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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.

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.

Barron Gorge National Park

Kuranda, Mareeba Area
Free Entry
Rugged mountains, ravines, tumbling waterfalls, magnificent rainforest, rich and varied wildlife, easy access and a fascinating history make Barron Gorge National Park one of Queensland’s most popular national parks. The park extends from the coastal lowlands to the elevated regions of the Atherton Tableland and lies within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The Barron River dominates the park. Rising from the rainforests of Mount Hypipamee National Park, the river winds 60 kilometres across the Atherton Tableland. The river then enters the deeply-incised Barron Gorge, between the Macalister and Lamb ranges. The river falls 250 metres onto the coastal lowlands and flows to the Coral Sea. During the wet season, floodwaters regularly create a spectacular sight at Barron Falls. The park is part of the traditional lands of the Djabugandji Bama (local Aboriginal people) who maintain a close spiritual connection with this country. Before Europeans arrived, Bama traversed this country, developing trails linking the coast to the uplands. These historic trails now form sections of a walking track network. Walk the network of walking trails including the elevated boardwalk to the lookout over the spectacular Barron Falls. Raft or canoe down the river or picnic at Lake Placid.

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.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Smithfield, Cairns Area
  • Free WiFi
From AU$50 - 209
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a unique rainforest experience, taking you on an unforgettable journey over and through Australia's World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforests. Spanning seven and a half kilometres in the Barron Gorge National Park, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides just metres over the canopy, its comfortable six-person gondola cabins providing spectacular views of the rainforest, tropical Cairns, the Coral Sea and lush Cairns Highlands. Your adventure includes time at two mid-stations, where you can alight from the cableway learn more about this fascinating environment from the forest floor. At Red Peak Station, Skyrail's Rangers provide guided boardwalk tours sharing their knowledge on these ancient tropical forests, amongst giant buttress roots, ancient Kauri Pines and climbing wait-a-while palms. Barron Falls Station has pathways and lookouts over the Barron Gorge and Falls, historical displays and a Rainforest Interpretation Centre. Developed in conjunction with CSIRO, the Rainforest Interpretation Centre houses interactive touch-screen computers and audio-visual displays, providing an engaging and fun learning experience for people of all ages. Multiple winner of the Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, Skyrail is The World's Most Beautiful Rainforest Experience.

Jorgey's Patch Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
Accessible on a day trip from Cairns, Jorgey's Patch features a variety of terrains for divers to explore, including bommies, ridges, gutters and ledges. In depths between 10 and 25 metres, divers will find an abundance of reef fish on this reef, including fusiliers, angelfish, wrasses, anemone fish and rock cods. If you have the time you should check out every nook and cranny, as you are likely to find nudibranchs, boxfish, lionfish, moray eels, gobies, blennies, flatworms and maybe a wobbegong shark. Whitetip reef sharks and blue spotted lagoon rays are also seen at this pretty dive site.

Barracuda Bommie Dive Site

Port Douglas, Douglas Area
Free Entry
With a name like Barracuda Bommie you would expect to see barracuda at this dive site, and fortunately it rarely disappoints. Located on the Agincourt Reefs, off Port Douglas, Barracuda Bommie is a giant pinnacle of coral that rises from the sandy sea floor at 26 metres. This wonderful bommie is home to turtles, sweetlips, coral trout, trevally, fusiliers and schools of yellow-finned goatfish, snubnose drummer and blue-lined snapper. A smaller bommie, about 60 metres away, is worth a look as it is always covered in cardinalfish, sweetlips, coral trout and many other species. Also have a close look at the sand as blue spotted stingrays and colonies of garden eels are found at this brilliant dive site.

The Oasis Dive Site

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
Divers exploring The Oasis at Milln Reef, off Cairns, have a choice of exploring coral gardens in the shallows or a series of bommies in deeper water. The bommies are quite spectacular, rising from 20 to 30 metres and coloured by beautiful whip corals, soft corals and gorgonians. Large fish gather on these bommies, with barracuda, trevally, sweetlips, mackerel and batfish common. But the coral gardens are almost as good, with pretty hard corals and abundant reef fish. Commonly seen around the coral gardens are turtles, stingrays, moray eels and even a large Maori wrasse.

Whale Dive Site, The

Cairns, Cairns Area
Free Entry
The Whale, located off Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef, is a large isolated coral bommie with abundant marine life. On a low tide, waves break at the top creating a plume of water similar to a whale's tail splashing in the water, hence the site's name. Sleeping white tipped reef sharks and bumphead parrot fish are common on morning dives and sleeping turtles on night dives. An excellent wall dive site.
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