For our 2018 Christmas holiday we decided on a trip to North Queensland, one of the very few popular tourist destinations in Australia that we had yet to visit, and the furthest north we had been since arriving in the country.
We flew out of Sydney a few days before Christmas, and thankfully just minutes before the city was hit by a huge hailstorm, with hail the size of tennis balls causing extensive damage to homes and vehicles (Rachael’s included).
Arriving into Cairns, the hot and humid tropical climate was immediately apparent upon stepping out of the plane. We picked up our rental car, and made the short drive to the AirBnb where we would be staying for our first night.
The following morning we began our road trip, driving south out of Cairns, with our first stop at Babinda Boulders. The popular swimming hole is given its name by the vast boulders that surround the creek. Thankfully, despite it being summer the water was still refreshingly cool and shaded from the sun by the surrounding trees, making it perfect for a relaxing swim. We followed a short walking trail along the river, stopping at several viewpoints to watch the water rushing past over the rocks.
We continued south, passing Queensland’s tallest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere which has an elevation of 1,611m and is located within the Wooroonooran National Park, on the eastern edge of the Atherton Tablelands.
North Queensland is the heartland of Australia’s important sugar industry, and the roads were lined with fields of sugarcane. The crop is transported across the vast plantations by ‘Cane Trains’ with the railway tracks crisscrossing the almost deserted roads.
The tropical climate is also perfect for growing bananas and we drove past several plantations, with some of these offering their produce at roadside stands. In need of a mid-morning snack we stopped to pick up a small bunch, weighing them before placing a few dollars in the honesty box.
After several hours of driving, we arrived at Mission Beach, the southern point of our trip. The vast beach is lined by several small relaxed beachside towns, and is popular with holidaymakers and backpackers. However the summer months are one of the less popular times to visit North Queensland, due to the unpredictable weather and dangerous jellyfish that occupy the water, making swimming off limits.
We were fine with this as it meant we had the entire beach all to ourselves, and we enjoyed a long walk along the waters edge, before making our way to the nearby Tuskers Tuckerbox for some lunch.
We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon on the beach, before making the short drive to Bingal Bay where we were spending the night.
We were delighted to find some public BBQs overlooking the beach, just a short walk from our accommodation, and we used one to prepare some dinner just in time for sunset. We returned to Mission Beach for a quick drink to end the evening at the aptly named Just One More.
The next day we made our way north, passing Cairns, before stopping at Smithfield where the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is located. The Skyrail is a scenic cableway which passes 7.5km across the Barron Gorge National Park, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Queensland.
The cableway climbs steeply over the forest, and we were treated to stunning views back towards Cairns and the surrounding coastline, while through the glass floor of the cablecar, we could see the rainforest canopy just a few metres below us.
There are several stations along the cableway, with short walking trails at each. We stopped at these to take a closer look at the rainforest before continuing to Kuranda, where the cableway ends. We walked around the historic town, taking a short walk along the riverbank before stopping for a cream tea at the historic railway station.
Our return journey was delayed by over an hour, as we waited for a huge tropical storm to pass by, however once again it was an enjoyable ride back to Smithfield.
Our journey further north was the most scenic part of the trip yet, with the road winding along the coastline and we stopped at several viewpoints including the beautiful Rex Lookout.
We arrived in the popular resort town of Port Douglas on Christmas Eve, and after a relaxing afternoon wandering around the small centre, we began our Christmas celebrations at Nautilus, a beautiful treehouse restaurant, with amazing food to match.
Our Christmas Day started with a short walk on the beach, followed by a few hours of planning for our upcoming trip to New Zealand. After a BBQ on the beach the previous year, we decided to treat ourselves this time and we enjoyed an upmarket Christmas lunch at High Tide, again overlooking the beach.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with a few drinks by the hotel pool, before returning to our room and tucking into the unnecessary amount of buffet food we had purchased the previous day – finally it began to feel a little more like Christmas!
By this point the rest of the world, and more specifically all our loved ones in the UK, were waking up, and we spent the rest of the evening FaceTiming everyone back home. Although it didn’t feel especially festive, we had a great Christmas in Port Douglas, and it was the perfect place to spend a relaxing few days.