7 eco-friendly adventures to savour in Tropical North Queensland

There’s more to enjoy in Tropical North Queensland than the Great Barrier Reef. On terra firma there’s a lush natural playground just waiting to be explored mindfully…

Team Wanderlust
10 August 2023
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Discover Tropical North Queensland

Wild and wonderful adventures await in Tropical North Queensland, where you’ll find an exceptional array of opportunities to connect with this ancient landscape guided by operators invested in their protection. Here are just a few experiences to add to a land-based itinerary that takes you from the region’s lush rainforests to its wild and rugged savannahs, all with a gentle footprint.

1. Uncover the magnificence of Cobbold Gorge

Discover the beauty of Cobbold Gorge while stand-up paddleboarding (Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

Deep in the heart of the Gulf Savannah region of Tropical North Queensland, a six-hour drive from Cairns, lies the hidden outback oasis of Cobbold Gorge. Forming part of an ancient sandstone landscape shaped by the elements over centuries, this dramatic, freshwater-filled gorge narrows to just two metres in some places, creating an intimate atmosphere on guided, electric-powered boat cruises run by Cobbold Gorge Tours, whose whisper-quiet cruises only serve to amplify the silence of this wilderness. Carefully managed to protect this otherworldly ecosystem, the classic tour also includes an opportunity to test your nerve by walking across a fully glass bridge spanning a 13m gap some 19m above the cool, spring-fed water below. Feeling even more adventurous? You can also opt to explore the gorge on a stand-up paddleboarding tour.

2. Embark on an epic eco-adventure in the
Daintree Rainforest

Mossman Gorge is one of Daintree Rainforest’s highlights (Shutterstock)

There is no shortage of memorable ways to experience the world’s oldest living tropical lowland rainforest mindfully. Begin at the Indigenous-run Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre near the resort town of Port Douglas, where you can stroll verdant rainforest trails, swim in idyllic freshwater pools if conditions allow, and take an Indigenous-guided Dreamtime Walk through a sacred section of the ancient rainforest. Slip into a wetsuit and climb aboard an inflatable ‘sled’ for a relaxing float down the crystal-clear Mossman River with Back Country Bliss Adventures, including the opportunity to try freshwater snorkelling. Or embark on an action-packed 4WD safari to Cape Tribulation and beyond with Tony’s Tropical Tours, including stops to enjoy epic viewpoints, deserted beaches, intriguing Aboriginal rock art, a thundering waterfall and more. And this is just a taste of the Daintree experiences on offer.

3. Soar above the canopy on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway glides over pristine jungle (Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

Experience the natural beauty of Barron Gorge National Park from a different perspective on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Board the gondola in Smithfield (Cairns) and prepare to be dazzled by the views as you’re whisked high above the rainforest canopy, with the sparkling turquoise Coral Sea stretching toward the horizon behind you. Then immerse in the rainforest as you descend through the greenery to Red Peak and Barron Falls, where you can alight to gaze at the spectacular Barron Falls from lofty lookouts, stretch your legs on peaceful rainforest walks, or take a ranger-guided tour at Red Peak before continuing your journey to the rainforest village of Kuranda. Enjoy a fresh perspective as you travel back to Cairns on the Skyrail, or roll down through the rainforest on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns.

4. Learn how Indigenous knowledge
helps science near Cairns

Spend time with Indigenous locals to learn how they safeguard the wilderness around them (Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

The Mandingalbay Yidinji have sustained the land and water southeast of Cairns, which like the Daintree forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, for millennia. Learn how the Aboriginal community’s Djunbunji Land and Sea Rangers have worked alongside scientists in recent years to protect the biodiversity of this special place on a Djunbunji ranger-guided Hands on Country Eco Tour with Mandingalbay Authentic Indigenous Tours. After gliding away from Cairns Marlin Marina, you’ll venture into a lush, tidal wetland where crocodiles lurk, eagles patrol and powerful stories unfold. This unforgettable connection to land and sea is just one of many Indigenous experiences available in Tropical North Queensland.

5. Step into a rainforest fairytale at Paronella Park

Explore the moss-encrusted castle of Paronella Park (Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

A castle in Queensland? Just a 90-minute drive south from Cairns, Paronella Park isn’t your average pleasure garden. The passion project of Spanish emigrant José Paronella, the five-hectare tropical garden doesn’t only feature a Spanish-style castle hand-built by José in the 1930s, but also northern Queensland’s earliest hydroelectric power plant, commissioned in 1933. Opened to the public in 1935, the popular park eventually fell into decline following a string of environmental disasters. Restored to its former glory in the 1990s by current owners Mark and Judy Evans, Paronella Park is once again a popular attraction, which still runs on hydropower today. The admission price includes a guided walk that takes visitors through the highlights of the park, including the moss-encrusted castle and a picturesque waterfall. Come in the evening to see the grounds illuminated in a riot of colour.

6. Walk the ancient lava tubes of
Undara Volcanic National Park

Be in awe of Undara National Park’s lava tubes (Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

Descend into the underworld – Tropical North Queensland style – at Undara Volcanic National Park. Hidden in rugged hills of Gulf Savannah country, a 3.5-hour drive southwest of Cairns, this unusual ecosystem contains the remains of one of the world’s longest flows of lava originating from a single volcano. Silent sentinels to our pre-history, its lava tunnels formed some 190,000 years ago can be visited on three thrilling tours run by expert guides from Undara Experience. Get a taste of the geological splendour of the tunnels on the Archway Explorer, explore deeper into this surreal environment on the Wind Tunnel Explorer, or spot the local critters who have made the tunnels their home on the Wildlife at Sunset Tour. Afterwards, a restored antique railway carriage is just one of the characterful accommodation options available on this timeless land.

7. Pay a visit to the Tolga Bat Hospital

Pay a visit to the Tolga Bat Hospital to see the good work it does (Tourism Tropical North Queensland)

Enjoy an intriguing insight into the world of bats at Tolga Bat Rescue’s multi-award-winning Bat Hospital Visitor Centre in the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns. On a personalised tour of the centre you’ll get to meet some of the resident bats – from small insectivorous microbats to larger fruit- and nectar-eating megabats like flying foxes – and watch them feed and interact with each other. See and hear the echolocation calls of a microbat on a bat detector and learn about their lives, their importance to the environment and the work of the bat hospital. But bats aren’t the only winged creatures you’re likely to spot on the serene five-acre property, seeing as it’s nestled in a lush valley popular with birds. While you’re in the neighbourhood, visit Hasties Swamp, a wetland just down the road that attracts a cornucopia of migratory birds.

Feeling inspired?

For more information about this compelling corner of Australia, visit the official Tropical North Queensland website.

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