Winter has well and truly hit Australia, with the majority of the country mentally preparing for a few cold months of wet and dreary weather. If you’ve found yourself longing for a sunny coastal escape, there are only a few options you can take without venturing overseas: Broome and the Kimberley Coast in WA, Darwin and Kakadu in the Northern Territory or Tropical North Queensland. If you’re from Melbourne or Sydney, the logical choice is probably heading up the coast to the Sunshine State in the hunt for idyllic beaches, World Heritage Listed landscapes and breathtaking natural scenery… and here are some of the best spots to visit!
1. Palm Cove
On the Northern Beaches of Cairns, Palm Cove is one of the most popular destinations in North Queensland, and for good reason. With a laidback vibe, a wide selection of restaurants, cafes & hotels and a stunning palm-lined beach, this cruisy coastal town should be high on the hit-list for anyone visiting the Cairns region of North Queensland.
2. Orpheus Island
Surrounded by turquoise water and sitting on the inner edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Orpheus Island is a lux-casual retreat that accommodates just 28 guests at a time. In winter, the water clarity is incredible and marine life is at its most abundant, with whales often seen breaching directly in front of the resort.
3. Daintree Rainforest
The World-Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest is a stunning natural wonder year-round, but in winter it reaches a whole new level. An experience not to be missed is a sunset cruise down the Daintree River, offering the chance to spot crocodiles sunning themselves on the riverbank and rare birdlife soaring overhead, all under the glow of a vibrant winter sunset.
4. Magnetic Island
Just a short ferry ride from Townsville, Magnetic Island has long been a favourite local hangout and holiday spot in North Queensland. There is a huge range of accommodation options and unique places to stay within walking distance of tranquil sandy bays and the National Park bushland that covers the majority of the 52 km² island. You might even be lucky enough to spot a wild koala or local rock wallaby if you keep an eye out during your stay.
5. Mossman Gorge
I have visited Mossman Gorge on both of my recent trips to North Queensland and could have easily spent hours longer, or days even, relaxing on the riverside. If you have an adventurous spirit and time to explore, venturing down the river a little from the main tourist area may just lead you to your own secluded swimming spot.
6. Fitzroy Island
Boasting stunning white sand beaches, fringing reefs swarming with turtles and an ocean-front resort that offers a variety of room options from camping to family suites, Fitzroy Island may be one of the most underrated islands in Australia. Just a 40-minute ferry ride from Cairns, it’s worth a visit even if only for the day.
The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the perfect base for all your adventure activities, Cairns is often the first place people associate with a North Queensland winter getaway. If you don’t have the time or means to venture north to Palm Cove and Mosman, or out to Fitzroy Island, Cairns can be the perfect place to stay. Most of the tours to the Daintree or out to the Reef will begin in Cairns, so if it’s action and adventure you’re after, this is the place to be!
8. Hinchinbrook Island
A little-known island in the Coral Sea off the Queensland coast, Hinchinbrook offers a stunning wilderness landscape that has remained virtually untouched for thousands of years. The largest World Heritage Listed island in the world, Hinchinbrook is free of almost any human development, with camping the only accommodation option and hiking the only land transportation method. For a back-to-nature experience like no other in Australia, Hinchinbrook’s impressive waterfalls, towering peaks, sweeping golden bays and lush rainforest won’t fail to impress.
Note: This article is not sponsored and, drawing from my own travel experiences, is entirely my own personal opinion.