The Tropics Of Far North Queensland
Madison and I were stoked that we recently had the chance to travel to North Queensland for a week of road tripping and adventures in August. Living out of a van for the week definitely brought back memories of our time in the US and Canada last year, getting us thinking about doing the same thing in Australia, once the borders are all reopened. Being 2020, the flight up to Cairns from Brisbane was unusual, but not out of the ordinary for 2020. We had to wear mandatory masks and everyone was a bit on edge, but soon enough we took to the skies and before we knew it we were in the tropics. We stayed the first night in a hot and steamy Cairns backpackers spot, before picking up our car and hitting the open road. I hadn't planned a set-in-stone itinerary, as that's not how I like to do my travelling. Instead, I had a list of spots I wanted to visit and we'd tick them off one by one, always travelling with the weather.
Special thanks to Travellers Autobarn @travellersautobarn for lending us the wheels (Hi-5 Camper) for the trip. If you're thinking of doing TNQ, definitely consider renting a big van. You won't regret it with the extra space to stand up and move around in, as well as the built-in kitchen and fridge. Such a great vehicle for this kind of travelling.
Our wheels - a big Hi-5 Camper - from Traveller's Autobarn vehicle hire in Cairns. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
For this trip we only packed our essentials. Starting with the Expedition 90L duffle bag as our main storage, we stuffed in two of our hiking chairs, Travelite 500 & 700 sleeping bags, Cumulus GORE-TEX® rain jackets, our Peak 700 down Jackets (can never be too prepared even if it is the tropics), my Pro-Elite Climber fleece, a couple of button up shirts, some Merino tees and our favourite Heritage tees. Last but not least we opted to use the Escape Multi 30L day pack as our day pack of choice. It offers a good amount of storage for day hikes and feels really comfortable with the padded mesh shoulder and hip straps.
There's no doubt the Expedition 90L duffle is the perfect hold-all for a road trip - you can pack plenty of gear inside, then take only what you need for your little day trips and excursions. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
The Daintree National Park: Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea
North of Port Douglas lies the most beautiful stretch of coastline I've seen in Australia. With ancient rainforests tumbling down from 1,500-metre mountains and touching the sea, it's a sight to behold. I did my best to capture it in all of its beauty, with some of my drone shots giving it justice to how expansive, green and wild it is. Keeping our eyes constantly peeled for crocodiles was our main concern when going close to the water. I'd never been to TNQ before, so I had no idea about crocodiles or where I might see one. Luckily after a quick google search, I soon learnt that crocs inhabit almost all of the areas of coast around there and swimming or even walking in the water is advised against. So different to our beaches on the Gold Coast!
Aerial views of the incredible coastline we explored north of Port Douglas. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Staying hydrated is imperative on any outdoor adventure, let alone when you visit the tropics of far north Queensland. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Palm Cove At Sunrise
If you've come north for tropical scenery, this is the place to kick-start your trip, albeit with the help of caffeine to fuel the early rise. We headed out from Cairns CBD around 5:30am to get to Palm Cove for sunrise. We parked our van right at the beach front and wandered down to the sand as the sun came up. There's plenty of cafes and restaurants that line this street, so it's a good place to shoot sunrise and get brekky right after.
The main reason I wanted to visit Palm Cove - its famous palm trees that line the beachfront. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Drive to Cardwell/Hinchinbrook Island
I had my heart set on seeing Hinchinbrook Island this trip, even if it meant an out of the way and massive drive there and back. The drive down to Cardwell isn't exactly boring, with plenty of beautiful stops along the way like 'Babinda Boulders' and 'Mission Beach', as well as mountain views 99% of the trip. Once you get into the town of Cardwell, the views out to Hinchinbrook Island start to open up and you realise how wild the island really is. It's Australia's biggest 'island national park' only allowing 40 visitors on its land at any time, and home to Mount Bowen at 1,121 metres as well (a peak I'd love to summit one day).
These shots above were taken on my drone from a lookout just off the main highway on the drive to Cardwell. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Sand and surf beneath the toes. (Image courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Fitzroy Island - An Isolated Tropical Paradise
I've only done a handful of scenic flights in my time, but this one takes the cake. Fitzroy Island is an absolute must when in Cairns. Located about an hour ferry ride from Cairns, this tropical island feels like you're out in the middle of the pacific on an isolated tropical paradise. We booked our Ferry through Fitzroy Island Flyer.
Once you disembark on Fitzroy Island and adjust to seeing the most beautiful blue water of your life, you can hike 500m around to the next bay of the island to the world famous Nudey Beach to get one of the most gorgeous beach shots in the world. We were hoping to be able to snorkel out to the reefs here but unfortunately we had windy south westerlies on the day we went, which made it too dangerous to swim. Instead we just set up our hiking chairs and took in the view. In the last couple of hours on the island, we hired some snorkelling gear and did some snorkelling on the more sheltered main beach.
Nudey Beach offers clear blue waters and a great chance for snorkelling the reefs. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
Exploring the rocks. (Image courtesy of Harrison Candlin)
There are so many incredible hikes to do in TNQ so we tried to tackle as many as we could during the cooler parts of the day. The humidity up there is something that definitely has to be considered when planning a hike - whether it be a short day walk or an overnighter. We had temperatures with highs of only around 29°C but we still tried to avoid any walks between 11am and 3pm just to be safe. Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks to fuel you.
Windin Falls - 9km return, 278m elevation gain. (Image courtesy of Harrison Candlin).
Nandroya Falls - 6.6km return, 267m elevation gain. (Image courtesy of Harrison Candlin).
Tully Gorge National Park - 2km return. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin).
Wallaman Falls Lookout - 200m return. (Images courtesy of Harrison Candlin).