Also see History and The Great Barrier Reef and Islands sections of this website to learn more about Cairns and the North Queensland region around it.
When people think of Australian beaches, they generally think of surfers on boards and big waves and there are thousands of beaches from Noosa and the Sunshine Coast all the way south past the Gold Coast all the way to Victoria where you will find surfing beaches.
Cairns is different!
The water is beautifully aqua blue and clear, warm and calm, but there are no big surfing waves, other than waves whipped up during a cyclone. The water on the coastline also has Box Jellyfish (Stingers) that can deliver a very severe and painful sting, sometimes fatal – and these are mostly found along the mainland North Queensland coastal waters between November and May. The Box Jellyfish can be big or very small and are almost transparent, so seeing them in the water in difficult. Special body suits can be worn to protect the body from being stung, and you can ask about them locally.
If you do get stung by a Jellyfish, immediately help wash the sting away using vinegar, (or urine) and seek immediate first aid. Avoid rubbing the sting. Triple 0 (000) is the emergency phone number in Australia.
Crocodiles also live in many of the Rivers too – so swimming in many areas certainly has its perils, and of course there are snakes and mosquitoes too in the rainforest and near the coast. Don’t forget your mosquito repellent if spending time outdoors, particularly around dusk and nightfall.
Having now scared the hell out of you – Cairns and the region is a great place to visit, and there are lots of swimming pools and places where you can swim safely, and on the Reef your guides will let you know if it is safe to swim!
WHAT TO SEE –
The number one attraction of Cairns and Port Douglas is certainly the Great Barrier Reef – and the islands off the Coast – and we have set down information about the reef and the islands as a separate section on this website.
Cairns itself is located on Trinity Bay and the main tourist area is the waterfront Esplanade that runs next to the coastline – a great place to walk, swim in the safe swimming pool lagoon and take in the night markets, Pier shops and ambience of the Esplanade and surrounding streets. Reef Cruises also depart from the wharf terminal here too, so it is easy to see what trips, times and cruises will suit you best. Being a relatively small city, most things are close by, including lots of places to stay, eat, buy food, gifts, clothing, and souvenirs and get a feel for the tropics. The Cairns Marlin Marina is a separate wharf area for yachts to berth – and this is where the super maxi yachts – up to 60 metres in length can be seen. It is also where cruise liners tie up and where some of the game fishing expeditions head out from. Small ships that also service the far north islands and Torres Strait with food and supplies also set out from here too, and one of the ships takes up to 40 passengers on board too. These are cargo boats, so quite a different experience to a normal passenger cruise. For details see www.seaswift.com.au .
The Cairns Reef Casino and hotel nearby (www.reefcasino.com.au ) has gaming tables, poker machines, restaurants, bars, conference rooms, stage shows, music, and 5 star hotel rooms to stay in, and it even has a small zoo enclosure, with a roof top walk around the top of the building.
Nearby are also pubs and other night spots and restaurants. Just ask a local or even a visitor to recommend one or more of them to you.
There are lots of places to stay, from 5 star resorts, self-catering units, bed and breakfast set ups, to backpacker accommodation, both in Cairns and also outside of Cairns in any of the small towns up and down the coast and on the Tablelands. Being a hot tropical climate, our advice is to pick a place to stay that also has a pool to swim in, ideally a view and a location that makes it easy to walk to the City Centre or places that you want to see.
GREAT FISH, FRUIT and FOOD –
Cairns and the region have all sorts of fresh tropical fruit all grown locally – papaya (Paw Paw), pineapples, mangoes in season, bananas, and also some of the exotic Asian fruits like Mangosteen, Starfruit, Soursop and others are all grown here – and even tea and coffee are grown on the Atherton Tableland, where Australia’s biggest tea estate is also located here (see www.neradatea.com.au ). You can also tour the tea estate to learn about Nerada tea, and buy fresh tea and tea canisters as well as have lunch, morning or afternoon tea.
Fish including Coral Trout, Mackerel, Snapper and also Barramundi are all found off the coast and there are a number of seafood restaurants as well as Fish & Chips shops that will serve you.
As a multi-cultural city, there are also Thai, Japanese, Italian and many other restaurants too, and certainly there is no shortage of foods to try.
The biggest shopping centre, Cairns Central is located on Shields Street and here you will find big supermarkets, Myer Department store, specialty stores and a food court too, plus picture theatres with the latest film relaeases.
REEF FISHING –
The king of fish is undoubtedly the giant Black Marlin – and Cairns is one of the world’s best known Black Marlin fishing spots, with the season being from September to December each year. These giant fish can weigh up to a thousand pounds or more, and Game Fishing boats can take you out to the Reef or on a charter for a day or overnight trips or more days to catch and tag them. There also many other types of fish that can be caught, including Sailfish, Red Emperor, Wahoo, Mahi-Mahi, Spanish Mackerel, Yellowfin Tuna and other types, as well as Barramundi – which is perhaps the most highly prized fish. The Barramundi breeding season is from the 1st of November until 1st February, during which time it is illegal to catch them. Even though Barramundi is a salt water fish, it is also possible to fish for Barramundi in Lake Tinnaroo.
Certain areas are also available for spear fishing, and there is also a growing interest in ocean fly fishing, as well as fishing in the nearby rivers, where you need to be careful of crocodiles.
A number of charter boats operate fishing tours, and any of the bait and tackle shops will be able to advise you on what you need, where to fish and what to catch. (See www.fishingcairns.com.au )
NATIONAL PARKS –
Cairns is surrounded by National Parks – to the north, south, west and east – including the Green Island National Park and Frankland Islands National Park of the coast, and the Barrier Reef Marine Park which covers a vast amount of the Barrier Reef area.
Most of the National Parks are located in and around the Rainforest and mountain areas – with much of the area a ‘World Heritage’ Listing, in recognition of its unique landscape, trees, flora and fauna.
Visiting a National Park will enable you to see the natural rainforest, lakes, rivers, gorges, animals and birdlife and other features that make each park something special. Some parks allow camping, others have just walking trails, others have just 4WD access, or restrictions on what you can do within the Park. To see a full list of the main parks around Cairns, See www.nprsr.com.au/parks/pdf/tablelands-region-vg.pdf
The most visited National Parks is the Barron Gorge National Park close to Cairns.
The Barron Gorge can be accessed by road, or the skyrail cablecar, a 7.5km ride over the top of the rainforest (See www.skyrail.com.au) or the scenic railway (see History section on this website) from Cairns to Kuranda at the top of the gorge on the escarpment.
Walkways, trails and lookouts are located at the top of the gorge, and provide tremendous views across the rainforest and coastline and the spectacular Barron Falls. It is also possible to do a rafting trip on the Barron River, and with a bit of luck you may also see some of the animals that live in the rainforest or birds and butterflies. The shy and endangered Cassowary birds – that look a bit like an Emu or Ostrich also live in the rainforest, but you are more likely to see these in one of the wildlife Sanctuaries than you are in the wild. Lake Placid at the bottom of the gorge has a camping park next to it, and the Barron River also has a hydro power station and also another at Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tableland.
TOWNS AND VILLAGES – on the Atherton Tablelands
Kuranda is very much a tourist town and is easily accessed from Cairns via the Scenic Railway, Cable car, tour bus or car. It is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Cairns – with its eclectic mix of markets and small shops, and reputation as a ‘hippie town’. The town is surrounded by rainforest, and you will also find lots to do here.
In Kuranda or close by you will find a Butterfly Sanctuary, Koala Gardens, Birdworld, the Rainforestation Nature Park – where you can travel on an old army duck to see the rainforest and river areas (Tel: 4085 5008), a Fossil and Gemstone Museum, the Markets, the Australian Venom Zoo, and there are also tours by Riverboat on the Barron River, and a tour organised by the local aboriginal clansmen – the Djabugay Tour (07) 4084 0967.
Mareeba – on the Atherton Tableland has a population of around 7000 people and was once a Cobb & Co coach stop between the goldfields at Herberton and Port Douglas on the coast. The town is a centre for agriculture with cattle, banana plantations and many other fruits, such as mangoes, paw-paws, pineapples, as well as coffee, flowers, cashew and macadamia nuts. It looks and feels like a small country town, with wide public streets – wide enough to turn a bullock team around in, but you may be surprised to know that Mareeba was the base for American and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons during the Second World War, with the airfield used as the base for fighting the war in New Guinea and the Pacific. More than 10,000 airmen and personnel were stationed in Mareeba between 1942 and 1945. At Mareeba Airport, you can visit the Aviation Museum (Tel: (07) 40927391 www.warbirdadventures.com.au ) open Thursdays to Sundays, where you can see aircraft like the Kitty Hawk, Douglas DC3 and restored aircraft. You can even book a flight on one of the restored warbirds! Another alternative is to take a tour on a Hot Air Balloon over the countryside, and Mareeba is famous for its Hot Air Balloons.
The Mareeba Heritage Museum showcases Mareeba’s history from the aboriginal and early settler history to the present day, with interesting information and memorabilia from the days when tobacco was one of the main crops grown – and information on some of the old work skills of blacksmiths, tobacco stringers, tin panners, saddlers and railway fettlers. The museum has an old railway carriage, schoolroom and even a rail ambulance on display.
Just outside town on Springs Rd there is the Mako Trac International Racetrack where motorbike and Go Karts race during the year, and you can hire Go Karts to experience the thrill of racing.
Mareeba plays host to one of the biggest Rodeos in July each year, has weekly saleyard cattle auctions, farmgate food trails, local horse riding, coffee places, wineries, a small crocodile farm, and lots of gourmet food events and just outside Mareeba is the Mareeba Tropical Savannah and Wetlands Reserve with walking trails, electric boats, canoes and birds and wildlife to see. At Granite Gorge you can feed the local Mareeba Rock Wallabies.
There are lots of accommodation options in Mareeba to stay over – from farm stays, to B&B’s, caravan parks to hotels and motels to stay at.
Atherton – the town itself is located in a small valley surrounded by hills and mountains. Right in the main street is ‘Crystal Caves’ – you won’t miss it, and inside is a vast array of gemstones and crystals. The town is the centre of agriculture including Maize and each year they have a Maize Festival. Just outside of Atherton is the Hasties Swamp Observatory (Bird Hide) for bird watchers/’twitchers’ to see the many varieties of birds that nest here. Also outside Atherton on the Kennedy Highway at Tolga is the Rocky Creek Memorial Park –which commemorates the time when more than 200,000 troops were stationed here during World War II. Commemorative plaques are attached to hundreds of roughly metre high Rocks, placed throughout the Memorial Park, creating a moving tribute to those soldiers who have fought for Australia.
Atherton has tourist caravan parks, motels, B& B accommodation options, and the town centre is centred around the main street, giving the town a more Australian country style feel than tourist town.
Herberton – about 30 minutes from Atherton, is a historic mining village which was at the centre of tin mining that started in 1880, with the main Great Northern Tin Mine continuing in operation right up to 1956. In Herberton you will find one of the best outdoor living museums in Australia (www.historicvillageherberton.com,.au )with 50 restored buildings, vehicles, antiques, mining and other memorabilia. In Herberton too, you will also find the Herberton Mining Museum and Information Centre, and also the Spy and Camera Museum on Grace Street. There are good walking tracks and mountain bike trails, and a few kilometres away is the Crater National Park (Mt Hypipamee National Park) where you can look down into a dormant volcano, said to be 95,000 years old. The sheer sides of the volcano are 56 metres in height and the water inside the crater is said to be 82 metres in depth.
The town itself and the history it holds make this an interesting small town to visit, and if you are there in October/November you will see the town’s Jacaranda trees in bloom with their lilac/purple flowers.
Malanda – is at the centre of the dairy industry, with the Malanda Dairy Centre (www.malandadairycentre.com ) on James Street running tours of the factory to see milk being processed, and selling great milk shakes. If you love waterfalls, this is the place to see them – with Malanda Falls right in town, and in the nearby village of Millaa Millaa, there is the Millaa Millaa Falls, and in the Mt Hypipame National Park the Dinner Falls and the Crator Volcanic Pipe. Other Falls in the area are Elinjaa, Zillie and Mungali Falls.
About 10 minutes from town is the Nerada Tea Estate, (See www.neradatea.com.au ) where you can take a tour of the factory to see tea being processed, have morning or afternoon tea, buy fresh tea, learn about tea and look over thousands of acres of tea bushes, almost running to the horizon. The Estate and Visitor Centre is also a place to see lots of different birds, and maybe if lucky a tree Kangaroo.
Tea was first grown by the Cutten Brothers in Bingil Bay from the 1870’s onwards, just south of Cairns, and the estates survived many cyclones, but in 1918 a huge cyclone and tidal wave completely destroyed the tea and coffee plantations. Some of the original tea bushes survived and cuttings from these original bushes formed the basis of restarting a tea growing business in the 1950’s. Nerada Tea has developed from that time, and its teas can be seen in supermarkets across Australia.
The whole area around Malanda is very picturesque, and other attractions include Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine where you can swim, boat and see 1000 year old Kauri Pines. Bromfield Swamp, in an extinct Volcano crater is home to Sarus Cranes, while the tiny village of Yungaburra near to Lake Tinaroo and Lake Eacham is classified by the National Trust due to the number of historic buildings in the village. Here you can walk over the Petersen Creek suspension bridge, and also see a Platypus viewing Area, specially set up for viewing platypus, without disturbing them. Lake Tinaroo cruises also start from Yungaburra to see the birdlife from the water (Tel: 0457 033 016 www.laketinaroocruises.com.au )
Chillagoe and the west –
The Atherton Tablelands are recognized as being a great place for growing tropical fruit, vegetables, flowers, tea, coffee and is due to the tropical climate with its abundant rainfall and sunlight as well as the volcanic soils.
As you travel westwards away from the coast and the tablelands area, the climate becomes drier, and it is here that you find some quite amazing natural phenomena – the Chillagoe Limestone Caves, the Undarra Lava Tubes and the Cobbold Gorge. (NOTE: These are not close to each other)
The Chillagoe Caves (See www.chillagoehub.com.au) are a long 3 hour, 215 km journey away from Cairns, so it is best if travelling here to allow a couple of days for the journey and allow time to see the Caves. Four Hundred years ago, this area was a shallow sea with coral reefs mixed in with sediments. As sediments washed away over the centuries large caverns were left, and now today these caverns and caves are a maze of underground enchantment, with stalactites, stalacmites, flowstones and helictites. Guided tours take you through the main caves. There are said to be around 600 to 1000 caves here, some small and some large, and some at quite long walks from car parks, the most popular caves being the Royal Arch, Donna, The Archways, Pompeii and Trezkinn Caves. Bats fly in the caves and swiftlet Swallows build their colonies there too.
The Chillagoe town was once a thriving lead, copper, silver, lead and gold mining town, with its own copper smelter, and remnants of the smelter including the chimney can still be seen, with big old pub buildings lining the main street, and marble pits a reminder of times past.
The Undarra Lava Tubes are said to be 190,000 years old formed by lava flows from the eruption of a volcano resulted when streams of hot molten lava flowed north and north west outwards for up to 160 kilometres. As the top of the lava cooled, it formed a crust, with hot lava still flowing under the crust creating long tunnels or tubes. Some of the roofs in time collapsed, others stayed strong, and what you have now are over 50 cave systems, and long tunnels that you can walk through. Guided tours take you through the tube and park (See www.undara.com.au Tel: (07) 40971955 or 1800 990 992). You can stay in caravans, swag tents or even in restored railway carriages.
Cobbold Gorge (See www.cobboldgorge.com.au ) is a remote sandstone gorge with 30 metre high cliffs on each side, boulders and rock formations, weathered away by wind and water over centuries. The Gorge is located near Georgetown and guided tours take you on a quiet electric boat through the gorge to see the colours and shapes of the weathered sandstone, and to see the freshwater crocodiles that live there. Georgetown itself was once a gold mining town, and here you will be able to visit the George Elliott Mineral Collection – which identifies and displays 4500 different rocks, including a great collection of agate gemstones.
Ravenshoe- is Queensland’s highest town, 920 metres above sea level and located on the southern end of the Atherton Tablelands. It is a small country town and also has waterfalls nearby including the Millstream Falls, Little Millstream Falls, Pepina, Mackenzie and Souita Falls. The Millstream Falls are Queensland’s widest falls – 65 metres wide with a fall of 20 metres in the middle of the wet season. Ravenshoe is also close to the Tully Gorge National Park with lookouts over the gorge. In flood time the Tully Falls create a spectacular site, when water flows from the Koombooloomba Dam when water is released.
Ravenshoe has local shops in the main street and the Nganyaji Interpretative Centre provides information about the local Jirrbal people, their customs and beliefs. The area is also popular for walkers, nature lovers and bird watchers with over 500 different birds being identified, and there are said to be 12 species of possums, and 14 species of Kangaroos in the area, including the elusive Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo, named after the Norwegian Naturalist, Dr Carl Lumholtz, looks like a very cute small bear with a long tail, with round ears, bright eyes, and black and tan fur. It lives in the trees, and can leap up to 15 metres to move from one tree to another. It is a real treat to see one.
Mt Garnett – near Ravenshoe is named after the Garnett gemstone, and was once a thriving copper, silver and lead mine area. About 16 km east of Mt Garnett on the Kennedy Highway is the Innot Hot Springs on Nettle Creek, and this is a reasonably remote area, and popular with gem fossickers and bird watchers. If intending to visit the area, it is best to call the Innot Hot Springs Health Park on (07) 4097 0136, to find out the latest information about the Springs and what to expect.
HEADING NORTH FROM CAIRNS –
Port Douglas – on the coast is also very much a Tourist town too but definitely worth visiting or staying over in the town with Apartments to rent, 5 star resort hotels, and a range of other accommodation including B&B set ups. Port Douglas is about an hour north of Cairns and is much smaller – so it has a more intimate feel with Sunday craft Markets, bars, cafes, boutiques, bookshops and other shops adding to its appeal.
The road (Captain Cook Highway) between Cairns and Port Douglas also travels along the coastline, with views out over the Coral Sea, making it a pretty road to drive along.
Reef tours also leave from Port Douglas too, with pickups from hotels.
The town has lots of palm trees and feels like a tropical oasis and President Bill Clinton and many other dignitaries and film stars have visited Port Douglas over the years to take in its ambience. Port Douglas is also closer to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest and the retreats that are there. There is also a local yacht club, the Four Mile beach and horseriding on Wonga Beach, and a chapel – St Marys by the Sea all close by, as well as the Low Isles, close to the coast where there is great snorkelling, and even a lighthouse and reef research station.
Mossman – is located a few kilometres inland from Port Douglas. It has a traditional Australian rural country town feel with a Town Hall and main street with shops on both sides of the street. The town is surrounded by sugar cane fields and cattle properties and the Mossman Sugar Mill is located here too, with the small cane trains bringing cane to the Mill when cane is being cut in the district.
The Mossman Gorge is located about 15 kilometres from Mossman town centre, and is one of the highlights of a visit to North Queensland. The Gorge and surrounding Rainforest is World Heritage Listed and a National Park. Walkways take you into the Gorge area next to the waterfalls and river through the rainforest – and the sound of the crystal clean water tumbling over rocks, bird calls, and the smells of the 135 million year old rainforest trees and ferns around you welcomes you. This is an area with high rainfall, where everything grows, and if you are there during the wet, the walkways can become slippery, but this also adds to the experience. Near the Park entrance is the Mossman Gorge Centre where stories and history come alive with a Gallery of Aboriginal Paintings and Dreamtime walks, guided by local Kuku Yalanji, take you into the Rainforest to reveal the forest’s secrets.
The Daintree – is about 2 hours from Cairns and north of Mossman along the coast, with the road and car ferry crossing making the journey as much a pleasure as the destination. There are a number of retreats, cabins, camping sites, eco-lodges and small resorts next to the beaches and in the rainforest. The Daintree village itself is just a small group of shops, where you can get an ice cream in ‘tropical fruit flavours’, and also book a River cruise to see crocodiles in the wild and the rainforest from the safety of the boat. You can also experience the thrill of riding a zipline over the top of the forest – what they call “jungle surfing”, or check out the ‘Entomological Museum’ to see an amazing collection of insects. The Daintree is also very popular with bird watchers too.
Cape Tribulation is north of the Daintree and also a ferry crossing away. In many ways the further away from Cairns the less the crowds, and Cape Tribulation, being 140km from Cairns is just that – stunning long white sandy beaches, with the rainforest almost touching the Coral Sea and the reefs just offshore, and eco-tourism lodges to stay. Cape Tribulation was named by Captain Cook in 1770, and just off shore is Endeavour Reef, named after his ship. This is the reef that his ship struck, causing him to have to bring the ship to shore on the Endeavour River next to Cooktown to repair the damage – both places that he named.
Cooktown – as the name suggests is named after Captain James Cook RN, the English sea captain, and the town lies next to the mouth of the Endeavour River. The town dates back to the Gold Rush days of the 1870’s and it is worth a visit to the local cemetery to gain a glimpse into the early days. There is a Museum too with memorabilia from those days, and the Botanic Gardens that dates back to 1878 that gives an indication of the town’s boom times. There are a number of early buildings and Queenslander type houses in the town, and accommodation ranges from backpacker and B&B accommodation to hotels and motels. Great fishing, 4WD trips, lots of bird watching opportunities, including at Keating’s Lagoon, as well as tours to see aboriginal rock art and experience bush tucker, make Cooktown a destination for both Australian History Buffs and other tourists. The town is also a stepping stone to trips to Cape York Peninsula in the north too, with a small airport located in Cooktown too.
HEADING SOUTH FROM CAIRNS – along the coast
When you head from Cairns down the coastline you will be heading into what is called the ‘Cassowary Coast’ named after the Cassowary bird that you find in the region. This tropical coastline and the towns, beaches and resorts along the coast are also very popular holiday destinations, and there are many places and Tourist attractions to see.
Innisfail – about an hour south of Cairns is the biggest town on the Cassowary Coast, with a population of around ten thousand people, and located next to the Johnson River, slightly inland from the coast. In 1918 a massive cyclone destroyed the township and much of the coastal farms to the north too – including the Cutten Brothers 100’s of acres of tea and coffee plantations at Bingil Bay (see www.neradatea.com.au for the full story).
In rebuilding Innisfail after the Cyclone, the decision was made to rebuild using concrete, and so through the 1920’s, the height of the Art Deco era, Innisfail was rebuilt. Today, Innisfail, like Miami in Florida has some of the best 1920’s Art Deco buildings in the world, with buildings with curved facades, arches, terrazzo floors in foyers and geometric shapes incorporated in their design. The Art Deco architectural style also flowed into other design disciples too, with perhaps the best expression of the style being the coffee pots, teacups and other china designed by the English ceramic artist, Clarice Cliff. Her work is now highly prized and collectible.
There are many examples of Art Deco buildings in Innisfail to see, and they make Innisfail a destination worth seeing. The town is surrounded by Sugar cane fields, banana plantations and tropical fruit orchards. There is a sugar museum, croc farm and sugar mill and the town is the regional business hub with larger shops, banks, schools and other businesses based here. Beautiful beaches are only a few kilometres away, and there are lots of places to stay over. The Mamu Canopy walk through the rainforest is around half an hour inland from Innisfail in the Misty Mountains.
Paronella Park is located at 1671 Innisfail Japoon Rd at Mena Creek, less than half an hour from Innisfail. This is like a lost city in the jungle! In 1935 José Paronella originally from Spain decided to build his own castle and chose a site beside Mena Creek to build it in the middle of the rainforest. Rainforest grows fast and for years the Castle was left to the rainforest and weather, allowed to deteriorate until it was rescued by the National Trust. Today the walkways, fountains, steps, and original parts of the castle still stand, surrounded by the rainforest and covered in moss and lichens. Its location next to Mena Creek and its gushing waterfall and a suspension bridge over the top, create a film set atmosphere in the day, and light up at night to create an even spookier atmosphere. (See wwwparonellapark.com.au )
Mission Beach – is 2 hours south of Cairns, with Dunk Island located just off the coast here, about a 10 minute boat ride away. Mission Beach is a long 14 km stretch of coastline with white sandy beaches and palm trees that come up right to the beach. There are four villages that make up this part of the coast – Bingil Bay, Mission Beach – the most famous, Wongaling Beach, and South Mission Beach, and the villages are all laid back, with small cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and tour/hire shops for paddle boarding, white water rafting, sea kayaking and other activities. Backpacker, B&B’s, house rentals and resort accommodation facilities are all there too. Dunk Island and Bedarra Island are both close by, with their pristine sandy beaches. The Dunk Island resort was also damaged by cyclones in recent years, so you need to check to see if it has reopened.
Tully – is home to the giant gumboot – symbolic of the wet season, and Tully’s claim to be the wettest town in Australia! Tully is just over 50km or about 40 minutes from Innisfail heading south. Mount Tully, which you can climb, is right next to the town and 640 metres high.
Tully is very much a sugar cane town, with the Sugar Mill a landmark.
Tully is also famous for the fast flowing Tully river and white water rafting with rapid river sections and the Tully Gorge is a big attraction. If you have swum in a pool or the ocean, but have yet to experience swimming in a river, this is the place to do it, and about 7km from Tully there is a place called ‘Alligator’s Nest” – which is a great place to swim. There are no alligators in Australia (other than in Zoos) so you are quite safe!
Cardwell – is south of Tully and has a population of around 1300 people, and is a little over an hour from Innisfail, or 2 and a bit more hours from Cairns. It has an elevation of just 5 metres above sea level, and is located on the coast, with the mountains forming a backdrop behind the town.
In the centre of town is the Reef and Rainforest Information Centre, an Art Gallery, the Cardwell Bush Telegraph Heritage Centre and the Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre, and the town has B&B, Motel, Caravan Park and Backpacker accommodation options.
Cardwell Forest Drive is a scenic road which will lead you to Cardwell Lookout to give you a great view over the town looking out to the Coral Sea, and then into the rainforest mountain areas where there are picnic grounds and also natural swimming holes. Look for the signs to Attie Creek Falls, Dead Horse Creek and The Spa pool.
Just north of Cardwell is the Kennedy Valley, where there are lots of tropical fruit and banana plantations. If you head up the valley into the rainforest on the Murray Upper Road, you will come to walking tracks that lead up to Murray Falls. The spectacular Blencoe Falls with a 90 metre drop are much further away, and located in the Girringun National Park.
South of Cardwell, just a few kilometres from town is the Five Mile Creek Swimming Hole – which is also a popular place for picnics and swimming too.
Just offshore from Cardwell (about 5km) is Hinchinbrook Island – a short Ferry trip across the Hinchinbrook Channel to the island from Port Hinchinbrook on the mainland. The island, the biggest on the Barrier Reef was declared as a National Park in 1932, and is best known for the Thorsborne Track – a 4 day long walking track on the eastern side of the island. The island is almost deserted, so you need to bring your own food and supplies, unless you are staying at the Wilderness Lodge. You can camp on the island, but need a permit, and can fish too, but also be aware that there are saltwater crocodiles in the waterways too. The island is very mountainous, with Mt Bowen rising to 1121 Metres above sea level.