Exploring Tropical North Queensland felt like exploring another world. My partner James and I had been keeping a (long) list of places to visit since our last trip up the Queensland coast. After our two visits to this eye opening part of Australia, we’ve collated our ten favourite spots, each offering something different to the next! We’ve ordered them heading north. So mark them in your “Saved Places” in Google Maps, and hit the road – you won’t look back!
Cape Hillsborough is a little lesser known, but a destination that should definitely be on your radar. From close up kangaroo and wallaby encounters on the beach to secluded islands with hidden rock pools, this place is definitely for the explorer. There are turtles to be seen at the “Turtle Lookout” (you may even be lucky enough to see a croc swimming by), dense rainforest walks, a “dragon’s eye” cliff formation and a gorgeous sunset to be witnessed at the end of Hidden Valley Road.
If you’re looking for a town that’s a little more “happening”, Airlie Beach is the place to be. Not only is it the gateway to the Whitsundays, it’s full of other gems to discover. There’s coral-covered beaches, a beautiful foreshore walkway, a waterfall you can swim in, and plenty of palms to picnic under – you can enjoy a coconut too, if you can reach them.
Just under an hour north of Airlie Beach is blissful Bowen. We loved Bowen as there are so many different beach coves to bask in. You can walk to most of them along the beachfront, over the rocks, finding tiny rock pools to cool off in along the way. I personally loved that you could find cowrie shells at the beaches here. Bowen is also home to the “Big Mango”. A cool sight to stop off and see, especially if you’re travelling with kids.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit Magnetic Island twice now and would definitely return for a third visit. Just a short ferry ride from Townsville, this mountainous island is the perfect getaway from the mainland. You can either bring your car over, or hire a topless car rental for a little bit of fun. Our top three activities on Magnetic Island would be watching sunrise at The Forts, a beach day by Arthur Bay, and experiencing a sunset at West Point. There is also an awesome shipwreck you can almost walk out to at low tide. Keep your eye out for koalas here too, they are everywhere!
This beauty is one not to be missed. We had never seen a waterfall like it. As the tallest single drop waterfall in Australia, it’s not hard to see why. After a hike down to the base of the falls, we jumped in for a swim. The water here is icy cold, but the view from the bottom watching the water fall over the edge of the cliff directly above us is something we won’t ever forget.
We headed down here at sunrise and had the whole place to ourselves for three hours. It felt like we were the only people on earth. (Can you spot us in the pic?!)
Tip: The walk back up is really hard. We are fit and experienced hikers, and this was a tough walk for us. The whole walk is uphill, with seats positioned at certain points. Even we used them for a rest. It was spring when we were here so the weather was extremely hot. Make sure you’re heading back up well before midday, or just before sunset. Take plenty of water and wear proper shoes. We noticed slip marks where people had gone over the edges of the windy walkway.
If you’re looking for a palm tree lined beach, add Mission Beach to your travel plans. With greenery everywhere and the chance to spot a cassowary, even the drive in is amazing. The beach itself is nice and long making it ideal for afternoon walks. Some of the palms grow on a slight tilt here as well, giving it a real tropical island feel. If you are in the mood for a tropical island adventure, you can catch the local water taxi over to Dunk Island.
Windin Falls has to offer one of the BEST views we have ever seen in our lifetimes. The water falls dramatically down an extremely long cliff which opens up into a fascinating gorge you cannot take your eyes off. You can sit right on top of the waterfall and lookout to this view. We jumped in the water here and watched from the edge. Nestled in amongst the rolling hills of the Atherton Tablelands, the falls can be found in the Wooroonooran National Park.
We used Palm Cove as a base between the many places we wanted to visit in the area including Cairns, Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest. The beach here is picture perfect, lined with palm trees and a long stretch of sand in front of the main little shopping strip. While people do swim here, it is croc territory so beware! Whilst James went in for a quick dip, I preferred to watch from the sand!
Ten minutes from Palm Cove is the beautiful Ellis Beach. We frequented this beach a lot while we were staying in Palm Cove. It’s like a little “getaway” from your getaway! Palm Cove can get quite busy, but Ellis Beach only ever seems to have a maximum of six people on it. And that’s on the weekend!
Words cannot describe the true allure of this place. It is seriously magnificent. I tell everyone we meet it really is the “land of the green dinosaurs”. With a rainforest so rich and dense, you definitely get the sense you are in the “jurassic” era. Plants you are used to seeing at knee height, tower over you here. Quite literally. Everything is bigger, more abundant and just full of life. Even the grasshoppers are huge! It feels like you really have stepped back in time.
If you don’t already know, the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world. Being a rainforest, you have to expect it to rain here, a lot. However, we feel as though this definitely added to the incredible vibe of this place. We enjoyed it so much, we returned twice spending a total of five days here. There’s a bunch of walks to choose from, fresh water holes to swim in and you’re totally off the grid. There is no phone service in the whole area. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Setting off on the trip
Our advice to anyone setting off on this trip is to be well prepared! It’s a long journey with so much to cover. One thing we have learnt is Australia is HUGE. So plan well, look up the best times to travel to these destinations and get ready to be wowed! Go with an open heart and an open mind and you’ll never want to stop exploring this amazing country.
Stay on the way
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Check out our parks in Australia, browse stories from our community of travelling contributors, and start planning your next epic Australian road trip or camping adventure. And remember, download the CamperMate app before you go, to find everything you need when you’re on the road.