If your idea of the perfect holiday is less relaxation and more excitement, then you've come to the right place. Here in Tropical North Queensland, you can float over the Atherton Tablelands at sunrise in a hot air balloon or dive in the depths of the Outer Barrier Reef at midnight in November to watch the coral spawning. Rappel down a ravine, raft a foaming river, bungy jump in the rainforest, or race across the outback into the setting sun on a wilderness trailbike safari.
There are many 4WD excursions for a day or a week to explore the rainforest, or see it from the rainforest cableway above its green canopy on your way to or from Kuranda. Naturalists will love the outback or rainforest evening spotlighting tours to see the nocturnal native fauna.
There is a tremendous choice of excellent day tours featuring the most advanced wave-piercing catamarans, luxurious yachts, jetboats, helicopters or seaplanes, well appointed coaches, safari style 4WD or minibus offering itineraries which include the region's diverse attractions.
With the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest on your doorstep, Tropical North Queensland's most magnificent natural wonders are calling. And one of the best ways to appreciate their enormity and rare beauty is by helicopter.
Operating out of Cairns and Port Douglas, GBR Helicopters take over 10,000 people a year to the edge of their seats with incredible scenic flights over the untouched rainforest canopies and the sparkling sapphire blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef. They've even had a hand in over 100 marriage proposals on breath-taking secluded coral cays – with a 100 per cent acceptance rate!
With over 20 years in the business, GBR Helicopters have built great relationships with all the fixed pontoon reef operators and offer fast transfers that will ensure your A-list arrival, spectacular journey home or enticing 10-minute scenic flight. This is the ultimate way to combine your snorkel or dive reef experience with a bird's eye view of the reef that very few ever see.
Also offering spectacular views, Skyrail departs from the Carvonica Terminal near Smithfield and takes you on a journey just metres above the rainforest canopy in silent six-seater gondolas with views to Cairns and the Coral Sea before levelling off over the MacAlister Range with infinite views to the west. Stops at Red Peak Station and Barron Falls Station give the visitor time to learn about and experience the rainforest from ground level, before continuing on to Kuranda.
The perfect combination of tours for a day to Kuranda is to take the Skyrail one direction and the return trip by Kuranda Rail (or visa versa). On the world famous Kuranda Rail experience, you can discover the pioneering history of the tropical north from way back in the late 1800s, be astounded by a magnificent engineering feat and explore some of the great characters involved in the construction of this great railway.
But many here in the North believe that the best views are not high in the sky, but below the surface of the water on the Great Barrier Reef. Should you wish to snorkel or dive on the Great Barrier Reef (and who doesn't?), the number of operators and rows and rows of brochures at the tour desks can be confusing.
The award winning Down Under Dive company offers you a choice of cruise and diving experiences, and has also been successfully operating for many years.
The Reef locations are carefully selected for the clarity of water and the abundance and diversity of the marine life. Every moment spent exploring the magnificent array of colourful coral formations and swimming with the brilliantly coloured fish is one of discovery, often exciting, sometimes breathtaking.
If you have never dived before and have always wished to experience first hand the beauty of the underwater world and come face to face with schools of tropical fish… now you can! One of the Down Under Dive professional dive instructors can take you on your first SCUBA dive, no experience necessary.
But, once you've had a taste of what Australia's Great Barrier Reef has to offer, you may yearn for more. As a beginner, you will be surprised how easy it is to SCUBA dive. After a four or five day course in Cairns and on the Reef, you can obtain your open-water certification, which is an internationally recognised Diver's Licence.
If you do not dive, but still wish to experience what it is like to be down amongst the magnificent array of life on the Reef, Wavelength Marine Charters is a dedicated snorkel only boat. Running for nearly a quarter of a century now, Wavelength is the only outer reef boat founded by a marine biologist and today most of the crew on each trip are experienced marine biologists running a daily reef education program for capable swimmers. Wavelength's core philosophy is based on the fact that coral reefs are solar powered with maximum coral cover visible from the surface at just 5m depth, which also contains 90% of the common coral species and the brightest colours which fade deeper down. From that scientific basis, Wavelength dedicates its day to snorkellers; scuba divers are not allowed, which means no time is wasted on diving operations and every site visited is designed for maximum colourful coral viewing by snorkel in the sunlit shallows. Wavelength has exclusive access to 9 famous snorkel sites on Opal Reef, including the stunning coral gardens at RayBan, the dramatic coral walls of Long Bommie and of course, the incomparable Turtle Bay, where guests are most likely to swim with turtles, reef sharks and huge fish schools over amazing coral scenery. Add a professional photographic journal of your day and Wavelength Marine Charters is very tempting.
Sailing out of Cairns to naturally formed islands on the Great Barrier Reef, the huge Ocean Spirit catamaran yachts are a wonderful choice and set the standard for luxurious cruising to the Great Barrier Reef, with a 20 year record of quality & safety and highly trained crew and snorkel/dive instructors
Quieter and perhaps a more leisurely pace, Ocean Spirit captures the spirit of the Great Barrier Reef visiting Michalemas Cay, Oyster Reef & Upolu Reef to experience the multi coloured coral and fish species.
Fifteen kilometres off Port Douglas, Low Isles is a protected coral cay with white sandy beaches and coconut plams. The reef around Low Isles comprises 150 species of hard corals and is dominated by 15 species of soft corals. Living amongst the corals in the lagoon are a large variety of reef fish including angelfish, damsel fish, anemones, giant trevally, sweetlip, fusiliers and many green turtles are sighted daily. A number of bird species reside on the island including pelicans, honeyeaters, white-breated wood swallows, mangrove kingfishers, reef egrets with ospreys.
Port Douglas locals, Steve and Katrina Edmondson, who have 28 years experience in reef and island cruises, operate the beautiful Low Isles Sailaway catamaran which sails out of Port Douglas daily and moors in the sheltered blue lagoon of Low Isles for over 5 hours. Here you can just relax on the island, join the guided snorkel tour, take a trip on the glass bottom boat or laze on deck. All snorkelling equipment (including lycra suits and floatation devices if required) and tuition is provided. You can enjoy a superb tropical buffet, and choose from a selection of Australian wines and beers from the fully licensed bar. Later you can enjoy the exhilarating sail back to Port Douglas on board this state-of-the-art luxury sailing catamaran.
If you have enjoyed your sail to the Reef, why not join Sailaway Sunset for the thrill of pure sailing with a twilight sail onboard the new luxury Lagoon? Sunset over the Coral Sea with spectacular mountain views, a complimentary glass of champagne, wine or beer, and a selection of canapés will give you memories to last a lifetime.
Sailaway is aware of our pristine natural environment and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, so for every passenger onboard, Low Isles Sailaway contributes $10.00 of the ticket price to local sustainable reforestation and carbon offsetting in the neighbouring World Heritage Rainforest.
Also operated by Steve and Katrina Edmondson out of Port Douglas, Poseidon takes you to 3 spectacular sites on the very edge of the Outer Barrier Reef, at the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs. By providing both snorkelling and scuba diving, Poseidon is able to offer you any combination of activities for family and friends that may have different interests.
The Agincourt Ribbon Reefs are long narrow reefs located on the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, flushed out at every tide by clear oceanic water welling up from the Coral Sea Trench nearby. Coral thrives in this clear water, creating spectacular gardens and a huge variety of marine life. These pristine reefs lie off the Daintree Coast, well north of any agricultural run-off, providing the best possible conditions. All of Poseidon's sites are selected for both the shallower coral gardens favoured by snorkellers, and the adjacent deeper walls and drop-offs preferred by scuba divers.
In recognition of Poseidon achieving Advanced Eco-Tourism accreditation following 'best practice' procedures, and participating in research activities such as Eye of the Reef, Reef Check, Bleach Watch and the Minke Whale project, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has awarded them an extended operating permit. Poseidon also has a very special permit allowing you to swim with Dwarf Minke Whales. These friendly mammals are regularly encountered from May to September, while their larger cousins, the Humpback Whales, appear from July to September, and are increasing in numbers.
But, is your time limited to see the Great Barrier Reef, or do you just like an extra thrill? Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef in just 25 minutes!! Ocean Safari's half day eco tour begins at Cape Tribulation beach and in only 25 minutes you can be snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
An exhilarating ride on the high powered, purpose built vessel to Mackay and Undine Reefs allows you two exciting hours for snorkelling the pristine coral and abundant marine life in absolute serenity. Your skipper and eco host will make sure that your time is filled with fun and appreciation of the Great Barrier Reef, seabirds and the coastal rainforest of the Daintree with a splash of Aussie humour. Ocean Safari's vessel only takes up to 25 guests allowing the crew to give you individual attention and the enjoyment of a small group.
Back on dry land, Australia's wildlife is always fascinating and exciting, and midway between Cairns and Port Douglas and located within a World Heritage area, Hartleys Crocodile Adventures will always set the heart racing. Crocodiles leap from the water to take food offered by the keepers as you cruise the waterways of this multi-award winning eco-tourism acredited attraction. Daily presentations include turtle, fish and waterbird feeding, cassowaries, snakes and other repltiles, as well as the crocodiles of course!As with most adventures in the Far North, transfers from Port Douglas, Cairns and Cairns' Northern Beaches can be arranged. So, whether your perfect adventure involves just yourself, a loved one, son, daughter, grandma, or the whole family; whatever you can imagine, chances are you can do it in the Tropical North. Our tour operators are some of the most innovative and professional in the world!