100 things to do in Tropical North Queensland
Summer is just around the corner, so grab your swimmers and sunscreen and head up to Tropical North Queensland. With the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics rainforest, waterfalls, gorges, and ridiculous levels of beauty it’s one of nature’s biggest overachievers.
You’ll never be short of things to do but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are 100 things to tick off the list. How many can you say you’ve done?
1. Trek the ruggedness of Cape York, retracing the earliest explorers and ghost towns with a donkey with Wilderness Expeditions.
2. Visit the history-soaked wilderness of Mossman Gorge and do one of their guided walks with a local Indigenous expert.
3. Make a day of it at one of Queensland’s most scenic national parks, Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park.
4. Watch the sun rise or set at Mount Cook, named after Lieutenant James Cook.
5. Bike ride part of the Great Tropical Drive through palm-fringed beaches, rainforests and Tropical North Queensland’s golden outback.
6. Explore the abundant corals and spot some turtles at Beaver Reef Dive Site.
7. Soak up Indigenous culture and experience Dreamtime stories on one of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks.
8. Foodies, prepare your waistlines for a trail of bush tucker, wines, liqueurs, chocolate, coffee, dried mango and dragonfruit with Brett’s Outback Tasting Adventures in Port Douglas.
9. Learn more about flying foxes at the Bat Hospital in Atherton.
10. Make a stop at Mission Beach, a cosy, laid-back beachfront village.
11. See native animals in their nocturnal state, enjoy a traditional Aussie BBQ dinner and stargaze if the sky is clear enough at the Cairns Night Zoo.
12. Cruise to Green Island to swim the warm waters, snorkel, dive or just relax on the white sandy beaches with Big Cat Green Island Cruises.
13. Get that adrenaline pumping with Flyboard Cairns, the latest action water sport. Basically, you’re lifted into the air on a wakeboard-like device!
14. Head to Emerald Creek to witness the creek tumbling over granite boulders. You might even catch a glimpse of the largest dragonfly in Australia.
15. Adrenaline junkie? Skydive Australia offers a tandem skydive with a spectacular view of the Great Barrier Reef from above.
16. Calling adventure lovers: Tackle rapids while traversing through World Heritage-listed rainforest, numerous waterfalls and basalt formations with RnR White Water Rafting.
17. Four-wheel-drive one of the best routes in Australia at the Cape York Peninsula.
18. Dine under fairy lights and chandeliers in the middle of the rainforest while listening to Aboriginal storytellers and tasting bush damper and other Aussie dishes at Flames of the Forest.
19. Find everything to do with coffee at Coffee Works – from growing, roasting and drinking to trading.
20. Dive with the famous potato cod, weighing up to a whopping 30kg (if you didn’t know, it’s a fish!), at Lizard Island’s Cod Hole.
21. Witness one of the oldest and best preserved lava tube system in the world at Undara Experience.
22. Hike through the Goldfield Trail to experience lush tropical rainforest and creek crossings at Wooroonooran National Park.
23. Gear up to tackle one of Australia’s most challenging golf courses at Paradise Palms Golf Course.
24. Appreciate and learn about the diversity of Queensland’s backyard with Oz Outback Adventure Tours.
25. Explore the limestone caves, which were once a mining site, at the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.
26. Sail from Port Douglas to the Low Isles, enjoy the view and snorkel in the tranquil lagoons with Aquarius Luxury Sailing.
27. Float over the Atherton Tablelands and rainforest with Hot Air Balloon Cairns.
28. Make a quick stopover at the Hou Wang Temple in Atheron, which is the only remaining building of the original town – when it was the hub of the Chinese community – during the gold rush era.
29. Enjoy free tastings at Murdering Point Winery, including wine made from tropical fruit like lychees, mango and passionfruit.
30. The Curtain Fig Tree is one of Atherton Tablelands best-known attractions. See the 15-metre long curtain of aerial roots for yourself!
31. While you’re at it, try crabbing with Catch A Crab Tours and dine on freshly cooked crabs whilst cruising the waterway.
32. Set up your tent alongside crater lakes at Danbulla National Park.
33. Try something different with a homestay at Alkoomie Station, an 18,000-hectare working cattle station. (Eds note: The Alkoomie Station is temporarily closed due to new ownership.)
34. Spread out that picnic blanket at one of Mount Lewis National Park’s creek crossings. You might even spot the rare white Lemuroid ringtail possum.
35. Step into a fantasy at Paronella Park where one Spanish man built his castle and many couples today say ‘I do’.
36. Be sure not to miss the annual Port Douglas Carnivale that takes place in May over 10 days filled with art, music, craft, sports, food and wine.
37. Spot the southern cassowary at Djiru National Park, which protects some of the last remaining lowland rainforest in the Wet Tropics.
38. Refresh yourself with a high-class day spa experience at the five-star Vie Spa at Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort.
39. Ice-cream bean, miracle fruit, giant granadilla, mangosteen and star apple will get your tastebuds tingling at the Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm.
41. Picnic at the longest single-drop waterfall in Australia at the Millstream Falls National Park.
42. If you’ve got the mula, rent Haggerstone Island to have the beauty of nature to yourself!
43. Take the time to visit the vibrant town of Kuranda, the village in the rainforest, just 25 kilometres northwest of Cairns.
44. Choose from a ‘menu’ of bungy jump options like the swan dive or riding a BMX off the roof, just because you can, with AJ Hackett Cairns.
45. Wander through the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the largest butterfly aviary and exhibit in Australia and home to 1,500 tropical butterflies.
46. Travel further west onto the Matilda Highway to experience the Outback with fewer people and colder beers. Just make sure you dodge the kangaroos and cattle who make their way onto the road after sunset.
47. Taste crocodile and kangaroo at Ochre – a must when visiting Cairns. You know you want to!
48. Swim in crystal-clear natural pools in the Daintree, a living museum of pristine ancient rainforest estimated to have survived more than 170 million years.
49. Dine under the stars and order specialities like kangaroo, fresh seafood and local steak at Apres Beach Bar in Palm Cove.
50. Ride horses along white sandy beaches or tackle bushwalking trails through lush rainforest at Cape Tribulation, the only place in the world where two World Heritage areas meet.
51. See the tumbling waterfalls and spectacular Barron Falls among the ravines, rugged mountains and rainforests of the Barron Gorge National Park.
52. Dive into the pristine waters of Agincourt Reef to see a kaleidoscope of coral and marine life.
53. Head to Innisfail in March for a tropical fruit and seafood extravaganza at Feast of the Senses.
54. Picnic beside a volcanic pipe thought to have been created by a massive gas explosion at Mount Hypipamee National Park.
55. The Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy & Organic Cafe offers free cheese and yoghurt tastings. Need we say more?
56. For the adventurous landlubbers, Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome offers a whopping 65 elements of crossings and ziplines.
57. We’ve seen the Big Banana, Big Pineapple and possibly even the Big Rum Bottle… but have you seen the Golden Gumboot? It was awarded to the town of Tully when they won the ‘wettest town in Australia’ competition in 1970 with an annual rainfall of up to seven metres.
58. Get up close and personal with cuddly critters and observe a huge range of flora and fauna at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas.
59. If you really want to see crocs then head over to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.
60. Swim in volcanic crater lakes, slide down a natural waterslide and more around the Atherton Tablelands with Barefoot Tours.
61. Book an adventurous expedition to swim with minke whales with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, leaving from Cairns, the only place in Australia where you can swim with these curious creatures!
62. Sweet tooths be sure to visit the Australian Sugar Industry Museum to learn about Australia’s sugar industry.
63. View the dramatic body of prehistoric rock paintings at the Quinkan Reserves Ancient Rock Art in Laura – definitely worthy of a World Heritage listing.
64. Grab lunch at the 70s-inspired Candy Café in Cairns with their playfully named dishes like ‘Mary had a little lamb.’
65. Ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway through Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforests from Cairns to Kuranda.
66. Fossick for gems like topaz, aquamarine and quartz and see how gems are cut at The Gem Den in Mount Surprise.
67. Unravel the hidden outback oasis of Cobbold Gorge, deep in the heart of the Savannah Gulf.
68. Visit Cairns’ Rusty’s Markets, a popular icon with over 180 stalls of extioc fruit, flowers and other local goodies.
69. Cuddle a koala, a large python or a small crocodile at Cairns Tropical Zoo (eds note: business now closed).
70. Take some friends and hire a kayak at Babinda (eds note: business now closed), nestled in a valley between two of Queensland’s highest mountains.
71. See the black granite boulders at Black Mountain (Kalkajaka) National Park known as ‘place of spear’ to the local Aboriginal tribe.
72. Take a walk amongst the treetops of the world’s most ancient rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre.
73. Jump on a ferry to discover the diversity of Fitzroy Island National Park with its rugged landscape of granite outcrop, rainforest, mangroves and pristine coral beaches.
74. Take a walk through the fairytale-like Flecker Botanic Gardens, the only Wet Tropic botanic gardens in Australia filled with steamy jungle plants.
75. Come face to face with sharks and other sea critters, big and small, on a four-day charter experience with Eye to Eye Marine Encounters.
76. You’ve heard of surfing the web and couchsurfing but Jungle Surfing? Fly through the trees on flying fox ziplines and take on the views of the treetops, cascading streams and even the Great Barrier Reef.
77. Dine amongst the treetops at Mossman’s unique Treehouse Restaurant.
78. Visit extremely photogenic destinations with North Queensland Wildscapes Phototours. Don’t forget to share on Instagram!
79. Witness ‘Killer’ a giant 35kg Maori wrasse who expects to be fed and ‘Dopey’ the resident turtle at Turtle Bay Dive Site.
80. Take a refreshing dip in Lake Eacham, a crater lake formed by volcanic explosions.
81. Head to Gone Fishing – Cooktown to try some lure-casting, fly fishing or live-baiting.
82. Take a drive along one of the food trails in the Atherton Tablelands, also known as the ‘food bowl of the tropics.’ You’ll be doing your tastebuds a favour with all those teahouses, cafes, dairy centres, strawberry farms and nut plantations.
83. Brave the popular shark-feeding location and explore one of the most spectacular dive sites in the world at Osprey Reef.
84. Enjoy the short walks and lookouts around Blencoe Falls but be wary because it is remote!
85. Witness the passing of culture across generations at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival.
86. Taste some delicious mango wine at Golden Drop Winery.
87. Take your picture at the most recognisable town feature, The Big Cassowary, at Wongaling Beach.
88. Embark on the Lawn Hill Circuit for a couple of days’ worth of scenic driving through the heart of the Gulf Savannah.
89. Visit Birdworld Kuranda, home to the largest single collection of free-flying birds in Australia (some 500 of them!).
90. Visit the virtually untouched Torres Strait Islands, the tropical melting pot of Melanesian and Indigenous Australian cultures.
91. Relax at Wonga Beach, a quiet refuge north of Mossman without all the trappings of a beach resort.
92. Jump on a quad bike with Blazing Saddles Adventures to explore rainforests, wetlands, sugarcane fields and native bush.
93. Spend a day at the Rainforestation Nature Park where you’ll board an amphibious WWII Army Duck for a unique rainforest tour, learn about Indigenous culture and see native animals.
94. Stroll through the forest to a secluded beach or embark on a climb of Mount Kootaloo on Dunk Island for scenic views of the reef and mainland.
95. Learn about the diverse history of Cooktown including the gold rush, local Aboriginal history, the mining times and their Chinese legacy at one of their museums.
96. Get pampered at the luxurious Balinese-style Niramaya Villas and Spas in Port Douglas.
97. Step back in time to Australia’s pioneering days at Historic Village Herberton which boasts more than 50 original buildings that date from Herberton’s founding years.
98. Hold on tight as Bad Fishy Jet Boating Cairns takes you on a 35-minute adventure!
99. Enjoy the remoteness of one of Flinders Group National Park’s seven islands.
100. Wake up to a mesmerising sunrise over the Great Barrier Reef by staying overnight onboard Deep Sea Divers Den’s luxurious liveaboard vessel.