BEACHES AND ISLANDS ITINERARY
For the beach lover, Tropical North Queensland has it all. Deserted wilderness islands, luxury island resorts, palm lined coves, and long, isolated stretches of sand, fringed with age old rainforest. But there is one serious problem... you'll have to leave one day!
TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED ON THIS ROUTE IS ROUGHLY 1400 KILOMETRES. IT MAY NOT LOOK LIKE A VERY LONG DISTANCE, BUT THE PLACES TO VISIT AND THE ACTIVITIES TO DO ARE NUMEROUS AND YOU MAY WISH YOU HAD MORE TIME.
This self drive itinerary is designed for those of you who want to really discover the magnificent beaches that Tropical North Queensland is so proud of. Some days, the trip involves a considerable amount of driving but if you are more comfortable driving less hours a day, you can extend the itinerary for as long as you want and maybe include little side trips to other towns we haven't included.

This self drive tour of the region is intended to be an addition to whatever time you have in Cairns itself. Besides, you could combine this itinerary with any other of the itineraries we have proposed to you and go back home with the knowledge that you have discovered everything it was to discover in Tropical North Queensland.

DAY ONE:

The first thing to do in Cairns is hit the reef, whether you're looking to dive, snorkel or just go for a boat ride. This is one of the wonders of the world, and is unmissable. So let's get you off the mainland right on the first day, and shuffle you across to GREEN ISLAND.

Green Island, close to Cairns, offers magnificent scuba diving and snorkelling in Tropical North Queensland.Green Island is the closest to Cairns (just 45 minutes cruising time, or you can get there by helicopter!) and is probably the most popular for people staying in Cairns for a short period. This 15 hectare coral cay boasts spectacular rainforest stretching up to 25 metres high, and lies upon 710 hectares of reef, making it a fantastic diving spot. The crystal clear waters surrounding Green Island offer fabulous snorkelling and scuba diving, and the coral on the eastern and western sides of the island are noticeably different, so it's worth exploring. There's a pleasant two kilometre circuit track which leads around the island.

The island features a low-rise resort, an underwater observatory and a marineland, and is part of a protected Marine Park. Visitors can snorkel or scuba dive among the marine life, or if you don't want to get wet, you can view it from a glass bottom boat or semi-submersible. There is also an underwater observatory on Green Island, at the end of the jetty.

There are a number of operators to choose from, depending on your own taste and budget. Generally, all snorkelling equipment is provided, along with a buffet lunch. For those who love diving - whether experienced divers or first timers- there will be an opportunity to dive on the reef.

Overnight in Green Island Resort.


DAY TWO:

It may seem illogical to head north on a southbound itinerary, but once you arrive in PORT DOUGLAS, just a one hour drive north of Cairns, you'll see why we planned your itinerary this way. Just to give you a hint, Port Douglas is home to spectacular Four Mile Beach, considered to be one of the north's best beaches. And tomorrow, when you retrace your tracks to Cairns, you won't regret driving this stunning stretch of coastline twice. In fact, you might even find you've deliberately forgotten something in Port Douglas... just to give you an excuse to drive back again!

Overnight in Port Douglas. We will come back with recommendations as to where to stay in Port Douglas. In the meantime, you can visit all the accommodation available in our PORT DOUGLAS page.


DAY THREE:

You'll be sad to say goodbye to Port Douglas, but it's time to turn your head south. There's a whole world of islands and beaches awaiting you. Return the way you came, and about 90 minutes south of Cairns, you will reach MISSION BEACH, one of the Tropical North's best kept secrets.

But if you made an early start and have time to spare, one of the most worthwhile attractions along this stretch is Paronella Park, close to INNISFAIL. Paronella Park was built in the 1930's by a Spanish migrant cane cutter, José Paronella, as a tribute to his wife Margarita. Among other attractions, the Park features the Tunnel of Love, first intended to take visitors through the hillside with candles lighting the way to a waterfall named Teresa. Originally, there was a water feature at the end of the tunnel and lighted aquariums along the walls, but nowadays the only inhabitants of the tunnels are smalls bats. There is also a suspension brigde that crosses the gorge directly over the waterfall, native and rare plants and trees, and amazing ruins, all of which can be visited. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the sounds of the tropical birds that inhabit the park: Emeral Ground-Doves, Yellow-Bellied Sunbirds, Figbirds and Yellow Orioles among others.

After spending some hours visiting Paronella Park, we continue south to Mission Beach, a thriving but idillyc and relaxed beachfront town with more than 14 kilometres of pristine golden sandy beaches lined with palm trees.

While in Mission Beach, we recommend you vist Paradise Winery. It's something you won't find too often in the Tropics... a TROPICAL FRUIT WINERY! Paradise Winery was the first winery in Australia to specialize in banana wine, and they now have a wide range of wines, made from locally produced tropical fruits such as pineapple, mangosteen, red mango, dragonfruit, bush limes, persimmons, wild strawberries and blueberries, and coconuts. You can taste their range of tropical wines while seeing a working winery.

However, if you prefer to do something a bit more relaxing, you can join Mission Beach Adventure tours for one of their walking tours led by members the Girramay tribe. This tour will delight you with a barbecue meal and will show you the art of boomerang and spear-throwing.

When night comes it is time to wind down in one of the many fantastic restaurants and cafés in the area and breath in the calmness of the area.

Overnight in Mission Beach. We will come back with recommendations as to where to stay in Mission Beach. In the meantime, you can visit all the accommodation available in our MISSION BEACH page.


DAY FOUR:

Today we are going to leave mainland and jump to DUNK ISLAND. You can choose from many means of transport, whether it is by helicopter, water taxi or boat transfers from Mission Beach.

With steep mountains lathered in lush rainforest climbing from sweeping arcs of golden sand, Dunk Island is far more than 'tolerable'. It is the ideal tropical island paradise, crisscrossed by a network of walking tracks. Proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, and its luxurious resort make Dunk Island the perfect all-round island getaway.

The range of activities in the island is amazing and you only have to go for the one you enjoy most. If you want to experience the reef again, you can go snorkelling or scuba diving. But if you are with your partner and want to have a romantic experience just for the two of you, embark on a wine and cheese sunset cruise. Or try beach horse riding, parasailing, waterskiing, etc. The options are very numerous to make sure you make the best out of your day in Dunk Island.

For those of you who want to experience Dunk Island completely, we recommend you overnight in Dunk Island Resort. But because it is a bit pricey and not everyone can afford it, it's also possible to return to Mission Beach and overnight there. We will come back with recommendations as to where to stay in Mission Beach. In the meantime, you can visit all the accommodation available in our MISSION BEACH page.


DAY FIVE:

Back in Mission Beach, whether you came back the night before or this morning, we're back on the road and making our way south to TOWNSVILLE. The trip takes around 3 hours and a half, but the scenery along the way is fabulous and you may feel the urge to stop. Feel free to make little stopovers and soak in the magnificence of the tropics.

One of the first towns you will encounter is TULLY, the wettest town in Australia. The nearby Tully River is world famous for its white water rafting, with grade three and four rapids. Some of the rapids are very dangerous and are not recommended for those without a high level of technical skill. Beginners must be under close supervision of highly experienced rafters at all times. Everyone white water rafting in these waters must be fully equipped with helmets, throw bags, lifejackets and first aid kits.

There are a number of tour companies offering white water rafting tours. Please, visit our TULLY page for more information about these tours.

Townsville is regarded as the capital of Tropical North Queensland and thanks to the 320 days of sunshine a year, it is a very popular winter destination for many tourists. Although Townsville is famous for being the jump off point to nearby Magnetic Island, which we'll visit tomorrow, it also deserves some exploration.

First, visit Reef HQ, the place to see many underwater species that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you want to see how animals are fed, learn a bit more about the corals and creatures that live in the Reef, talk to a diver while sharks are surrounding him or observe how the aquarium is maintained, there is something for everyone.

But the jewel of Townsville is undoubtedly The Strand, a two kilometre landscaped boulevard that runs along the oceanfront. The area has picnic facilities, basketball courts, children's playgrounds, and a waterpark, and is lined with cafes and restaurants. There's a rock pool, and during the summer months, the City Council installs stinger resistant swimming enclosures at the beach. The Strand has been awarded as the cleanest beach in Queensland for two consecutive years and it was one of the four winners of the World Leisure Innovative Prize in 2006. From fishing to cooling off in the sea, from playing at the any of the two playgrounds to participating in the public activities and events that will be always taking place as well as signing in with the Picnic Bay or Arcadian Surf Life Savers for some real action, from skydiving to picnicking with your family, there is something to make sure everyone has an unforgettable time here.

Surely some of you will keep on having fun. No worries, there is always something to do. Have you ever been to a rodeo? Then, why don't you visit one? The rodeo at Black River Stadium is the place to see it. It all happens under lights with hot rocking country music that will blow your socks off. Forget the hot dry dusty arena other rodeos share with the outback flies. Black River Rodeos Main Performance starts at 7 pm sharp with a non stop up tempo Rodeo Show performed especially for the crowd by the cream of cowboys and cowgirls - all the best talent from all over North Queensland.

Overnight in Townsville. We will come back with recommendations as to where to stay in Townsville. In the meantime, you can visit all the accommodation available in our TOWNSVILLE page.


DAY SIX:

Magnetic Island, in Tropical North Queensland, has long become established as a holiday destination with a wide range of holiday accommodation to suit from luxury travellers to backpackers.Today you will be again leaving mainland Australia behind and this time you will be visiting a very special land, that of the koalas. MAGNETIC ISLAND is home to the Koala Village, Australia's largest and most northerly colony of wild koalas. Originally a koala hospital, the Koala Village is now a unique attraction for the whole family, with 12 koalas that visitors can hold and feed. Koala Village is our first stop in Magnetic Island, but we still have many hours in front of us to discover a bit more of this unique island.

Magnetic Island is surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef and it is one of those places where, if you are a diving's lover, you must go on a diving tour. The range of tours is very wide, please visit our DIVING AND SNORKELLING TOURS page to choose the one that suits you.

If you want to keep on discovering the beauty of the island, take on a unique jeep tour around some of the most magnificent beaches and most remote areas of Magnetic Island. There are different tours to choose from, depending of what you feel like doing or visiting. But be assured that all of them will be a fantastic experience and you will leave Magnetic Island looking forward to coming back.

Overnight in Magnetic Island. We will come back with recommendations as to where to stay in Magnetic Island. In the meantime, you can visit all the accommodation available in our MAGNETIC ISLAND page.


DAY SEVEN:

Today we'll be making our way to AIRLIE BEACH, nearly four hours away from Townsville. It may see a long way, but we assure you the drive itself will be worth it. You will be passing some amazing towns on your way, such as AYR or BOWEN, and in some of them you will want to stop.

Airlie Beach is a very popular destination, colourful and cosmopolitan, although it has maintained a relaxed and inviting village atmosphere. Airlie Beach's beach is small, but there's a 4,300 square metre lagoon, holding 4.5 million litres of salt water. That's about the size of about six full-size Olympic swimming pools, set in four hectares of shady botanic gardens, with a children's pool, barbecues, picnic shelters, toilets, showers, and parking. You can choose to spend some time chilling out by the lagoon or go whale watching, if you happen to be in Airlie Beach during July and September.

Overnight in Airlie Beach. We will come back with recommendations as to where to stay in Airlie Beach. In the meantime, you can visit all the accommodation available in our AIRLIE BEACH page.


DAY EIGHT & NINE:

Welcome to the WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS, paradise on earth. Here you can choose which island's activities and lifestyle are more to your liking and go for it. You can spend as much time and as many days exploring these islands as you want. But we recommend that you choose the two you like most and enjoy the last two days of this trip.

Whatever two islands you choose, we highly recommend you visit Whitehaven Beach, on WHITSUNDAY ISLAND. Did you know that the sand of Whitehaven Beach is almost pure silica, 99.89 percent quartz. For a short time during the 1960's, this ultra fine white sand was actually mined and exported to Japan for the manufacture of fine glass products. But remember, if you decide to visit Whitsunday Island, bring with you all you may need, you won't find anywhere on the island where you can stock up.

For more information about the Whitsunday Islands, please visit our WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS page and discover a new whole world offshore east Australia.

Overnight on any of the islands you may have chosen.


DAY TEN:

Time to make our way back to CAIRNS. The trip will take you around nine hours, but if are not in a real hurry, maybe it is time now to stop in all those little towns we overlooked on our way to the Whitsundays. You can spare one more day, can't you?

BOWEN lies around 90 minutes north of Airlie Beach and proudly boasts eight award-winning beaches, including the clothing-optional Coral Bay.

Another 90 minutes north you will find the town of AYR, famous for being where the SS YONGALA WRECKS rests. If you want to have a different scuba diving experience, join in many of the diving tour companies that offer diving trips to the wreck.

Four hours drive north of Townsville, still in our way to Cairns, the Babinda Boulders are a must see. The Aboriginal legend that accompanies them makes them even more interesting, but The Boulders themselves are worth while. They are fast flowing creeks, perfect for get rid of the tropical heat thanks to their cool waters. However, be careful and don't take risks of any kind in the area. To read about THE BABINDA BOULDERS' LEGEND, please click in the link.

And another hour and you are back in Cairns. Hope you have enjoyed this eleven day trip to the most magnificient sites and beaches south of Cairns.


For more information about each of these tempting destinations, please visit the relevant pages below...
Home Hill's Inkerman Sugar Mill. The 500 metre wide Burdekin Dam in flood. The Big Mango, Bowen Cardwell's long, sweeping beach and jetty.
Paronella park, a ruined Spanish castle in the rainforest just a short drive south of Cairns. Tully's controversial Golden Gunboot. The historic Courthouse building in Innisfail, the Art Deco Capital of Australia. The mysterious and beautiful Babinda Boulders.

Nudey Beach, in Tropical North Queensland.
Tropical North Queensland boasts many spectacular beaches that you can have nearly to yourself...
Tropical North Queensland's beaches are a excellent attraction for the whole family.
Enjoy a spectacular sunrise in any of the many sandy white beaches Tropical North Queensland offers.
Relax on any of the beaches you can find in Tropical North Queensland.
Cardwell is a fantastic destination if you are looking for pristine long beaches in Tropical North Queensland.