Tropical North Queensland Visitor’s Guide

Stretching from Mission Beach in the south to the Torres Strait in the north, Tropical North Queensland is a rugged and remarkable region where the rainforest meets the reef. Explore the lush Wet Tropics, visit the ancient Daintree Rainforest or discover the underwater wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns is the region’s hub, with the stylish resort town of Port Douglas to its north. The whole region is dotted with sleepy beachside enclaves, quirky hinterland villages and historic townships.


Cairns is the heart of Tropical North Queensland, a vibrant city that blends a laid-back tropical sensibility with a buzzing multicultural lifestyle. Hit the morning markets, have a drink in a hip small bar, swim in the sparkling Esplanade Lagoon or escape the heat in one of the city’s shady parks and gardens. Cairns sits below Tropical North Queensland’s two greatest natural treasures, the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, so there’s a new adventure to be had every day.

Port Douglas

An hour north of Cairns is the village of Port Douglas, where iconic resorts and stylish apartments sprawl along untouched beaches. It’s known for its sophisticated dining, excellent shopping and barefoot luxe vibe.

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Things to do in Cairns

Explore the largest living thing on earth

The marine playground of the Great Barrier Reef is right off the coast of Cairns and more than 30 tour boats leave from the marina every day.

Swim with whales

Queensland is the only place in the world where you can interact with minke whales. Every June and July, you can swim alongside these gentle giants in the Ribbon Reefs off Cairns and Port Douglas.

Explore the city

Cairns city has a relaxed vibe during the day and reveals its vibrant night life after dark. With night markets, a casino and restaurants dotted along the esplanade, you’ll find lots to do after dark. You can even take dip in the Lagoon.

Head inland

The lush green wilderness of the Atherton Tablelands will reveal waterfalls and secluded swimming holes.

Things to do in Port Douglas

Discover the Great Barrier Reef

A cruise to the inner reef of the Great Barrier Reef takes just 30 minutes from Port Douglas, so you can spend more time snorkelling or diving in the pristine waters.

Explore Mossman Gorge

This is the most accessible part of the Daintree, just 20 kilometres from Port Douglas. Take an easy walk along the boardwalk, swim in the clear waters of the Mossman river, surrounded by lush green foliage and butterflies.

Visit Cooya Beach

Just north of Port Douglas, this coastal suburb is famous for mud-crabbing and boating. Take a tour with an Indigenous guide and learn the hunting and cultural traditions of the Kuku Yalanji people who have been living in this region for 50,000 years.

Visit Four Mile Beach

A short stroll from the heart of Port Douglas, you’ll stumble across Four Mile Beach, a stretch of golden sand that’s remained largely undeveloped.

Taste the tropics

Settle in for alfresco dining with more than 60 restaurants and cafes within walking distance. Macrossan Street is the town’s main eatery with restaurants serving house-made gnocchi, healthy Acai bowls and fresh local seafood.

What’s on around Cairns

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself, cheer for your favourite team, indulge your inner gourmet or move to the beat, there’s an event for you in Cairns. Take a look at the packed events calendar and discover your best time to visit.

Where to stay in Tropical North Queensland

From luxury resorts to cheap and cheerful caravan parks – and everything in between – there’s a huge range of accommodation in Cairns and the surrounds.

Cairns accommodation

There are hundreds of places to stay in Cairns, from backpacker hostels and comfortable motels to five-star resorts with a huge range of facilities. There are campgrounds and caravan sites on the city fringe, or larger self-catering holiday houses and apartments perfect for a family group.

Port Douglas accommodation

Port Douglas has been the region’s resort capital for 30 years: with everything from boutique luxury retreats to huge family-friendly resorts with kids’ clubs and a full schedule of activities. Budget-conscious travellers can check into a hostel or go DIY in one of the many self-contained apartments.

Getting there

Cairns Airport is the gateway to Tropical North Queensland, with 14 international and domestic airlines flying to destinations in Australia, Asia and New Zealand. It’s a 10-minute drive to the centre of Cairns or an hour to Port Douglas.

Getting around

Catch a bus

It’s easy to hop on a bus and travel around central Cairns, with stops close to the Esplanade, Botanic Gardens and shopping areas. You can also catch the bus to nearby beaches, including Yorkeys Knob, Kewarra and Palm Cove.


Taxis or ride-share services (such as Uber) are available all over the city. If you want to hire a car, the region is easy to navigate and it’s the best way to explore the Daintree.

Take the scenic route

Cairns is at the start of one of Tropical North Queensland’s great scenic routes, the Great Barrier Reef Drive, which runs 140km along the coast to Cape Tribulation.

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