Tourism TNQ ©
Whether you’re seeking a relaxing break or a wild adventure, Sabine Morgan finds Tropical North Queensland is the perfect paradise for families.
While it may be best known for the kaleidoscope of colourful marine life on the Great Barrier Reef and its World Heritage listed rainforest, there's much more to explore in Tropical North Queensland. From buzzing towns and pretty villages to pebbly beaches and remote wilderness, Tropical North Queensland is bursting at the seams with things to see and do.
Paronella Park ©
Whatever floats your holiday boat, you’re sure
to find it in Cairns. With about 300 days of
sunshine a year, there’s never a bad time to
paddle in the crystal-clear, man-made Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, a saltwater swimming
pool with sandy edges and shallow water for
little ones and deeper water for adults. Stroll
further along the waterfront and you’ll find
Muddy's Playground. One of Australia’s best
playgrounds, it has everything from splash
parks to slides, seesaws and an onsite cafe.
At Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome you can
view Australian native flora and fauna right in
the heart of the city. It also boasts an
all-weather high ropes challenge course with
65 complex and challenging crossings,
tunnels, nets and ziplines — including one that
zooms over a croc enclosure.
If watching your child dangling like
a worm on a fishing line over the top of
a toothy, four-metre saltwater croc gets you a
little hot and bothered, head to Crystal
Cascades. The freshwater swimming hole fed
by waterfalls, secreted away in the rainforest,
is a spot the locals tend to hide from visitors,
so don’t tell them I sent you.
Tourism TNQ ©
At Tjapukai Cultural Park my kids watch
traditional performances drawn from
Djabugay corroborees, see fire being made
without a match and listen to the haunting
sounds of the didgeridoo. The centre provides
employment for the local Indigenous people
and is a must-do activity for visitors.
In Kuranda, the kids can cut loose at the
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld
and Koala Gardens, while braver kids might
prefer the creepy crawlies at the Venom Zoo.
While the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offers
soaring views over the dense jungle,
chugging along in the charming Kuranda Scenic Railway
brings visitors past beautiful
Barron Falls. Then there’s that amazing reef. At
Fitzroy Island, 29 kilometres southeast of
Cairns, you can enjoy a day of glass-bottom
boat rides and snorkelling among a huge
variety of corals, tropical fish and, if you’re
lucky, a turtle or two.
We also found Green Island, which is close
enough to explore in half a day, has it all going
on. With easy snorkelling straight off the
beach, the island boats have an amazing
range of activities to suit pretty much every
age, including the option of Seawalker Helmet
Diving and the family-run Marineland Melanesia Aquarium.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway ©
Where the reef meets
Port Douglas offers all the sophistication of
the city with a chilled village vibe. It's also the
only place in the world with two World
Heritage-listed treasures on its doorstep: the
Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.
Take the kids swimming in the stingernetted
waters or learn to surf the sky and
the sea with kitesurfing lessons at pretty Four
Mile Beach, which runs the entire length
of town and beyond.
You can also enjoy a dip in Mossman Gorge's rainforest-shrouded freshwater
swimming hole. It's a fairly gentle hike to
reach the creek, but as you watch the cool
river tumble its way over and around the huge
granite boulders dotting the gorge you'll be
glad you made the effort.
The Great Barrier Reef is easily accessible
by boat from the Reef Marina. With younger
kids in tow, the Reef Sprinter half-day
snorkelling tour of the Low Isles is a good
choice. There's amazing snorkelling in the
shallow, sandy bay, coral. And the faster boats
help alleviate seasickness.
One place to stay out of the water is at
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, though you
can still come face to toothy face with some
of the residents on a tour of its croc-filled
lagoon. One of Hartley's newest attractions is
the Ultimate Wildlife Encounter where kids
can cuddle, hold and pat koalas, wombats,
pythons and lizards or, if they dare, feed a
Tourism TNQ ©
If you're after more toothy adventures, the
Lady Douglas River Cruises can take you on
the hunt for crocs on a paddlewheeler as you cruise through the wetlands to see the fierce
creatures in their natural habitat.
If you prefer your wildlife more feathered
than ferocious, breakfast with the birds at the
hugely popular Wildlife Habitat. After brekkie,
take a wander through its three unique
environments to meet some of the area's
Just a short drive north of Port Douglas is
the prehistoric beauty of the mighty Daintree
Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, which boasts
the highest variety of plants and animals
found in any rainforest on the planet. The
Daintree Discovery Centre allows easy
access to every level of the rainforest; from
the forest floor to the uppermost reaches of
the canopy. For more adventurous families,
Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours in Cape
Tribulation offers the most heart-thumping way to explore the rainforest - just strap
yourself in and glide through the rainforest
canopy on a series of ziplines and flying foxes.
When the day is done, take the kids back to
the Iron Bar in Port Douglas for a hearty meal
and some cane toad racing, which is sure to
generate good times giggles.
Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours ©
Cairns Airport is the gateway to
TNQ with direct flights available from all
major Australian cities. You can hire a car to
get from Cairns to Port Douglas.
This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.