The old adage “it’s a big country” certainly rings true in Far North Queensland, where distances between sights are great and the only way to experience them is by road. But that’s what makes the region north of Cairns such a great place for a driving holiday, with the open highway a journey of discovery and wonder.
When you’re deciding on a vehicle, keep in mind that the further from the Big Smoke you get, the rougher the roads – you may require a four-wheel drive if you are venturing north of the Daintree or up into Cape York.
After settling on Toyota Camry from Budget at Cairns Airport we began our trip north to Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway. This 68 kilometre stretch of road must be one of the most scenic drives in Australia, winding its way through Cairns’ beautiful northern beaches, with great vantage points at Rex’s Lookout and Yule Point back down the coast.
A couple of detours kept the whole clan happy – a visit to Hartley’s Creek Crocodile Farm had the kids awestruck at their first sight of massive saltwater crocs; while I was relished a coffee break at Palm Cove, an exclusive resort destination 25 minutes from Cairns.
Port Douglas is a great place to base yourself if you are exploring the north, with plenty of accommodation and a great central location. Stylish and sophisticated, Port Douglas glistens like a modern oasis, its al fresco restaurants and cafes beckoning travellers to stay and linger.
A rainforest to remember
But we had World Heritage listed rainforest on our mind, and once we’d settled into our accommodation, we hit the road again for the Daintree National Park.
Believed to be the oldest rainforest in the world at around 135 million years old, there are plenty of ways to explore this diverse and beautiful eco-system. A one-hour river cruise on the Daintree River is the perfect introduction and a safe way of seeing crocs up close; take a self-guided walk with interpretive signage providing a feast of information; or visit the Daintree Discovery Centre for an overview of the region.
Adventure lovers can ride a horse on the beach at Cape Tribulation, or dive off the coast where the Barrier Reef meets the rainforest clad hills. But arguably the best way to see the rainforest is on a zipline tour – the new Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours will have you literally flying through the trees, an unbeatable natural high!
ANGELA DE LEON