Fri 22 Jan
Times are certainly, well, uncertain. Plane travel is unpredictable, state borders open and close every other week, and a vacation overseas? Forget it. But instead of dwelling on what can’t be done, why not focus on what can? Because there has truly never been a better time to explore our own home, Tropical North Queensland. Our expansive network of highways means that travelers have access to stunning beaches, historical Outback towns, and lush tropic farmland without the hassle of airport check-in lines.
If calculating kilometers and the other minutiae of road trip planning isn’t your thing, fear not. Tourism Tropical North Queensland’s trip-planner has made mapping out your own adventure remarkably easy. If that isn’t enough to convince you to chuck a bag in the boot and get on the road, here are just a few more reasons why the Tropical North’s open roads are calling your name:
The Tropical North contains both awe-inspiring natural and human history. For the former, point your car inland towards the Undara Lava Tubes to see cave-like structures that are nearly 200,000 years old. Cruise a bit closer to shore to explore the Daintree, the world’s oldest living rainforest, and take a moment to imagine the creatures that roamed under the same fan-palm canopies over 100 million years ago.
As home to dozens of Traditional Custodian communities, there are also numerous opportunities in TNQ to learn about the area’s rich indigenous traditions. Take a drive to the outback in Laura and book a day-trip to marvel at the Quinkan rock art galleries, which are between 15,000-30,000 years old. Otherwise, take the time to learn about the spiritual significance of Mossman Gorge beyond just its beauty and go for a Dreamtime walk with a local Kuku Yalanji guide.
Unsurprisingly, a drive through the Tropical North will take you past some fairly spectacular beaches. Park the car in Cairns and ferry over to Fitzroy Island, which is home to a coral beach with crystalline blue waters. Or, stay on the mainland and cruise up the Great Barrier Reef Drive, where you can stop for a boardwalk stroll in Palm Cove, stick your toes in the sand at Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, and see the rainforest and the reef collide at Myall Beach in Cape Tribulation.
Freshwater fans, be sure to bring your bathers. The best thing to do is ask locals about their favourite secluded spots, but there are plenty of places that are internet-searchable as well. Go as far south as Cardwell to take a dip in the luminescent blue Cardwell Spa Pool, head inland and traverse along the Milla Milla Falls waterfall circuit for some advert-worthy photos, or grab a kayak and go for a peaceful paddle around Lake Tinaroo.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a cruise around the Great Barrier Reef and the opportunity to swim with sea creatures. But there’s also plenty of unique wildlife to see back on land. Drive (carefully!) up the aptly named Cassowary Coast and chances are you’ll encounter one of these endangered flightless birds wandering along Mission Beach. If you want to (safely!) spot a croc, book yourself on a Daintree River cruise, where you’re guaranteed to see the dino-like creatures lazing on the banks.
After a couple hours on the road, nothing feels better than fresh air and a leg stretch. For an easy stroll, get lost amongst the mangroves and car-sized palm leaves on one of Cape Tribulation’s several rainforest boardwalks. If you’re looking to level-up, there are plenty of mildly challenging walks with awesome rewards at the end, like the 3.5km trek to Behana Gorge south of Innisfail, or the 9km return trip to Windin Falls in Wooroonooran National Park.
Just because you’ll be road-tripping doesn’t mean you have to survive on servo pies and supermarket snacks. The region’s lush tropical environment and the frequent sunshine means there’s some seriously good eating here. Keep an eye out for roadside fruit and veg stands that hawk avos for $5 a bag or imperfect bananas for a bargain. Up in the Daintree, adventurous palates can sample funky fruits like black sapote, breadfruit and soursop at Cape Trib Farm, or give it a go in ice cream form at Daintree Ice Cream Company.
In the Tablelands, dairy fiends will find paradise. At Gallo Dairyland, say hi to the cows and take a peek around the factory before indulging in a signature cheese platter and sampling a few chocolate truffles. At nearby Mungalli Creek Biodynamic, chill at the charming Farmhouse Café and be sure to try a slice or two of cheesecake made with biodynamic ricotta and quark. Closer to shore, seafood lovers should get out the stretch pants. Fishermen in these warm tropical waters like Prawn Star Cairns dole out some extremely tasty stuff, like local barramundi, coral trout, mud crabs and prawns fresh from the trawler.
After all of the sun-soaking, waterfall-hopping, croc-spotting and Google-mapping, you deserve a night in a big comfy bed and maybe a cocktail or five. Do like Pia Muehlenbeck and Kane Vato, who (if you aren’t one of their 3.1 million social followers and didn’t already know) have spent the last several months on their Big Aussie Adventure. The two zipped up Queensland's electric super highway in their Tesla Model X to find respite at the Novotel Cairns Oasis, where there was yummy food, poolside bevvys and relaxation aplenty. Because after hours on the road, isn’t that all anyone wants?
With easy access to pretty much every excursion imaginable, Cairns makes an excellent jumping off point for your Tropical North Queensland road trip. If you’re not on the e-vehicle bandwagon just yet, be sure to book the Novotel Cairns Oasis’ Explore TNQ accomodation package. It includes a $50 fuel voucher and free overnight parking so both you and your car can have a good night’s rest before heading off on the next adventure.
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