Cairns and tropical north Queensland

Cairns: 24-hour itinerary

Cairns Insider
Visit the intriguing Australian Butterfly Sanctuary (Photo: Tourism Queensland)
Visit the intriguing Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
"Walk uphill for lunch at the locals-mostly Bottom Pub. Fare is simple, delicious and traditionally Kuranda."
Cairns Insider

For those early birds who like to see the sun rise, start on the Cairns Esplanade near the Lagoon for free Early Morning Fitness program run by Cairns Regional Council. Choose aqua aerobics or workout boot camp. Check Cairns Regional Council website for details.

Hire a car from any major car hire — most are centrally located on Lake or Sheridan St (Budget, Hertz, Sugarland, ….)

Take Sheridan Street, it becomes the Captain Cook highway just north of the city limits, and drive north to Port Douglas about 1hr. (60 Km)

You will pass right hand turnoffs to beach suburbs Holloways, Clifton, Trinity. All make good beach walking. If you feel like early breakfast visit Palm Cove 20 min north of the city, try the Après Beach Bar.

At Wangetti Beach find the safest way to see huge local crocodiles at Hartley’s Creek Wildlife Park.

Continue north to Port Douglas. Pause just past Wangetti at Rex Lookout for one of the best views to the Pacific on the tropical coast.

Turn off to Port Douglas. Macrossan St has great shopping and restaurants. Try Two Fish or Salsa Bar and Grill for excellent sea food and a view to famous Dixon Inlet. Sit right on the old Sugar Wharf at Salt and Pepper and try the fish and chips.

Continue north to Mossman. Drive into town and turn left at the Hospital St — drive 14k into Mossman Gorge National Park. The Mossman River flows out of the great divide over some of the biggest boulders and through some of best swimming holes on the planet. Conditions around the Gorge parking and visitation are in flux as the traditional owners are in the process of building a visitor centre.

North from Mossman follow the Captain Cook Highway approximately 35 km past Rocky Point and Wonga Beach to the Daintree River Ferry turnoff. Ride across the mighty Daintree Rive by Ferry — buy a return trip for $20.00. Ferry open 6am-midnight

Drive through the magical rainforest of the Daintree National Park to Cape Tribulation (approximately 37 km) Make a stop at the Alexandra Range Lookout to gaze on the mouth of the Daintree River.

Drive north over Hutchinson Creek to Coopers Creek where you can take a guided interpreted tour through the rainforest with expert naturalists at the eco certified Coopers Creek Wilderness Lodge. Day and night tours daily. Day and night tours available.

Drive on to Thornton Beach and Noah Creek the home of some the oldest plants in the world. Cross Noah Creek bridge and continue north to Oliver Creek where there is a camp ground (pre-book online only) and a board walk amongst the enchanting lowland rainforest just back of the beach. Continue over Noah Range to famous Cape Tribulation named by Captain Cook just about at the spot where the Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

Walk on the famous Cape Tribulation Beach. This is the spot where two World Heritage listed natural wonders come together the Daintree Rainforest and the inner reaches of the Great Barrier Reef.

Stay the night the night Coconut Beach at the Cape Tribulation Resort and Spa for luxury in the rainforest. Sleep in midst of a tropical fruit orchard at Gray’s Farmstay and Orchard and give a hand to harvest durian, rambutan and mangosteen.

Next morning take an Ocean Safari half day reef trip from Cape Tribulation Beach and start back to Cairns stopping at Mason’s Café just north of Myall Creek. Take an afternoon tour of the mangroves along Cooper Creek.

Make your way back to Cairns with a stop in Port Douglas for early dinner at On the Inlet and watch reef boats chug languidly back to port as the wait staff feed the pet Giant Grouper just below the bar at 5pm daily.

Have you tried any of the places on this itinerary? Got any ideas we haven't thought of? Have your say using the comments form below.

Next: 48-hour itinerary

User comments
Great itinerary. I was fortunate to visit Cairns three times while I lived in Australia and was able to experience everything you discussed. Kuranda is beautiful and the train ride up, railway car down are both amazing experiences.