The Great Tropical Drive from Townsville to Cooktown takes you to some of Australia's best-known attractions including the two World Heritage areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. The Great Tropical Drive offers ever changing landscapes where you can cool off under a waterfall, visit a turtle hospital, go jungle surfing or learn how to hunt mud crab with a spear. Encounter nature, Indigenous culture, food and wine, wildlife, heritage or adventure and know that natural wonders are around every corner as you pass through the unique regions of North Queensland.
At a glance:
- Townsville – Mission Beach (3 hours)
- Mission Beach – Cairns (2 hours)
- Cairns – Port Douglas (1.5 hours)
- Port Douglas – Cooktown (3 hours)
The Townsville region in North Queensland offers real experiences where the natural attractions are complimented by a large range of activities catering to all ages. Take the time to meet the locals and experience the lifestyle, culture and heritage that make the Region so unique. Spot Koalas in the wild on Magnetic Island, discover Cassowaries and Crocodiles, watch Minke Whales and colourful marine life of the reef, have breakfast with the birds and lunch with the wallabies.
- Wander the scenic beach promenade of The Strand.
- Visit the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium at Reef HQ.
- Explore the shopping, food and entertainment precincts of Flinders Street, Palmer Street and Gregory Street.
- Take a 25-minute catamaran to Magnetic Island where you can swim, snorkel, horse ride and hike through the national park to discover WWII history and panoramic views.
- Dive the Moltke wreck or SS Yongala shipwreck which sank in 1911.
Townsville – Mission Beach
Head north along the Great Green Way stopping to hike through the rich rainforest of Paluma Range National Park and swim at Big or Little Crystal Creek. Drive to Ingham a sugar cane town with a distinctly Mediterranean flair thanks to the migrating Italians, Spaniards and Basques who have settled in the area. Drive west to visit Wallaman Falls or take a ferry to Hinchinbrook Island home to cloud-covered mountains, fragile heathland vegetation, lush rainforest, rocky headlands, eucalypt forests and mangrove fringes. Next visit traditional healing ponds with a local Aboriginal guide in Tully Gorge National Park or take a water rafting adventure down the Tully River before heading to the vibrant village of Mission Beach for the night.
Watch for cassowaries, with their blue necks and regal head gear. Drive to Mission Beach, where the golden sand is fringed by a green tangle of rainforest.
- Walk to McClellands Lookout for views over the islands and coastline.
- Explore Lucinda’s sugar loading jetty the longest in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Hike the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, Australia’s largest island national park.
- Visit Wallaman Falls, Australia's highest single drop waterfall.
- Visit Tyoto Wetlands home to 200 species of birds, tropical plants and native wildlife such as wallabies and crocodiles.
- Climb the giant Golden Gumboot which stands 8 metres tall to mark Tully's record-breaking rainfall and title of Australia’s wettest town.
Mission Beach – Cairns
Leaving Mission Beach head north to Innisfail while watching for cassowaries and stopping into the historic soldier settlement of El Arish. Take a short detour off the highway to Mena Creek and Paronella Park, a Spanish castle surrounded by waterfalls and butterfly-fringed gardens. Walk the beach in nearby Ella Bay National Park and past waterfalls, wild rivers and 500 types of rainforest trees in Wooroonooran National Park. Drive down the charming main street of Gordonvale and Edmonton on your way into Cairns, gateway to the islands, rainforest and reef of Tropical North Queensland.
- Discover Paronella Park a hidden treasure in the rainforest.
- Take a walk through the clouds on the Mamu Tropical Skywalk.
- Explore Wooroonooran National Park home to a fascinating array of wildlife.
- Climb Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest mountain.
- Picnic by Josephine Falls or white water raft down the Johnstone River.
- Visit a lavender oil farm in Aloomba or Charlie’s Chocolate Farm.
It's all action in sunny, sophisticated Cairns gateway to the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef and international hub for tanned travellers. Stroll along Cairns Esplanade the city’s social and recreational hub. Stop for an alfresco breakfast at one of the trendy cafes or cool off in the huge saltwater lagoon. Cruise the mangrove-lined waterways of Trinity Inlet or explore the area on an Aboriginal walking tour, learning about fish, crabs and medicinal plants. Alternatively, send your adrenalin soaring on a bungy-jump or sky-dive. Snorkel or scuba dive with brilliant fish and coral or sail past pristine islands on the Great Barrier Reef.
- Stroll along the Cairns Esplanade the city’s social and recreational hub.
- Take a day tour to the 6,000-year-old coral cay of Green Island.
- Experience the rainforest and Aboriginal culture.
- Take a tour to the Great Barrier Reef to go snorkelling, learn to dive or glass-bottomed boat.
- Skyrail Rainforest Cableway provides an interpretative, educational and totally unique perspective of the tropical rainforest environment.
- Travel via rail through tropical rainforest, past waterfalls and national park to the picturesque village of Kuranda.
Cairns – Port Douglas
Meander along the golden chain of beaches stretching north from Cairns. Surf at Machans Beach and swim at Holloways and palm-fringed Yorkey’s Knob. Picnic beneath sea almond trees in Trinity Beach or lunch in the tropical village. Hang out with the locals on secluded Kewarra Beach and check out the wildlife attractions of Clifton Beach. Dine out in Palm Cove’s five-star restaurants, then climb over a rocky outcrop to tranquil Ellis Beach. Continue along the Cook Highway, stopping at Rex Lookout for magical views over the Coral Sea beaches. Drive into the sophisticated tropical oasis Port Douglas, which sits between World Heritage-listed rainforest and reef.
- Walk along the white sands of Four Mile Beach and climb Flagstaff Hill for striking views over Port Douglas.
- Browse the chic art galleries or enjoy an alfresco dinner on Macrossan Street.
- Ride world-class mountain bike trails through World Heritage Listed rainforest.
- Visit the Great Barrier Reef and share the water with curious minke whales and sea turtles.
- Relax in the resort towns of Port Douglas or Palm Cove.
- Have breakfast or brunch in the rainforest with colourful birds and butterflies.
Port Douglas - Cooktown
Head to Cooktown immersing yourself in unique Aboriginal experiences along the Bama Way. Travel through the magical Daintree National Park or walk along Cooya Beach with traditional Kuku Yalanji owners. Cruise the Daintree River past tropical birds and primeval crocodiles, then cross it on a vehicle ferry and continue driving to Cape Tribulation. Follow the Bloomfield Track into the remote wilderness of the Cape York Peninsula and arrive in Cooktown to celebrate the landing of Captain James Cook or take a night walk amongst ancestral rock art sites with proud locals and traditional owners of the land.
- Visit Mossman Gorge in Daintree National Park to experience a spa treatment or learn traditional painting and hunting skills.
- Kayak, walk or gallop your way along Cape Tribulation beach.
- Cruise the Daintree River past tropical birds and primeval crocodiles.
- Zipline through the rainforest and meet the local tree kangaroos or elusive cassowary.
- 4WD the Bloomfield Track or visit Bloomfield Falls.
- Stand in the world’s oldest open-air gallery at an Indigenous rock art site.
- Travel through the remote wilderness of the Cape York Peninsula.