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tropical north Queensland


  • this section covers the tropical north coast of Queensland from north of Townsville to Cooktown, with the main city in the region being Cairns which is extremely popular tourist destination for backpackers, while the more affluent head for the tropical resorts of Port Douglas
  • the coastal areas are generally classified tropical climate as they generally have no month with a mean temperature below 18 °C (64.4 °F) or with less than 60 millimetres (2.4 in) of rainfall
  • winter months are relatively dry, clear skies and very pleasantly warm (15-24degC average daily range), although still humid
    • in the cooler Tablelands, rainforest insects have gone into hibernation, but early morning fog can be great for photos in June - Sept
    • in October, the tablelands become warmer and drier with bird action peaking, and great for astrophotography, while the coastal areas become warmer and more humid
  • summer months from Nov-May are warmer (22-30degC average daily range), more humid, cloudier, with very high rainfalls the wet season (peaks in Feb-March) and subject to potentially devastating cyclonic storms
    • Dec-April is the best time for best time for waterfalls, insects, fungi (especially bioluminescent fungi) and macro photography and there are very few tourists as it is too hot, wet, humid, and cyclones may cancel their trip
  • October has the most sunshine hours while May has the least
  • the high season for accommodation is July to end Oct plus special events such as Xmas hols and Easter hols
  • safety issues
  • crocodiles and marine stingers
    • swimming at beaches is not advised between mid-November to April/May due to possible presence of marine stingers and crocodiles
    • assume estuary rivers have crocodiles unless informed otherwise
    • most crocodile attacks occur when people are swimming, wading or lingering near the water’s edge. Crocodiles can approach unseen even in shallow water. They lunge from the water and seize prey with lightning speed - victims seldom see them coming! Avoid returning to the same spot regularly.
    • crocodiles have entered camp sites at night - camp well away from water and don't leave food around!
  • whilst many snakes are non-venomous (unlike southern Australia where nearly all are venomous), there are many very deadly venomous snakes, so don't be going handling them and wear protective closed in shoes and long trousers or gaiters when walking (can also help with leeches, stinging plants, etc), and walk around them without provoking them!
  • cassowaries are big flightless birds but are potentially dangerous stay away from them!
  • stinging trees are common - they grow to 4m and have large heart shaped leaves with serrated edges - don't touch them as they have a painful sting
  • wait-a-while hanging vines can cling to you - wear long sleeve shirts to help
  • Dengue Fever, although uncommon, is endemic and is spread by mosquito bites mainly in Cairns urban areas (not in the rainforests) and mainly from Dec-April.
  • annoying biting march flies are often present from August-April in open areas
  • paralysis ticks are common along Australia's eastern coastline including the Atherton tableland - check all of your skin after bush walks
  • Bullrouts (freshwater stonefish) live in some rivers - wear shoes when wading or swimming. If stung, seek medical attention.
  • don't spread the fungus myrtle rust
  • some areas may be closed in wetter months Nov-May
  • flash flooding (rapidly rising water) is common during wetter months. Rapid and unpredictable water level rises have isolated people on the far bank of rivers requiring their rescue.

local attractions near Cairns

  • there is no nice beach in Cairns itself - you need to head north or south for these, or catch a boat to the islands
    • be aware that potentially lethal stingers and crocs make these beaches dangerous Nov-Apr in particular and given the relatively protected shallow waters, they are not suited to surfing and usually are not blue waters due to the churning of the sand, but at least the water is warm in winter.
    • Palm Cove is the most popular and aesthetically beautiful beach with its very old majestic towering melaleuca trees, palms and the multitude of restaurants and accommodation options within meters from the beach
  • Cairns does boast an international airport
  • try accommodation on the northern beaches such as Trinity Beach or Palm Cove
  • Hartley's Crocodile Adventures is 20min North of Palm Cove and one of the best tourist attractions and well worth visiting - has a nice restaurant - try the grilled crocodile - very nice indeed, but phone reception is very limited.
  • Cairns Tropical Zoo
  • Cairns Night Zoo
  • camping:

the Great Barrier Reef islands

  • go out on a day chartered boat from Cairns and enjoy the beaches, snorkelling, see the coral reef and fish through glass bottomed boats, or do some scuba diving - something for everyone!
  • Green Island
  • Fitzroy Island
  • Arlington Reef

Atherton Tablelands

  • The Tablelands are about 700m to 1000m above sea level and weather here is much cooler and less humid than the coast
  • upland rainforest with crystal clear creeks
  • extinct Maar volcanoes
  • Lake Tinaroo camping - Holiday Park; Kauri Creek Campground


Barron Gorge National Park

  • Barron Falls
  • Din Din Barron Falls lookout walk - 1.2km 40min easy return
  • Wrights lookout walk - 3km 1hr easy return
  • Surprise Creek walk - 2.8km 1.5hr mod. return
  • Stoney Creek Garndal Garndal track - 2km 30min return
  • Barron Gorge Hydro-Power Station
  • Lake Placid (Nani)
  • Djabugay Aboriginal guided tours

Kuranda National Park

tableland waterfalls circuit drive

  • Cairns to Kuranda
  • Kuranda to Mareeba then to Atherton
  • Atherton to Malanda (114km or 1.5hrs from Cairns)
    • optionally side trip to Crater Lakes NP (NB. there is a very windy road to Goldsborough from here but it is the shortest and quickest route to Cairns from Malanda)
    • optionally, Malanda to Millstream NP, Tully Falls NP and Misty Mountains walk tracks
  • Millaa Millaa falls
    • Zillie Falls? and Elinjaa Falls?
    • Palmerston and Mamu Skywalk to Innisfail (Malanda to Mamu is 48km or 36min and Mamu to Cairns is 113km or 1.5hrs via Innisfail)
    • Innisfail back up north along coast to Eubenangee Swamp NP then to Gordonvale
      • optional side trip to Goldsborough picnic area and walks
    • Gordonvale to Cairns


Wooroonooran National Park

    • Walshs Pyramid - steep peak 26km south of Cairns - 6km steep return walk to the 922m summit
    • Goldsborough Valley - 46km SW of Cairns - camping, etc
      • lush lowland rainforest and the picturesque Mulgrave River
      • historic Goldfields walking trail - 17km 7-9hrs one way mod. grade
      • Wajil walk to Kearneys Falls - 1-1.5hrs 1.7km return easy grade
    • Josephine Falls - 75km S of Cairns, picteresque falls, 1.2km return
      • Bartle Frere walking trail - 8hrs 10km return - steep
    • Palmerston (Doongan) - 115km S of Cairns and 33km W of Innisfail
      • Tchupala Falls track - 1.2km easy walk
      • Wallicher Falls and Gooligans picnic area track - 3km 1-2hrs easy
      • Nandroya Falls circuit track - 6km retun 2-3hrs mod. grade
  • Millstream Falls National Park
  • Mamu Tropical Sky Walk near Palmerston to the west
    • passes through one of the largest-remaining continuous stands of complex vine forest on basalt soils in the Wet Tropics, 350m of elevated walkway plus 1km of forest walking tracks
  • Millaa Millaa Falls
    • blue Ullyses Butterfly
  • Innot Hot Springs
    • 32km west of Ravenshoe
    • The hot springs of Nettle Creek have long been established as rejuvenating and healing. Throughout the sandy creek bed bubbles hot water and many locals and visitors come here to sit in the shallows of the creek and enjoy the healthy properties of the hot springs.
    • Next door is the spas and pools of the Hot Springs Village. There are seven pools to enjoy all at different temperatures. The water of the springs gets up to 75 degrees Celsius.
    • 140km 2hr drive on sealed road further on from Millstream Falls NP
    • 4.5hrs and 261km to Chillagoe
    • 4hrs and 264km to Cairns via Malanda and Goldsborough
    • being relatively south, inland and 700m above sea level and only 700mm rain per year so summer is less hot and less humid than tropical coast
    • variety of basic accommodation including air conditioned pioneer huts
    • Opera in the Outback 3 night camping event in October costs around $270 per adult - book well in advance
    • Undara Outback Rock and Blues weekend in April - perhaps 200 attend


  • this outback town 200km, 3hr west of Cairns provides great clear, dry night skies in Winter with minimal light pollution for astrophotography although it can be very cold, so you will need a beanie! (pleasantly cool in summer nights though)
  • the road from Cairns is sealed to Almaden. Over the final 32km of road there are both sealed and unsealed sections. Roads may be impassable in the summer wet season.
  • bus service operates from Cairns and Mareeba to Chillagoe and charter flights operate from Cairns.
  • Chillagoe Smelters is a abandoned tin mine with restricted access area as health risks due to asbestos, etc and is unstable, but you can visit
  • Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park
    • Chillagoe lies within a belt of limestone approximately 5km wide and 45km long laid down from limestone deposited as calcareous mud and coral reefs approximately 400 million yrs ago
    • limestone above the ground has been eroded by water, forming a set of distinct landforms called karst which now appear as 40m high pinnacles or bluffs
    • fossilized bones of crocodiles and extinct giant kangaroos and giant wombats have also been discovered
    • self-guided tours with your own torches of limestone caves are a welcome cooler shelter (22degC) from a hot, humid October day although they do house colonies of bats, swallow-like swiftlets (Nov-Feb) and butterflies, while spotted pythons and brown tree snakes feed on bats in the caves
    • Balancing Rock, Royal Arch Cave and 4 other caves at Chillagoe Caves
      • access to Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch caves are only by ranger guided tours
    • historic cattle yards, old Mungana cemetery and The Archways at Mungana Caves 15km from Chillagoe
    • Aboriginal rock art galleries
  • Chillagoe Observatory & Eco Lodge including camping ground - observatory is open Apr-Nov weather permitting


Balancing Rock, Chillagoe


Palm Cove courtesy Owen Wilson

camping northern beaches

Daintree National Park

remote north



  • the major township of the Cassowary Coast and is well renowned for its sugar and banana industries, as well as for being one of Australia's wettest towns averaging 3570mm (140“) rain per year, mainly from Dec-May
  • Russell River National Park
  • Eubenangee Swamp National Park - 1.5km swamp walk - but stay away from the water's edge as crocs might get you
  • Ella Bay National Park
  • Moresby Range National Park

Mission Beach

  • 138km south of Cairns and 235km north of Townsville
  • now a thriving tourist town supporting Dunk Island, the 1st white settlers arrived in the area in 1882
  • this was historically an aboriginal “settlement” mission established in 1914 to manage the growing opium addiction problems of the Aborigines who were employed by Chinese banana growers in Tully - it only lasted until destroyed by cyclone in 1918
  • music festival early October
  • it has been damaged by 2 recent major cyclones - Cyclone Larry March 2006 and Cyclone Yassi Feb 2011
  • Kurrimine Beach National Park
  • Maria Creek National Park
  • Djiru National Park
    • remnant lowland rainforest and a rare fan palm forest although many were felled after cyclone Yasi
    • Fan Palm walk 1.3km easy
    • Musgravea Track - 2.5hr 6km one way moderate
    • Lacey Creek circuit - 45min 1.5km easy
    • Dreaming trail - 1.5hrs 3.2km mod. one way
  • Dunk Island
    • 970ha tropical resort island lying 4km off-shore, easily accessible by water taxis, etc
    • became an island well sea levels rose 8000yrs ago
    • air operator TAA purchased the island in 1976 and was acquired by Qantas in 1992 after a merger then sold to P&O Australian Resorts in 1997 and lastly sold to Hideaway Resorts in 2009
    • 13km of walking tracks in 5 main routes including a 4hr island circuit hike
    • accommodation - 160 room resort or camping by permit fee
    • small airstrip with flights to Cairns
    • much of the resort needed to be completely rebuilt after cyclone Yassi in 2011
  • Tully
    • the wettest town in Australia (along with nearby Babinda) at 4,100mm (162”) average rainfall per year (record of 7,900mm in 1950)
    • rural farming area - mainly sugar cane and bananas, the town was devastated by cyclone Yassi in 2011

Hull River National Park

Edmund Kennedy National Park

  • tannin-stained creeks threading through pandanus and melaleuca bushland was ravaged by cyclone Yasi resulting in eerie twisted and torn stands of paperbarks
  • Wreck Creek Beach walk - 4km 2hr easy - low tide
  • Arthur Thorsborne arboretum

Girramay National Park

  • Murray Falls
  • Yalgay Ginja Bulumi walk - 1hr 1.8km mod. walk to lookout views of the falls over granite rocks

Hitchinbrook Island National Park

  • essentially uninhabited except for a small resort at Cape Richards
  • access via boat
  • Thorsborne Trail wilderness walk - 32km along the eastern side - must book

Goold Island and Brook Island National Parks

  • Goold is a small granite island with eucalypt woodland, 17km from Cardwell - camping is allowed
  • Brook is further offshore at 30km NE of Cardwell - access is prohibited to protect breeding birds


  • Halifax Bax Wetlands National Park

Paluma Range National Park

australia/qld/northqld.txt · Last modified: 2022/08/20 11:24 by gary1

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