Leave Winter Behind With A Trip To Far North Queensland
Fancy swimming with turtles, standing beneath a waterfall or sailing the Coral Sea this winter? Get yourself to Cairns in Far North Queensland where it’s pleasant, warm or hot year-round! None of this frosty nonsense. Forget your jumpers and pack some swimmers for a winter escape just a few hours away.
Below you’ll find some of the outdoor adventures you can get up to straight after landing in the tropical capital of Cairns.
Fly over the Great Barrier Reef
What trip to Far North Queensland is complete without seeing the mighty Great Barrier Reef from the air!? Splurge on a scenic flight and see the contrasting blues and natural beauty of this Aussie legend from sky high. It’s actually not such a stretch to the budget with 30-minute flights starting at around $180 per person.
Australia’s coast is quite the stunner and this region is home to some major highlights, hover over Green Island and Vlasoff Cay for views that will be hard to beat anywhere else in the world. The sandy shores of Vlasoff Cay are home to seabirds and the striking contrast between teal seas and white sand can also be your personal picnic spot!
Chase waterfalls on the Atherton Tablelands
After a good dose of sunshine and heat by the sea, head for the hinterland and watery wonders of the Atherton Tablelands. Rolling hills, misty forests and slightly cooler temperatures make ideal conditions for chasing waterfalls and it’s here you’ll be spoilt for choice. From the majestic Millaa Millaa Falls where you can take some beautiful images of the falls framed by ferns and plants to the more rugged and rocky Zillie Falls a little further down the road.
Take your swimmers and, rather than stop at the allocated carparks and snap a quick shot, go hiking along some of the many trails that lead to waterfalls a bit more off the beaten track. There’s oodles to choose from; Tchupala Falls, Ellinjaa Falls, Wallicher and the very photogenic Nandroya Falls in the Wooroonooran National Park.
Snorkel with turtles
Grab your flippers and snorkel then get set to cruise through coral gardens with one of the friendliest creatures in the sea. Green sea turtles are found all along the Great Barrier Reef so no matter where you jump in, keep your eyes peeled as they tend to blend into their surroundings. Often they’ll come up for a breather to the surface which is a great chance to swim alongside them, being weary of course not to intrude on their space.
You’ll find loads of day cruises available to places like Green Island, Fitzroy Island and the Outer Reef. Alternatively, you can take the slower route and jump on board a Sailaway yacht or catamaran to sail from Cape Tribulation or Port Douglas out to one of the many coral reefs that lay within an hour or two off the coast.
If you find yourself on Fitzroy Island, take a peek inside the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where sick or injured turtles recover with treatment before heading back out to sea. Turtles are flown from around the state to the centre, some injured others having eaten plastic bags thinking they were jellyfish. Long term resident Jet is quite the social butterfly so be sure to visit while on the island.
Swim at Nudey Beach
Voted Australia’s best beach in 2018, Nudey Beach feels like a hidden gem as you get your first glimpse through the rainforest. Requiring a short 10- to 15-minute hike to access it, it’s very easy to see why Nudey has snapped up the title this year. Giant rocky boulders fall into clear turquoise coral filled seas, it’s all those visions of paradise tucked away in a quite corner facing the mainland.
Road trip along the Captain Cook Highway
From Port Douglas to Palm Cove there’s a road that links beach to palm fringed beach. Where you can stare out the window and marvel in the stunning scenery as you drive towards the Daintree. Along the route there’s The Gatz Balancing Rocks, a bizarre beach filled with hundreds, if not thousands of rock piles.
Further north is Rex Lookout which provides a spectacular view along the coast and once you get a little closer to Port Douglas, the calm cove of Pebbly Beach offers loads of rock pools and palms to picnic under.
Hike through the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree is officially where the rainforest meets the reef. Where lush rainforest landscapes creep all the way to the shores of the Coral Sea. Access is only possible by taking a ferry across the Daintree River but this is all part of the experience, feeling like you’re entering the realm of Jurassic Park.
Despite the beaches being lined by reef, the Daintree isn’t exactly the best place to swim, in fact, it’s heavily suggested you don’t even put your toes in. Crocodiles call the rivers and beaches home so it’s best to keep on croc watch. Instead, the Daintree is a great place to hike beneath dense canopies, swim in vibrant freshwater pools, camp and witness the beauty of Australia’s largest rainforest.
(Lead image: Cape Tribulation and Myall Beach, Lisa Michele Burns. All images: Lisa Michele Burns unless otherwise stated)