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6 things to do in Innisfail

Think Innisfail is just endless fields of sugarcane? Think again.

If you look beyond the fields, you’ll find a tropical town that is bustling with adventure, arts, great food and the friendliest locals around.   

Intrigued? Here are 6 things you didn’t know you could do in Cairns’ next door neighbour Innisfail (approximately an hour apart).

1. For those who heart art

Innisfail Art Deco Buildings_bluebird_cafe_and_robertson_brothers
Believe it or not, Innisfail is the art deco capital of Australia.

The aesthetic was adopted in 1918 after a cyclone devastated the town. The ‘cyclone-proof’ rebuild of Innisfail took place shortly after and art deco, which was popular at the time, had a major influence on the architectural design. Nowadays, the skyline is populated with these gorgeous buildings and the town has the highest concentration of art deco facades in any Australian city.

Get acquainted with this art deco haven by taking the free tour of the crowning jewel, Johnstone Shire Hall, built in 1938 and designed by prominent North Queensland architects Messrs Hill and Taylor. The tours run every Tuesday morning during the year and are the perfect stepping stone to a self-guided journey around the town.

2. Explore a Spanish Castle

When it comes to turning the impossible into reality, Jose Paronella knew what he was doing.

Venture 20 minutes south of Innisfail to Mena Creek Falls and you too can explore his greatest achievement; Paronella Park.

In 1929 Jose Paronella (a Spanish immigrant), purchased 13 acres of untouched scrub along Mena Creek. Jose’s dream was to create an awe-inspiring castle in the rainforest, pleasure gardens and a place of beauty and enchantment to all who visited. A pastry chef by trade, Jose built the entire property himself and even installed the first hydro-electric plant in North Queensland to power the castle grounds when it was opened to the public in 1935.

The $45 admission fee is valid for 24 months and includes a souvenir guidebook, fish food, umbrellas and access to all tours (The Dream Continues and The Darkness Falls) which detail the extraordinary story of Jose and highlights of the park during the day and night.

Only got a short amount of time? Find out how to do Paronella Park in a day here.

3. Wave hello to the beach

Nestled amongst the dense rainforest, and only 15 minutes from the city is a vibrant tropical nook with a long arc of squelchy white sand, Tiffany blue water and lushes greenery.

Known as one of Tropical North Queensland‘s most scenic beaches, Etty Bay is truly where the rainforest meets the sea and it’s where you can spot Australia’s largest flightless bird, the Southern Cassowary.

You’ll share the beach with these locals and their chicks, who roam along the shore and help revegetate the rainforests. Cassowaries are generally unphased by visitors but can be dangerous if approached, so keep your distance folks.

And, if you love the great outdoors, turn a day trip into an overnighter and stay at Etty Bay Caravan Park. You can choose from beachfront campsites or cabins sheltered amongst the foliage.

4. Cruise with a view

Photo by @snappingtours

Explore the World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics by glass-bottom boat with Snapping Tours.

You’ll cruise down the calm waters of the Johnstone River (the longest in Tropical North Queensland) and learn the history of Innisfail’s rainforest and abundant river life. Get up close and personal with some of Australia’s infamous animals and spot the local crocodiles sunning themselves on the sandbanks, or go crabbing for the delicious Queensland Mud Crab.

The two-hour educational cruise is available from 8:30am to 5:30pm seven days a week ($40pp).

5. Feast for a foodie

Photo by Walla’s Fish and Chips

If gluttony is your weakness, Innisfail would be kryptonite.

This tropical town is home to some of the most underrated foodie haunts and the perfect place to sit back and embrace the laidback North Queensland way of life (while enjoying a bite to eat).

For the freshest and tastiest fish and chips, head to the appropriately named Walla’s Fish & Chips. Located on the edge of the Johnstone River, the food truck has garnered a reputation with locals as the go-to place. And, their signature is the battered Spanish Mackerel. Walla’s is open from 11am to 8pm Thursday to Sunday.

After you scoff down your meal, admire the mosaics along the Esplanade boardwalk.

Local’s tip: Feed the grouper fish that lives under the jetty with leftover fish from Walla’s.

Psst! Another local’s seafood fave is the King Reef Hotel at Kurrimine Beach (30 minutes south of Innisfail).

6. Explore a World Heritage-Listed Rainforest

Mamu Skywalk_Image by Chris Brumby
If cruising through the Wet Tropics wasn’t enough to satisfy your World Heritage bucket list, take to the sky and explore by foot. Yes, you read that correctly.

Venture half an hour out of town and follow the Palmerston Highway to Mamu Tropical Skywalk, an elevated walkway meandering above the lush rainforest canopy in Wooroonooran National Park, the homeland of the Mamu Aboriginal people.

With sweeping views over a pristine rainforest-clad mountainous landscape, a 37-metre observation tower and more than 1200 metres of walking tracks, this attraction is a must do for anyone visiting the region.

Got an appetite for adventure? Continue the drive up to Crawford’s Lookout and challenge yourself to a hike through the rainforest.

What are your favourite things to do in Innisfail?