Far North Queensland
Far North Queensland, commonly abbreviated as FNQ, is a coastal region in the north of Queensland. Sometimes colloquially called Tropical North Queensland (though parts of Central Queensland are also within the tropics), you'll find nice warm 25-30°C sunny days year round, warm coastal waters, some of the world's oldest rainforests (including the oldest) and a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
Far North Queensland is huge. It may look small on a map, but in reality, it's about 1,200 km (750 mi) from one end to another, excluding the Torres Strait Islands, and is an extra 170 km (110 mi) including the Torres Strait Islands, meaning it's almost 1,400 km (870 mi) from end to end.
- 1 Cairns – visitor gateway to the north of Townsville
- 2 Cardwell – known for its waters and landscape
- 3 Cooktown – the oldest place settled by Europeans in Australia, though not continuously
- 4 Karumba – the only Qld town to have a North Coast
- 5 Kuranda – famed for its market and alternative lifestyles, near Cairns
- 6 Innisfail – known for its sugar and banana industries
- 7 Normanton – once thrived as a port town during the gold rush
- 8 Palm Cove – known for its beaches
- 9 Port Douglas – an hour north of Cairns are the beachfront resorts missing in Cairns
- 10 Thuringowa – an area close to Townsville, Qld's second capital
- 11 Tully – boasts one of the largest number of UFO sightings in Queensland.
- 1 Atherton Tablelands
- 2 Daintree National Park - to the north of Port Douglas, and home to the world's oldest living rainforest
- 3 Great Barrier Reef - a natural wonder of the world, easily accessible from Cairns and Port Douglas, and stretching far down the length of Central Queensland as well
- 4 Hinchinbrook Island National Park
- 5 Possession Island National Park - at this island, Captain Cook claimed possession of the entire Australian coast for the British Empire, on 22 August 1770. Today, it's the centre of the eponymous National Park, an area of 5.10 km2 (1.97 sq mi), established as a Protected Area in 1977, and managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
- 6 Torres Strait Islands
- 7 Undara Volcanic National Park - a unique geological formation
Far North Queensland is the northernmost coastal region of Queensland. It is full of tropical rain forests, extremely remote communities and for the most part very hard to get into. The northern city of Cairns is a good base with a lot of tourist infrastructure to begin to explore.
Although you should be fine with English, this part of Australia does in fact speak many different tongues. Many remote communities will speak native Aboriginal languages. The Torres Strait Islanders can speak Kalaw Lagaw Ya, which belongs to the Pama–Nyungan languages found in mainland Australia, or Meriam Mir, which belongs to Trans-Fly languages also found in Papua New Guinea, as well as Torres Strait Creole.
Travelling around the North Queensland region is best accomplished by car. From Townsville heading North there are many picnic areas, swimming facilities, and national parks only accessible by car. An example of such places include Crystal Creek, Paluma, Mission Beach, as well as the northern beaches of Cairns. The Atherton Tablelands also becomes available for you to explore at your own pace.
Hire cars are readily available in both Townsville and Cairns, with one way hires available (sometimes with a substantial fee, so remember to make sure).
Roads are generally of good condition, with the Bruce Highway providing the primary link to North Queensland with access to the coastal towns. Some dirt roads do exist near particular attractions so checking your hire car insurance policy would be worth while.
Fuel is generally easy to come by along the highways. If driving between Townsville and Cairns and the many attractions in between, fuel is available at towns such as Ingham and Tully. Cash, credit card and bank cards are generally all accepted, and many of the fuel stations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The most important thing to see in Far North Queensland are the Wet Tropics of Queensland, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A trip to Far North Queensland is never complete without seeing one of the world heritage listed national parks. Of all the national parks part of the world heritage region, the Daintree Rainforest is the most visited one, with the Daintree National Park being the most visited of them all. Other popular national parks in this region include the Barron Gorge National Park and the Kuranda National Park although there are several other national parks too.
For those willing to do the rough and harsh drive up to the Cape York Peninsula, it is well worth the views. It is the northernmost point of the Australian mainland, and where vibrant Torres Strait culture can be seen. The landscape there is often more known to be that of Asia's rather than of Australia's. Just like the Wet Tropics of Queensland, there are many national parks in the peninsula, often covered with thick forests. Getting here is usually not possible for around four or five months of the year, as the roads close due to monsoon/wet season.
For something much closer to the cities, the Crystal Cascades is a cascade waterfall on the Freshwater Creek just to the west of Cairns. It includes numerous waterfalls and swimming waterholes with the largest waterhole is sited alongside a sheer cliff which locals and tourists climb to jump into the adjoining deep waterhole.
For a more inland experience, the Gulf Country is a region of woodland and savanna grassland and is one of the few "wet outback" experiences that one can get. It is also home to World Heritage Fossil finds at Riversleigh.
The Tablelands Region is just one of the regions large vast natural wonders. It's mostly taken up by Atherton Tablelands and is home to several gorges and trails.
Trekking or hiking in the tropics and the Far North of the state is very different to the rest of the country. Unlike the Outback, trekking during winter will not be cold but still be too hot and humid for trekking as the temperatures commonly reach the low 30s during the day, and the high 20s during the night and the climate for trekking is much similar to that of Borneo given the area is only 10 degrees from the equator.
Other things to do in Far North Queensland to do include catching the Savannahlander from Cairns to Forsayth - this unique four-day train trip is a great way to see the wet northern parts of the Australian outback and the wet tropics of Queensland.
The Savannah Way
Whether you call it starting in Far North Queensland or ending in Far North Queensland, the route goes from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland, the 3500-km adventure through the heart of Australia’s northern tropics snakes through some of the region's best tourist attractions.
Although a four-wheel drive is recommended on this drive, you can get thru the Savannah Way without a 4WD as all the roads are paved, except once you head into the Outback. Allow at least a week for the Far North Queensland section or 30 days for the entire journey.
Snorkelling and boat tours
See the Great Barrier Reef page for that.
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Although rated as one of the world's 10 most dangerous railway lines in the world, this tourist train is one of the best rainforest views in the Tropical North. Trains leave from either Cairns or Kuranda and pass through several national parks.
When it comes to eating, apart from Cairns, there is little variety of food found in Far North Queensland, merely due to the lack of demand. But nevertheless, the non-ethnic aspects of Australian cuisine can be found in most places here.
Along with the rest of the state, the local mass produced Queensland beer is "XXXX", which is also known locally as "fourex". Almost all pubs will have "XXXX" in it and you may come across it in football (rugby) games. While large cities will have places to drink almost everywhere, most smaller towns have at least two places to get a drink, a pub and a club although many towns have more than one pub.
Unlike the south, Far North Queensland is not known for wineries.
Saltwater Crocodiles are very common in certain portions of northern Queensland; the species general range extends from Rockhampton to the Torres Strait, along with the rest of northern Australia. Population sizes vary depending on the area, but it is wise to avoid swimming in any rivers or lagoons unless they are known to be safe (signposted for swimming). Read warning signs carefully.
In summer months (Oct-May) don't swim in the ocean or estuaries without a stinger suit due to the risk of fatal jellyfish stings. They especially inhabit in shallow water near beaches.
- Your only choices are to head down to Central Queensland