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Tropical North Queensland
4 Mile BeachTropical North Queensland is where the rainforest meets the reef. The region is renowned for not one but two World Heritage areas - the wet tropics of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Extending for over 2000 kilometres, the Great Barrier Reef teems with life and colour and is a divers' paradise. In 1979 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established, taking in over 98% of the region, looking after the control, care and development of this World Heritage-listed wonder.

The wet tropics rainforest is a haven for wildlife and offers visitors a range of experiences - from solitude, peace and serenity to the excitement of white water rafting.

But there's more to this region than just rainforest and reef - there are productive agricultural areas, a rich history and Aboriginal heritage, wild and remote areas and charming towns and villages.

How do I get there?
Cairns is the gateway for most travellers to the Tropical North of Queensland. With a busy domestic and international airport, not to mention road and rail links to the rest of Australia, getting to Cairns is easy.

Once you're there, getting around is simple too. Many hotels and resorts offer complimentary airport transfers and the airport is well served by buses and taxis. There are numerous tours available in the area, offering everything from half day city tours to several day adventure trips to the more remote areas of this fascinating region. Many people like to hire a car and tour at their own pace - it's a great way to get to the places where the organised tours don't go.

The region has a tropical climate, with average temperatures in summer of between 24 and 33 degrees Celsius, in winter 14 to 26 degrees. Being a wet tropic climate, there are only 2 seasons, 'the green' and 'the dry'. The green season stretches from the first of the monsoon rains (75% to 90% of the region's rainfall falls in the green season), usually in November, and ends in May.

The region averages over 300 days of sunshine per year, so remember to pack, and use, sun protection items such as sunblock, hat and sunglasses. The water is warm enough to swim in all year round, though do keep in mind that box jellyfish inhabit the coastal waters from October to May. In this period look for netted areas on the beaches to swim in, or ask a local about the conditions.

What are the main towns and cities?
Set on the shores of Trinity Bay, Cairns is the region's largest city and it has been voted Australia's most livable regional city. While it makes an ideal base for exploring some of the diverse attractions of Tropical North Queensland, it is also an attractive and cosmopolitan destination itself.

North of Cairns lies Port Douglas. Surrounded by tropical rainforest, it is an international tourist destination and many tour operators are based here. A few kilometres further on is Mossman, a sugar town which is the gateway to Daintree National Park - the largest tropical rainforest in Australia.

Further north again, and accessible by 4WD only, is historic Cooktown. It was here that Captain Cook beached the Endeavour for repairs after running aground on the reef.

On the cool Tablelands to the west of Cairns, Atherton, Mareeba and Kuranda are worth a visit. The rich volcanic soil supports a range of agriculture, particularly dairy and grain-growing and there are lakes and waterfalls in the area.

South of Cairns lie Innisfail and Mission Beach, the closest mainland point to the Great Barrier Reef.

Some popular islands off Tropical North Queensland include:
  • Dunk Island - 5 km south-east of Mission Beach. Access by plane 40 minutes from Cairns, by launch 20 minutes from Clump Point, 15 minutes by water taxi from Wongaling Beach
  • Fitzroy Island - 5 km from the mainland, 25 km from Cairns, 45 minutes by launch
  • Green Island - 27 km off the coast of Cairns, accessible by fast catamaran, launch, jet boat and sailing boat - popular day trip destination

Where can I stay?
Much of the accommodation can be found in the following places:For a full list of accommodation in the region, click here.

What's there to do?
Tropical North Queensland offers a multitude of attractions and tours. In Cairns, the Flecker Botanic Gardens has a variety of tropical plants and walking tracks link to Centenary Lakes Parkland. Cairns is a sportfishing paradise and there are many charter vessels available for the keen angler. The scenic coastal drive from Cairns to Port Douglas takes you past some of North Queensland's most lovely beaches, with palms on one side and blue, blue water on the other.

The Great Barrier Reef is of course a must see for many people - you can dive, snorkel, swim, view coral and marine life from a glass-bottomed boat or even take a scenic helicopter ride over the reef. There's sure to be an option which suits you perfectly whether you want to visit for a couple of hours or a couple of days.

The rainforest is easily accessible from Cairns. Don't miss the 100 year old Kuranda Scenic Railway trip to the rainforest village of Kuranda, where you can visit the markets. On the way back, you might like to take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, where you glide over the treetops in a cable car. Further afield, in the World Heritage wilderness areas of Daintree and Cape Tribulation, there are river cruises, walks, Aboriginal experiences and 4WD adventures. At Cooktown, the James Cook Historical Museum is fascinating.

The adventurous may like to undertake a trip to Cape York - take an organised tour or use your own well-equipped 4WD vehicle. Visit Aboriginal cultural sites, travel through remote country and meet some of the local characters until finally you come to the very tip of mainland Australia. To see the ocean after such a journey makes it all worthwhile.

Escape the heat of the coast with a visit to the Tablelands. Being higher above sea level, there is often a welcome cooling effect in this green and lush pastureland. Take the "Waterfall Circuit" from Millaa Millaa to see the area's most spectacular waterfalls - especially good after rain. Near Yungaburra lie two volcanic lakes - Barrine and Eacham. Walking tracks through the rainforest have stunning lake views and there is often the chance to see some of the local wildlife. In the area is the Curtain Fig Tree - a particularly spectacular Strangler Fig. Near Babinda are Queensland's two highest mountains - Mt Bartle Frere and Mt Bellenden Ker - in Wooroonooran National Park

To the west of the Tablelands, the country becomes drier and less populated. Railway enthusiasts will not want to miss two historic train trips in the region. The Savannahlander train goes from Cairns to Forsayth while the Gulflander goes from Croydon to Normanton. The unique lava tubes at Undara Volcanic National Park are a fascinating reminder of the area's tumultuous volcanic past. Chilligoe-Mungana Caves National Park is dominated by tortured limestone pillars and colourful caves.

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