North Queensland Travel Guide

Tropical North Queensland offers an amazing holiday for travellers of all ages. From rainforests to pristine beaches and the Great Barrier Reef, this area of Queensland is idyllic.

Northern Queensland (the region around Townsville) and Far North Queensland (incorporating most of Cape York Peninsula) make up the area known as Tropical North Queensland. The main industries here are tourism, agriculture, mining and cattle grazing and export.

The Great Barrier Reef is the biggest tourist attraction in this area. There are many tour companies operating from Cairns and Port Douglas to the reef, where you can snorkel or dive with the abundant marine life.

There are many islands located off the coast of Tropical North Queensland including Magnetic Island, Orpheus Island, Bedarra Island, Dunk Island and Lizard Island. Most islands provide great family resort accommodation and numerous water activities including diving.

North Queensland family holidays

The Daintree Rainforest is one of the oldest in the world. The rainforest runs right up to white, sandy beaches. The best way to see it is by joining a 4WD tour. The Daintree Discovery Centre located in Cow Bay gives you information on the rainforest and has boardwalks and an aerial walkway.

If you're dining out in North Queensland, you will find an abundance of bananas, mango and paw-paw. Of course, seafood is a must including coral trout and barramundi. You can also try delicacies such as crocodile, kangaroo, buffalo and emu.

North Queensland Facts

Population: Over 500,000

Location: Tropical North Queensland stretches from Townsville in the south to Cape York in the north.

Climate: The climate is tropical. Average summer high is 33 degrees with the average summer low at 24 degrees. The winter high is 26 degrees and the winter low is 14 degrees. The wet season runs from November to May and the dry season from June to October.

Time Zone: There is no daylight saving time in North Queensland. Time zone is Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Transport: There is a good rail and bus network in North Queensland. Venturing into Far North Queensland you may want to hire a car or 4 wheel drive.

Flying Times To North Queensland: Direct flights: Sydney to Cairns is 2 hrs 5 min, Sydney to Townsville is 1 hr 45 min. From Perth you would need to fly first to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne. It takes 2 hrs 20 mins from Brisbane to Cairns.

Medical: There are many medical centres and hospitals located in North Queensland.

Sun: The summer sun can get very hot especially between 10am and 2pm. Cover up and make sure you use sun protection.

Swimming: It is warm enough to swim here all year round, but be careful of box jellyfish from Nov-May. If the beach has them, swim in the stinger net area only.

Airports: Cairns Airport is located 7km from the CBD and has connections to international and domestic destinations. Townsville airport is 5km west of the CBD and has domestic connections.

Electricity: 240v at 50Hz.

Visa/Passport: Visas are required to all visitors travelling to Australia except for New Zealand passport holders.

Getting There

Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways fly to Cairns from most capital cities. Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar also fly to Townsville from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin. It's best to book early to get cheaper airfares especially if you plan to travel in the school holidays.

You can check the airlines web sites: Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar.


There is plenty of family friendly accommodation available in North Queensland. You can choose from 5 star luxury resorts to basic apartment accommodation.

Check our North Queensland accommodation pages for a listing of the family friendly resorts and hotels available.
Port Douglas
Palm Cove

Booking accommodation online is now the norm, with most resorts offering an online booking facility. There are also numerous online travel companies where you can check resort facilities and accommodation types, check for availability and price, and book your holiday using a credit card.

Mantra offer a number of family friendly properties in North Queensland.


There is an efficient transport system in Tropical North Queensland, catering for locals and the many tourists to the region. Public and private buses and coaches, trains (including some historic and scenic train rides), and ferry services to the islands form part of this network.

Hiring a car is a great way to get to some of the more remote parts of Far North Queensland. There are plenty of car hire companies available, but best to stick to the better known ones and shop around for the best deal. Some offer special discounts through motoring associations, travel agencies, credit card companies, airlines, discount books, licensed clubs and other sources.

Budget is renowned for meticulously maintained vehicles and the absolute best in service; Budget offers a wide range of cars, 4WDs, and minibuses, as well as Australia's largest fleet of trucks and commercial vehicles.


There are a variety of shopping options in North Queensland, probably the highlight being local markets. Markets are great places to purchase local produce and arts and crafts. Markets are held in Port Douglas, Kuranda, Cairns, Mission Beach, and Townsville. Many of the smaller towns also hold a market day during the month. The Cairns Night Market is on every night and you can also find something to eat here.

There are a number of large shopping centres in Cairns and Townsville as well as many trendy surf and fashion shops.

North Queensland family holidays

Things To Do

There are numerous activities and attractions for families to do and see in North Queensland. Here is a list of the most popular ones:

Great Barrier Reef
One of the most amazing experiences you can have is diving or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. A helicopter flight is another great way to see the reef. Many tour companies run tours to the reef from Cairns and Port Douglas.

Mossman Gorge
Located 20km north of Port Douglas, in Daintree National Park. Experience the rainforest, waterfalls and streams while learning about the indigenous culture. The Mossman Gorge Centre offers information on getting around the Gorge and has a cafe, shop and art gallery. Many tour operators offer great tours of this beautiful area. There is a shuttle bus service from the Mossman Gorge Centre to the Gorge.

Wildlife Habitat
Located in Port Douglas, the highlight of this wildlife park is 'Breakfast with the Birds'. Enjoy the abundant wildlife and a tropical buffet breakfast. Open from 8am.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Located 15km north of Cairns. See the rainforest from above in a cablecar that spans 7.5km of rainforest. You can also enjoy walks through the rainforests and views of spectacular waterfalls. Open from 9am.

Kuranda Scenic Railway
This is a must-do if visiting Cairns - the scenic railway is world-famous and gives you an insight into Australia's pioneering history. Ride through rainforests and past waterfalls. Lots to see and do in Kuranda, including markets and wildlife parks. First departure time is 8:30am from Cairns Railway Station.

Cairns Tropical Zoo
Located 20 minutes north of Cairns at Palm Cove. Set on 6 hectares, there are daily wildlife shows and you can get to cuddle a koala. See reptiles, birds and mammals. There are cafes and a gift shop. Open daily from 8:30am.

Muddy's Playground
Great for young kids, Muddy's Playground is located on the Cairns esplanade. A great playground with water features. Best of all, it's free. There is an on-site cafe.

There are many spectacular waterfalls to see in North Queensland. Located south of Cairns, some of the most popular falls are Mungalli Falls, Josephine Falls, and Millaa Millaa Falls. Great places to have a picnic and a swim.

Paronella Park
Located 120km south of Cairns at Mena Creek, Paronella Park is a unique, award-winning tourist destination. See North Queensland's 1st hydro-electric system while enjoying the plants and animals on a guided tour. There is a cafe or you can bring a picnic.

Billabong Sanctuary
Located in Townsville, this wildlife park lets you get up-close to Australian native animals. Set in a picturesque 11 hectares of bushland. There is a cafe and bbq's are available. Open from 9am.

Reef HQ
Located in Townsville, Reef HQ is a large coral reef aquarium. A great introduction to the reef. You can visit the turtle hospital and watch the shark and fish feeding. There are school holiday programs and a shop and cafe. Open from 9:30am.

North Queensland Video