A few weeks ago we decided to escape the cold Melbourne winter to venture on a roadtrip through Tropical North Queensland. It’s still crazy to me that I can jump on a flight for a few hours and arrive in a completely different climate. After much researching, we quickly realised renting a car would be the best possible way to experience this beautiful part of Australia.
Stop 1: Port Douglas
We decided to fly into Cairns and drive straight up to Port Douglas to begin our trip. It’s a quick 45 minute (depending on traffic) drive up from the airport.
We stayed at Sheraton Grand Mirage Port Douglas for a couple nights and had the most wonderful time. The thing I loved most about this resort is the location and the fact it’s a beachfront resort, meaning there is beach access right outside your room. Paradise! If you’re interested, you can read more about our stay in my review over here.
Eat & Drink
- The Mexican. Many recommendations for this place when we arrived and it did not disappoint. Tacos are a standout!
- Zipangu. For all my fellow sushi lovers. Not much to look at from the outside but the food is fresh and very tasty.
- On the Inlet. For a romantic evening filled with delicious seafood platters.
- Salsa Bar and Grill. A town favourite, salsa bar & grill serves up hearty meals and huge range of cocktails.
- Barbados. A very stylish pub. Love this place especially for happy hour.
- Chilly’s pizza and trattoria. Really enjoyed this place for a laidback vibe. Pizzas and cocktails made a great night!
Things not to miss
Port Douglas is more of a chill-out kind of town. It’s the best for lounging around, tanning by the pool, and eating/drinking your way around the town. However, there were a few things I think you shouldn’t miss!
Four Mile Beach. We had access to this beach straight from our hotel which was incredible. Nothing better than a sunrise or sunset walk along the beach to put you in a vacay mode. Just don’t swim during jelly fish season (October – May).
Rex Smeal Park. Everyones favourite way to end the day in Port Douglas. It’s the most beautiful sunset spot, surrounded by palm trees on the water. Lots of people come together and just chill with some food and drink to watch the sun go down. Sometimes there’s live music and other times even wedding ceremonies. Definitely a spot not to miss.
Stop 2: Cape Tribulation & Daintree Rainforest
We didn’t make it up to Cape Tribulation but if we were, I would dedicate a full day for it. Possibly even overnight to stay in one of those beautiful eco-lodges in the rainforest. This part of Queensland is a real slice of tropical paradise with so many activities on offer!
Cape Tribulation is renowned for its scenic landscape, remote beaches and the world heritage rainforest of Daintree National Park. The rainforest can be explored by self-guided trails, guided walks, horse rides and even a flying fox. The reef can be visited for a half day, or you can paddle the coastline in a sea kayak and see where the rainforest meets the reef. Read more here.
If you really want to immerse yourself, check out this 2-day guide in the Daintree & Cape Tribulation.
Stop 3: Thala Beach Nature Reserve
When you’re driving down from Port Douglas towards Palm Cove, you’ll come across this incredible reserve called Thala Beach. It’s only about 15-20 minutes from Port Douglas so you could even stop by here during your stay. It’s technically a resort but features this HUGE palm tree park where lots of people stop for photos! You can drive and park right in there too. Very fun!
Stop 4: Palm Cove
Palm Cove is about a 30 minute drive from Port Douglas so you could easily see it in a day, but we decided to spend a couple nights there after Port Douglas. It’s a small, very laid back town with a strip of bars and restaurants along the beach. Oh and yes, many, maaaany palm trees in Palm cove if you were wondering. You wouldn’t even need a car in this cute beach town. Everything is so close you’ll be able to walk everywhere which I loved!
Palm Cove is also a 10 minute drive from Mission beach, another even smaller, but still sweet beach town. It was pretty much just locals here (side note: everyone had so many dogs which made me very happy – there was even a dedicated dog beach. Really my kind of place.) Also if you’re looking for somewhere to Instagram, a lot of people flock here to take photos on this leaning palm tree which is so much harder to climb up than you think. But you know how it goes, anything for the gram’.
Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore. This is where we stayed and loved it. The location was so ideal – directly on the beach and next door to the main strip. We stayed in one of the beachfront apartments where we took full advantage of the equipped kitchen, spent mornings on the balcony with coffee, enjoyed the views and just chilled right out for a few days.
Stop 5: Fitzroy Island
We made our way back to Cairns city and headed straight for the port, where we jumped on a ferry to Fitzroy Island. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived in Australia my entire life and never made it to any islands. After a quick 45 minute ferry ride, we had arrived on Fitzroy Island!
The island is pretty tiny but there are lots of adventures you can have! It’s a haven for hikers and water activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing and swimming of course. The waters are so blue and clear and there’s not much risk of jellyfish like there most other parts of Queensland. There’s even a turtle rehabilitation centre.
My favourite part of the island was Nudey Beach and the main reason we chose to visit. It was dubbed one of Australia’s best beaches so of course I had to check it out. I can confirm, it’s pretty beautiful. See for yourself…
There are day tours in which people will leave for Fitzroy in the morning and return to Cairns at night, but we really wanted to experience it, so we booked 2 nights at Fitzroy Island Resort, which is in fact the only resort on the island. Although one night would’ve definitely been enough time too!
We booked into an apartment room with a full kitchen and balcony overlooking the beach. It was nice but we felt the entire resort was really rundown. Everything felt very dated and could use a serious revamp. Although we didn’t end up spending too much time in the apartment anyway!
EAT & DRINK
There are only 2 places to eat in Fitzroy Island and both run by the resort.
Zephyr Restaurant is open daily for buffet breakfast and dinner. At night it turns into an alfresco setting overlooking the water offering Modern Australian cuisine. You can organise with them to book a private dinner on the beach too.
Foxy’s Bar is a large bar with a 70s structural theming, situated right on the beach front, about 100 metres from the resort buildings. It has a casual style food menu plus drinks and cocktails. We dined here but were kind of disappointed by the food but definitely the more affordable option to Zephyr. Happy hour is great here!
Good to know
Bring your own food to the island. There is only one small general store with not much stock at all. It is pretty overpriced and closes fairly early too. We did a big shop at the supermarket before heading to the island.