Northern Great Barrier Reef

Cairns, Cairns Area

Cairns and Tropical North Queensland is the closest point in Australia to experience the Great Barrier Reef.

When travellers visualise themselves on the Great Barrier Reef - they think of Tropical North Queensland. While the reef is large in area the region boasts the only major international airport along the reef - giving the best access to this natural wonder in Queensland.

In Tropical North Queensland, visitors experience the Great Barrier Reef in a number of ways. The most popular is by fast catamaran - when passengers are taken to their reef destination in air-conditioned comfort on high-technology crafts designed to protect the environment.

The Great Barrier Reef provides superb recreational activities such as snorkelling, diving, swimming and fishing, or cruising, and offers a superb environment for scientific research.

Great Barrier Reef
Cairns, Cairns Area
Queensland
Australia

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Fitzroy Island National Park

Fitzroy Island, Cairns Area
Free Entry
This island national park, located close to the mainland, is rugged with diverse landscapes featuring granite outcrops, open woodlands, rainforest, mangroves and coral beaches. The island and its surrounding waters form part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Fitzroy Island, named by Lieutenant James Cook, has an interesting history as a quarantine station for the Palmer River Goldfields in the late 1800s, and later as part of an Aboriginal mission growing fruit and vegetables. Explore the rainforested Secret Garden track (one kilometre return) or walk to Nudey Beach (1.2 kilometres return) to relax in the shade, swim and snorkel. Tackle the 3.6 kilometre return Lighthouse track to the lighthouse, which offers spectacular views of the ocean and, in winter, migrating humpback whales. Look for birds such as rose-crowned fruit-doves and metallic starlings and large goannas. Challenge yourself on the 3.6 kilometre return boulder-strewn Summit track which climbs through woodland to the island's summit (269 metres) where slabs of granite and windswept casuarina trees frame magnificent views over the island, surrounding reefs and mainland.

Mount Lewis National Park

Julatten, Mareeba Area
Free Entry
Mount Lewis, one high rainforest-clad mountains of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, is a treasure trove of unique and endemic wildlife. The area between the Mount Lewis and Atherton Tableland is especially diverse. The beautiful upland rainforest dates back to the evolution of flowering plants on earth. Some flowers are indicative of Australia's link with the ancient landmass of Gondwana. Drive a four-wheel-drive or ride a mountain bike on the 56 kilometre (return) Mount Lewis Road. Starting at the entrance to the park, the rainforest drive climbs to over 1200 metres before following the contours around the chain of peaks that form the watershed of the Mossman and Mitchell rivers. Picnic at one of the creek crossings. Look for the Mount Lewis spiny crayfish in the creeks and blue-faced parrot-finches in grassy clearings and glades. Spot red-bellied black snakes basking on the road and huge blue earthworms coming to the ground's surface during wet weather.

Mossman Gorge Centre

Mossman, Douglas Area
From AU$8.50 - 8.50
Visit Mossman Gorge and experience the Daintree World Heritage Rainforest with pristine waterfalls, mountains and vivid flora and fauna, all the while getting lost in its enchanting stories and rich Indigenous heritage. Begin your trip by paying a visit to the Mossman Gorge Centre. Peruse the Indigenous art work, enjoy a light refreshment at Mayi café and book yourself onto one of the award-winning Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks, The walks are conducted by the traditional owners of the Gorge, the Kuku Yalanji people. Be taken on a journey steeped in heritage as you uncover their ancient culture and traditions. After a visit to the Centre, a shuttle bus will transport you into the heart of the Gorge where the adventure begins through this unique wilderness. Whether at your own pace on one of the self guided walks through the National Park or with an expert local indigenous guide on the Dreamtime Walks the Gorge is guaranteed to leave you enthused and inspired.

Hope Islands National Park

Cooktown, Cook Area
Free Entry
This island national park includes East and West Hope islands as well as Struck Island and Snapper Island. East and West Hope islands are low-lying cays. West Hope Island is a shingle cay formed from piles of loose shingle (coral debris) on which only the most hardy plants such as mangroves survive. East Hope is a typical sand cay, forested with tall coastal trees such as beach almonds. These islands are among the most important bird-nesting sites in the northern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Thousands of pied imperial-pigeons visit the islands to breed each summer. A delight for birdwatchers and fishers, these tropical islands provide a haven for nature lovers. Relax and enjoy the natural beauty. Bush camp at one of four camp sites on East Hope Island. Watch the birdlife along the shore. Listen to the calls of the pied-imperial pigeons in the trees during summer months. Go snorkelling or diving to discover amazing reef life. Make use of public moorings and throw in a fishing line.
Free Entry
Michaelmas Cay, part of Michaelmas and Upolo Cays National Park, is one of the most important seabird breeding sites in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Michaelmas Cay is a small, low sand cay, covered by grasses and low-growing plants. Upolu Cay is a low, unvegetated sand cay. From the fenced beach access area on Michaelmas Cay, watch seabirds nesting and tending their young without disturbing them. Marvel at the sight of up to 30,000 seabirds occupying the cay at peak nesting periods during summer. Look for sooty terns, common noddies and crested terns. Admire huge flocks of seabirds filling the sky. Go snorkelling to explore the diverse surrounding reefs. Public moorings are provided for private boats.

Snapper Island, Hope Islands National Park

Port Douglas, Douglas Area
Free Entry
This high continental island, close to Port Douglas, boasts lush vine forests, dense eucalypt forest, mangroves and white sandy beaches. The islands and surrounding waters and fringing reefs are within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Snapper Island is within easy reach of the coast by kayak or small boat, and is popular for camping, birdwatching and small boat fishing. Join a guided kayaking trip with a commercial tour operator to paddle around the island and land on seemingly-remote beaches. Explore the short walking track to a rocky ridge to the northern side of the island. Spend the night bush camping and have the island all to yourself. Drop in a line and try your luck fishing for mackerel and other reef fish in this popular angling spot for small boats.

Green Island National Park

Green Island, Cairns Area
Free Entry
This small rainforest-clad coral cay is surrounded by coral reefs and is one of the Great Barrier Reef's most popular destinations. A true coral cay, it was formed over thousands of years by the build-up of sand and coral rubble deposited on the calm side of a platform reef. Tropical vine forest covers the island. Palm-fringed sandy beaches slope gently to the clear, blue-green waters of the surrounding reef, which is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Stroll around the island's boardwalks to explore the rainforest and birdlife and find out about the island's history. Walk around the island's beaches to view seabirds and enjoy views over the reef. Relax on the beach and listen to the birds in the forest behind you. Take a break from the beach and picnic on tables placed in the cool shade of the forest. Swim or snorkel or paddle a kayak in the clear reef waters. Go for a ride in a glass-bottomed boat or join a guided nature walk. Visit Marineland Melanesia Crocodile Habitat.

Wet Tropics

Mossman, Douglas Area
Free Entry
The Wet Tropics World Heritage property extends from Townsville to Cooktown on the north-east coast of Queensland and covers almost 900,000 hectares. The area is a region of spectacular scenery with fast-flowing rivers, deep gorges, numerous waterfalls and mountain summits providing expansive rainforest views. One of the largest rainforest wilderness areas in Australia centres around the Daintree River Valley. This is the only area in the world where two World Heritage listed areas meet, the rainforest grows right down to the fringing World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. The area includes the following: - Daintree National Park - Barron Gorge National Park - Wooroonooran National Park Many different opportunities are provided that allow visitors to experience the Wet Tropics, including luxury accommodation nestled in rainforest; four-wheel-drive tours; bird and crocodile spotting tours. Extensive bushwalking options include the Wet Tropics Great Walk, one of Queensland’s new world-class long distance walking tracks. It extends for 110km highlighting the natural and cultural features of this unique area. The Wet Tropics is home to 30 percent of Australia’s marsupial species, including the small musky rat-kangaroo, which is the most primitive surviving kangaroo species. The Wet Tropics also provides habitat for numerous endemic species of both fauna and flora. There are at least 390 species of plants that can be classified as rare or very restricted and of these, 74 are regarded as threatened. Aboriginal occupation of the area is believed to date back 50,000 years to the earliest human occupation of Australia. The district was a rich environment for the Aboriginal hunter-gatherers who lived there. About 16 different groups occupied the area and the Wet Tropics area continues to hold great significance for the local Aboriginal communities who identify as rainforest people.

Three Sisters Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
The Three Sisters, part of the impressive Milln Reef, can be found just a short boat trip from Cairns. The three large, colourful bommies are perhaps most famous for the Gorgonian Gorge, with the second and third sisters rising to within one metre of the surface - the three metre gap between them is constantly filled with schools of fusiliers and snapper. Immense schools of snapper, surgeonfish and sweetlips populate the peaks of the pinnacle, while larger pelagic fish are known to use the Gorgonian Gorge as their gateway between the coast and the Pacific Ocean. Snorkellers and divers alike will find lots to see and do, with swim-throughs, overhangs and crevices to explore, as well as deep dives and pinnacles to swim around. The Three Sisters host a huge variety of wonderful coral, often visited by barracuda, reef sharks, moray and garden eels, lagoon rays and turtles.

Nursery Bommie Dive Site

Port Douglas, Douglas Area
Free Entry
One of the most impressive dive sites on the Agincourt Reefs, off Port Douglas, is a large pinnacle called Nursery Bommie. This column of coral rises from 2 metres to 25 metres and is decorated with sea whips, soft corals and gorgonians, but it is the fish life that will be most remembered. At the base of the bommie is always a school of colourful blue-striped snapper, but also common are barracuda, trevally, surgeonfish and fusiliers. Cut by numerous ledges, make sure you check these out as you are likely to see rock cod, lionfish, coral cod, nudibranchs and maybe a lovely leaf scorpionfish. The top of Nursery Bommie is home to hundreds of fairy basslets and also a massive school of snubnose drummer, making for a very memorable dive.
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