Tropical North Queensland is host to two of Australia’s World Heritage-listed sites – the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropic Rainforest, making it an always popular destination for families year-round. Secluded beaches, lush rainforests, vibrant reefs and an endless array of water activities are just a few of the reasons to pick this spectacular location for your next getaway by the sea. The cosmopolitan city of Cairns and the laid-back Port Douglas are the main gateways to these natural attractions.
About Tropical North Queensland
Tropical North Queensland facts
Cairns and surrounds
If your idea of the perfect family holiday involves days lazing at beautiful beaches, head north of Cairns and you’ll find 26 kilometres of golden beaches sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef. Visit Yorkeys Knob, Machans, Trinity, Holloways and Ellis beaches, or pristine Palm Cove, which is absolutely charming with its panoramic beachfront, flanked by chic boutiques, colourful galleries and classy coffee shops.
One of the world’s most stunning aquatic playgrounds, the Whitsundays contain over 74 spectacular islands and is surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef. Should you prefer to stay on one of the magnificent islands ringed with glittering turquoise waters and fringed with silky white sand, there are plenty of options.
Nestled among the Whitsunday Islands at the edge of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island is one of Australia’s favourite island holiday destinations. Whether you’re planning to holiday as a couple, or with a group of friends or family, there’s a wide range of accommodation options and activities available to suit you.
Much of the car-free island is covered in lush greenery and the coast is fringed by coral reefs, making Hamilton Island an idyllic location to switch off, relax and appreciate great food, warm weather and quality time with loved ones in magnificent natural surrounds.
Further north, an hour’s drive from Cairns, Port Douglas is a great base for exploring the wonders of this region, with Kuranda, Daintree Village and Cape Tribulation all within reach. Once a sleepy fishing village, Port Douglas is now the jewel of Tropical North Queensland – attractive, modern and classy with ritzy shops and top-quality restaurants offering world-class dining.
These cascades flowing over a series of lava columns is quite a sight! There’s a walkway to the base of the falls where you can catch a glimpse of the resident turtles and platypus, and it’s a pristine swimming location as well.
Best time to go to Tropical North Queensland
There are generally only two seasons in Tropical North Queensland – the wet season and the dry season. The wet season begins around November with frequent monsoonal rains, and ends around May. During this period, 75% to 90% of the annual rainfall is recorded.
Average green season temperatures range from 24 to 33 degrees Celsius and in the dry from 14 to 26 degrees Celsius. Highest temperatures usually occur in January and the lowest in June, July and August. The upland areas are cooler, with average dry season temperatures of nine to 22 degrees Celsius.
Flights are available direct to Cairns Airport from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. From other cities you may have to fly via Brisbane or Sydney.
By car, Cairns is approximately a 20-hour drive from Brisbane. Add another hour for Port Douglas, two and a half hours to Cape Tribulation and five hours to Cooktown.
Food and drinks that kids will love
The northern tropics are blessed with an abundance of local delicacies; fresh seafood from the oceans and rivers, exotic tropical fruits and the piquant flavours of native Australian cuisine. The world-class restaurants of Cairns and surrounding regions highlight the cosmopolitan nature of residents and visitors, with most making a special point of presenting their own variation of Tropical North Queensland specialities.
Over the years, Cairns has built up an impressive shopping district, boasting international boutiques, national department stores, arcades, galleries and plazas. Cairns has a number of large air-conditioned shopping centres. Be sure to check out the Cairns Night Markets which run every night on the Esplanade.
Smaller towns offer their own unique shopping gems. You’ll discover charming roadside gift shops, country markets and bazaars selling local produce, handicrafts, aboriginal art and other unique gifts and souvenirs.
Tipping is appreciated, but not expected in Australia.
What to wear
Casual, lightweight clothing is sufficient for most of the year in Northern Queensland. A jacket or warmer clothing may be required for cooler winter evenings. Long pants and comfortable walking shoes are recommended if you plan to do any bushwalking or horse riding. Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are essential all year round.
Australia is renowned for its laid-back, egalitarian culture. By and large, friendliness is equated with good manners.
Mains voltage in Australia is 230V AC, 50Hz. Use a three-pin adaptor (different to British three-pin adaptors).
No special immunisations or vaccinations are required to visit Australia unless you have come from, or have visited, a yellow fever infected country within six days of your arrival. However, regulations and medical advice can change at short notice, so check with your doctor and the Australian Department of Health before you leave home.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Australian cities.
Extreme weather conditions including cyclones can be a consideration when travelling to Tropical North Queensland.
Get that token photo sitting on one of the round boulders of Mossman Gorge, while also enjoying a swim without having to worry about crocs (locals say it is one of the best freshwater swimming spots in the whole region). As part of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, the gorge is surrounded by the oldest continually surviving rainforest anywhere on earth – largely unchanged for more than 135 million years.
With its white sands and towering coconut trees, its little wonder that Clifton Beach is known as one of the prettiest beaches around Cairns. There is one particular tree that angles out towards the ocean and is perfect for climbing onto for that holiday in paradise pic.
Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls is a heritage-listed plunge waterfall located on the Waterfalls Circuit – along with Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls – but arguably the most famous of the bunch. The falls cascade perfectly to a serene waterhole below where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the water.