Adventurous Queensland Tour: Exploring Australia’s Northeast

Aerial view of Daintree River in Daintree National Park, Queensland, Australia
A 10 day trip to Australia 
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Experience the ultimate Australian expedition through the tropical landscape of northeast Queensland. Your custom tailored tour embodies the beauty and excitement of rainforest canopies hiding elusive avifauna and the ocean floor decorated with stunning coral formations along the Great Barrier Reef. Search hidden riverbanks for lounging saltwater crocodiles. Indulge in relaxation during a vintage scenic train ride. Find artifacts of the first European arrival on the continent. From magnificent lava tubes to decadent sunrises, opulent beaches to ancient Aboriginal rock art, your time in Queensland embodies the spirit of adventure and the comforts of contemporary luxury.  

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cairns, Mareeba, Undara, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, Daintree, Cooktown, Great Barrier Reef, Undara Volcanic National Park, Mossman Gorge, Four Mile Beach, Palmer Rivers Goldfields, Chillagoe

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Cairns – In Anticipation of Tropical Expedition

Cairns is a tropical city nestled between the lush rainforest spreading across the Great Dividing Range and the iridescent indigo waters of the Coral Sea. Palm trees line the street and sailboats wade in the marina with their masts swaying against the skyline. Cafes overlook the popular seaside esplanade. The scents of rich coffee and brick-oven pizza blend into the whirl of semi-sweet ocean air. Families dip their toes into the refreshing waters of the swimming lagoon overlooking the shoreline and flying foxes rest in the trees before venturing out in search of fresh mango. Your flight lands at Cairns Airport, where your private transfer meets you upon arrival.

You easily settle into the comforts of your luxurious hotel offering views of the quiet lull of water against the shore. Tropical gardens bloom with lush orchids and vibrant jasmine. The Botanic Gardens embodies the splendor of the exotic landscape by representing the diversity of flora over more than 90 acres. The grounds were laid in the late 19th century and also showcase more than 4,000 different species of plants from around the globe. Bamboo grows alongside the footpaths and mature palms rustle in the passing breeze.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Mareeba – Tropical Scenery to Granite Hills   

In the morning, you can hear the gentle waters lapping against the shoreline. Sailboats set out to the edges of the Great Barrier Reef and locals return to the esplanade for a scenic stroll. The sunlight spreads ample colors across the eastern horizon. After breakfast, your guide meets you at the hotel and escorts to the train station where you board a scenic ride into the jungle en route to Kuranda. The railway takes you back in time with comfortable first-class seating and open windows to view the lush wet tropics of the region.

It is your first expedition into the oldest known rainforest on Earth. The scent of the herbaceous canopy fills the train car and blends with the rich aroma of fresh coffee. The vines of strangler figs wrap around tree trunks. Exotic palm trees soar above the forest floor. Orchids shimmer with elegance against the jade hues of the leaves. The train takes you over the deep ravines and passes gorgeous waterfalls framed by the mountains ridges.

You reach the town of Kuranda by traveling from sea level to an altitude of nearly 1,100 feet. The jungle town brims with local life and historical culture. The art market fills with hand-carved wood sculptures and Ulysses butterflies flutter with reflective blue wings against the backdrop of the trees. You continue to Mareeba, leaving the herbaceous aromas of the jungle for the rock walls of Granite Gorge. Deep pools form inside the rock formations where rock wallabies graze on the pockets of foliage.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 3: Undara – Morning Sky and Rejuvenating Beans

You rise before dawn and make your way to the celebrated landscape of the Atherton Tablelands where the tropical savannah and the wetlands reserve meet. The protected area overtakes nearly 300 acres. The morning air is refreshing and cool on your skin. You step into the gondola of a newly inflated hot air balloon and ascend into the sky. The sun peeks above the eastern horizon and spreads layers of pink, sage, and crimson through the air. The breathtaking view encompasses the rainforest canopy, meandering river, coastal plains, and the Coral Sea. Your guide greets you upon landing and leads you to a local coffee plantation to continue your energetic exploration of Mareeba.

The plantation has been producing Australian Arabica coffee for nearly 30 years. You traverse the edges of the bushels that thrive in the tropical climate. The plantation spreads across 375 acres, accented by the red glow of the berries in which you find the coffee beans. Your guide leads you through the process of cultivation, including how the grain is dried and roasted, presenting a coffee bean you are used to seeing. The roasting helps accentuate the natural oils, releasing the flavors that coffee drinkers enjoy. When sampling the locally produced coffee, you find hints of chocolate and caramel linger on your palate. Continue to the entrance of Undara Volcanic National Park to view the world’s longest and largest lava tube system, reaching a length of nearly 4,270 feet. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 4: Port Douglas – Volcanic Tubes to Coastal Paradise

At breakfast, you recall the stunning vastness of the Undara Volcanic National Park caused by lava cooling along and hardening along the surface while the heated magma continues to flow beneath. After the meal, you venture east to the shores of Port Douglas. Soaring coconut palm trees line the white sand beaches. The water of the Coral Sea shimmers with sapphire hues. The streets of Port Douglas create an inclusive ambiance with locals offering welcoming smiles and friendly waves. The day on the coast is yours to enjoy, whether you prefer taking to the renovated golf course or basking on the powdery white shores of Four Mile Beach. You can begin your exploration of the day at Mossman Gorge, located north of town.

Crystal clear waterfalls tumble over granite boulders splashing into swimming holes. The rainforest canopy overtakes riverbanks. Sugarcane fields grow along the tropical edges of the gorge before giving way to manicured trails and dense forest. A shuttle takes you to the heart of the gorge, where you can hear the water of the Mossman River flowing along the smooth granite rocks. A walking circuit traverses the forest floor, encompassing nearly two miles. You can dip into the cold water of a swimming hole and relax beneath the rustling fronds. Dusky honeyeaters flutter overhead as you search for signs of the elusive cassowary in the bush. The bird can stand more than six feet tall with an elegant neck shining with electric blue plumage.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 5: Cape Tribulation – Between the Rainforest and Sea

In the morning, you find hints of rambutan and pineapple, exotic fruits that accentuate the tropical northeast Queensland. After breakfast, you leave the shores of Port Douglas behind as you make your way to Cape Tribulation, where the roots of the tropical rainforest touch the lapping waters of the coiling edges of the Great Barrier Reef. Before reaching the cape, you pass through Daintree to search for the endemic saltwater crocodiles. The Daintree Rainforest spreads across nearly 465 square miles and dates back more than 135 million years. Butterflies flutter above the underbrush brushed with dew. You board a shallow river cruiser to take you along the Daintree River. Your guide provides colorful commentary to your water safari, with stories of crocodiles and tree kangaroos, the latter of which are found only in Daintree.

You find the vibrant yellow breast of a buff-breasted kingfisher, which migrates between the tropics of New Guinea and Australia. You spot a large saltwater crocodile basking in the sunlight on a small promontory. The scales glisten in the sunlight. The crocodile can average 17 feet in length and weigh 1,000 pounds. You continue north to Cape Tribulation and relax on the secluded sands of Coconut Beach, located just over a mile from Cape Tribulation. A reef fringes the coastline before a steep drop off. The mouth of Myall Creek feeds into the sea where crocodiles linger at the edges. The pristine sand shimmers beneath the passing sunlight against the crystal clear waters.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation  

Day 6: Cooktown – From Waterfalls to Dreamtime

The sound of the ocean lapping against the beach echoes beneath the rainforest canopy. You listen for songs of birdlife calling out in the cool morning air. After breakfast, you return to the paths traversing Cape Tribulation and make your way along towards Cooktown by first stopping along the trail leading to Bloomfield Falls, a sacred cascade of the Wujal Wujal people. The water trundles 130 feet into the wading pool. The whitewater roars beneath the forest canopy. The nearby falls add a refreshing symphony of nature. However, the remaining cascades at Wujal Wujal are sacred to the community and are off limits to the general public.

A cool mist rises up from the splashing pool. Ripples course through the water until calming to a reflective surface. After visiting the falls, you meet with a local Kuku Yalanji guide for an in-depth tour of the ancestral lands and ancient culture. Your guide takes you through the bush to discover significant plants used for medicines and art, creating ochre hues out of muddled leaves and soil. You listen to the captivating stories of Dreamtime, when the Rainbow Serpent created the earth, along with the importance of oratory in the culture. The landscape takes on a new importance after your guided tour, offering you a glimpse into ancient tribal secrets.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 7: Cooktown – A Cultural History of Northeast Queensland

The previous day, you took to the scenic road known as the Bloomfield Track, passing the banks of the Bloomfield River and the dramatic switchbacks passing over the ranges. Cooktown sits at the edge of Cape York Peninsula and was the first location on the continent Captain Cook landed in the 1770s. The ship struck a reef off Cape Tribulation and spent nearly 50 days repairing the damage. The secluded streets preserve the history of the region and maintain a stance as the first European “settlement” in Australia.

The surrounding landscape brims with lush forest bordering the pristine tropical beaches interspersed with lagoons and waterfalls. Gardens hide beneath the canopy and the mountains provide unparalleled views to the eastern horizon. For an encompassing view of European history in Australia, you make your way to the James Cook Museum, situated at the corner of Helen and Furneaux. The edifice was erected as a convent in the late 19th century and presents relics from Cook’s time in the region. Journal entries and the anchor of the Endeavour add texture to the exhibits. The latter was recovered from the seafloor in the 1970s, offering a piece of the nation’s European cultural history to the captivating landscape.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 8: Port Douglas – Majesty of History  

The morning air fills with the sounds of lapping water and fluttering honeyeaters searching the exotic flowers blossoming near the shore. At breakfast, the aromas of sugarcane and coconut accompany the breeze. You make your way along the coast and enjoy the views of rolling emerald canopy and gentle indigo waters brushing white-sand beaches. You venture inland, between the dense trees and tropical brush, to enter Quinkan County, an internationally significant collection of Aboriginal rock art characterized by mythological beings.

The sandstone escarpments near the small town of Laura contain the largest bodies of prehistoric works, including engravings and stenciling. The Ang-Gnarra Aborigines crafted the artwork more than 35,000 years ago. The art depicts tracks of the mythical Quinkan creature in red ochre with white and black embellishments. A mystical ambiance emanates from the preserved art adorning the rock face. You continue south until the trees once again open to an ocean view. The refreshing sea breeze overtakes the tropical jungle heat. You reach the luxuries of your hotel in Port Douglas and settle into beachside comfort.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 9: Port Douglas – Featuring the Sea

The morning sun stretches over the Coral Sea, reflecting light against the indigo and sapphire waters. The sea breeze rustles the palm fronds and the luscious aroma of coconut sweeps over the powdery white sand. You wake early to step aboard a luxury catamaran bound for the edges of the Great Barrier Reef’s Outer Reef. The marine park stretches for 1,400 miles from Australia’s east coast. The wind glides over the catamaran. Pockets of reef bodies cast dark shadows beneath the crystal clear surface. The calm waters provide pristine visibility reaching to nearly 60 feet in all directions.

You leap into the water at Agincourt Reef and immediately notice the warm temperature wrapping around you. The transparent hue offers opulent rainbow colored coral to glow over billowing sea grass. The ridges of brain coral twist over the unique looking mound. Sea anemones flutter in the gentle current. Blue tang fish, best known for their representation as Dory in Finding Dory, rub against the soft anemone tendrils. You dip beneath the surface for a closer look at the way the anemone resembles grass rustling in the wind. The yellow tendrils fade to fuchsia tips. A large Maori wrasse swims past. They can grow to more than six feet long and weigh up to 365 pounds. Their scales shimmer with pastel hues against the backdrop of coral rising out of the seafloor like a hill.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Port Douglas – The Expedition Home

In the morning, the Ngarru Gallery opens its doors to the people of Port Douglas. The gallery exhibits a collection of works celebrating Indigenous art alongside aspiring local artists. Sculptures stand tall above the hardwood floors, and unique woven works adorn platforms. The natural light washes over a collection of authentic antique didgeridoos hollowed out by termites. The breeze carries an aroma of freshly brewed coffee emanating from the cafes. Sailboats take to the open sea for a daily catch or to explore the coral islands between the east coast and Great Barrier Reef. Your private transfer meets you at the hotel after breakfast and escorts you to Cairns Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: breakfast, airport transfer

Price

Starting Price 

$2,495
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.