From the bustle of capital Brisbane, to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef and wet tropics of the Daintree Rainforest – plus all the towns, outback and farmland in between – Queensland is one of Australia’s most diverse states.
That diversity isn’t surprising when you think about it: in terms of land mass, Queensland is two and a half times the size of Texas and seven times the size of Great Britain. What I’m saying is, if you’ve spent a few nights on the Gold Coast and think you’ve ‘done’ Queensland, you haven’t. There are so many different regions of this great state that are worth exploring in detail, which is what I did recently on Intrepid’s new Daintree Adventure. This trip focuses solely on Far North Queensland (or FNQ to the locals). Over the five-day adventure, we visited some pretty spectacular places. Here were some of my favourites.
Cairns sometimes gets a bad rap as far as Australian cities go, but I think that’s a bit unfair. Sure, it might not be as glamourous as Sydney or have as many things to do as Melbourne, but it has some great bars and cafes to visit and is an excellent base for anyone wanting to explore the region.
Within Cairns itself, a visit to Rusty’s Markets is highly recommended. Full of locally grown seasonal tropical fruits, farm fresh produce, curries and drinks, it’s a great way to while away a Saturday morning. If you’re looking to relax with a drink, the Salt House is an excellent waterfront bar where you can watch the sunset and laze on the lawn with a cocktail. But for a classic Cairns experience, you must head to Prawn Star – a trawler boat permanently docked at the harbour, where you can get your fill of no-frills, freshly caught seafood including prawns (of course), mud crab, Moreton Bay Bugs and anything else that was hauled in that day.
2. Port Douglas
Port Douglas is like Cairns’ stylish older aunt – classy, fashionable and a lot of fun to visit. It’s the perfect launching point for a day out on the Great Barrier Reef, as most boat tours depart from the marina. Pop on your swimmers, grab a snorkel and enjoy a day exploring the world’s largest coral reef system (don’t forget to keep an eye out for Nemo!).
If you’re more of a landlubber, a stroll along the stunning Four Mile Beach is a must-do. This long stretch of pristine beach is postcard-perfect paradise, complete with coconut palms lining the sand. A visit to the Port Douglas marina for shopping or food (or both) is a great experience. I’d recommend stopping at Hemingway’s Brewery; they’ve got a huge range of original beers, other drinks and pub fare featuring local produce, making it an ideal place to unwind and have a casual dinner.
3. Mossman Gorge
About 20 minutes inland from Port Douglas is Mossman Gorge, part of the traditional lands of the Kuku Yalanji people. When you arrive at the visitor centre, you’ll be encouraged to take the shuttle bus up to the gorge itself. This is out of respect to the First Nations People who call the land home and reside in the community outside the gorge. Once you arrive, there’s a 2.4 kilometre (1.5 mile) loop walking track you can meander along, which will give you the chance to see some of the stunning ancient trees, giant moss-covered boulders and local birdlife in the area.
4. Cooper Creek
A trip to FNQ wouldn’t be complete without going croc spotting! We took a cruise along Cooper Creek, where our local guide was more than happy to share stories about infamous crocodile sightings in the area, as well as helping us spot the surprisingly camouflaged reptiles wallowing in the shallows. On our way to the creek, we stopped at Daintree Ice Cream Co. & Tropical Fruit Farm, a local business that creates artisan gelato using unique local forest fruits grown on site. We tried Davidson Plum, Black Sapote (which kind of tasted like chocolate pudding!) and Banana – all of which were delicious and refreshing in the sticky weather.
Once you’re out in the boat, you’ll need to stay fairly quiet and might need to look closely to see the crocs, as they tend to blend in with the muddy water. But if you’re lucky enough to see one in action, it isn’t hard to understand how these beasts have survived hundreds of millions of years. Just make sure you keep your arms and legs inside the boat at all times…
5. Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation, in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, is known as the coastal point where the rainforest meets the reef. At the coast, the views of the world’s most ancient rainforest and the unspoiled sands coming together is a sight to behold. We took the short walk up to the lookout, which had great views of the empty beach and sparkling ocean, with the rainforest right behind us. Being there, with hardly any other tourists in sight, felt like we had gone back to a time when this piece of breathtaking wilderness was untouched by foreigners.
Do you want to explore this unique part of Australia? Book your place on our 5-day Daintree Adventure today.
All images c/o Patrick O’Neill.
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