Tropical North Queensland- Epic Spots you Must Visit!
Tropical North Queensland is one of the most beautiful areas of Australia. Home to some of Australia's icons like the Daintree Rainforest, or the Great Barrier Reef, you could easily spend two weeks exploring all of the gems found here!
My husband was born and raised in Cairns, so we've spent some time exploring all of the beautiful spots around here!
How to get there:
The easiest way to reach Tropical North Queensland is by the Cairn's airport. I would suggest renting a car as most places to reach are more rural and very spread out.
One of my favorite parts about Cairns is visiting Rusty's Market. It's located in the center of Cairns and has one of largest varieties of tropical fruits. They also have some food stalls, coffee stalls, and other eclectic market stores. My must visit spot is to the sugar cane juice! Cairns is surrounded by sugar cane fields which are processed into sugar. This stall at Rusty's takes the raw sugar cane, crushes it, and then adds other fruits like lime, raspberry, lychee. It's absolutely delicious! Make sure to have cash as most stalls at Rusty's doesn't accept cards! For more information about parking and opening hours, click here.
After a refreshing sugar cane juice, or search for some exotic fruits, head to the Cairn's Esplanade for a dip! Unfortunately, there is no swimming at the beaches in Cairns due to so many dangerous animals like crocodiles and jelly fish. The city built this gorgeous "beach like" pool in the center of the city for everyone to use to cool off at! There is also a nice walking path along the water as well as public BBQs for everyone to use!
Head up the Captain Cook Hwy for some jaw dropping coastline views. It's one of the most scenic drives in Cairns with mountains on one side, and the stunning entrance to the Great Barrier Reef on the other side.
I would suggest stopping at Thala Beach Nature Reserve to check out the gorgeous palm tree plantation they have at the entrance. This is actually a stunning Eco hotel and has an amazing restaurant. If you just want to check out the palm trees, there's a small parking lot at the entrance. You're free to wander through the field and take photos, just don't climb the trees and respect the property.
Next stop, Palm Cove. It's very rare to find so many palm trees in Australia as the beaches aren't super tropical. Palm Cove is the exception! This palm tree lined beach is so gorgeous! There are some super cute cafes and restaurants to stop at and even some great boutique hotels if this is where you want to stay. There is a swimming area at the beach that does have a lifeguard and a stinger net, so you're able to swim here.
Just past Palm Cove is the resort town of Port Douglas. This is the ultimate vacation spot! So many gorgeous resorts here! This is also a great entry point if you would like to take a cruise out to the Great Barrier Reef. This resort town makes you feel like you've left Australia. I stopped by the cutest park here and was blown away by the views!
If you're keen to take a day trip to an island from Cairns, I would suggest Fitzroy island. This beautiful island is only a 45 minute boat ride away from Cairns and is considered part of the Great Barrier Reef. This island even has a hotel that you can spend the night at. We went as a day trip and were able to rent some snorkeling gear on the island. Make sure to head to Nudey Beach for some gorgeous snorkeling. For more information, click here for prices and cruise times.
Cairns is surrounded by these incredible mountains. Once you head up the mountains, it plateaus and is filled with the most beautiful countryside. This is called the Atherton Tablelands. The road up is very curvy and has sharp turns, so make sure to take it slow and stay safe. I should also warn you that there are speed cameras everywhere and they don't have a warning, so if caught speeding, you might get a ticket in the mail a couple of weeks later.
The first stop at the top of the Atherton Tablelands is Cathedral Fig Tree. It's a gigantic 500 year old fig tree located in the Danbulla State Forest. and it is incredible to look at! Spend a couple of minutes admiring it, and then move on to Lake Barrine!
Lake Barrine is actually a water filled crater that was left by a volcanic eruption 10, 000 years ago! It's actually quite a peaceful place. There's a cute cafe on the water where you can enjoy some scones and tea. You are also able to take a cruise out on the water as well as walk around the crater on the trail. It's a great way to start the day!
Head towards Malanda and stop at the Malanda Bakery for some delicious pies and lamingtons! They are SO yummy and perfect for a snack when you head to the waterfalls or other lookouts! It is much more rural on the tablelands, so there aren't many food options in some of these small towns.
On your way to Millaa Millaa via Malandra Millaa Millaa Rd, check out the Nerada Tea Plantation. They actually grow and produce organic tea. You can visit the factory and see how tea is made and also have a cup of tea in their small cafe shop. It is one of two tea plantations on the Atherton Tablelands.
Head to Millaa Millaa. Just before you reach the town of Millaa Millaa, there is a turn off to the right hand side on East Evelyn Road that will take you to the Milla Millaa Lookout. It's a gorgeous lookout over the countryside of the Atherton Tablelands. It is usually pretty quiet here. You can spend a few moments taking in the scenery before you head to the waterfall circuit.
Just past the small town of Millaa Millaa, you'll see a brown sign to the left leading to the waterfall circuit. This is a series of three waterfalls that are fairly close together. They are all really nice to see.
The first waterfall is the most popular: Millaa Millaa Falls. This waterfall was famously featured in a Herbal Essence commercial! This waterfall is incredibly easy to get to. There is a well established parking lot and just a few stairs to reach the base of the falls. It's a great place to swim at. Definitely bring a picnic! There are also toilets nearby. It can get crowded during the day. I've gone in the morning around 7 am and was the only person there. I've also gone at around 4 pm when all of the tours have left and also was the only person there.
The second waterfall is only a 10 minute drive away from Millaa Millaa. It's called Ellinjaa Falls. It also has a good parking lot. There are a few more steps to reach the base of the waterfall, but still a great spot for a dip in the water!
The third waterfall is Zillie Falls. This is the most difficult waterfall to reach. It does have a good parking lot, but there is some more effort needed to get to the base of the fall. The observation deck is at the top of the waterfall. At the end of the observation deck, you'll notice a small trail leading into the trees. You can take this trail to the base of the waterfall. This trail down to the bottom is a little more strenuous and difficult to reach. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes as it can get a little slippery too.
Once you've finished the waterfall circuit, you can also visit the second tea plantation called Nucifora Tea Plantation. It doesn't have an official tasting room, but you can stop on the side of the road and purchase some of their tea in the small for sale box on their property. The address is: 2535 Palmerston Highway, East Palmerston QLD 4860. This is also the most photogenic tea field and where all of the insta famous tea photos are from!
Nucifora Tea Plantation is also located minutes from the Mamu Tropical Skywalk. This is a really cool experience! It's a trail built above the trees that offers some spectacular views over Innisfail. There is an entry fee of $27 per adult. I went years ago and highly recommend it!
The last stop I would recommend on the tablelands is Paronella Park. In the early 1930s, a man named Jose Paronella purchased some land and decided to build these eco castles on the property. After a series of storms, the castles were left in ruins. The park holds some incredible flora and fauna and you can see the remains of these unique castles. It's an incredible park to visit!
One more epic waterfall to visit is called Windin Falls. It's not for the faint of heart as it is nearly an hour hike to the waterfall one way, but epic nevertheless! The directions to get here are a little tricky. Click here to check out my blog on how to reach Windin Falls.
Hope this sparks some wanderlust to make Tropical North Queensland your next trip in Australia! It really is one of the most beautiful places I've been to!
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