend of Melanesian, Polynesian, Asian, European and Australian Aboriginal cultures.
Wander the local galleries, community markets, explore the relics of the pearling industry, the majestic colonial architecture and spot plenty of local wildlife along the way. And after all that excitement, relax on the untouched beaches and snorkel the reef. A great destination for families.
5. Go walkabout in the Gulf Savannah
This vast savannah landscape is where dramatic sandstone gorges, clear water oasis’, ancient lava tubes and rugged grasslands all form the theatrical backdrop for the story of pioneers seeking their fortunes in the gold rush, drovers herding their cattle, nomadic aboriginal tribes and brave explorers. See it either by 4WD or the spectacular Savannahlander train route.
6. Get romantic at Paronella Park
One of the true gems of the far north is Paronella Park - a rambling castle built by Spaniard and romantic visionary Jose Paronella in 1929. Featuring a tennis court, leisure gardens, fountains, bridges, a tunnel, a theatre hall, picnic area and Australia’s first hydro-electric power source, the heritage-listed property just oozes old world glamour and it’s walls whisper the secrets of the decadent parties during the roaring twenties. Constantly ranked on Queensland's ‘must do’ lists, this unique location will you have feeling like you’ve stepped back in time.
7. Disappear and unplug on Mission Beach
With the beautiful Dunk Island, Bedarra Island and the Family Group of Islands perched only a couple of kilometers off shore, the sleepy seaside township is the perfect place to anchor yourself if you have only limited time in far north. Flanked by the Great Barrier Reef, world heritage listed rainforest and 14 kilometers of pristine beach, Mission Beach is the ideal location to fall of the map and into a tropical paradise.
8. Channel your inner rock star in Palm Cove
Pack your best designer Kaftans and venture into what is known as Australia’s Tropical Spa Capital. Often spotted on the pages of Vogue and Harpers Luxury Travel, Palm Cove is perfect for those intent on serious indulgence. Saunter through the trendy fashion boutiques, fine art galleries and feast at award-winning Beach front restaurants, then grab your Mai Tai and watch the moon lazily rise over the coral sea at dusk.