Here's my 10 day Australia itinerary. The best of Australia's Tropical Far North Queensland: The Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Forest and endless empty beaches.
OceaniaAustralia9 days / July 2020
Highs & Lows
The Great Barrier Reef was the biggest highlight of this trip, but there is so much more to Far North Queensland!
Beautiful beaches that you can't swim in. No mobile reception north of the Daintree River, and hotel WiFi is really expensive
This is a bucket list trip for anyone who's ever dreamed of visiting the Great Barrier Reef, but there is so much more to Far North Queensland.
This trip started with a road trip from Cairns International Airport to Port Douglas - a gorgeous coastal town and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Forest.
The road trip continued all the way up to Cape Tribulation exploring the World Heritage Daintree Forrest and some of the most stunning beaches in Australia.
The last few days were based out of Palm Cove, on the Northern Beaches of Cairns, including a trip out to Green Island, and a coral cay island off the coast of Cairns.
The trip takes in the worlds largest coral reef and the oldest living rainforest on the planet.
Australia at its best!
Day 1 - I arrived at Cairns International Airport in the afternoon, and immediately set off on a road trip up to Port Douglas. The road between Cairns and Port Douglas is a fantastic road trip - it winds along the coast and there are some amazing beaches and lookouts that I stopped at to enjoy the colours of the sunset over the ocean. Take time for this drive, its an attraction in itself!
Day 2 - I was up before dawn to watch the sunrise from Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas. A sunrise over the ocean is always worth an early morning! The rest of the day was spent exploring Port Douglas. I took a walk up to Four Mile Beach Lookout and Trinity Bay Lookout And enjoyed the main strip which is full of pretty little stores and cafes. Rex Smeal Park is another spot I highly recommen. It offers a small beach and some amazing views right up the coast, plus you get to watch the sail boats coming in and out of the Marina.
I also booked my ticket for the Great Barrier Reef at the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina. There are some restaurants and a great little brewery at the Marina to waste away a couple of relaxing (and delicious) hours.
Day 3 - The Great Barrier Reef! I've devoted a whole page to this. Just amazing!! Afterward, I watched the sunset from Rex Smeal Park.
Day 4 - Another sunrise on Four Mile Beach before heading north to the Daintree...
This was the best travel experience of my life!
I've snorkelled across SE Asia and in lots of other Australian waters. I even have my Open Diver Certificate, and yet I'd never made it to the Great Barrier Reef. I had some pretty high expectations for this day trip, and they were met and exceeded!
I chose to do my tour with Calypso Reef Cruises. I wanted a tour that was dedicated to snorkeling and I wanted to spend as much time in the water as possible. This tour included 3 amazing snorkelling sites, and I got to spend an hour at each of the reefs.
The tour included lunch, snacks, snorkel gear and a lycra suit, so all I needed was my swimmers and a towel. I also hired an underwater camera from Calypso and I got some amazing shots which is great, because I can relive the experience over and over again.
The reef is teaming with life and colour. Luckily, the areas I visited were not affected by coral bleaching at the time.
I was ready to jump in as soon as the boat pulled up to the reef, and I was almost always last back in. I wanted to make the most of the time I had!
I'm a confident snorkeler, but if you're not, they do provide a guide to show you the best parts of the reef and support you if you're a bit wary.
This is not a cheap day out, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I'll be doing this again as soon as I can!
Day 4 - I set out on my second road trip to Cape Tribulation. The drive takes you through miles of sugar cane crops, over the Daintree River Ferry and winding roads through rainforests.
My first stop was Newell Beach just north of Mossman, then I stopped in at Wonga Beach and then made my way up to the Daintree Ferry.
Once you cross the river, you'll be out of mobile range. The region doesn't even have electricity, so all businesses and homes run of generators. This is the outback by the ocean!
On the way up I stopped in at the Daintree Discovery Centre to explore the rainforest. They have some fantastic boardwalks and lots of information to learn about the wildlife and fauna. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the region.
I also took a side-trip out to Cow Bay Beach. This is an isolated but stunning beach and worth the drive out there.
I then completed the drive ending in Cape Tribulation for the day.
Day 5 - This was an explore day! I started by heading north to Cape Tribulation Beach, and spent a couple of hours walking along the empty beach and up to the Cape Tribulation lookout.
Its important to mention that you really can't swim in any of the beaches in the Daintree due to crocodiles swimming the waters. Also, during the wetter months, the water is full of poisonous stingers......so these beaches are for walking and admiring. Not swimming!
I also spent some time doing the Marrdja Boardwalk through the rainforest. This is just the most amazing walk, and there are information plaques along the way to provide you with some information about the ancient floa and fauna of the Daintree. This walk can be done by anyone - the boardwalks are flat, so strollers and even wheelchairs can move easily through he walk.
I then stopped in at CJ's Bar and Cafe on Thornton Beach for a late lunch and a well deserved bevvie.
Day 6 - Another road trip back down to Port Douglas. I made a few fantastic stops along the way.
I stopped in and did a river cruise on the Daintree River for some crocodile spotting - there were plenty of crocs to see!
I then headed down to Mossman Gorge, which is the most amazing complex that provides a gateway to the absolutely beautiful Mossman Gorge. Mossman Gorge has some amazing rainforest boardwalks, and there are some absolutely stunning natural swimming areas here. They also operate some cultural experiences where you can learn more about the traditional land owners and their culture. Sadly, due to COVID-19 these experiences were not available when I was there, but I will definitely be returning to join one of these tours.
After a full day travelling back from the Daintree, I took myself for an evening stroll on Four Mile Beach. I even packed a bottle of wine, and enjoyed the sunset in style.
Day 7 - After a gorgeous breakfast and another beach walk, I headed off on another road trip down to Palm Cove.
I booked myself a decadent lunch at Thala Beach Reserve's Osprey Restaurant. This is a real treat, but if you're a foodie, and don't mind paying for an exceptional meal (with an exceptional view), then make the time to visit for lunch!
Thala also has the most amazing coconut plantation which is worth visiting even if you don't want to stop for a fancy lunch.
I also stopped off at Rex Lookout on the way south to take in the stunning views of the coral coast.
Days 8, 9 and 10
I visited Palm Cove for lunch a few years ago, and I knew I wanted to return on this trip. Palm Cove is a beautiful little coastal holiday town filled with gorgeous shops and some of Queensland's best restaurants and cafes.
This 5.5km beach is lined by palm trees and has plenty of shady spots to stop and take in the scenery.
I spent most of my time here catching up with friends, walking along the beach and enjoying being on holidays. I also took a day trip out to Green Island during my Palm Cove stay.
Green Island is a coral cay located about 30kms of the coast of Cairns. A day trip includes the costs of the cruise out to the island, and snorkelling gear while visiting.
The island is quite small, you can walk the circumference of the island in about 45 minutes. Green Island is a bit unique because it is the only island on the Great Barrier Reef with its own rainforest eco system. So the island is a little rainforest surrounded by white sand and coral filled waters.
My day was pretty lazy. I walked around the island, checked out the rainforest walk, spend a lot of time just lazing on the beach and did some snorkelling.
The island has a variety of food and shopping options also.
An absolutely lovely way to spend a day if you're in the Cairns region!
Q & A
What would you have changed?
I'd do two days out on the Great Barrier Reef. One wasn't enough for me! I also originally booked 3 nights in Cape Tribulation, but I think 2 nights is plenty. I rearranged my itinerary to spend an extra night in Port Douglas
Anything go wrong during the trip?
I travelled during COVID-19 so a lot of attractions and places to eat in the Daintree National Park area were closed. This was one of the main reasons I cut my trip in that area a bit short. I'd like to do it again when everything is open.
Thala Nature Reserve's Osprey Restaurant was absolutely amazing. This was a bit of a treat, but well worth the expense. If you appreciate really good food and don't mind paying for it, don't hesitate to book at Osprey's. You'll thank me!
Tips you would give a friend?
Don't miss the Great Barrier Reef. Spend an entire day at Mossman Gorge (and bring your swimmers).
Its warm in this area all year round, so pack for humid and warm weather. Bring sunscreen and insect repellent
This trip is best done by road. Without a car, you'll be relying upon tours to travel around which could be expensive.
I was surprised just how little services were available once I crossed the Daintree River. No mobile, and wifi at hotels or cafes cost a bomb. There is 3 shops in the region, and they didn't have extended business hours. After 5pm everything is shut.