Meditate on this scene for a second: corals and sea life in every hue of the rainbow wading in brilliantly clear waters, waves crashing onto the finest white sands and lush, leafy canopies reaching high into bright, blue skies. And did we mention the toasty average of 28 degrees? When the southern states go frosty, here, in Tropical North Queensland, the warm embrace of sunshine long lingers on. Is this Australia's perfect short break?
The best way to really get acquainted with paradise? On a zippy fly-and-drive getaway. Cairns makes the perfect base, easily accessible and with a treasure trove of wonders rolling out like a red carpet right on its doorstep. Land on the tarmac, pick up your own set of wheels and feel the fires of freedom light up inside you as a raft of possibilities ensues.
Of course, there are the bucket list items to firstly circle on the map, starting with the Great Barrier Reef. It’s not all snorkels and scuba tanks. Keep your hair dry on a submarine voyage, take a cruise to a luxurious island or witness breathtaking aerial views on a scenic flight over the reef.
The Daintree Rainforest is another World Heritage-listed beauty to tick off – the oldest surviving rainforest in the world and a natural maze of wildlife, walking trails and leafy framed lookouts. Once you can wind down your windows and feel the crisp kiss of fresh air on your cheeks, you’ll know you’ve driven in deep enough.
See the reef. 7 Incredible Snorkelling Spots in Queensland
A romantic voyage. Hot Air Ballooning in Tropical North Queensland
While many travellers love the cable car ride that soars over the mountains and into Kuranda, the heart of the Atherton Tablelands region, four wheels is your key to truly experience what it’s all about. Duck off to tumbling waterfalls and walking trails and stop in at colourful villages singing the praises of local artists and artisans. Regional galleries, markets and culinary morsels abound.
A look closer at the map reveals extra stops dotted along the way, from the sea of green all the way back to the saltier version. Pull over to experience indigenous cultural sites, local fishing holes, wildlife safaris and occasionally, wineries specialising in fruit wines. Many highlights crop up along the roads winding throughout this region.
One highlight you won’t find on the map – the fresh farm stands. Pick up nuts and tropical fruits by the roadside for the ultimate driving snack. Nowhere does pineapple, banana and mango taste better.
All this scene is missing is one ingredient: a sun-drenched stroll by the beach. Now you have yourself an iconic long-weekend-worthy itinerary that is nothing short of perfect.
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