Insider tips: Explore Far North Queensland like a local
Olly Gaspar is a professional adventure travel photographer and blogger known for his captivating visual storytelling and immersive travel guides. Olly has spent the last five years traveling full-time and posting about his adventures on We Seek Travel.
What should I do on my first trip to Far North Queensland?
Far North Queensland is Australia’s tropical adventure capital. It's also the region where the world’s oldest living rainforest, the Daintree, meets its largest living organism, the Great Barrier Reef. Many travelers arrive in Cairns, an excellent base to explore the reef on snorkeling, scuba diving, or glass-bottomed boat trips. From here, the incredible Cape Tribulation is just a short trip away, which is a must-visit to see the unique flora and fauna of the ancient rainforest.
What are some hidden gems to see in Far North Queensland?
After visiting Cairns and exploring the popular things to do in Port Douglas, there are plenty of hidden gems in Far North Queensland worth exploring. One is the wild Atherton Tablelands, a plateau region located roughly one hour inland from Cairns. Head to the Tablelands, as the area is known locally, to find a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, waterfalls, and fresh-water swimming hole. Visiting the Tablelands on a day trip from Cairns or Port Douglas is possible to explore waterfalls like Millaa Millaa or hike the popular Windin Falls Trailhead.
How much time should I spend in Far North Queensland?
Far North Queensland is a region spanning almost 400,000 square kilometers, so dedicate more than just a couple of days if you really want to see this region. A typical itinerary might include spending three to four days in Cairns, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest village of Kuranda, and the Daintree Rainforest. Next, spend up to three days in Port Douglas to relax and enjoy the laidback atmosphere, before heading up to Cape Tribulation for a couple of days to explore the rainforest and spot unique wildlife like the Southern Cassowary.
What food is Far North Queensland known for?
Far North Queensland is known for its fresh seafood and local produce like pawpaw, pineapple, and mango. One trademark dish of North Queensland is the classic seafood platter. This is served at most Aussie restaurants, pubs, and bistros in Cairns and Port Douglas. The platter usually features fresh oysters, calamari, local fish, mud crabs, and Moreton Bay bugs (aka Bay lobsters). The seafood platter is usually served with a side of fries and the essential aioli and tartare sauce.
What is the best way to get around in Far North Queensland?
Renting a car in Cairns or Port Douglas is a convenient option if you’re looking to explore the region independently. However, there are also many great organized day trips and transfers to popular attractions like the reef and rainforest, which can be a good option if you prefer not to drive or want to learn more about the area from a knowledgeable guide. Cairns and Port Douglas have compact city centers that are easy to explore on foot.
What are the best months to visit Far North Queensland?
The best time to visit Far North Queensland is during the dry season, from April to November, typically the Australian winter. The weather is sunny and warm, with less humidity. The peak season in the region is from June to August.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Far North Queensland is well-known for its artisanal markets. The most popular is Rusty's Markets in Cairns, a bustling market selling fresh produce, tropical fruits, handmade crafts, and souvenirs. However, in Port Douglas, the main shopping area is on Macrossan Street, the city’s main street, where you’ll find a mix of local gift shops, art galleries, and high-end fashion boutiques.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Far North Queensland?
Cairns and Port Douglas are the two main destinations to consider when booking your accommodation in Far North Queensland. Cairns is the capital and larger of the two, offering a range of options from budget backpacker hostels to luxury seaside resorts. It's also a great base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef since you can walk to the Reef Terminal for a snorkeling or diving cruise. For a more laid-back and upscale atmosphere, Port Douglas is great. This charming town has beautiful beaches, tempting boutiques, and gourmet dining. It’s also an excellent base for exploring the Daintree Rainforest and the Mossman Gorge. Alternatively, accommodation is available on the nearby islands, including Green Island and Fitzroy Island.