A great day trip from Cairns is out to Kuranda set within the Atherton Tableland. You can get here on the Kuranda Scenic Railway or the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, and it is well worth visiting.
There is plenty to keep you entertained in and around Kuranda, including the popular Kuranda Markets.
Nearby is Mareeba, known as the "food lovers' paradise" and home of exotic fruits, coffee farms and boutique wineries. Mareeba also hosts a popular Rodeo in July. Continuing west from Mareeba is Chillagoe, an old mining town featuring some spectacular caves for you to explore. It is well worth joining a guided tour around the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.
Continuing west from Cairns you can also head to the Gulf Savannah which has the Gulf of Carpentaria to its north, and the Northern Territory border to its west.
Heading north from Cairns along the Captain Cook Highway, you will pass some wonderful coastal towns before reaching Port Douglas. These include Clifton Beach, Ellis Beach, Holloways Beach, Machans Beach, Oak Beach, Palm Cove, Pebbly Beach, Pretty Beach, Trinity Beach and Yorkeys Knob. Many offer accommodation and better beaches than in Cairns itself.
Port Douglas is a very pretty area, offering a fabulous beach, beautiful marina, stylish shopping boutiques and cafes, and a wide range of accommodation. Port Douglas is located a short 1 hour drive north of Cairns, along a wonderful coastal route.
Just north of Port Douglas is Mossman, which is the most northern sugar town in the whole of Australia. Worth visiting is the spectacular Mossman Gorge which offers some great walking trails and some good swimming spots. If you would like to find out about the Aboriginal foods and medicines found within the Mossman area, then join one of the interesting tours.
North from Mossman is the Daintree, which was once a logging town although is now famous for its wonderful Daintree River Cruises. A vehicle ferry also crosses the Daintree for travellers continuing north to Cape Tribulation.
This whole area is home to the Greater Daintree Rainforest and makes up a large majority of the 0.1.5% of rainforest in Queensland today, which is half of the 0.3% in the whole of Australia. This is nothing when you think that Australia was almost covered completely in rainforest about 50 million years ago. Many 'Ferrels' also live in the rainforests, claiming that their way of life is the way of the future.
Once across the Daintree, there are several bays and beaches off of the main track to Cape Tribulation where you can find accommodation and a number of activities on offer. Just past Daintree you can turn off to Cape Kimberley Beach and Cow Bay, as well as visit the interesting Daintree Rainforest Environmental Centre. There are some great displays in the centre, and you can learn a lot about the tropical rainforest. Near Thornton Beach you can join a cruise along the Cooper Creek crocodile spotting, which is great fun. North again at Noah Beach is a great walk through the rainforest called the Marrdja Botanical Walk.
From Cape Tribulation you can continue along the coast to Cooktown, although the only access is for 4WD and may be completely blocked after heavy rain. The Bloomfield Track continues north until the Wujai Wujai Aboriginal Community, where a further dirt track continues north to Cooktown, passing Bloomfield, Helenvale and Rossville. There are several places to stay in this section including camping and forest lodges.
If you do want to head to Cooktown from Cairns but don't have a 4WD, you will need to head along the inland Cooktown Developmental Road. You can join this road from Mareeba in the Atherton Tablelands or continue north along the Captain Cook Highway and turn off just before you reach Mossman. However, you should check road conditions after rain as this route is also often blocked.
Along this route you will pass the Black Mountain National Park, Lakeland, Mt Carbine, Mt Molloy and Palmer River. The Black Mountain National Park is made up of granite boulder hills. Black Mountain is also called Kalkajaka, meaning 'Place of the Spears' in Aboriginal. It is also said that there are routes under the mountain, although many people have died trying to get through.
From Lakeland, just east of Cooktown, you can head north again along the Peninsula Developmental Road which you can take to the top of the Cape York Peninsula. The peninsula is also called the Tip, and marks the northern most point of Australia's mainland. This road can get very rough, and so it is best to take a 4WD.
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