There are so many different adventures and places to explore in this World Heritage region. This was my third time here and I could easily come back to explore more. For this blog I will include adventures from all trips. Our first was back in August 2014 where we were joined by my Mum and Dad. We hired a Drive Beyond double rooftop tent tourer as we flew into Cairns from our home in Perth. The drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is just amazing and I think rivals the Great Ocean Road.
Where to stay
We have stayed at two different campsites with locations close to Cairns. If you have kids or are a big kid yourself and don’t mind spending a bit more on a site, then the BIG4 Cairns Coconut Resort will be a big hit. We have continually heard great things about this campsite from other travellers. For our big lap trip we stayed at The BIG4 Crystal Cascade’s which is nestled in the foothills of the mountains and only 5-minutes drive from the crystal cascades waterfalls. With Mum and Dad we stayed at Lake Placid Tourist park. which we found ideally located for the Skyrail.
This rides on the train and cable car is magical, I’m not sure which one I enjoyed most. We got the skyrail to the top to Kuranda village which is a massive village full of cafes and tourist shops. There are also small walks you can do from here too. We visited Bird World and I still giggle thinking about the bird that landed on Mum’s shoulder and wouldn’t budge. Then got the train back down with more stunning views over waterfalls.
Botanic Gardens and Esplanade
This Esplanade Circuit walk is a great way to see some of the highlights of Cairns, taking in the Esplanade with a small detour the Botanic Gardens and Lily ponds. These botanic gardens are beautiful and the cafes a great place for lunch or a coffee. I had one of the best curries I have ever had on the specials at the Wild Bean Cafe. We also loved the tropical greenhouse with all the butterflies and tropical plants. There are longer walks you can do from these gardens into Mount Whitfield Conservation Park, checkout this website for details.
There is so much happing on Cairns Esplanade with some amazing kids play parks and the huge lagoon pool. The mud flats provide a playground to lots of crabs and birds.
We ate out here twice, enjoying lunch at Wharf One and then meeting our friend Bridgette who happened to be working up in Cairns. We sat outside overlooking the bay and enjoyed a beautiful dinner and a few glasses of bubbles. The area is all lit up at nights too.
Crystal Cascade, Freshwater Creek Star Forest
This is a nice spot just up the road from Crystals Cascade Campsite. We didn’t head in the water, but had a quick evening stroll on the 1.2km walk. There were a few people relaxing in the river and its worth a trip if you’re in the area.
The Great Barrier Reef
I have undertaken two different types of trip from Cairns out to the Great barrier reef, both very different. The first time was with mum and dad, who wanted to see the reef without actually getting in the water, we booked with Quicksilver to head out to their reef platform. Here you can take a glass bottom tour and explore the reef through their underwater port holes. There is also a safe snorkelling area with a life guard and the coral out here was amazing.
My second trip I did solo in 2015, as I wanted to head to the outer reef and snorkel. I did an amazing 2 day 1 night trip with Coral Sea Dreaming. It had just 12 people onboard and a lovely crew, who were very professionally when we had an onboard medical emergency on our trip. You have so much time to snorkel, some of the most amazing sites on the reef and I met a lovely girl from Spain who I snorkelled with. The food onboard was incredible and I got to sleep out on deck under the stars rather than in the tiny bunk which was so hot, which I loved.
The cafes and restaurants along the beach front Palm Cove are just amazing and I love the beaches too, although no swimming because of the crocs. We haven’t camped here as the site has always been fully booked or its been a 7-night minimum in peak times, but its a must visit spot. I came here too on a work conference in 2015 and stayed at the Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple which was divine especially as we could fly out early to have a day relaxing. We played the Great Race around the town, getting to see one of our directors running around with an inflatable crocodile made the silly games worth it. My favourite places to eat are the NuNu with its living walls and modern Australian cuisine, for a more relaxed option Chill cafe.
What I love about Mossman Gorge and why we visited a second time is the concept behind it, providing indigenous jobs and training and its staffed by locals with some superb local art work. The gorge is a great way to explore the rainforest without having to do a big hike. The river is spectacular and they have put together this attraction very well, but it is very touristy and you need to pay for a bus up into the gorge (you can walk but not recommended as it’s on the road).
Daintree and Cape Tribulation
For our adventures in the Daintree and Cape Tribulation and completing the CREB track as well as our Great Barrier Reef trip – checkout our blog here
Outdoor dining experiences
We stayed in Port Douglas with Mum and Dad and they found this amazing restaurant called “Flames of the Forrest”. We were picked up by bus from our campsite and transported into the rainforest where we walked along a flame lit path with all the trees stunningly highlighted with coloured lights, its magical. It was a beautiful evening for dining outside under the canopy as the live band played classic hits. Dad loved it, just checkout that happy face. The food was incredible, we got to sample crocodile, emu and a few other local treats and they had a great wine list too. The experience isn’t cheap, but it’s so good and we would recommend it to everyone staying in the area.
This town is worth a look in and make sure you don’t miss the lookout for stunning views. We headed up the Bloomfield track to get here, which is an easy fun 4×4 route. Breakfast at 1770 restaurant was really good. There is a nice hike to Cherry Tree Bay which takes in a few beaches and the esplanade is good fun (for big kids too) with the musical ship. I lost my trainers in Cooktown and subsequently found them in the bin the next day, as they were in a shopping bag which was thrown out with the rubbish……. We stayed at Endeavour Falls Tourist Park, which had a beautiful little waterfall out the back and gorgeous ous sunsets! We even treated Mum and Dad to a cabin…we are too kind to them!
Have a day away from the coast and head into the Tableland to explore some interesting food and wine places and do the waterfall circuit. We did this as a day trip with Mum and Dad and stayed in Atherton at the Big 4 campsite, Woodlands the second time.
The Golden Drop for mango wine tasting is good fun if you are passing and makes good presents too.
Jaques Coffee Plantation for a stunning garden setting to enjoy a coffee surrounded by the coffee plants. Although the service the second time we came here wasn’t as good and the seating is now all on the decking. But if you’re in the area pop in.
The Coffee and Wholefood Store was an absolute gem of a place in Mount Molloy.
Water Falls and short walks
The waterfall circuit is a great 15km loop drive with 3 waterfalls to see and swim at all with short walks to them. It was a bit of a wet day, when we went so we got out our new Helinox umbrellas to stay dry and then had a coffee in a cute little cafe The Falls Tea House to warm up by their fire.
Mount Hypipamee National Park was worth a trip out to, to see the huge cylindrical volcanic pipe with a lake at the bottom and the cute town of Herberton was also lovely with an excellent cafe The Gallery Coffee Shop, that had homemade produce.
The trails here are suppose to be awesome, but again defeated with a prescribed burn taking place when we were there. Checkout the information here.