Based in Cairns and want to explore over a weekend getaway? You already know we’d have too many options to narrow onto this list – so we’ve hand picked the very best!
In fact, tropical North Queensland is home to some of Australia’s most fascinating locations: from rainforests, to reefs and waterfalls. The best part is, these are only located a few hours from Cairns, so you can spend some incredible time exploring these iconic spots.
Here’s a quick bonus tip: The best way to discover Cairns is by taking a camping trip. For the ultimate hassle-free and adventurous weekend away, hire a campervan in Cairns and head off to one of the following destinations.
Let’s start off…
A weekend in the Daintree Rainforest
Delve into the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, the Daintree Rainforest. Located just 2 hours 30 minutes north of Cairns, a weekend in the Daintree Rainforest will be one to remember for a lifetime. The World Heritage-listed rainforest hosts around 1,200 square kilometres of ancient ferns, emerald green vines, and lush canopies. It’s not hard to see why this jungle location was the filming destination for the movie Avatar.
There are several walks you can take in the Daintree Rainforest, with well-signposted boardwalk tracks winding their way throughout the forest grounds. To learn more about the Daintree’s history and ecosystem, a guided walking tour with the Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people is a must-do for anyone who visits. Learn about the culture’s traditional customs and techniques, sample bush foods, and immerse yourself in the ancient ways of life in the rainforest.
Campgrounds recommendation: Daintree Rainforest Village is a beautiful campground within the rainforest with powered and unpowered sites for your campervan.
Don’t miss Mossman Gorge while in the Daintree Rainforest. With crystal-clear water cascading over large granite boulders and lush rainforests cloaking the steep mountainsides, it is one of the most beautiful parts of the Daintree. Take a walk through the lower river tracks, rainforest circuits, or treetops boardwalks for ultimate forest views.
Head north to the village of Cape Tribulation, the place where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. Here you can explore the gorgeous scenery, beaches and rainforest walks. Getting here you will need to cross a river on the Daintree Ferry, so make sure you have some extra time if deciding to visit Cape Tribulation.
Campground recommendation: Safari Lodge is a low-cost campground location in the remote rainforest region of Cape Tribulation.
Why is the Daintree rainforest so special?
As the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree rainforest is home for a large portion of Australia’s wildlife. Here’s a fun fact – spanning from Townsville to Cooktown, the Daintree rainforest hosts about 30% of Australia’s reptile population.
How far is the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns?
To get to the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, you’ll need to drive approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes from Cairns.
Exploring the reef from Port Douglas
There’s no doubt when you think of Tropical North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is what comes to mind. The world’s largest coral reef is a remarkable example of natural beauty and the only living structure that is visible from space. The colourful ecosystem of tropical fish and bright coral is a once in a lifetime must-see destination that definitely cannot be missed when in this part of Australia.
Make a weekend out of your trip by heading just an hour north of Cairns to Port Douglas, the gateway to the rainforest and the reef. Departing to the reef from Port Douglas is an even better experience than heading to the reef from Cairns itself as you will visit the most northern and arguably most beautiful part of the reef. There are several operators that do day trips out to the reef by boat for a day of snorkelling or scuba diving.
In the township of Port Douglas, there’s plenty to do right where you stay. Watch the sunrise over the postcard-perfect and easily accessible Four Mile Beach or dine al fresco in one of many great restaurants Port Douglas has to offer.
Campground recommendation: Tropical Breeze Caravan park is a fully facilitated caravan park located right within Port Douglas town.
What is the best time of year to go to Port Douglas?
You can practically visit Port Douglas at any time during the year, though April to October seem to be most popular due to the warmer temperatures and drier climate.
How far is it to get from Cairns to Port Douglas?
To reach Port Douglas from Cairns, you’ll need just over 1 hour to arrive by car.
Head south & chase waterfalls
Tropical North Queensland is home to some of Australia’s most stunning waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes and many of them can be reached in just a couple hours’ drive from Cairns. You won’t miss being able to swim in the ocean of this part of Australia, with inland swimming destinations so beautiful. Pick up your campervan in Cairns and head south for the ultimate weekend of chasing waterfalls and cooling down in freshwater creeks and natural pools.
Make the first destination on your road trip a stop at Curtain Fig Tree, just one hour’s drive from Cairns. The large fig tree found in the Atherton Tableland national park is a unique site due to its extensive aerial roots that drop 15 meters to the forest floor, forming a ‘curtain’ within nature.
Millaa Millaa falls is the first must-see waterfall on your weekend trip south of Cairns. This tranquil paradise is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Australia, so make sure you bring your camera because you won’t want to forget this picture-perfect image. The magnificent waterfall cascades into a pristine waterhole below, surrounded by lush rainforest.
The Josephine waterfalls and swimming hole are up there with the most beautiful waterfalls in Tropical North Queensland. Swim in the crystal-clear waters and relax on the sandy shores while surrounded by huge boulders and a leafy rainforest canopy.
Campground recommendation: Head another hour south to the beautiful Mission Beach for the evening. Stay at Mission Beach Hideaway Holiday Village for a fully facilitated place to relax.
About 2 hours 30 minutes south of Cairns, make your next stop Cardwell Spa Pool. The pools are somewhat of a geological wonder, changing colour from a bright, baby blue to a more milky-blue colour due to the chemistry of the rocks and water here. If you are lucky, you will visit at a time of day where the sun shines brightly on the water and the pools glow a bright blue.
Saving what is arguably the best until last, visit Wallaman Falls in the Girringun National Park, 287 kilometres south of Cairns. Australia’s highest permanent single drop waterfall plunges 268 metres in a clear single-drop, surrounded by a rainbow in the misty stream. Check out Wallaman Falls Lookout for the perfect place to get a photo.
Campground recommendation: Wallaman Falls Campground in the Girrigun National Park is a beautiful low-cost campground right near the waterfall itself.
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.