The Attraction of North Queensland, Australia
Words: Len Rutledge Images: Phensri Rutledge
With international airports at both Cairns and Townsville, North Queensland, Australia is accessible from most places in the world. Multiple daily flights from Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane bring Australians from the southern part of the country to this northern paradise. The area is booming but many international and domestic visitors arrive, however, without firm ideas on what to do and see.
Here are a few suggestions about some things that shouldn’t be missed.
Great Barrier Reef
This is the world’s largest coral reef containing an abundance of marine life, coral cays, and hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. Boats run daily from Port Douglas, Cairns and other places to the reef for snorkelling, diving, and coral viewing. Some go to islands, while others visit coral cays or artificial pontoons. The best dive trip is to the wreck of the Yongala just south of Townsville. Learn-to-dive classes are held throughout the area.
Preparing for a reef dive
Atherton Tablelands waterfalls
In the Wet Tropics, it often rains. Luckily the rivers and streams cascading from the highlands to the coast spill over terrain that creates interesting lakes and delightful waterfalls. Start your waterfall exploring at Millaa Millaa. Follow the scenic Theresa Creek Road to the fairy-tale drop of Millaa Millaa Falls, the region’s most photographed waterfall then drive on to Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls, and visit Mungalli Falls.
Australia’s widest waterfall, the Millstream Falls, is near Ravenshoe while Malanda Falls is where the North Johnstone River runs over a wide lava flow into a year-round swimming pool.
Millaa Millaa Falls
Cairns swimming lagoon
This area on the Esplanade is a magnet for backpackers from around the world as a sunbaking and social gathering place. It also is a place for locals to get fit on the exercise equipment dotted through the parks and along the esplanade boardwalk, and a place for the family to have fun on the play equipment and to learn to swim.
The large salt water swimming area has sandy shores and timber decking and is patrolled daily by Life Guards. Entry to the Lagoon is free and toilet and shower facilities are located in the adjacent amenities block.
Cairns Lagoon Pool
This is the highest, permanent, single-drop waterfall in Australia and it is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, home to some of the oldest rainforests on earth and many endangered plants and animals. The falls are located about 50 km south-west of Ingham and are 160 km from Townsville.
The Wallaman Falls camping area is adjacent to Stony Creek and gas barbecues, picnic tables, shelter sheds, water and a cold water shower are provided. Picnic tables, toilets, and water are provided at two day-use areas and two interesting short walks are available for visitors.
The Paluma Range National Park about one hour north of Townsville is the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Here you can escape the coastal lowland heat and relax in the cool mountain air of the Paluma Range. Little Crystal Creek on the road up the range is an ideal location to stop for a picnic lunch, swim, bushwalk, or barbecue. It is well known for its historic stone arch bridge built in the 1930s and the cascading waterfalls which feed into one of the best freshwater swimming holes in the north.
Tropical rainforest grows on the cooler mountaintops and in the valleys, and the park is home to many animals found only in the Wet Tropics. The National Park contains five walks and there are two community walking tracks which start from the Paluma township. These walks, which range from 300m to 4 km, introduce you to the natural and historical values of the area and are a delight.
Little Crystal Creek
Reef HQ in Townsville has the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world. It has brought the Great Barrier Reef marine environment onto land making it easily accessible to the public. The attraction includes a Coral Reef Exhibit with a walk-through tunnel, a Predator Exhibit, a children’s section, a gift shop, and a cafe.[You can also see Reef HQ Aquarium’s Turtle Hospital patients and learn how you can play a role in protecting marine turtles in the Great Barrier Reef.
Reef HQ Aquarium is your opportunity to visit the reef in air-conditioned comfort without getting sunburnt or seasick. Even on a dive trip, you would rarely see so many creatures in such detail.
Reef HQ Townsville
Townsville coffee shops
Melbourne is regarded as Australia’s coffee capital as the city has an amazing collection of coffee shops and roasters. In North Queensland, the title goes to Townsville. The greatest concentration of outlets is in the CBD but there are some good places in South Townsville and near the Strand.
Some of the shops are just like you will find elsewhere but several have a unique atmosphere reflecting the laid-back lifestyle of the tropics and the knowledge that locals have about good coffee. I doubt you will be disappointed no matter where you go.
Hoi Polloi coffee shop Townsville
He has worked with Pelican Publishing, Viking Penguin, Berlitz, the Rough Guide, and the Nile Guide amongst others.
Along the way, he has started a newspaper, a travel magazine, a Visitor and TV Guide, and completed a PhD in tourism. His travels have taken him to more than 100 countries and his writings have collected a PATA award, an ASEAN award, an IgoUgo Hall of Fame award, and other recognition.
He is the author of the Experience Guidebook series which currently includes Experience Thailand, Experience Norway, Experience Northern Italy, Experience Myanmar, Experience Istanbul, Experience Singapore, Experience Melbourne, and Experience Ireland. They are available as ebooks or paperbacks from amazon.com