Cairns is all about the reef and the rainforests plus peaks and palm trees – what more could you want for a holiday destination.

It’s one of those places that gets under your skin as you enjoy tropical vibes and discover nature at its best.

Attractions

Stride out along the Cairns board walk to enjoy the views over the Coral Sea. Head out for a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef and take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to see gorgeous palms and giant ferns, then jump on the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. Market lovers will enjoy the Cairns Esplanade Market showcasing local artisan work and the Cairns Night Markets.

Palm Cove offers a pretty beach and further afield at Port Douglas wander along Macrossan Street lined with trendy boutique shops and slick restaurants.

Stay

Cairns has a host of new hotels including the contemporary luxe Riley, Flynn and Bailey hotels that are part of the Crystalbrook Collection. Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites has opened a new 76 room hotel on the Cairns Esplanade.

At Palm Cove, suggested accommodation includes the Reef House with its colonial beach style, Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore, Peppers Beach Club and Spa and Mantra Amphora.

At Port Douglas try the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Shantara Resort and Peppers Beach Club.

Dine

Wander around the markets at Yungaburra or Cairn’s Rusty’s Market for tropical fruit and vegetables.

In the highlands of the Atherton Tablelands, you’ll find coffee and tea plantations, cattle farms, biodynamic dairies producing milk, cheese and yoghurt, aquaculture farms and distilleries.

Grab a map and DIY a bespoke food trail or join an organised food tour to talk and taste bush food.

There are great restaurants in Cairns including Tamarind and Ochre. Try Nu Nu, Temple of Taste and Reef House in Palm Cove. Breakfast with the Birds is fun in Port Douglas along with Bel Cibo for Italian.

Townsville

This Queensland city is home to World heritage listed national parks and spectacular beaches and enjoys more than 320 days of sunshine a year.

It is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics and the Queensland Outback.

Attractions

Check out the underwater life at Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, it is the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium and the Australian Government’s national education centre for the Great Barrier Reef.

Love diving? Take the plunge at the SS Yongala wreck, one of the world’s best dive sites.

Test your fitness with a walk to the top of Castle Hill, the pink granite monolith, it’s an effort but the views are superb.

Magnetic Island, known as Maggie to the local, is a short 20-minute ferry ride and is a nature lover’s paradise with national parks, secluded beaches. 

Stay

The Ville Resort Casino offers swish accommodation with panoramic views of Magnetic Island, the Coral Sea, Townsville City and iconic Castle Hill.

For budget accommodation try Rambutan in the middle of Townsville. It has a roof bar and in-house restaurant.

Magnetic Island has camping grounds, bungalows, resorts and luxury beachfront rentals.

Island Palms Resort has spacious self-contained apartments on the Nelly Bay beachfront.

If you want to splurge try Orpheus Island Lodge, 80 kms off Townsville, catering for just 28 guests – it’s a fisherman’s playground.

Dine

Taste test award winning craft beer at Townsville’s The Brewery, located in the city’s heritage-listed former post office building.

Get fish and chips from Tobin Fish Tales where fish scientists, Andrew and Renae Tobin sell locally sourced and sustainably caught seafood.

For cocktails head to Hooch & Fellow – they serve classic cocktails with a Hooch twist and also contemporary concoctions.

A Touch of Salt, Pier Restaurant and the Balcony Restaurant are recommended.

Outback Queensland

The Queensland Outback is extensive, starting at the Great Dividing Range and heading west to the Northern Territory and South Australia borders.

The rugged landscape showcases what wonders of Queensland as you discover its charm and meet the locals.

Attractions

There’s a blaze of colour everywhere you look from the big blue skies, and red dirt.

Towns include Birdville, Charleville, Mt Isa and Tambo.

The annual Birdsville Races are a huge drawcard, while there drive up the 40-metre-tall Big Red sand dune that marks the symbolic edge of the Simpson Desert.

Charleville sits on the crossroads of the Warrego Way and the Matilda Way and has a reputation for its starry skies.

Mt Isa is the world’s largest single producer of copper, silver, lead and zinc, and home to an annual rodeo, the biggest in the southern hemisphere. 

Stay

To experience authentic Outback hospitality, bunker down in the famous sandstone Birdsville Hotel built by William Blair in 1884 – there are 27 modern hotel units.

Charleville’s Rock Motel offers 20 modern rooms, landscaped gardens and a pool.

Mt Isa’s Red Earth Boutique Hotel has balcony rooms and spa suites while the Burke and Wills Mt Isa Motel is popular. If you are visiting Boodjamulla National Park, stay at Adels Grove in the campground or one of the furnished tent rooms.

Dine

Enjoy a steak or roast at the Birdsville Pub, drop into Humpy Cafe adjoining the Birdsville Roadhouse for French press coffee and tea in second-hand china, house-made muesli and delicious treats. The banana thick shakes have a following.

Charleville’s On the Rocks restaurant serves wild sea caught barramundi with hand-crafted bush salt, which features a herb or spice for every month of the year.

In Mt Isa try the Rodeo Bar and Grill for a steak or Red Earth Thai restaurant.

Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are spectacular – imagine the bluest of waters, sundrenched beaches and deserted bays and inlets.

All up 74 islands, including the four resort islands – Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Daydream Island and Long Island, star here.

Airlie Beach, Bowen and Proserpine are the main towns.

Attractions

It is a boating paradise in the Whitsundays with everything from bareboating – sail yourself, to hiring a boat with a skipper and chef.

Day cruises operate to outer islands and the reef.

The spectacular Whitehaven Beach known for its silky-smooth white sand and crystal-clear turquoise water tops many bucket lists and doesn’t disappoint.

Skydiving and scuba diving provide unique views of this holiday haven and you can swim, snorkel and dive the outer Great Barrier Reef.

Take a helicopter flight and get a bird’s eye view of the most romantic Heart Reef.

Stay

You’ll find apartments, luxury resorts and camping grounds in the Whitsundays that caters for all accommodation budgets.

Qualia resort with its 60 luxe suites has magnificent views across the Coral Sea and the Whitsundays. Family friendly Palm Bungalows is surrounded by lush tropical gardens.

The Intercontinental Hayman Island features luxury suites, varied dining and a drop dead gorgeous main pool.

 The exclusive Elysian Retreat is nestled on the southern point of Long Island. Heart Hotel & Gallery Whitsundays offers luxury accommodation in Airlie Beach.

Dine

Qualia, Hayman Island Resort, Elysian Retreat and the Heart Hotel and Spa have great dining featuring tropical local produce that star in innovative dishes.

Airlie Beach has great coffee at Fat Frog Beach Cafe and Oar Bar and Restaurant, 15 minutes from the town is part of the Cape Gloucestor Resort at Hydeaway Bay.  Northerlies Beach Bar & Grill serve seafood and have great water views and for Italian try La Marina Bar and Pizzeria.

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