With lush green rainforest meeting the Great Barrier Reef and coconut palm-lined beaches meeting turquoise, tropical waters, your quintessential North Queensland holidays are bound to be framed by some gorgeous landscapes.
Now add in a UNESCO World Heritage site or 2 and plenty of history and culture, and your North Queensland holidays are bound to be just as interesting and unique as they will be beautiful and breathtaking.
Having travelled this stretch of Australia extensively as part of the great road trip around the country, we’ve definitely got some ideas about the best places to explore up there.
So here’s our list of 16 amazing destinations to discover on your North Queensland holidays to help inspire your next trip!
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#1 Mission Beach
Home of the elusive cassowary – a giant flightless that only exists in this part of Australia – Mission Beach is a great place to tick this crazy-looking animal off your bucket list!
It’s also a wonderful place to enjoy jumping out a plane with skydiving companies here promising epic overhead views of the Great Barrier Reef, complete with a tropical beach landing every time.
If both of these activities sound a bit much for your adrenaline levels, as they did mine (!), then kayaking and snorkelling are also high on the agenda at Mission Beach, as are some great day trips to nearby Dunk Island.
Alternatively, if even this sounds like too much activity for your North Queensland holidays, you can simply enjoy a spot of beach strolling or sunbaking on the fabulous stretches of sand here.
When it gets too hot, savour delicious coconuts straight from the tree or sample some yummy grub from one of the town’s many delightful cafes instead.
For more ideas, check out my post that gives you 21 great things to do in Mission Beach.
#2 Tully Gorge & Babinda Boulders
Just behind Mission Beach are 2 areas of natural beauty well worth checking out as part of your North Queensland holidays. I’ve included them together as they’re fairly near each other and could be enjoyed in a single stay.
First up is Tully Gorge, renowned for being the white water rafting capital of Australia, with its grade 3 and 4 rapids provide the perfect experience amid world heritage listed rainforest.
There’s also mountain biking opportunities to get involved in here as well as some epic hiking and camping fun too.
The Babinda Boulders offer a more sedate experience in the form of a beautiful natural swimming hole set in front of Queensland’s highest peak.
Coming down from the mountain, the water here is always cool, which makes this the perfect refreshing spot for a swim on a hot afternoon. There’s also a great free camp nearby if you want to stay the night, otherwise Cairns is not far away either.
Right up in north Queensland’s Gulf Country, lies the town of Normanton, most famous for its massive life-size sculpture of Kyrs the Croc, which has featured in many a good selfie!
Krys was the largest crocodile ever captured and you can imagine, when you see the size of his statue, that he grew to be quite an impressive beast before his fatal demise!
Normanton’s other famous landmark is the Purple Pub, which is a classic Outback watering hole.
Stop in at Normanton to get a glimpse of what life in the Queensland bush is really all about or ride the wonderfully quaint tourist train, the Gulflander, to learn more about the area’s fascinating history!
Not far from Normanton, lies the even smaller destination of Karumba.
The fact that this is the only town along the Gulf of Carpentaria accessible by 2wd, makes a Karumba a popular stop for those on their North Queensland holidays.
Coined as the town where the bush meets the beach, Karumba is also famous for its prawns and its sunsets.
So, why not combine both by enjoying an evening at the Sunset Tavern, like we did! From here you can watch the giant red orb of the sun disappear beneath the horizon as you munch on some yummy prawns (well those of us who aren’t veggo munched on the prawns!)
Almost at the top of North Queensland is the quaint little community of Cooktown, which is the main access point and service area for Cape York.
You’re getting really into the wild out here, but nevertheless we couldn’t believe how much there was to see and do in this small town and wished we’d had time to stay a bit longer!
From incredible 4wd tracks to awesome lookouts, beautiful beaches to one of the best museums in the state, Cooktown is definitely worth a visit.
Steeped in history, with remote and incredible scenery all around, check out my list of the 10 best (and cheap) things to do in Cooktown if you’re looking any more reasons to visit!
#6 Elim Beach
Located just outside the aboriginal community of Hopevale in Cape York, Elim Beach is little more than a remote campground owned by a community elder.
But what a campground!
Set on the beach with a spectacular backdrop of coloured sand cliffs, silica white sand and green mangroves, this place is a dream if you’re looking to fully disconnect as part of your north Queensland holidays.
Only an hour’s drive north of Cooktown, you can sense on your way here that this is going to be a seriously special spot!
Isolated, iconic and 100% instagrammable, Elim Beach easily made the highlights list of our great budget 4wd around Australia.
#7 Cape Tribulation
Just below Cooktown, the town of Cape Tribulation, also set within the Cape York Peninsula, is little more than a hamlet of hotels and hostels stretched along a beach.
With the rainforest as green as it is and the beach every bit as beautiful as you’d expect from this remote location however, Cape Tribulation is well worth stopping to enjoy.
You have to catch the Daintree car ferry to get to Cape Tribulation from the south, or undertake the infamous Bloomfield 4wd Track like we did to get here from the north, but put in the effort either way and you’ll be rewarded with a famously remote and idyllic destination.
Cape Tribulation is the perfect destination to get away from it all, so definitely schedule in a few unhurried days here as part of your North Queensland holidays.
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Still the number 1 North Queensland holidays spot, Cairns sits at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and is most famous for its extensive offering of snorkelling and diving trips that regularly take guests out to this amazing marine masterpiece.
If you’re not ready qualified to dive yet, then Cairns is also the perfect place to get yourself qualified, with tons of schools offering PADI courses to the novice.
Failing that, there’s always a good party to enjoy at night in Cairns and The Esplanade to relax at during the day.
With shops and cafes aplenty too, Cairns is the central hub for your North Queensland holidays’ action.
#9 Wallaman Falls
When it comes to Australia’s tallest waterfall, I’ll just let the picture do the talking!
Tucked behind Cairns in the hinterland rainforest, the town of Kuranda is most commonly accessed via the steep windy road, known as the Kennedy Highway, that takes you high into the hills above the coast.
This is actually a fantastic drive in itself, with tons of great lookouts to enjoy from beneath the rainforest canopy, which we really enjoyed.
Once you reach Kuranda, there’s then tons of great attractions to keep you amused for a day or too.
From the magnificent Baron Falls to the fabulous Kuranda markets, this alternative town also has plenty of colourful characters to keep you entertained too!
The largest town in the Cairns hinterland, Mareeba’s best attractions are its excellent boutique coffee producers and its fascinating heritage museum that adjoins the visitor centre.
There’s also some great hot air ballooning activities to enjoy from here.
The town also has some stunning natural surrounds that are well worth exploring as part of your North Queensland holidays.
From the local Wetlands to the delightful Granite Gorge, there’s plenty of nature to marvel at in these parts and also a plethora of great campgrounds so you can enjoy sleeping in the great outdoors too.
Our pick of the bunch?
The excellent Ringers Rest campground, situated only 10 minutes drive from the town centre.
This is basic, budget camping at its best.
From incredible rainforest walks, through to drives along rolling hills, I really think the Atherton Tablelands is area is one of the prettiest in the whole of Australia and, unsurprisingly, the town of Atherton sits right in the heart of the action!
This cute historic town is surrounded by tens of crashing waterfalls and delicious boutique producers only too happy to showcase their local treats which range from cheese to chocolate – one of them is even a biodynamic producer!
There’s also national parks a plenty here – from the Curtin Tree Fig to Mount Hypipamee – as well as Queensland’s highest town – Ravenshoe – just around the corner. Oh and who could forget the delightful Lake Eacham!
Make sure you allow plenty of time when it comes to spending your North Queensland holidays in the Atherton area.
We grossly underestimated how much there is to do in this area and regretted it!
If you’re on a budget, then why not check my list of the 10 best free things to do in the Atherton Tablelands, it will give you plenty of ideas!
#13 Boodjamulla National Park
Ah, Boodjamulla National Park, one of my all-time favourites!
Seriously, this one of the most incredible places in the whole of Australia and a definite must-see if you’ve even remotely near this far-flung destination as part of your North Queensland holidays.
Set around a spring-fed creek, this impressive gorge boasts year-round water which is perfect for kayaking or swimming in.
There’s also some epic hikes to undertake, wildlife to spot, waterfalls to cool down in and views to gaze at and /or photograph.
When it comes to accommodation, you can either choose from a great national park campground or the nearby resort of Adels Grove.
Either way, you definitely want to stay a few nights here in order to explore everything in this top Queensland national park.
We stayed for 4 days and loved it!
For more info, check out my ultimate guide to Boodjamulla National Park.
Maybe an unconventional pick, but we seriously loved Croydon when we swung by this cute town on our way from Georgetown to Normanton!
Brimming with history, Croydon boasts a fascinating heritage trail that allows visitors to easily explore many of its beautifully renovated old buildings and its general store, which claims to be the oldest in Australia!
Originally a bustling gold rush town, but now little more than a peaceful collection of houses and a caravan park, this is a great place to stop for a day or 2 on your North Queensland holidays.
#15 Gregory Downs
As the second largest town in its shire, you’d expect Gregory Downs to be more than a pub and a tiny shop.
The fact that it’s not however, only adds to its charm and is indicative of just how remote you are if you choose to pass some of your North Queensland holidays in this part of the state.
The main attraction that brings people to Gregory Downs in the nearby Boodjamulla National Park and the UNESCO Riversleigh fossil site, both of which are definite bucket list destinations.
However, good old Gregory also deserves at least a night of your time, if only to enjoy an evening and a few drinks in the wonderfully traditional and locally-owned old pub!
#16 Port Douglas
Probably the prettiest town in North Queensland, the beachside resort of Port Douglas is loved by almost anyone that goes there!
From the great swimming beach, to the lovely cafes and even the awesome market, Port Douglas is a classic North Queensland holiday favourite.
Days here are spent largely on the beach, not least because Port Douglas offers one of the few safe ocean swimming spots in these parts – aka there’s no crocs!
There’s also morning yoga classes to enjoy on the sand, or reef snorkelling trips to enjoy in the water.
Oh and don’t miss a walk up to Port Douglas’ lookout either, this is the best spot in town for some great photos.
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So there you have it, my list of 16 amazing destinations to discover on your North Queensland Holidays.
Have you been to any of these destinations?
Which was your favourite?