The Ultimate Far North Queensland Road Trip

Map of the Great Barrier Reef

If you’re looking for a fun and exciting family road trip, there are a lot of iconic places to discover on this great bucket-list-worthy road trip in tropical Far North Queensland.

Starting at the mid Great Barrier Reef town of Townsville and making your way up the iconic Queensland coast, you’ll discover some of the most beautiful beaches, lush tropical rainforests and remarkable reefs and islands in the world.

Sunlover Reef Cruise

You have to check out as many of places to visit in tropical Far North Queensland as you can. Buckle up and enjoy the ride, as this guide prepares you for all the must-see places, the best activities along with useful practical advice for a Far North Queensland family road trip like no other.

What to Expect on a Far North Queensland Road Trip

This road trip starts in Townsville and is really several adventures in one. The journey between Townsville and Cairns is where you’ll discover a lot of great destinations to explore, like beautiful beaches, lush rainforests and remarkable reefs.

You can start the trip in Townsville and make your way up the iconic Queensland coast. There’s something for everyone in this region, so it’s the perfect place for a family adventure.

far north queensland road trip

Further up the coast in the area covering the next 140 kilometres or so, between Cairns and Cape Tribulation, there are many beautiful places to explore. This includes popular beach towns like Palm Cove and Port Douglas. You can take a day trip to the outer reef, visit the Whitsundays Islands, or go explore the unspoiled countryside and mountainous rainforests.

The last part of the trip is on the Bloomfield Track, which goes from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown. This beautiful drive goes through some of the world’s oldest rainforest and along a scenic coastline of turquoise and blue. It is also a piece of road that not everyone can drive on if they don’t have a 4WD.

The beautiful scenery is worth the drive, but you should always check the road conditions before heading out, because trees can fall on the road, it can sometimes flood in some areas during the wet season.

When you look at Far North Queensland on a map, it might look like the distance from Townsville to Cooktown is not that far and a fairly easy drive. However, you really don’t want to try and drive this road trip in a few days, especially if you are travelling with kids. You really should take the time to enjoy the trip and take in the best of what the area has to offer.

The Ultimate 2 Week+ FNQ Itinerary

Your should allow two to three weeks for the itinerary to Far North Queensland below, as this was made to give you an idea of where to go and some of the interesting places to see along this part of the Queensland coast.

So, if you’re looking for a family road trip that is packed with adventure, natural beauty and plenty of fun, then be sure to add these great destinations to your itinerary.

Townsville: 1-3 Days

Townsville is the perfect place to start your family road trip of Far North Queensland. If you’re stopping here from a journey further south, allow a couple of days to explore this tow and it’s surrounds. With its central location, you can easily explore the surrounding areas such as Magnetic Island, Hinchinbrook Island and Palm Islands.

Townsville harbor view on the Yacht Club Marina, The Strand and Castle Hill

For those who love the outdoors, there are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities in the nearby national parks. And, if you’re looking for some beach time, then head to the 2.5-kilometre beachfront promenade known as The Strand.

The Strand is very family friendly, with playgrounds, walking and bike paths, picnic areas and free water park for you to relax, swim and even try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding. And then drive or hike up to Castle Hill lookout for a 360-degree view over Townsville and across to Magnetic Island.

Side Trip: Magnetic Island

Just a short 20 minute ferry ride from Townsville, Magnetic Island is a must-see destination on your Far North Queensland road trip. This beautiful island is home to stunning beaches, rainforests and plenty of wildlife.

Be sure to visit some of the island’s popular attractions such as Forts Walk, the Magnetic Island Forts and the Koala Conservation Centre. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, get out and explore the island’s many hiking trails.

Ingham: 1 Day

Stop off in Ingham for a few days and explore the nearby rainforests, waterfalls and national parks. This town is known as the gateway to the Wet Tropics and is a great place to base yourself to explore this World Heritage listed area

There are plenty of things to do in Ingham, such as swimming in the natural rock pools at Bigge Dam, hiking to the top of Wallaman Falls – Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall, or take a leisurely stroll through the rainforest at Tyto Wetlands.

Tully: 1 Day

Just an hour drive from Ingham is the town of Tully, known as the gateway to the Cassowary Coast. This region is home to some of the most pristine rainforest in Australia, as well as stunning beaches and waterfalls

There are plenty of things to do in Tully, such as swimming in the natural rock pools at Bigge Dam, hiking to the top of Wallaman Falls – Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall, or take a leisurely stroll through the rainforest at Tyto Wetlands.

Mission Beach: 1-2 Days

A visit to Mission Beach is a must on your Far North Queensland road trip. This beautiful beach town is located between Cairns and Townsville and is the perfect place to relax and soak up the tropical Queensland sun

skydive Mission Beach

There are plenty of things to do in Mission Beach, such as swimming, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking or just relaxing on the beach. For those who love the outdoors, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore. For a bit of adrenaline, take a skydive or parasail over the stunning beaches.

And be sure to visit the nearby Dunk Island for a day of sun, sand and relaxation.

Innisfail: 1 Day

Innisfail is a great place to base yourself to explore the surrounding natural attractions. The area is nothing short of beautiful, dotted with sugarcane fields, and the town is known as the art deco capital of Australia. Much of its architecture was rebuilt during the heyday of the art deco style, after a devastating cyclone in 1918.

There are plenty of things to do in Innisfail, such as The Mamu Tropical Skywalk, situated an hour out of town, which is an elevated walkway above the jungle, a 37 meter high observation tower and 1200 meters of walking tracks – perfect for people who need just a little more rainforest on this road trip!

Hiking to the top of Josephine Falls is also popular, as well as taking a leisurely stroll through the rainforest at Mount Bowen.

Side Trip: Undara Lava Tubes

Ok, so this is quite the side-trip, but if you have the time, its well worth it. Undara Lava Tubes is located inland from Innisfail and is a must-see for anyone interested in geology and natural history.

These lava tubes were formed over 190,000 years ago and are the largest and longest lava tubes in the world. They are a truly unique geological formation and well worth a visit.

There are plenty of tours available that will take you through the lava tubes, as well as plenty of other activities such as hiking, mountain biking and bird watching.

Babinda: 1 Day

Babinda is a small town located in the Cassowary Coast Region of Far North Queensland about 65kms south of Cairns. This town is surrounded by World Heritage listed rainforest and is home to some of the most stunning waterfalls in Australia.

There are plenty of things to do in Babinda, such as swimming in the natural rock pools at Devil’s Pool, hiking to the top of Babinda Boulders -a stunning creek, which are spotted with huge boulders that have been shaped by the flowing waters surrounded by pristine forest. For those who love the outdoors, there are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities in the nearby national parks.

Babinda

Even though Babinda isn’t very big, you could easily spend a few days there relaxing, enjoying nature, and checking out the local gallery and savoring the local restaurants. If you only have one day to spend in Babinda, don’t miss The Boulders!

And, if you’re looking for some beach time, then head to the 1.5-kilometre long sandy beachfront known as Brampston Beach. This park is very family friendly, with playgrounds, picnic areas and plenty of space to relax and soak up the Queensland sun.

Cairns: 2-3 Days

As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a must-stop on your Far North Queensland road trip. This vibrant city is home to many great restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as plenty of shops for retail therapy.

Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

For those who love the outdoors, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. Cairns is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Far North Queensland and for good reason – there is so much to see and do here!

Cairns is one of the best places for exploring the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. There are short tours around 45 minutes to inner reef islands like Green Island and Fitzroy Island, as well as trips further to the outer Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns has something for everyone. Families will love the Cairns Tropical Zoo, the world-class Cairns Aquarium, Zoom Wildlife Dome, where you can soar over an indoor wildlife park on a zip line and the many kid-friendly activities on offer at Cairns Esplanade.

One of the most popular things to do in this area is the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail. When you’re in Cairns, you won’t want to miss the chance to ride the Kuranda Scenic Rail up the mountain. Take the cable car back down to the village so you can enjoy both on your trip.

Kuranda markets

Side Trip: Atherton Tablelands

Not far from Cairns is the Atherton Tablelands, an area of stunning natural beauty that is well worth a visit on your Far North Queensland road trip. Here you will find beautiful rainforests, waterfalls, crater lakes, hot springs and more.

There are plenty of things to do in the Atherton Tablelands, such as hiking through the rainforest, swimming in the waterfalls or crater lakes, or relaxing in the hot springs. One of the most popular places to visit in the Atherton Tablelands is the Crater Lakes National Park. For those who love the outdoors, there are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore.

One of the most popular things to do in the Atherton Tablelands is visit Millaa Millaa Falls, a series of beautiful waterfalls located in Millstream Falls National Park. The park is also home to Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls, which are also worth a visit. Another popular attractions in the Atherton Tablelands is the Curtain Fig Tree, a massive tree with a curtain of roots that is well worth a visit.

In addition to the natural attractions, the Atherton Tablelands is also home to many great cafes, restaurants and shops. Be sure to check out the local markets for fresh produce and handmade goods.

While here, you can also try an epic sunrise hot air balloon trip departing from Mareeba. There is nothing quite like floating above the rainforest as the sun comes up.

See a homestead from the 1800s at the Herberton Historic Village museum in Herberton, which is about 15 minutes south of Atherton. This village has 8 working displays, such as making billy tea, riding on a heritage train, blacksmithing, and more.

Port Douglas: 1-2 Days

Port Douglas is a beautiful coastal town located on the Coral Sea about an hour north of Cairns. As you drive up the coast from Cairns, you’ll want to stop off and take lots of photos of the spectacular scenery. The lush green rainforest set against the stunning beaches, crystal clear waters, and serene blue ocean makes for some amazing, unforgettable views.

Port Douglas Queensland

There are plenty of things to do in Port Douglas, such as swimming, snorkelling, diving, fishing, and exploring the rainforest. There are also plenty of great restaurants, cafes and bars to enjoy in this town.

One of the most popular things to do in Port Douglas is visit Four Mile Beach. This stunning beach is one of the best places to swim or relax on the sand. Another popular attraction is the Daintree Rainforest, which is located just outside of town.

Daintree Rainforest: 1-2 Days

Daintree Rainforest is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world and is one of the most popular places to visit in Far North Queensland. The rainforest is full of amazing plants and animals, making it a must-see for any nature lover.

There are plenty of things to do in Daintree Rainforest, such as hiking through the rainforest, swimming in waterfalls, or taking a scenic drive. One of the most popular things to do is take a cruise along the Daintree River. This is a great way to see crocodiles, turtles and other amazing wildlife up close.

There are also plenty of great places to eat in Daintree Rainforest, such as the Rainforest Cafe, which offers a unique dining experience surrounded by the rainforest.

In addition to the natural attractions, Daintree Rainforest is also home to many great cafes, restaurants and shops. Be sure to check out the local markets for fresh produce and handmade goods.

The Daintree Jindalba Boardwalk

Mossman Gorge: 1 Day

Mossman Gorge is a beautiful gorge located in Mossman Gorge National Park, about 30 minutes drive from Port Douglas. The gorge is fed by the Mossman River and is surrounded by lush rainforest.

There are plenty of things to do in Mossman Gorge, such as exploring the Mossman River, which makes for great swimming and tubing. There are also plenty of scenic drives and hiking to take in Mossman Gorge National Park.

There is a variety of wildlife to see in Mossman Gorge, including birds, reptiles, and mammals and the gorge is home to a variety of flora, including eucalyptus trees and staghorn ferns.

There are several waterfalls located in Mossman Gorge, including Josephine Falls and Mossman Falls and the area is home to the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people – there are several cultural sites to respectfully explore in the region.

Cape Tribulation: 1 Day

Cape Tribulation is a beautiful sandy beach located about 2 hours north of Port Douglas. This beach is known for its dramatic cliffs, rainforest and stunning views.

There are plenty of things to do in Cape Tribulation, such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, or exploring the rainforest. One of the most popular things to do is take a scenic drive along the Great Barrier Reef Drive. This is a great way to see the reef up close and to experience the beauty of the rainforest.

Cooktown: 1-2 Days

Cooktown is a small town located on the banks of the Endeavour River about 4 hours north of Cairns. It is a great place to learn about Australian history, as it was here that Captain Cook first landed on Australian soil.

Cooktown

There are plenty of things to do in Cooktown, such as exploring the local history, visiting the Captain Cook Museum, or taking a scenic drive along the Endeavour River. There are also plenty of great places to eat in Cooktown, with a variety of cafes and restaurants to choose from.

If you’re looking for a more active holiday, there are plenty of things to do in Cooktown, such as hiking, cycling, or kayaking. There are also several beaches located nearby, such as Finch Bay and Endeavour River Beach.

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