Explore Tropical North Queensland
Updated: Feb 27, 2022
The Ultimate Escape from Reality!
Paradise on Earth over 2 weeks; For Christmas & NY I spent it in Port Douglas and Cairns, exploring the tropics and taking away memories that will last a lifetime. What an end to 2020 and a way to enter 2021!
Flight: Sydney to Cairns (3.5 hours flight time)
Time Difference: - 1 hour
This idyllic haven was first on the list to delve into as we flew into Cairns. From here, this journey is then a one-hour drive up north. I recommend either booking a car to take you up to PD or else, be sure to have your airport transfer booked in advance. There are a few transfer companies to select from and getting around up there is not cheap!
Accommodation: (click link to view)
Ramada Resort Port Douglas – this was amazing! The check-in experience was just first-class, excellent customer service, and they really took the time to welcome us to; as they call it themselves; ‘Paradise’! This set the scene for our week-long trip! With a swim-up bar and happy hour cocktails on offer you can relax, unwind, and immerse yourself among the Jungle Vibes. The trees and walkways were an incredible way to be greeted each day as you make your way down to lounge by the pool! Bikes can be rented at $5 per hour which is a lovely way to take a spin into town & feel the breeze as you whiz by those Queensland Palm Trees!
Calypso Reef Cruises This tour company offers several options to snorkel and experience all Port Douglas has to offer! If you prefer a half-day tour, or full-day experience – they cater for all. If you’re lucky enough, you might just get to swim next to a turtle. Experiencing the Great Barrier Reef is of course a bucket-list moment.
Sail Away Port Douglas – Board the vessel at the Marina and sail off as the evening draws to a close. Enjoy a drink and canapes as you listen to some chilled hits and admire the stunning views. 5pm – 6.30pm, $70 pp.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures – Spend the day wandering around and discovering the habitant wildlife to FNQ. Watch Croc-feeding shows, enjoy a Lagoon Cruise (all included in the price), and learn from the entertaining show-hosts! For just $40 pp, get up close & personal with fearsome & furry friends! Extremely good value, you just need to make your own way there which is a half-hour drive.
Billy Tea Safari’s – Highly recommend booking this trip to experience the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Excellent tour-guide with some cool little extras along the way! Full day with accommodation transfer included, you’ll truly encounter Tropical North Queensland!
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There are honestly, endless choices for food - you’ll be spoiled for cuisines. I recommend booking a restaurant if you can, as we were disappointed one night when we tried to get into a popular Mexican and a Chinese restaurant, but no joy!
Things to do:
Four Mile Beach
Trinity Bay Lookout / Flagstaff Hill Lookout ~ Just driving along the coast will take your breath away
Port Douglas Markets (every Sunday 8am – 2pm)
Things to note:
Shuttle-buses run from the hotel throughout the day & night. Approx. drive 6/7 minutes into town with other stop-offs along the way. There are a few operators offering the same service, my advice is stick with one and buy a ticket for the duration of your trip. This works out cheaper rather than paying $8 return – you get as many trips in & out of town as you like!
There are no traffic lights in the town, or parking meters and no plans to ever install them. How refreshing!
No swimming in the ocean during ‘stinger season’ except for one area of the beach which is enclosed by nets – don’t dip your toes in even on those hot days when you’re tempted, it’s not wise. Also – it wouldn’t be Queensland without some 'Danger Croc' signs, and they are known to frequent the warm waters also!
Don’t worry about checking the weather and thinking it will be stormy every day - just relax enjoy the tropical climate and the soak up the sunshine you’ll feel on your bones every day. It will rain at night – absolutely, but the blue skies will soon reappear!
During the season I visited – unfortunately, I didn’t see a stunning sunset (due to the clouds) however, other times of the year you’ll see that magical pastel sky light up!
Restaurants in town generally close at 8pm/9pm so make sure you’re aware of this when hitting the strip for a night-time feed!
The vibe and pace in Port Douglas is super chilled, I fell in love with the place. It is literally like waking up in a postcard. Your pictures will be so colourful with truly little photo editing required, just a whole lot of memories captured, and it will leave you speechless, wondering; "Am I really here?" Queensland tends to make me tear up with the sheer beauty of it!
For the second half of our trip we wanted to venture down to Cairns – ‘ The Big Smoke’. There is a lot going on in Cairns, more crowds, hustle & bustle, high-rise buildings, and some traffic of course!
Rydges Esplanade Resort Cairns Perfect location, with spectacular views of the Coral Sea. We were luckily upgraded to an Executive Suite. Facilities included an Outdoor Pool, Tennis Courts & Gym. (Jacuzzi / Spa area was closed off unfortunately due to Covid-19).
Fitzroy Island Day Trip – We chose the full-day trip here which picks you up early in the morning and brings you back to shore for 5pm. Hire snorkel sets & wetsuits on the island - be prepared for a bit of queue once the boat docks as everyone is ‘in the same boat too’! There is also a shop and a bar/restaurant over there if you don’t fancy paying a tour company for an inclusive lunch. This island was out of this world – absolutely make this a priority if you are only visiting for a short time. Nudey Beach is now on my Top 5 Beaches EVER visited. Again, another memorable day that will never leave me. Spending thr final day of 2020 here was pretty special. The sand, water and peacefulness is just amazing. It is located on the far side of the island which requires a bit of walking in comfy shoes. Oh and the name of the beach is not what it says on the tin – FYI!
Cairns Adventure Group (Waterfall Wanderers) - The best adventure I’ve been on in a long time. Action-packed, so much squeezed in and really got our money’s worth here. Got return transfers from our hotel and a fantastic tour-guide keeping us entertained throughout! If you’re a thrill seeker and a dare-devil you will really get what you bargained for and make sure to have a Go-Pro / Camera to prove it!
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If you fancy Fine-Dining or Fast-Food there's a lot to offer in Cairns when it comes to meal-time - take your pick!
Things to do:
Trinity Beach (accessible by local bus, tickets can be purchase onboard) 40 minutes drive for a day outside the 'small town city' if you don't have a car. This area was magnificent, you'll be mesmerised by the trees and picturesque setting.
Visit the Reef Hotel Casino
Things to note:
@Experience Oz is a website which offers several tours to choose from. Top Tip: If you make a booking with this provider, when you leave a Review, they send you a $10 voucher to use off your next booking! Check out their Insta for all you need to know on locations and hashtags!
There are so many tour guides, and excursion companies to choose from in Cairns. Don’t leave it until the day before to book as you may be unlucky. It was a busy period during Christmas so try book a few days in advance. For example, certain experiences now only run-on certain days of the week. Kuranda Scenic Railway is something I didn’t get to tick off for this reason, however it looks like a worthwhile experience.
Exploring TNQ/FNQ was an absolute dream. Be sure to step outside your comfort zone ~ learn about nature, the indigenous cultures, meet new people along the way and come back with stories to tell and moments to re-live over and over again with a smile on your face!