From Cairns, the islands, rainforest and reef of tropical North Queensland are on your doorstep. Dive or snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and spot the luminescent Ulysses butterfly in the rainforest village of Kuranda. Trek the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, four wheel drive to Cape Tribulation or raft the raging rapids of Tully River. Drive the Savannah Way into the Northern Territory and the outback town of Katherine, then glide through the dramatic sandstone walls of Katherine Gorge. Alternatively, fly to Alice Springs for a week exploring the awe-inspiring attractions of Australia's Red Centre, including Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park and the gorges of the West MacDonnell ranges.
Cairns and Tropical North Queensland
Cycle, walk or rollerblade along the Cairns Esplanade, then swim in the huge saltwater lagoon. Spend a couple of days exploring the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel over coral islands and cays, with tropical fish and even dwarf minke whales. Learn to dive, then discover the deep drop offs, underwater tunnels and caves. Sail the Low Isles or do a day trip to Green and Fitzroy islands. From Cairns, take Kuranda Scenic Railway to the village of Kuranda and experience World Heritage Rainforest with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Further north, trek the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, home to the largest range of plants and animals on earth. Spot ancient flowering plants, estuarine crocodiles, bright butterflies and musky rat-kangaroos. Day trip to spectacular Mossman Gorge where you can experience aboriginal culture with a local Kuku Yalanji guide then continue on to Cape Tribulation. South of Cairns bushwalk to waterfalls near Mission Beach. For real adrenalin, white water raft down the Tully River, or the Barron River in Barron Gorge National Park. Stay in Cairns, Palm Cove, Port Douglas or the Daintree.
Cairns to the Savannah Way, Katherine, Darwin
For a unique driving adventure from Cairns, hire a car, stock up on supplies and set off on the section of the Savannah Way which winds through the Tropical Tablelands to Katherine in the Northern Territory. Explore the lush countryside around Mareeba, visit Atherton’s century-old Chinese temple and spend the night in Ravenshoe, Queensland’s highest town. Marvel at Millstream Falls, Australia’s widest waterfalls and lose yourself in the caves of Undara Volcanic National Park, the world’s longest lava system. Fossick for gold in historic Croydon and Georgetown and fish for barramundi in Normanton. Travel past the Northern Territory’s remote fishing communities to Katherine, where you can canoe or cruise through the ancient sandstone walls of Katherine Gorge. If the epic drive doesn’t appeal, fly into tropical Darwin and spend the week exploring its surrounding attractions. Soak up Darwin’s balmy weather and melting pot of food and cultures in the many outdoor festivals and markets. Trek past waterfalls and plunge pools in Litchfield National Park. Don’t miss World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park – a vast tapestry of wildlife, wetlands and Aboriginal rock art.
Cairns to the Red Centre
It’s a popular route to travel from reef to rock from Cairns. Fly from Cairns to Alice Springs to experience Australia’s Red Centre. In Alice Springs, browse Aboriginal art along Todd Mall and learn about the town’s pioneers in heritage sites. Bike ride to Simpsons Gap or ride a camel across the Simpson Desert. In the West MacDonnell Ranges, swim in Glen Helen Gorge and see Standley Chasm blaze in the midday sun. Wander the desert oasis of Palm Valley in Finke Gorge National Park. Trek to the rim of Kings Canyon and see the Lost City’s weathered domes in Watarrka National Park. See Uluru from camel back, helicopter or motorbike. Learn about its Dreamtime origins walking around the base with an Anangu guide. Take in the steep russet domes of nearby Kata Tjuta on the Valley of the Winds Walk.
More Vacation Ideas
See what else there is near here to inspire your vacation planning.
Cairns is the major city in the Tropical North Queensland region.
The Savannah Way from Cairns to Darwin can be driven in 6 days.
You can drive from Katherine to Darwin in 3.5 hours.
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