Long weekend on the horizon? Or need a short break from work? Either way, leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind and reconnect with yourself in Tropical North Queensland.
Jump on a plane to Cairns for a mini-escape, you don’t need a passport to visit this tropical destination.
Arrival into Cairns
Cairns is labelled the gateway to the tropics for a reason; from the breathtaking Great Barrier Reef to the ancient Wet Tropics rainforest, this regional city is literally sandwiched between two World Heritage listed sites.Knock off early from work on Friday or visit mid-week to experience the natural beauty of Tropical North Queensland on this short-stay itinerary.
Responsible luxury at Riley
Indulge in luxury with a clean conscious at Cairns’ first five-star hotel in over 20 years at Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort. From the paperless check-in, recycled wooden room key and absence of plastic drinking bottles and straws at the resort’s three on-site restaurants, the subtle touch points of sustainability woven through the property is refreshing.
Spend the afternoon lounging in a cabana by the pool, sip on one of their signature cocktails overlooking the ocean at rooftop bar, Rocco, or book in for some me-time at Eléme Spa.
Sunset at Prawn Star
They say good things come in threes and Prawn Star has the winning combo; incredible fresh seafood, a priceless location at the Marina and a laid-back atmosphere encapsulating the region’s charming tropical vibes.
Dangle your feet over the side of the docked fishing trawler as you wash down fresh prawns and oysters with a cold glass of wine or beer at only $5 a pop.
Allow yourself to slowly unwind as the boat gently sways with the ocean and watch the golden sun dip behind the grand mountains.
Dine at Salt House
You may have heard that Cairns comes to life after dark, which is definitely the case, but that doesn’t mean you need to be out until the early hours of the morning to experience its magic.
Next door to Prawn Star is what’s considered an institution in the region. No trip to Cairns is complete without truly tasting the tropics at the Salt House.
With one good-looking menu, dominated by local and seasonal product, expect a dining experience to treat your taste buds before you move to the bar or back to your luxe hotel room.
Dive in from Port Douglas
Great Barrier Reef
A natural wonder of the world and the only living organism seen from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef is your not-so-ordinary office today. The early start is forgivable when the drive to Port Douglas is arguably the prettiest scenic coastal drive in Australia.
Spend the day on Quicksilver’s Silversonic vessel, where you’ll be taken to three different outer reef sites to snorkel or dive with the marine life below.
With hot showers, spacious deck areas and hot buffet lunch options, enjoy the little luxuries onboard to make your reef trip one of both adventure and comfort.
Stay at Sea Temple
After a long day, check-in your room at the Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa. The ultimate fly-and-flop, or in this instance, dive-and-flop hotel in Port Douglas that offers guests all the luxuries of home.
Drop your bags, put your feet up and catch your breath before getting back into the action.
You’re here for a good time, not a long time.
Dine at Salsa Bar and Grill
A day on the reef is one way to work up an appetite. Catch a short cab to Salsa Bar and Grill, an institution in Port Douglas and famous for its exquisitely presented menu loaded with locally sourced seafood and produce.
If you have a sweet tooth, the espresso martini and chocolate soufflé combo is to die for.
Optional Detour – Jimmy Rum’s Mixing Lounge
If you couldn’t resist that espresso martini at Salsa Bar and Grill and now have a second wind of energy, don’t call it a night just yet.
Continue at Jimmy Rum’s Mixing Lounge, a dark and mysterious prohibition style bar with an impressive selection of speciality drinks.
Minimising wastage is a huge part of the lounge’s philosophy, with bartenders encouraged to be creative with ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away.
Daintree & Cape Tribulation
Mossman Gorge Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk
No stranger to winning an award or two, Mossman Gorge Centre is a must-do for every traveller looking to connect with Aboriginal culture.
Guided by local Indigenous people, the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks take visitors on a spiritual journey through the Daintree Rainforest, sharing stories of the Kuku Yalanji people.
Learn ancient traditions like making bush soaps and ochre painting before savouring tasty bush tea and damper.
It’s time to continue heading north, but not before refuelling at Julaymba Restaurant at the Daintree Ecolodge.
A truly breathtaking location in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, take your time sampling an abundance of homegrown seasonal and sustainable produce.
Once you cross the Daintree River, you’re officially off the grid, quite literally, there’s no phone reception here.
Feel completely free from the world in Cape Tribulation, a place where the reef literally meets the rainforest. Unique nature reigns and spotting a cassowary is more common than not.
Check out Alexandra Lookout, Noah’s Creek and Dubuji Boardwalk before checking into the only beachfront accommodation in the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Trib Beach House.
Whet your appetite
After a big day exploring the northern delights of the region, take a moment to sit still at Whet Restaurant, set amongst the lush dense jungle.
You’re dining in the jungle tonight but your experience will be anything but primitive. Whet’s beautifully relaxed setting is matched with a sophisticated menu, delicious cocktails and incredible customer service.
Whet’s formula is simple but dangerously good, an emphasis on local produce, fresh and clean flavours, that exudes creativity and packs a flavoursome punch.
Optional Detour – Cape Trib Horse Rides
In a scene more befitting to a novel than real life, saddle up for a horse ride through prehistoric tropical rainforest down to a remote tropical beach.
No, you’re not dreaming, but you may need to pinch yourself to make sure as you trot down spectacular Myall Beach at the intersection of two World Heritage treasures.
Unwind at Alamanda Spa
Slowly make your way back to Cairns on your final day, detouring to the seaside village of Palm Cove.
Take a stroll down the palm-tree lined Williams Esplanade, starting at the northern end at the jetty to the south, stopping at the end for a spa treatment at Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore.
Boasting absolute beachfront, release any final tension with a signature massage before lounging by the infinity pool overlooking the ocean through the swaying palm trees.
Beachfront degustation at Nu Nu
Considered the ultimate beachfront restaurant in Tropical North Queensland, Nu Nu is a favourite, and a top culinary experience in Australia.
Let the ocean breeze, tropical vibes and mouthwatering flavours take over for your final hours in paradise before heading home.
Optional Detour – Thala Beach Nature Reserve
If you’ve already visited Palm Cove, swap your spa and lunch to Thala Beach Nature Reserve, only 15 minutes south of Port Douglas.
Dine in the canopy at Osprey’s Restaurant after a revigorating spa treatment, embracing the lush surrounds and breathtaking views over the Coral Sea.
Expect to hear the beautiful songbirds before you see them, a nest perched in a close by treetop invites many to share their musical sounds.
Dig your toes a little deeper
Brimming with natural wonders, cultural connections and relaxed vibes, discover more of what Tropical North Queensland offers.
Choose your own adventure: Discover the Daintree & Cape Tribulation
Choose your own adventure with these unique tour ideas in Cape Tribulation; a place where Australia’s oldest, largest and longest rainforest collides with the only living organism seen from space.
15 ways to connect with Indigenous culture
Tropical North Queensland is the only region in Australia with two distinct Indigenous cultures, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Connect with these ancient cultures 50,000 years in the making.
Local’s guide to Palm Cove – Australia’s most beautiful beach village
Step away from the main strip and discover a few of the local secrets that make Palm Cove so special.
Take a road trip on the Great Barrier Reef Drive
The strip of bitumen between Cairns and Cape Tribulation, now known as the Great Barrier Reef Drive, is 140 km of jaw-dropping beauty. The road winds between two world heritage icons that Tropical North Queensland is famous for: the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
7 Road trips you don’t want to miss
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip. Whether it’s a leisurely Sunday drive or an extended journey to places without postcards, hitting the road offers unbridled freedom. So fasten your seatbelt low and tight, shuffle your favourite playlist and settle back as we take you on a journey through Tropical North Queensland.
Rainforest to reef
Visitors to Tropical North Queensland can experience two natural treasures in one amazing day — the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Jane Scott reports on a nature lover’s dream.