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Great Tropical Drive North


The Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cooktown is one of Australia’s most spectacular coastline and scenic drives, hugging two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest finishing up in the historic Cooktown.

Oysters Family at the beach Salad

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Take the coastal road along the Bloomfield Track (4WD) to Cooktown and return via the Inland route, which takes you through parts of the picturesque Atherton Tablelands, also know as North Queensland’s food bowl.

From Cairns you head north across the Barron River to the Cairns Northern Beaches including Trinity Beach, Palm Cove and Ellis Beach. The drive then winds along the edge of the Coral Sea past unspoiled tropical beaches to Port Douglas, the ideal place to cruise to the Great Barrier Reef and immerse yourself in the laid back tropical village atmosphere.

Intimate, relaxed Port Douglas is the gateway to the Daintree, the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest. To the north is beautiful Mossman Gorge where you can discover the culture of the Kuku Yalanji people before driving through sugar cane fields to the Daintree Village. Take a crocodile spotting tour, fish for barramundi, take a walk through the rainforest and marvel at the incredible abundance of birdlife. Spend a night or two in Port Douglas before heading north into the Daintree Rainforest.

Cross the Daintree River on the cable ferry for breathtaking drive through ancient rainforest, pausing at lookouts for a glimpse of the Coral Sea as you wind your way past stunning, remote beaches to Cape Tribulation where the rainforest truly meets the reef.

Stay a night in the rainforest with a range of accommodation options available in the area and join a night spotting tour through the rainforests.

Turn your journey into a 4WD rainforest adventure, follow a food trail, or learn more about the Aboriginal people of the rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef Drive offers all things nature and indigenous culture. At Wujal Wujal you can visit Bloomfield Falls and learn all about its’ ancient cultural history from one of the indigenous guides and visit their art gallery.

The journey is not complete without a cold drink or even lunch at the Lions Den Hotel on the Annan River before arriving in the historic town of Cooktown.

Stay a night or two in Cooktown visiting the Aboriginal Community of Hopevale and the famous Coloured Sands or do a spot of fishing off the jetty at Cooktown.

Head back to Cairns via the Inland Road, through Black Mountain National Park, the Mareeba Wetlands, go for a swim at Lake Eacham or a coffee at Lake Barrine before heading back down the Gillies Range to Cairns.

Insider info:

Have breakfast or coffee at Chill Café Palm Cove or Ellis Beach Café
Visit the Port Douglas Markets every Sunday 8-1pm
Go for a swim at Mossman Gorge
Have a beer at the Lions Den Hotel
Visit the Cooktown Museum
Check out sunset or sunrise on Cooktown’s Grassy Hill Lookout
Book Willie Gordon’s Aboriginal Rock Art Tour out of Cooktown
Have a coffee at Mareeba Coffee Works

Things to do:

Outer Barrier Reef Trip, full day out of either Cairns or Port Douglas
· Mossman Gorge Centre, Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk
· Daintree National Park: Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour
· Daintree River Cruise, Croc Spotting & Bird Watching
· Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours – Cooya Beach
· Fitzroy Island Day Trip


Cooktown Discovery Festival, 7-9 June
Port Douglas Carnivale 22-31 May
Atherton Tablelands: Herberton Pioneers Weekend 2-3 May