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Australia's tropical north is a travel destination that's so much more than just sun, sand, and surf.
Although the region's sparkling beaches are a major selling point for many international and Aussie travellers alike, cities and towns like Cairns and Port Duglas are also considered gateways to some of Australia's most breathtaking natural attractions.
And with plenty of Cairns accommodation alongside other accommodation options in small townships along the coast, this expansive region is sure to feel a lot less crowded in peak travel season than the Gold Coast to the south.
So what items should you be adding onto your itinerary to make sure that you're getting the most out of a trip to Queensland's tropical north?
We'll be exploring some of Cairns and Port Douglas' most unmissable attractions below to help guide you through your Queensland travel planning.
The city of Cairns is bordered by two bodies of water, these being the Coral Sea and Chinaman Creek and its freshwater tributaries. With the creek flowing out into the sea and running by Cairns' Marlin Wharf, this particular coastal city is amongst Australia's best destinations for hobby sailors and snorkelers who are looking to explore both freshwater and saltwater environments. You can hire a catamaran, yacht, or even a kayak at the marina in order to head out on the water and explore Cairns from all its best angles.
As Cairns is particularly larger than other coastal towns in the far north, anybody hoping to spend most of their time out on the water should ideally seek accommodation by the water's edge or at least within walking distance to the marina. Accommodation options like the Crystalbrook Bailey are ideal, especially for those who want absolute rest and relaxation between days of being active outdoors.
Marlin Wharf also happens to be the home of the Fitzroy Flyer, a ferry service that runs directly from Cairns to Fitzroy Island in just 45 minutes. There's plenty to see and do at Fitzroy Island on any given day, with fantastic beaches, a handful of hikes, dining options, and daily reef tours running with the use of glass bottom boats all available for any island visitors.
Any travellers visiting Cairns also have the option to visit Green Island, a smaller body of land attached to the substantial Green Island Reef. Unlike Fitzroy Island, Green Island boasts no overnight accommodation options, as the area is considered to be a conservation site and has been named national parklands. Visitors to Green Island can still enjoy some basic toilet and picnic facilities as well as mooring points for yachts.
If you're staying in Port Douglas, then exploring Morey Reef and other reefs along the coast of the mainland are always sure to bring plenty of enrichment to your days away. Alongside this, however, it's highly recommended that you book a boat tour of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Port Douglas to explore Batt Reef and other neighbouring coral reefs. There are fish species and other marine life you simply won't be able to see not just from the mainland, but in some cases anywhere else in the world as well.
Alongside providing easy access to some of the Reef's most break-taking coral shelves, Port Douglas also happens to be the nearest major township to the region's awe-inspiring Daintree Rainforest. Considered to be the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree is genuinely an unmissable attraction for any and all ecotourists who hope to take in all the natural beauty of Queensland's tropical far north.
There are also an abundance of ways to explore the Daintree, ranging from guided ecological and Indigenous walking tours, helicopter rides, wandering the canopy using the rainforest's aerial walkways and canopy tower, and even cable cars that'll allow you to take in the sheer majesty of the forest and surrounding green spaces in your own time.
For travelling families, the Daintree's discovery centre also boasts a selection of engaging informational interactive displays that are sure to teach your little ones a thing or two about the region's rich biodiversity. There are also a handful of eco-tourist certified accommodation options in and around the Daintree Rainforest for any visitors who are looking to really immerse themselves in this ancient environment.
The Queensland hinterlands are also home to literally 51.8 million hectares of Australian forests that can be explored by car, by the air, or simply just on foot.
If you're an avid hiker, you'll be sure to enjoy heading to the hinterlands in order to wander up and down trails that lead to hidden waterfalls.
For those visiting Cairns, consider taking a little drive to the south of Redlynch in order to visit the region's Crystal Cascades, a popular waterfall and swimming hole that attracts visitors all year round.
The Crystal Cascades hiking trail can also provide a good day's worth of outdoor enrichment, especially for those also looking to visit Lake Morris.
To Cairns' northwest and on the way to the Skyrail cable cars, visitors can also find trails leading to Stoney Creek Falls and Glacier Rock.
Although the climb to the top of the Rock can be a bit steep towards its end, views from the top are absolutely stunning. If you're lucky, you may even get to see the Kuranda Scenic Railway puffing through the treetops.
From the Great Barrier Reef to the Daintree Rainforest and all the verdant parklands and glittering beaches that can be found in between, Queensland's far north is undeniably home to some of Australia's most picturesque natural treasures.
Regardless of whether you spend most of your time in Cairns, Port Douglas, or any other coastal towns that dot the north Queensland coastline, chances are your trip to Australia's tropical northeast is sure to be jam-packed with plenty to see and do, including some of the items we've explored above and perhaps even your own additions to your trip itinerary.