Growing up in Tropical North Queensland, adventure meant trips to the reef, Undara Lava Tubes or perhaps sifting for Topaz in the dry creek beds of Mount Surprise. Long weekends were spent gobbling down exotic treats at the Port Douglas market on Sundays, or horse riding through rolling cane paddocks.
The idea my backyard was a world-class tourist destination didn’t really sink in until I spent 13 years in a metro city. And after a recent visit to my humid beginnings, I was overwhelmed by the beauty, peacefulness and certain enchantment the far north offers.
Here’s my pick of the most under-the-radar hot spots in the rainforest towns of Tropical North Queensland …
Best boat trip
There are many options when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef, but if you want impossibly turquoise waters and minimal crowds, take a catamaran to Michaelmas or Upolu Cay.
If you want something a bit more developed (ahem, a bar) take the 20-minute boat ride from the quaint beachside town of Mission Beach to Dunk Island. The water is still gorgeous and clear and the local Sunset Bar has great grub and live music.
We took our GoPro Hero 5 and filmed our snorkelling adventure in the protected bay of Muggy Muggy Beach. Travel tech hack: use QuikStories to edit your footage and splurge on the Karma Grip stabiliser for beautifully smooth footage.
Paronella Park is home to the famous 1936 Spanish castle nestled in the rainforest next to Mena Creek Falls. The lush gardens (complete with tennis court, secret tunnel and bamboo forest) also host Devonshire Tea on the open deck.
A 45-minute country drive from Paronella Park is the Mungalli Falls Dairy, which is home to the Cheesery and Teahouse. If you come for the beautiful view of mount Bartle Frere then you’ll stay for the epic menu. It focuses on fresh scones served with rainforest jam and jersey cream and their famous Quark Cheesecakes. It’s made with their certified A grade biodynamic and gluten free milk and it’s delicious.
Down the road from the Cheesery and Teahouse is a Millaa Millaa waterfall circuit featuring Zillie, Ellinjaa, Pepina and Mungalli falls. They’re all safe to swim in and make for fabulous walks. Keep an eye out for the blue Ulysses butterfly and platypus late in the arvo.
Best culture trip
Described as a “stroll in the clouds above Wooroonoon National Park” the Mamu Tropical Skywalk is a series of elevated walkways, a cantilever, and observation tower letting guests explore the ancient rainforest from the ground to the canopy. The audio guide tells the story of the 1882 explorer Christie Palmerston and his encounter with the local Indigenous people. An interesting historical trip for sure.
Best place to stay
The Atherton Table Lands is peppered with ancient volcano craters. Tree houses are all the rage in travel trends so we were happy to find one on the slopes of an extinct volcano. The pole cabins at Mount Quincan Crater Retreat feature a double spa overlooking the tropical rainforest and crater, wildlife, a fireplace, pumpkin scones with jam and cream on arrival and full BBQ breakfast. Heaven.
The fishing village of Port Douglas is not only a gateway to the reef and secret foodie capital of TNQ, it has some of the best spa retreats in the country. The apartments at Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa have a shared rooftop with private Jacuzzi and private lap pool.
The main resort pool is a system of interconnected lagoons that run through the villas like a crystal-clear river. And what holiday is complete without a spa treatment? Grab the one-hour hot stone massage combined with a restorative bergamot scalp.
Holidaying in our own backyard has never been more popular. After all, it’s a conservative-on-the-wallet vacay and we all like saving a buck. Check out the video at the top of the article for the top six things to do in TNQ.
** Carly was a guest at the Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa but everything else was explored on her own dime.**