Gateway to Tropical North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a vibrant tropical metropolis offering a range of accommodation, restaurants and bars, and an attractive esplanade along the foreshore with a man-made lagoon. Cruises to the Great Barrier Reef depart daily from the city’s marina. Options include day trips for diving and snorkelling, liveaboard dive boats or an extended cruise of the Coral Sea. The other great attraction of the region is the rainforest.
Port Douglas and Palm Cove
Sophisticated Port Douglas is around an hour north of Cairns and its most popular alternative. A key difference is Four Mile Beach, with its palm-fringed, pristine white sands. The centre of Port Douglas is compact and renowned for its array of restaurants that attract the wealthy and well known – many parking their yachts in the picturesque marina. Between the steep, verdant slopes of the Great Dividing Range and the shores of the Coral Sea lies laid-back Palm Cove. Wherever you stay, you’ll never be more than a few steps from the town’s lovely beach. Kewarra Beach can be found at the southern end of the same sandy bay as Palm Cove and is a soothingly quiet and secluded place to stay.
The Great Barrier Reef
A breathtaking chain of nearly 3000 reefs and 900 rainforest-clad islands, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure. It is also Earth’s largest protected marine area, hosting a staggering amount of species including 2000 types of fish, reef sharks, turtles, dugongs and whales. Whether you see it by boat, from the air or underwater, this is an icon that’s not to be missed. Tranquil Lizard Island is the most northern of the Great Barrier Reef resorts and a true island escape, home to just one indulgent yet understated resort, 24 powdery soft beaches, a lagoon and over 1000 hectares of national park. Coral gardens lie just moments from the shore, and the diving is spectacular – see giant clams and potato cod at the famous site of Cod Hole. Lizard Island is reached by a one hour flight from Cairns and is exclusively for guests – there are no day trippers here.
Daintree & Cape Tribulation
Part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site, Daintree National Park contains one of the oldest living rainforests on Earth with diverse landscape featuring cascading waterfalls, deep gorges, mangrove forests, dramatic rivers and glorious coastal views. A historic spot that forms part of Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation was first encountered and named by Captain Cook in 1770. It is at Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the reef, with the Great Barrier Reef just off shore and the rainforest creeping right onto the beach. Highlights include pristine, secluded beaches and abundant wildlife.