50 things to do in Tropical North Queensland

By Vivien Trinh February 8, 2017
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You’ll never be short of things to do here, what with the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics rainforest, waterfalls, gorges and abundant natural beauty, but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are 50 things to tick off the list.

1. 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.

2. Visit the historic wilderness of Mossman Gorge and enjoy a guided walk with a local Aboriginal expert.

3. Watch the sun rise or set at Mt Cook, named after Captain James Cook of HMB Endeavour.

4. Bike part of the Great Tropical Drive through palm-fringed beaches, rainforests and Tropical North Queensland’s golden outback.

5. Soak up Aboriginal culture and experience Dreamtime stories on one of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks.

6. Learn more about flying foxes at BatReach, a bat and wildlife care centre at Kuranda.

7. Make a stop at Mission Beach, a cosy, laid-back beachfront village.

8. Cruise to Green Island with Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises to swim in the warm waters, snorkel and dive, or just relax on the white sandy beaches.

9. Head to Emerald Creek to witness the creek tumbling over granite boulders. You might even catch a glimpse of the largest dragonfly in Australia.

10. Calling adventure lovers: ride rapids while traversing through World Heritage-listed rainforest, numerous waterfalls and basalt formations with RnR White Water Rafting.

white water rafting

Image credit: TEQ

11. Four-wheel-drive one of the best routes in Australia on the Cape York Peninsula.


Image credit: TEQ

12. Trek the ruggedness of Cape York, retracing the earliest explorers and ghost towns with a pack donkey and Wilderness Expeditions.

13. Hike the Goldfield Trail to experience lush tropical rainforest and creek crossings at Wooroonooran National Park.

14. Explore the limestone caves, which were once a mining site, at the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.

15. Float over the Atherton Tableland and rainforest with Hot Air Balloon Cairns.

hot air balloon

Image credit: Mark Watson

16. Make a quick stopover at the Hou Wang Temple in Atherton. This is the only remaining building of the original town during the gold rush era, when it was the hub of the local Chinese community.

17. The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the Atherton Tableland’s best-known attractions. See the 15m-long curtain of aerial roots for yourself!

Curtain fig tree

Image credit: TEQ

18. Set up your tent alongside the crater lakes at Danbulla National Park.

19. Try something different with a homestay at Alkoomie Station, an 18,000ha working cattle property.

20. 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.

21. Step into a fantasy at Paronella Park where one Spanish man built his castle and many couples today say “I do”.

22. Spot the southern cassowary at Djiru National Park, which protects some of the last remaining lowland rainforest in the Wet Tropics.

23. Picnic at the longest single-drop waterfall in Australia at Millstream Falls National Park.


Image credit: TEQ

24. Take the time to visit the vibrant town of Kuranda, the village in the rainforest, just 25km north-west of Cairns.

kuranda town

Image credit: TEQ

25. Wander through the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary at Kuranda; it’s the largest butterfly aviary and exhibit in Australia and is home to 1500 tropical butterflies.

26. 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.

Cape Tribulation

Image credit: TEQ

27. See waterfalls, including the spectacular Barron Falls, among the ravines, rugged mountains and rainforests of Barron Gorge National Park.

28. Dive into the pristine waters of Agincourt Reef to see a kaleidoscope of coral and marine life.

29. Picnic beside a volcanic pipe thought to have been created by a massive gas explosion at Mount Hypipamee National Park.

30. Get up close and personal with cuddly critters and observe a huge range of flora and fauna at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas.

31. If you want to see crocs, head to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures off the Captain Cook Highway at Wangetti.

32. Sweet tooths be sure to visit the Australian Sugar Industry Museum.

33. View the dramatic body of ancient Quinkan rock paintings in the town of Laura – definitely worthy of a World Heritage listing.

laura paintings

Image credit: Mike McCoy/Australian Geographic

34. Ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway through Australia’s World Heritage-listed tropical rainforests from Cairns to Kuranda.

35. Fossick for gems such as topaz, aquamarine and quartz, and see how gems are cut at The Gem Den.

36. Experience the rainforest from a unique perspective on land or water, watch a traditional dance performance and discover tropical fruit species at Rainforestation Nature Park near Kuranda Village.

37. Take some friends and hire a kayak at Babinda, nestled in a valley between two of Queensland’s highest mountains.

38. See the black granite boulders at Black Mountain (Kalkajaka) National Park, known as ‘place of spear’ by the local Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.

39. Take a walk among the treetops of the world’s most ancient rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre.

40. Witness ‘Killer’, a giant 35kg Māori wrasse that expects to be fed, and ‘Dopey’, the resident turtle at Turtle Bay Dive Site.

41. Take a refreshing dip in Lake Eacham, a crater lake formed by volcanic explosions.

42. Head to Gone Fishing in Cooktown to try some lure-casting, fly fishing or live-baiting.

43. Brave the popular shark-feeding location and explore one of the most spectacular dive sites in the world at Osprey Reef.

44. Enjoy the short walks and lookouts around Blencoe Falls but be wary because it is remote!


Image credit: Mark Watson

45. Visit Birdworld Kuranda, home to the largest single collection of free-flying birds in Australia (some 500 of them!).

46. Relax at Wonga Beach, a quiet refuge north of Mossman without all the trappings of a beach resort.

47. Stroll through the forest to a secluded beach or climb Mt Kootaloo on Dunk Island for scenic views of the reef and mainland.

48. Learn about the diverse history of Cooktown – including the gold rush, various local Aboriginal histories, the mining times and its Chinese legacy – at one of its museums.

49. Step back in time to Australia’s pioneering days at Herberton’s historic village, which boasts more than 50 original buildings that date from Herberton’s founding years.

50. Enjoy the remoteness of one of Flinders Group National Park’s seven islands.

Travel blogger Vivien Trinh has studied in Japan, visited New York, worked in a Cambodian orphanage and spent time in the isolated mountains of north-western USA, but nothing compares with the luxury of reading apocalyptic novels while sipping homemade smoothies on the Sunshine Coast’s secluded beaches that she calls home.