Far North Queensland things to do: The nine highlights of the tropical north

I WANT TO SEE CAPE TRIBULATION

Stand on the beach at the remote headland of Cape Tribulation and you're between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Daintree, the oldest intact tropical rainforest in the world and the Great Barrier Reef. Take your time on the 85 kilometre drive from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation that involves crossing the Daintree River by cable ferry then winding through dense rainforest. Stop at the Marrdja Botanical Walk at Oliver Creek to view prehistoric plant life up close, like the giant fan palms (there's 16 species on the Daintree Coast), the golden orchids (the largest in Australia) and the diverse mangrove species of this region. See daintreerainforest.com

I WANT TO HANG WITH THE LOCALS

In Port Douglas, be sure to pull up a table at Hemingway's Brewery on the marina and watch the yachts come and go. The local independent craft brewery names its brews for local sights and legends - Mrs Watson's small ale (easy drinking and lower alcohol) and the 4 Mile Lager (light and fruity) - has a big menu that includes ginger steamed mussels, sashimi of black cobia, spiced lamb shoulder and stone-fired pizzas. See hemingwaysbrewery.com

I WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

Calypso Reef Cruise Great Barrier Reef

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in this natural wonder is on a snorkelling trip to the Outer Reef. About 60 kilometres from Port Douglas travelling on a sturdy 21-metre vessel, guests visit three sites and swim among coral gardens full with giant clams, parrot fish and maori wrasse. There are deck chairs aplenty and lunch is provided on this full-day journey with about 60 guests. The once-in-a-lifetime experience is led by knowledgeable guides. See calypsoreefcruises.com

I WANT MEXICAN FOOD

Set on Port Douglas' main drag, an outside table is a must for barramundi tacos, margaritas and churros. There's a Lil Amigos menu at the establishment that's been an institution since the '90s. Be sure to book days ahead. 4/43 Macrossan St Port Douglas. See themexicanpd.com.au

I WANT A TIPPLE

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Far North Queensland's first distillery, Mt Uncle in the Atherton Tablelands, uses local fruits and other ingredients to make its premium spirits and liqueur including Bushfire Smoked Gin and Platinum Cane Spirit Rum. Set at the base of Mount Uncle among a banana plantation there's a dedicated tasting room, restaurant and landscaped gardens to walk around where alpacas and peacocks also roam. 1819 Chewko Road, Walkamin. See mtuncle.com

I WANT TO EXPERIENCE LOCAL INDIGENOUS CULTURE

Dreamtime Walk, Mossman Gorge, Far North Queensland for Traveller 

Photo: Adam Bruzzone

Join an Indigenous guide at Mossman Gorge in the southern part of the Daintree Rainforest on a walk that follows easy trails among paperbark, melaleuca and giant red cedar trees. Exploring Kuku Yalanji culture and traditions, including bush medicine and painting with ochre, our guide Trevor reminds us that we're in a forest older than the Amazon. Filmmaker James Cameron is said to have been inspired by the strangler fig of this forest and made them a feature of the movie Avatar. Allow time to explore the visitors' centre and art gallery as well as lunch at the Mayi Cafe which features bush ingredients on its menu. See mossmangorge.com.au

I WANT A RAINFOREST HIDEAWAY

traxxnorthqueensland Silky Oaks Lodge Treehouse Restaurant, Daintree Rainforest 

Abutting the Daintree Rainforest on the banks of the Mossman River, and long a favourite of honeymooners (although still child-friendly) Silky Oaks Lodge is a nature retreat of supreme comfort. While away the day in a hammock, kayak on the billabong, take self-guided walks among the ancient forest and dine in the open-air Treehouse Restaurant. Recently acquired by Baillie Lodges, expect offerings to be ratcheted up when it reopens in April 2021 after a $10 million renovation. Among the new offerings will be a Rainforest Pavilion, a premium suite with infinity pool. See baillielodges.com.au

I WANT ICE CREAM

On the road to Cape Tribulation the Floravilla Icecreamery will win over even those who care little for the frozen fare. The ice cream is made on site using milk and yoghurt from the Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Organic Dairy. To make the most of the 20-plus flavours that include sweet potato and ginger, macadamia and coconut, and ironbark honey and ginger, allow for a stop both ways on your Cape journey. 335 Cape Tribulation Rd, Cow Bay. See floravillaartgallery.com.au

I WANT FAMILY FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION

Oaks, Port Douglas, Queensland 

Situated on the road into Port Douglas, Oaks is ideal for families. Pull up a cabana and while away the day around the lagoon-style pool with swim-up bar. For the active, there's bikes, lap pool, gym and tennis courts, or cross the road for a stroll along Four Mile Beach. There's an on site spa and all one and two bedroom apartments contain a kitchenette. Hail the historic Bally Hooley train out the front of the resort; the refurbished diesel and steam locomotives take passengers to the marina on narrow gauge tracks. 87-109 Port Douglas Road, Port Douglas. Rooms from $112 a night. See oakshotels.com; ballyhooleyrail.com.au

I WANT THE FACTS

POPULATION

The Douglas Shire covers an area of 2445 square kilometres and is home to about 12,000 people, with 70 per cent of those living in the hubs of Port Douglas and Mossman.

LOCATION

From the Cairns Airport it's a 67 kilometre, or one-hour, coastal drive on the Captain Cook Highway, State Route 44 to Port Douglas.

CLIMATE

Port Douglas' dry season from May to October features sun and relatively low humidity; in the wet season, from November to April, expect afternoon tropical downpours and the occasional electrical storm.

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation, no higher than a palm tree, caters to all budgets; with the beachfront five-star Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort in Port Douglas, the self-contained Cayman Villas and the BIG4 Port Douglas Glengarry Holiday Park among the many offerings.

Jane Reddy stayed as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. See tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au

See also: New great Australian walk shows off hidden wilderness

See also: How a Spanish immigrant built his own fairytale castle in Queensland

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