IT'S WATERFALL SEASON
Summer in Tropical North Queensland is known as The Big Wet (don't worry, most of the rainfall comes in short, sharp afternoon downpours). It produces a spectacular side-effect – waterfalls. You don't have to drive far out of Cairns to see some of the best: Crystal Cascades is 20 minutes' drive west, while the Waterfall Circuit begins 45 minutes from the city. It takes in some of TNQ's most spectacular falls, like Millaa Millaa Falls, Australia's most photographed falls. Or go a few kilometres beyond to Millstream Falls (Australia's widest single-drop waterfall). It's worth driving four hours (or two hours from Townsville) for Wallaman Falls, Australia's highest waterfall. See tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au
Calm seas: It's a good time to book a snorkelling and diving trip. Photo: Phill Warring
Summer tends to produce less wind than winter when the trade winds (from the south-east) blow – so if you're prone to seasickness, summer's the time to go. The water's warmer at an average of 28 degrees (you'll need a stinger suit, but at least that will save you putting sunscreen on). Water visibility is better in summer when winds blow from the north, so it's a good time to book a snorkelling and diving trip out of Cairns or Port Douglas (there are more than 30 Great Barrier Reef tours to choose from). You also have more chance of seeing turtles as November to February is hatching season. The Great Diving Range tends to draw most of summer's rain to the coast, so the sun still shines on the reef. See quicksilvercruises.com prodive.com.au reefmagiccruises.com
THERE'S SOMEWHERE REALLY COOL TO ESCAPE TO
Mt Quincan Crater Retreat. Photo: Philip Warring
The Atherton Tablelands, an hour's drive south-west of Cairns, sit at between 400 metres and a kilometre above sea level, providing a milder climate than the coast and it can be as much as 10 degrees cooler. With its green countryside and misty mornings, the landscape looks more English than Australian. Enjoy Devonshire tea at an 80-year-old heritage café, The Tea House at Lake Barrine, or dine alfresco amongst fragrant gardens in the biggest National Trust village in Queensland, Yungaburra, home to 18 Trust buildings. Sit by a fire in a treehouse looking across the mist at Mount Quincan Crater Retreat. See mtquincan.com.au lakebarrine.com.au yungaburra.com
Spot cassowaries along the Cassowary Coast.
It's the best time to spot wildlife – especially in the Queensland outback where the dry, barren landscape bursts with colour. Take a drive along the Cassowary Coast, (between Cairns and Townsville) where you'll find the highest concentration of endangered southern cassowaries on Earth. Male cassowaries wander with fresh-born chicks through summer, gorging on fruit. And you'll never see more butterflies, including electric-blue Ulysses butterflies and green and yellow Cairns birdwings, check them out at the biggest butterfly aviary in the Southern Hemisphere at Kuranda, 30 minutes from Cairns. See australianbutterflies.com tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au
Outside of the Christmas/ New Year period, it'll be a very quiet summer for Tropical North Queensland.
Visitor numbers swell by 55 000 visitors a day over summer when international travellers come to escape their northern winter. But with borders closed to outside visitors, there's no chance any of these visitors coming this summer. Domestic travellers will have the region to themselves. And because winter is high season for domestic travellers (who like to escape southern winters) there's every likelihood it'll be a very quiet summer for Tropical North Queensland. Outside of the Christmas/ New Year period, expect to see hotel discounts as operators compete for those domestic travellers prepared to travel outside high season. If you don't mind humidity and afternoon storms, this will be the best chance you'll have to see the region without crowds.
THE TROPICS' VERSION OF A COSY WINTER'S NIGHT BY THE FIRE
Heat builds through the day in the tropics during summer, before building to a crescendo by mid-afternoon. Book a retreat with a spa bath which looks out across the rainforest and spend a cosy afternoon listening to the rain thunder down on the roof, with a view of the creatures of the forest a few metres away. Daintree Eco-Lodge, (90 minutes' drive north of Cairns) offers guests bayans (treehouses) deep in the world's oldest rainforest – the Daintree. Sit in an oversized tub on an enclosed balcony with a view of the forest canopy beyond. Or sit back in a bath tub overlooking forest and the Coral Sea at Thala Beach Nature Reserve. See thalabeach.com.au daintree-ecolodge.com.au
The writer was a guest of Tourism Tropical North Queensland