Let’s start with some of the basic stuff you need to know about this amazing experience:
Distance: 1625 km
Duration: Anywhere between 8 – 14 days, your call!
Closest Airport to start: Cairns
My choice Highlights: Amazing Coral Reefs and the Rainforests. Ariel Tour of the Great Barrier Reef, Bush-bashing in a 4WD between Port Douglas and Cooktown
All right, since that is out of the way, we can start our journey from Cairns. While driving across you get to witness some beautiful sights in Port Douglas and Townsville and of course the coastal towns. Not to forget the Reef and the hinterland national parks! It’s completely at easy and gives you the pleasure of letting your hair down and chilling.
Cairns is a completely touristic town where people generally come and make their way towards the Great Barrier Reef. It’s so amazing a spectacle that you have to see it to believe it.
You can drive roughly about 20km North from Cairns to Palm Cove, Australia’s Spa Capital which also has the Cairns Tropical Zoo (amazing wildlife). Further north, you reach the amazing Port Douglas with all sorts of tours available, terrific accommodation and spectacular views! The Rainforest Habitat sanctuary is something to look out for here.
Moving on we reach Cape Tribulation where the mountains take a dip into the Great Barrier Reefs. You have the ancient rainforests here and if adventurous can take a dip in the swimming hole or try a hand at sea kayaking. From here you would need a 4WD vehicle to pass through Daintree National Park, a World Heritage Site.
You can then drive to Cooktown, the last ‘town’ mostly renowned for fishing before the wilderness of the Cape York Peninsula. From the coast, you can move on to the hinterland trails, less than an hour away from Cairns. On your way, you can see the rolling hills, rainforest, mountains and waterfalls of the Atherton Tableland.
Moving on you reach Kuranda, a village between Cairns and the Tableland famously known for its souvenir markets, the award-winning Skyrail cableway, heritage steam train and the Rainforestation National Park, where you can have a tour on an army duck!!
You also have Mareeba and Atherton ahead. Mareeba is blessed with the tropical greenery of the Atherton Tableland giving way to the outback. Here you can do some amazing bird watching and watch some kangaroos and crocs, if you fancy, at the Mareeba Wetlands. Atherton is essentially the heart of the Tableland and is very small, serving both as an agricultural and a tourist centre. Here you have the Crystal Caves, a museum in a fake cave under Atherton’s streets.
After this you move on to the coast at Townsville, highly touristic, with museums and the Reef HQ, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium. For the divers and snorkelers, there are some amazing sites off the coast with ferries heading out to the Great Barrier Reef. Another interesting place is the Magnetic Island which is a pretty chill place consisting of four villages with picnic tables and sandy beaches, a complete package if you want to unwind.
You can then proceed further up the coast heading to Ingham and the Hinchinbrook Island. You should look out for the 278m high Wallaman Falls, west of Ingham. And also for the beaches and protected rainforest of the Innisfail coast, which are simply superb. Additionally, you can drop to the Mission Beach and Dunk Island just 45 minutes away. Both of them are worth stopping at to imbibe the beauty and charm of this coastline.
By the time you see Cairns appearing again, you’ve done a whole loop taking in a unique blend of nature, peace, beauty and serenity. This drive is by far one of Australia’s gifts to the world!