Tropical North Queensland is not the sort of place to sit around indoors moaning ‘there’s nothing to do’. Particularly if you’ve got a hankering for a little outdoor adventure. Blessed with a tropical climate that allows us to play outdoors year round, we’re kind of spoilt. So we thought we’d make your choices a little easier next time you’re planning an outdoor adventure. Beware, you’re probably going to struggle to wipe that silly adrenaline-fueled grin off your face!
1. Hike Queensland’s highest mountain
Rising over 1,600 metres above sea level Mt Bartle Frere kicks some serious butt in the altitude stakes. Sure, Bartle Frere is no Everest, but in these parts it’s the closest we get to mountains that knock your socks off and it’s a heck of a lot warmer than Everest! Leave the hand warmers at home.
Bartle Frere adventures are there to be had by hikers, campers, 4WDers and bird watchers – anyone really who doesn’t mind a little bit of luscious rainforest thrown in with their mountains. Hikers to the summit should expect to do some rock hopping of the mossy kind, scrambling over tree roots, ducking and weaving through overgrown vegetation. At some stage you’ll start wondering if it’s worth the effort. Trust us, it is. By the time you reach the summit you’ll feel like your heart is jumping out of your chest. Take a few long breaths to still your beating heart and enjoy the view. It’s the closest you’ll come to that ‘top of the world’ feeling. It’s well worth every bit of sweat, blood and tears that you’ve left on the trail below.
If you need even more adventure, check out the video below of three trail runners who conquered Mt Bartle Frere as part of their 8 Peaks in 8 States adventure. Up for the challenge?
Need to Know: Check the Dept of National Parks before you go to ensure hiking trails and roads are open. Campers should pre-book campsites.
When to Go: May to October (dry season)
2. Kayak the Great Barrier Reef
If you’ve got your own kayak you can launch off the beach almost anywhere between Mission Beach and Cape Tribulation. If you don’t have your own kayak, don’t panic because there’s plenty of places to hire a kayak or even take a fully guided tour. Here’s a couple of spots that you really should check out:
Low Isles is about 15km from Port Douglas so, unless you’ve got shoulders like Phil Heath (multiple Mr Olympia champ) you’ll need to get a lift out to this little island. Once there however it’s unlikely you’ll want to leave. Make sure you’ve got a snorkel and mask with you to flop over the side and marvel at the fringing coral reef. Walk around the island, relax on the beach, then kayak some more. Repeat until sunset.
Cape Tribulation is one of the places in TNQ where the rainforest really does collide with the reef. Hire a kayak from Cape Tribulation Camping and head seawards. Kayak around Cape Trib headland for serious bragging rights back at the campground.
Less than a kilometre off Palm Cove’s beach is cute little Haycock Island. Keep an eye open for turtles between the island and the shore, it’s a popular hang spot! Beach the kayaks at Haycock, have a swim at the teeny cove and lay claim to be King of the Island for a day.
Need to Know: Marine stingers are present in the ocean from Nov to Mar – wear a stinger suit for full protection
When to Go: South easterly tradewinds can be brisk between Apr & Oct. Light winds generally prevail from Nov to Mar.
3. White water raft the Barron River
Hang on to your hats (and everything else), this is one activity guaranteed to get your blood pumping. There are few places in the world where you can raft grade two and three rapids 10 mins from your central city hotel. Yes Cairns, we’re looking at you.
The Barron Rivers cuts a dramatic passage through Barron Gorge National Park eventually flowing out to sea north of Cairns Airport. There’s enough power in the mighty Barron Falls to generate electricity via the Hydro power station within the park. But fear not rafting virgins, you’ll not be rafting this monster. Rather, the infamous Rooster Tail is your challenge set by Raging Thunder – chickens need not apply.
Oh, and in case you wondered what it’s like to be a rafting guide as a job meet Roddy ‘Foaming Fury’ Rees
Need to Know: Expect to get very wet
When to Go: Barron River is at its most powerful after wet season rains (Dec to Mar)
4. Zip line with a crocodile
Admittedly this is a weird combination but it actually works. A 20 metre high glass enclosure sits on top of the Reef Hotel Casino, encasing Cairns Wildlife Dome. Strap yourself into a harness, hook up to the zip line and cruise through the wildlife park as free as the birds that flutter in the upper reaches of the dome. Before you come down to earth test your mettle on the network of ropes and climbing courses. Linger over apex predator Goliath if you dare. At 4 metres long and known to be cantankerous when hungry, Goliath is an alpha male with attitude.
If that doesn’t float your boat perhaps an external walk around the dome high above the city might. Views of the city below and mountains beyond are spectacular.
Need to Know: Zip lining is the perfect way to conquer a fear of heights. Trust us. Once you lay eyes on Goliath your fear of heights will vanish.
When to Go: Year round
5. Bungy with the masters
No self-respecting adventure list would be complete without including the adrenalin-junkies who made it cool to strap some elastic to your ankles and jump into oblivion: AJ Hacket needs no introduction. Nor does the gracefully terrifying act of bungy jumping. Suffice to say if this is your first time at AJ Hacket Bungy Cairns, wear dark coloured shorts. As of last month they hold the Guiness World Record with 546 bungy jumps in 24 hours.
But why stop at bungy? Why not ramp it up a little and bungy on a bmx bike. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.
Need to Know: Ready to step outside your comfort zone? Bungy will take you there.
When to Go: whenever you’re ready sunshine!
6. Unleash your inner cowboy (or girl)
Slap on a Stetson, mount your steed and ride off into the sunset in a cloud of dust, all guns blazing. Well at least that’s the way some of us imagine horse riding to be (or maybe that’s just me watching too many cowboy movies?). Forget the guns and replace the dust with trails that meander through rainforest, mangrove wetlands and alongside a lush billabong and you’ve got a Blazing Saddles horseback adventure made in heaven.
Up the ante and trade the horse for some four wheeled horsepower of the quadbike kind to ignite your inner dragster. Guides are on hand to keep things safe.
Need to Know: Family friendly – minimum age is 4 years for horseriding or 12 years for an ATV
When to Go: Year round, but the dry season is best
7. Mud crabbing in the mud
Paleo aficionados this is your best chance to channel your inner hunter gatherer. Join an Indigenous guide from the Kuku Yalanji people in the coastal wetlands of the Daintree rainforest on a Walkabout Cultural Adventure. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself knee deep in mud, wrestling mud crabs or launching traditional spears into the sea. Even if you’ve let your hunting skills lapse over the last few hundred years you won’t go hungry. Bush tucker as well as more conventional food for lunch should keep your inner Bear Grylls sated.
Need to Know: Take your swimmers to cool off (and wash off the mud) in a freshwater swimming hole
When to Go: Dry season is best