We have been excitedly waiting to go on a family holiday with baby Aria. We wanted to go somewhere that’s warm in Australia but where to go when we are in the middle of Winter! We found the perfect holiday destination – Tropical North Queensland!
Fringed by reef, enveloped by rainforest and ringed by the red-dirt of the Outback, Tropical North Queensland is full of surprises and wonder. Having lived in Melbourne for most of my life, I love travelling around Australia and spend time discovering my own backyard. Tropical North Queensland is home to two world heritage sites, The Great Barrier Reef and The Daintree Rainforest. I can safely say this tropical paradise is a must for every traveller’s bucket-list.
There’s a reason Tropical North Queensland has a reputation for being the most laid-back part of the country. It’s hard to take life too seriously when the sun shines year round with the thermometer rarely dropping below a balmy 25C.
Given this is baby Aria’s first flight, we were happy that we were able to catch a direct flight from Melbourne to Cairns airport; only 3.25 hours. We hired a car and drove to our first hotel – Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore.
Whether it’s a family holiday or a romantic escape, I can see why everyone falls in love with Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore. Set against a backdrop of endless turquoise waters underneath swaying coconut palms, it is a picture perfect tropical hideaway. Located 25 minutes north of Cairns with direct beach access and just metres from the Palm Cove esplanade, it’s location is unbeatable.
Once we arrived, we felt relaxed instantly. We were greeted by warm and welcoming staff. We were shown to our 2 Bedroom Beachfront Suite. We loved that the Suite had a private balcony with beachfront views. All the Suites have Miele kitchen appliances, flat screen TV and movies on demand, separate living and dining ares, air conditioning and ceiling fans, king size beds, free WiFi and even washer and dryer! Extremely handy when you have a baby and need to do laundry on a daily basis!
We couldn’t wait to start exploring the resort – there’s beautiful pools, the award winning Alamanda Spa, Nu Nu Restaurant and of course the beachfront views framed by towering coconut palms…what to do first!
We decided to start our holiday with a treatment in Alamanda Spa. I must say a few spas in Australia can boast a backdrop that can relax and rejuvenate as much as the treatments themselves. After our massaged, we relaxed in one of the Beachfront Spa Pavilions with private horizon edge plunge pool (pictured above).
For dinner we decided to try Nu Nu Restaurant after hearing raving reviews. Voted the 2015 Australian Gourmet Traveller and 2017 Good Food Guide Queensland Regional Restaurant of the Year, we had to dine here while in Palm Cove!
We thoroughly enjoyed dinner! The food is a reflection of the vibrant, colourful and dramatic landscape that is Tropical North Queensland. There was so many dishes we wanted to try so we decided to order for the table to share. However, you can simply stick to the classic entree, main & dessert if you wish. This may make your mouth water, we had the wok fried north queensland mud crab with tamarind & sweet pork, cinnamon roasted victorian lamb with caramilised mungalli yoghurt and sichuan eggplant with yellow bean paste just to name a few.
There are so many things to do while in Tropical North Queensland, first we visited the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Consistently voted as one of the best things to do, the Skyrail experience offers a truely unique perspective of Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest as you glide just metres above the pristine rainforest canopy before descending to explore the forest floor at the Red Peak and Barron Falls Rainforest Stations. The Skyrail experience takes approximately 1.5 hours one way or 2-2.5 hours return including time spent at the two rainforest stations. The whole family thoroughly enjoyed this experience. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity where you can see with your own eyes the beautiful rainforest that dates back approximately 130 million years, making it the oldest in the world (older than the Amazon)! I would definitely recommend this!
After our Skyrail experience, we headed to Kuranda Koala Gardens. Situated in the heart of Kuranda, this attraction gives you the opporuntiy to see some of Australia’s most unique wildlife up close – koalas, freshwater crocodiles, kangaroos & wallabies, snakes, wombats, lizzards just to name a few! We took the opportunity to cuddle a koala and snap a cute photo with our new furry friend.
After Kuranda Koala Gardens, we walked through to Birdworld Kuranda. This one was such a fun attraction! You can walk amongst the birds from Amazonian macaws, the endangered cassowary, cheeky rainbow lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos and many more. Don’t be surprised to find a feathered friend taking a ride on your shoulder! A word of warning, make sure you take off any shining items and secure any loose articles, the birds may just snatch them from you! One landed on Jon’s cap and managed to bite off his squatchee. Whilst his squatchee was missing, it did make for a Instagrammable moment!
After all the sightseeing, we were ready for lunch. We dined at Frogs Restaurant. I would recommend the Barramundi Wild Caught Local, it was so fresh and delicious! This paired with a refreshing mango smoothie was just perfect for lunch!
After lunch, it was time to head back to Palm Cove. We made our way down to the Kuranda Scenic Railway. We took a scenic ride through the rainforest framed by rugged mountains with waterfalls. It was so picturesque and offered a different vantage point of the rainforest from the Skyrail.
We arrived at Freshwater station and were picked up by Exemplar Coaches and Limousines who drove us back to our car. What an amazing and breathtaking day!
The following day we drove to Daintree Discovery Centre. A trip to Tropical North Queensland isn’t complete without experiencing the raw, prehistoric beauty of the might Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree Rainforest boasts the highest variety of plants and animals found in any rainforest on the planet. The Daintree Discovery Centre allows visitors to experience these interesting species, as well as the history and Indigenous Culture of this ancient environment, through self-guided Daintree Rainforest tours or professionally guided groups tours.
Tip: Make sure to stop at Alexander Lookout on the way for a great photo opportunity (10 minutes after crossing the Daintree River on a Cable Ferry)
We drove to Heritage Lodge and Spa for lunch and dined overlooking the beautiful Coopers Creek. Followed by a swim in Coopers Creek (pictured above) where the water is crystal clear, swimming with small fishes. The Creek winds through the lodge en-route from the mountains to the sea. This section of the Daintree rainforest is where the worlds most ancient rainforest, meets the reef.
There are so many beautiful places to visit, here are a few suggestions for a day drive.
- Babinda Boulders
- Josephine Falls
- Millaa Milla Waterfalls
- Nerada Tea Fields
- Gallo Dairyland
- Curtain Fig Tree
- Lake Eachem and Lake Bariine
After our amazing stay in Palm Cove, we drove to Port Douglas. We stayed at Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort and Spa. I have stayed at this resort before and loved it so decided to come back again!
Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa is set around a magnificent 3,000sqm lagaoon pool – one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The accomodation is located adjacent to a championship 18-hole golf course and has direct access to Four Mile Beach.
This time we stayed in one of the Penthouse Apartments. The apartment is located on the first floor with lift access. From our accomodation, we have a spiral staircase from our balcony which leads to a private, full-sized rooftop terrace with Jacuzzi, barbecue and outdoor setting. We definitely made full use of the rooftop terrace. We had a delicious seafood barbecue dinner and a midnight dip in the Jacuzzi after.
For lunch we dined at Aluco Restaurant in the resort. It has a relaxed setting with indoor and outdoor dining areas and offering a contemporary menu. The chefs showcase both the latest culinary trends and the freshest local ingredients. The best part is, it’s right by the pool, you get a great meal and a beautiful view!
In the afternoon, we decided to indulge at Vie Spa, award-winning in Tropical North Queensland. It’s the perfect place to feel relaxed and rejuvenated! We really enjoyed our hot stone massages!
In the late afternoon, we made our way to the Crystalbrook Super Yacht Marina for our afternoon sunset sail with Sailaway Reef and Island Tours. I have been sailing on a full day Low Isles snorkel Island lunch and I had an amazing time. This time we decided to experience a relaxing twilight sail on board the luxury “Lagoon” sailed from France. We soaked up the tropical sunset over the Coral Sea with spectacular mountain views. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We were able to unwind and enjoy the peace and tranquility of pure sailing.
When we arrived in Cairns, we checked in the Pullman Cairns International. It is the perfect combination of comfort and convenience located in the heart of the city. The hotel has the largest hotel accomodation rooms in Cairns (over 40sqm) so it is very spacious and comfortable to stay in. Our room came with a private balcony with views of the harbour. It’s the perfect place to enjoy in-room dining!
With it’s close proximity to the fleet terminal, it is the best location for day trips to explore the Great Barrier Reef. It is also just 8km from the domestic and international airports so we won’t have to rush for our flight back to Melbourne.
We couldn’t be more excited for this day as we arrived at Nautilus Aviation for our VIP sand-cay picnic experience. The morning started with a thrilling helicopter flight over the picturesque coral-studded sea before landing on Vlasoff Cay – a pristine sand cay in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. It was simply breathtaking! After landing, we relaxed on the pure white sand complete with a gourmet picnic hamper and sparkling wine. After we went for a dip in the shallow crystal waters. It was just heavenly!
We were very excited to take Aria to her first visit to Cairns Aquarium. It is the only aquarium in the world dedicated exclusively to the habitats and species of Tropical North Queensland. It connects visitors with the natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, The Wet Tropics, The Gulf Savannah and Cape York regions. With over 15,000 animals, it was amazing to get up close to some of the world’s most fascinating creatures. Aria was so excited to see all the fishes and turtles. She was flapping her arm and chatting with excitement. It was so sweet and heart warming to watch!
The next day we made our way to Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal. We were headed to Fitzroy Island for a day trip. Fitzroy Island is an unspoilt tropical paradise of rainforest and beaches with the calm sheltered waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Located 45 minutes from Cairns, it is easily reached by ferry – we took the Fitzroy Island Fast Cat.
When you arrived at Fitzroy Island, make sure you visit Nudey Beach. Nudey Beach is ranked number 1 in Brad Farmers, Australia’s 101 Best Beaches awards of 2018. Nudey Beach is a spectacular white coral beach, ideal for laying out a towel and soaking up some of the year round warm tropical weather. You can also swim and snorkel amongst the colourful marine life that live in the shallow coral reefs that fringe the beach. It is only a few metres out from the shore, making it the perfect place for children to see the Great Barrier Reef.
We had an AMAZING family holiday in Tropical North Queensland. We loved soaking up the sunshine, taking a refreshing dip in the pool, cooling off under a waterfall and sailing way into the sunset and more. It’s not just the weather that’s warm, either – the people in the Tropical North are about as friendly and as welcoming as they come. With all this and more, I can truely say Tropical North Queensland is undoubtable one of Australia’s most underrated treasures just waiting to be explored.