1. THE TROPICAL NORTH IS A HUGE BOWL OF GLUTTONOUS TEMPTATION.
Gorge yourself silly in Atherton Tablelands. This great fertile region is a highland plateau sitting south west of Cairns. Teeming with tropical indulgences, local harvests make all sorts of deliciousness, including the spirits sold at Mt Uncle Distillery — pop in for tastings and stone baked pizza. For alcohol-free revivers, Skybury Tropical Plantation grows the region’s richest coffee, while Nerada Tea Plantation will satisfy the leaf sippers. With more dairy products than days of sunshine (almost), visit from summer through to autumn for the region’s awardwinning ricotta and feta, or year-round for spectacular ice-cream. The Humpy between Tolga and Atherton is something of a local secret and sells juicy locally-grown produce, and Yungaburra Farmers’ Market is the largest and oldest market in the hood. But you’ll find stalls selling delicacies any given weekend of the month. Tuck in.
2. THERE ARE SEVERAL UN-TOUCHED TROPICAL HANGOUTS.
For an eco-escape that few others know about, head south of Cairns and don’t stop until you get to Mission Beach. Hugging the Cassowary Coast, Mission Beach boasts four sleepy villages and 14km of wide, empty beaches. As the perfect launch pad for the secluded islands of Dunk and Bedarra, jump on the Dunk Island Water Taxi and sail away into azure waters and semi-deserted islands. Offering beautiful slivers of untouched sand you’re just 4km from the mainland and a million miles from reality. Mission Beach is also an ideal base from which to explore the famed Great Barrier Reef. Snorkel-up and let Mission Beach Dive get you acquainted with the deep blue.
3. MOTHER NATURE BUILT HER BEST WATER PARKS HERE.
An hour south of Mission Beach there exists Australia’s best kept secret: Cardwell Spa Pool in Girringun National Park. A natural lagoon in the crease of rocks and rainforest, this sparkling waterhole was recently featured on Instagram and nearly broke the Internet. Due to a natural depression in the creek bed, the ultramarine water swirls like a nature-made Jacuzzi. Water babies will also enjoy Babinda Boulders, named after the giant well-polished rocks that litter a freshwater swimming hole. There’s also Mossman Gorge; a similar nature-created water haven 20km from Port Douglas. Take respite from the afternoon sun, wade out, climb a smooth boulder and slide off with a satisfying splosh.
4. THE PERFECT DAY BEGINS AND ENDS IN PALM COVE.
Hats out, shades on glam-seekers, this sophisticated coastal community is as dazzling as the sunshine reflecting off its Coral Sea water. Impeccably slick it still possesses laid-back coastal vibes, where days call for early starts - kayaking around the fringing reef of Double Island in search of turtles, or mastering the skill of SUP boarding to a sunrise backdrop. Brunch at Chill Café, which is as relaxed as the name suggests, before heading back out for an afternoon of spa indulgences at Reef House Resort. Once polished, finish the day with a sunset barbecue on the beach. With frosted beers and snags sizzling as the sun descends.
5. THE BEACH TOWNS HAVE SLEEPY VILLAGE VIBES.
With something to please every punter, Port Douglas is an all-round crowd pleaser. A playground for families, a heavenly hangout for couples and it’s just one hour north of Cairns. The outer Great Barrier Reef is less than an hour offshore and the Daintree Rainforest is so close you can practically hear the cassowary. Take the Dreamtime Gorge Walk with an Indigenous guide and load up on Daintree facts. Croc lovers can embark on a crocodile cruise aboard the Lady Douglas, or watch them being fed at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. The silky sand of Four Mile Beach is patrolled for safe swimming and daily ice-creams from Macrossan Street is a no-brainer. As dusk approaches, watch the boats glide in and out of the Port Douglas Marina from Hemingway’s Brewery. Child friendly and super chilled, the food’s tasty and the beer’s made using water from Mossman Gorge. Cheers.