Taste the tropics both literally and metaphorically along one of Queensland’s most scenic routes which winds for 140kms between Cairns and Cape Tribulation in Tropical North Queensland. Known as the 'Great Barrier Reef drive', the road winds between two World Heritage icons, the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
For a typical, tropical journey, start in Cairns and drive north along the Captain Cook Highway and over the Barron River towards the northern beaches of Yorkeys Knob and Trinity before you hit Palm Cove. This laidback destination is a lovely place to pause for its intimate village atmosphere with shops, boutiques, resorts and world-class restaurants overlooking its sandy beach, ideal for swimming.
Explore the Great Barrier Reef from Palm Cove. You'll also find lots of tour operators pick up from Palm Cove for day trips to snorkel and dive the Great Barrier Reef.
Drive further north and you’ll head past pretty Ellis Beach before the road hugs the coastline as it winds between the dual World Heritage areas of the Great Barrier Reef to your right and the Wet Tropics rainforest to your left. This is arguably one of the most stunning drives on the planet. For the perfect selfie, stop in one of the safe parking bays at Rex Lookout which affords a 180-degree view of the Coral Sea.
This winding drive eventually swaps the ocean for green sugar cane fields as you enter the palm-lined entrance which is Port Douglas. A-list celebrities from around the world have been drawn to Port for decades for its fine restaurants, boutique shopping and the iconic Four Mile Beach. It is also the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef and from here a number of operators offer incredible tours. It is also only a short drive to the Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation.
To the north of Port Douglas sits the Mossman Gorge from where you can learn about the culture of the area’s Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people who have called the region home for thousands of years.
In the southern section of the Daintree National Park sits Mossman Gorge, estimated at 60,000 years old and home to steep mountains thick with rainforest. It’s also where the Mossman River tumbles over the gorge’s massive granite boulders creating cool, clear freshwater swimming holes. There’s plenty of free walks around the gorge or you can join an Indigenous guide on traditional Kuku Yalanji land and learn how their ancestors hunted and gathered foods to eat. In Mossman itself, there’s also an Indigenous gallery where the resident artists will demonstrate how to paint your own burnie bean. Along the coastal village of Cooya Beach, you can experience traditional hunting with an Indigenous guide who will show you how to hunt mud crab with a spear.
Continue driving through sugar cane fields and you’ll hit the township of the Daintree, a village which was originally created in the 1870s by timber cutters. While the Daintree still retains its sleepy atmosphere, these days, you can partake in a plethora of croc spotting tours, barramundi fishing or birdlife watching. Or you may wish to partake in an Indigenous spa treatment here and wander through art galleries or take a Half-Day Aboriginal Art Workshop in the Daintree, before retiring to a range of interesting accommodation among the world’s oldest rainforest which dates back to 140 million years old.
Drive west from Townsville and you’re in the gold rush era, drive north, and you’ll hit the southern gateway of the Wet Tropics World Heritage-listed rainforests. In whichever direction you decide to travel, start in Townsville, home to the famous Strand – a 2.5km stretch of inner-city beach and playgrounds – and museums which pay homage to the Great Barrier Reef. Once you’ve experienced the reef for real, head to Townsville’s Reef HQ Aquarium touted as the world’s largest coral reef aquarium which is also home to a Turtle Hospital. At the Museum of Tropical Queensland, right next door, you can learn the story of the HMS Pandora which sank on the Great Barrier Reef.
There are 31 beaches in Mackay, one for every day of the month, but why not head inland and discover the Pioneer Valley instead?
A driving trip to The Wild North is for those adventurous spirits who love leaving clouds of dust in the wake of their 4WD. There are a number of ways to experience the epic Cape York Peninsula in which you’ll witness historic hotels, ancient rock art and breathtaking natural scenery and wildlife. These journeys will take you along red Outback roads, past wetlands brimming with birds, and into isolated fishing spots. You can test your four-wheel driving skills over treacherous creek crossings on the Old Telegraph Track and swim in stunning waterfalls. Here are some of the best tracks on your trip to the top.
How long does it take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns? It very well may seem like a simple and easy question to answer, however, there are so many variables that make the answer not quite as straight forward as you may have initially thought.
No matter whether you are a snorkeller or a certified scuba diver, there are number of amazing Great Barrier Reef experiences that are a once in a lifetime absolutely ‘must do’. And a Minke Whale snorkel and dive Expedition is one of those that should be on your list!
Thinking of becoming a Certified Scuba Diver and looking to do your learn to scuba dive PADI certificate? Do you wish to learn to dive with a high quality professional company that has an outstanding reputation for not only skill but also safety and can match this with some of the best liveaboard dive boat fleets on the Great Barrier Reef?
This tour is special in so many ways, and is unrivalled to all other reef tours in Far North Queensland. First of all, it has the shortest open water crossing to get to the Great Barrier Reef. Fantastic news for anyone prone to motion sickness. Although this tour is a ‘Reef’ tour, it includes a ‘River Cruise’ on the journey there with Island activities on arrival. And a huge PLUS to guests that like to avoid the crowds, it has one of the lowest passenger capacities of all the island tours with a maximum of 100 guests. The destination is to an uninhabited continental island called Normanby in National Park which is part of the archipelago of Frankland Islands. It is located 10km offshore from the mouth of the Russell and Mulgrave Rivers at Russell Heads, which is approximately 45km South-East of Cairns. The Normanby Island has an abundance of wildlife not only in the water, but also on the island itself. The island is pristine, and has its own rainforest and a fringing reef not far out from its sandy shores. There are also coral gardens located further out from the island for the those that want to explore the deeper waters.
This is not a blog, it is a pitch on how good this Great Barrier Reef 2 day 1 night liveaboard dive trip from Cairns is such good value. One of our team members wrote it because she thinks it is such an amazing good value Great Barrier Reef tour, she wanted to write about it and put it on our Barrier Reef Australia blog page. We were not sure it was appropriate to pitch a single tour but we decided on free speech and free opinions so read more if you are inclined, or go to another page now. From our wonderful Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist Chelsea Are you looking for a good value liveaboard Great Barrier Reef scuba diving adventure from Cairns without the crowds? Do you want the best dive deal money can buy in Cairns? If your answer is yes, then check out what deals we have on offer with our Great Barrier Reef Tour 2 Day 1 Night Sail, Snorkel and Scuba Dive tour!
If you are scared of the water and the creatures that live there or have never been exposed to an aquatic life in your younger years, but still wish to live out that lifelong dream of seeing the iconic wonders of the world the Great Barrier Reef, then that is okay, we have a tour that will enable you to see the coral reef from above the water and also below the water’s surface without you even getting your hair wet!