Astonishing. Mesmerising. Jaw-dropping. Stunning.
You could just about chuck all the superlatives North Queensland’s way. This pristine patch explodes with epic attractions and adventures that make it a global superstar.
Where do you start? Well, we’ve rounded up a super selection of things to do in North Queensland, from bucket-listers to wallet-tamers.
Prepare to be inspired…
Paradise found. It’s abundantly clear why this gem has racked up countless ‘best beach’ awards. Join a boat tour from Airlie Beach to Whitsunday Island to marvel at the contrast of ridiculously white sand and sparkling turquoise, emerald, and azure waters. Swim, snorkel, stroll, or simply marvel at the eye candy.
This region is lucky to house two World Heritage attractions, including the Wet Tropics of Queensland area. At its southern edge is Paluma Range National Park, which is jam-packed with natural goodies. Aside from flourishing rainforest, Paluma Range features inviting swimming holes, beautiful waterfalls, and much more. Jourama Falls and rainforest-covered Mt Spec are headline attractions.
When it comes to Townsville must-do activities, climbing Castle Hill is at the top of the list. This imposing granite monolith keeps watch over the city, and from its summit you’ll be treated to sensational panoramic vistas that showcase variable landscapes. Castle Hill is central, accessible by vehicle or on foot, and makes for pretty pics from its base, too. Note: prime viewing times are sunrise or sunset.
Part of the Wet Tropics area, this popular national park teems with lush rainforest and rugged mountains as well as its signature attraction: Barron Falls. These falls make for a truly spectacular sight, particularly when furiously fast-flowing, and are best viewed from the Edge Lookout. A signature North Queensland move is to hop on board the famous Kuranda Scenic Railway, which travels through the national park as it links Cairns with the village of Kuranda. Or witness all this blistering beauty from high above on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
Beach-loving wallabies and 'roos are icons of treasure-stuffed Cape Hillsborough National Park, and they’re not shy in front of the lens. Sunrise or thereabouts is the best time to spot these creatures from close range. Inland from here, Eungella National Park provides a rare chance to spot platypus in the wild, although you’ll have to be at your eagle-eyed best!
There’s something particularly gripping about Paronella Park. Open to the public for more than 80 years, this award-winning attraction creates a sense of mystique and magic and a time-warp-like feeling. At its heart are ruins of an old castle located among gorgeous gardens and close to flowing falls, and it’s all flanked by sprawling rainforest.
Surround yourself in a sea of green from the most spectacular vantage points within glorious Wooroonooran National Park. A 350m-long elevated walkway gifts breathtaking views of World Heritage rainforest and is backed by a 30m-high observation tower that allows for more magical photo ops. Additionally, a cantilever reveals wonderful vistas of the majestic North Johnstone river gorge.
Prepare for an authentic and wide-ranging insight into Aboriginal culture. Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience at Rainforestation Nature Park in Kuranda retraces a rich culture through engrossing live performances and presentations, some of which are interactive. This is an attraction not to be missed.
List tickers unite. A trip to Girringun National Park is essential, as it’s home to the highest permanent single-drop waterfall in Australia. Cascading a whopping 268m, Wallaman Falls makes for a breathtaking sight that photos often don’t do justice. Better yet, Girringun is also part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, so expect an array of majestic scenery. The falls are located 175km south of Mission Beach.
Stay at: Tasman - South Mission Beach.
History abounds in North Queensland and makes for fascinating exploration. Retrace Charters Towers’ exciting gold-rush past with ease: Grand buildings like the Stock Exchange Arcade and the World Theatre dominate the streetscape. Or visit the quirky Venus Gold Battery or The Miner’s Cottage.
Meanwhile, Mackay is dotted with a dozen-plus striking art deco structures that easily catch the eyes: Chaseley House and the Australian Hotel are among highlights. It can all be admired on a self-guided walk, and maps are available.
This World Heritage wonder is the largest coral reef on the planet, and it boasts an astounding assortment of exquisite marine life, corals, and so much more. Naturally, diving and snorkelling are popular activities in these parts, but visitors can also stay dry and still be mesmerised by scenery on the likes of glass-bottom boat tours or scenic flights. And with hundreds of islands within the Great Barrier Reef, alongside a wealth of access points, its appeal is immense. Bucket-list material.
Another member park of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area, the Daintree is an Australian icon. Within its mammoth reaches is the oldest-surviving tropical rainforest on earth. Two key sections are ripe for exploring: Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation, and both emit beauty of epic proportions. The gorge is highlighted by the crystal-clear waters of Mossman River and is flanked by rainforest while Cape Tribulation blends this sprawling rainforest with sparkling beaches.
The story of how the SS Yongala wreck came to be is a gripping yarn filled with mystery, drama, and intrigue: Learn more at the Maritime Museum of Townsville. Nowadays, it is one of the nation’s best shipwreck dives. SS Yongala is incredibly intact, attracts a wealth of marine life, and is within easy reach of Alva Beach, near Ayr.
Alternatively, explore a museum with a difference. The Museum of Underwater Art – the first of its kind in Australia – features a host of globally significant artworks within the Great Barrier Reef. It’s accessible from Townsville.
Of all the things to do in Townsville, hopping on a 20min ferry ride to reach jewel-laden Magnetic Island is a must. Glorious and oft-secluded beaches, funky rock formations, wildlife including rock wallabies and koalas, and historical finds are among its bounty of treasure. A host of water-based leisure options include swimming, fishing, sailing, snorkelling, and diving.
Head back to the days of the ‘Old West’ at Leahton Park, just a short drive from Charters Towers. Here, you’ll find Australia’s largest purebred herd of Texas Longhorns, and with one look at these mighty creatures it’s clear why they are so named. A horse-drawn wagon ride or ranger safari are excellent ways to learn all about these fascinating animals, and there’s plenty more to see at the farm. Tours generally operate from May-September.
Stay at: BIG4 Aussie Outback Oasis, Charters Towers.