Our top sights, highlights and exclusive tips
If the backdrop of north-eastern city Cairns fails to leave you breathless upon arrival: few cities will. A tropical feast with mountainous cityscape skylines—the richness of this oceanfront oasis provides natural treasures few words can do justice. Whether you choose to splash around in the Coral Sea, hike a mountain, or get tropical among the hanging trees of a rainforest—a drive towards the Great Barrier Reef will be one that carries the warmth of the hospitable Cairns people.
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Great Barrier Reef
Hop on board and begin a train journey that’s like no other, one that leans and curves as it brings you to the living colors and cascading waterfalls of an outstanding rainforest. The world heritage listed Kuranda Scenic Railway route contains the untamed sounds and exotic plantation of the Wet Tropics. The train itself winds from Cairns to Kuranda and rises over 1000 feet towards Baron Gorge.
Just down the road from Cairns is Palm Cove, a charming beach community that has been awarded for world class spas, restaurants, and beaches. The promenade provides boutiques and luxurious resort living. But it is the Melaleuca trees that line the esplanade, absolute beachfront restaurants (go for seafood), and local village feels that makes your time here special.
Head up in the sky to experience the popular Kuranda Skyrail that leads you in to Daintree Rainforest. This almost five-mile-long cable car route runs from Smithfield to the village of Kuranda and lasts two and half hours—front to back. Red Peak is Skyrail’s highest station (1,788 feet) and offers firsthand insight from rangers into this ancient landscape, as well as hanging bridges that bring you to squawking birds, and other treasured wildlife.
Located in Smithfield at the base of the Skyrail cableway, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park puts the ancient cultures of Australia’s Aboriginal people at its center. A mixture of entertainment and education make for a fun filled day. The park represents 40,000 years of history through song and dance and is divided in to two parts: Tjapikai By Day & Tjapikai By Night.
Another world found underwater, over 2,900 reefs covering 1,400 miles illuminate the mind when entering these marine rich waters. Get lost in the technicolor of this natural wonder. 1,500 species of fish live off the coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea, which is the only living organism still visible from space. On dry land, witness turtles hatching eggs on Heron Island (season permitting).
Daintree Rainforest is unspoiled by artificial structure and with an ethical mindset, remains a largely untouched ecosystem. There are high quality walking tours around the 450 square miles of incomparable forest available. Jungle hikes, zip-lining and a search for salty crocodiles are also possible when you enter this fertile green land.
Five-star meals, killer cocktails, and yacht parties are here to be enjoyed at Four Mile Beach. It’s easy to understand why visitors travel an hour north of Cairns to experience this glitzy setting. Coupled with the fact that two natural wonders: The Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest are within eyesight from Port Douglas, a stop off here is an essential part of any journey to eastern Australia.
Enjoy a nature free swim in an artificial saltwater lagoon at Cairns Esplanade. Boardwalk between shallow waters and soak up a few rays in this socially active environment of good conversation, grub, and sunset. Catch a show at one of several live music venues, or a fire show once the sun has retired for the evening.
Cape Tribulation is a stunner of a headland setting three hours north of Cairns. It attracts ecofriendly tourists who bring with them a deep respect for the surrounding area, as well as a passion to explore the two incredible interpretive walks (Dubuji Boardwalk and Maardja Botanical Walk) on offer. Get lost and be found in this remote wonderland. The beach is a sheltered location when east-side winds blow.
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