Best Places to visit in Queensland – The Great Barrier Reef

Best Places to visit in Queensland – The Great Barrier Reef

Map of Queensland

Queensland

Situated in the north-eastern part of the continent, Queensland is the second biggest and third most populated state in the country and is bordered by the Northern Territory to the west, South Australia to the south-west, New South Wales to the south and the rest is surrounded by the coral sea. Like the rest of Australia, The Outback only has a few people scattered throughout with most of the 5.1 million population concentrated along the coast. Brisbane is the third largest city in the country and also Queensland’s capital. Tourism and mostly The Great Barrier Reef, plays a major part in the state’s economy. We have covered The Reef extensively in another post called, ‘7 Natural Wonders of the World‘, so please give it a read. We’ll skip it here, but there is plenty more to see and I’ll tell you about the best places to visit in Queensland.

Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park

For this one we would have to venture a little bit into The Outback, because I don’t think that you would forgive me if we were to miss it. The only problem is that it takes a bit of time to get there, especially if you don’t live in Australia and even if you live in Western Australia. This is for those die-hard cave lovers and trust me, it’s worth it. You will need the following:

  1. Flight tickets – unless you want to swim to Australia and then walk the rest of the way.
  2. Hire Car – Unless you snuck your car onto the plane. One of those Ant-Man cars that you can shrink.
  3. Running shoes – In case you come across a pack of hungry dingoes.
  4. Snake bite kit – For obvious reasons.
  5. Extra underwear – See above dingo section. And snake bite kit section for that matter.
  6. Flashlights – You’ll be going where the sun doesn’t shine.
  7. 65 bottles of water.
  8. Anything else that you will need for a camping/cave-dwelling trip, which can be viewed here.

Flights can be checked here.

Some international flights land at Cairns International Airport, otherwise you would need to fly to Brisbane first and then take a connecting flight, unless you want to drive the extra 1,000 mi or so. Chillagoe has an airport, but only small planes with the propellers in the front land there. I would advise against it and rather stick to the big ones. Once you have landed, you will need a hire car, which can be found here. Once you have your car, (preferably one with an air-conditioning system) it will still take you around 2h 30min to drive the 120 mi, straight into The Outback. That’s a whole lot of travelling, but the good news is that we’ll be heading back to Cairns for a spell, because that city is beautiful.

Stay where you like

Chillagoe Guesthouse

As always, we need to sort you out a place to stay. If you want to do a daytrip to the park, you can kip in Cairns, otherwise Chillagoe township has some lodging for you. I don’t think that you can expect much as the town is quite small, but as far as I can see, the Chillagoe Guesthouse is your best bet. It’s walking distance to anywhere in town, has wi-fi and a complimentary breakfast in the morning. The self-contained units consisting of one or two rooms, or single rooms, have shared facilities. I suppose that means that we’ll all share the same crapper, but don’t let me catch you trying on my underwear. Those tighty whities are mine and mine only.

Chillagoe Accommodation

Prices start at £110 or $145 for two people for a double room per night and go up all the way to £700 or $890 per night for the entire house that can sleep up to 13 people. Book your accommodation here or here.

Other accommodation in Chillagoe include the Post Office Hotel, Chillagoe Cabins and Tours, Chillagoe Tourist Village and Chillagoe Cockatoo Hotel Motel. Unfortunately, the park does not allow camping, so we would need to stay in town.

Visit the park

Chillagoe Caves

There are car parks around the park; some are within walking distance and you can find them by clicking on the link above where I was telling you about everything that you will need to visit the park. You can also visit the park and caves two different ways; by way of ranger-guided tours or a self-guided tour. If you choose the latter, make sure that you are well prepared and that your phone is fully charged in case you have an emergency.

Donna Caves Chillagoe

Once you get to the area, you also have three options:

  1. You can meet your tour guide at 09:00 at the Donna Cave car park, around a mile from the caves and walk to the site. The cave provides electrical lighting so that you can view the beautiful, calcite crystals, columns and cave decorations that resemble the Madonna. There are 440 steps in total and around 12 yards where you would have to crouch-walk. There is no wheelchair access unfortunately, but that’s understandable.
  2. You can skip the first tour and meet your tour guide at 11:00 in front of the Trezkinn cave entrance. Your first climb would be to the shelter shed at the entrance of the cave; 136 steps on a boardwalk where you can enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Chillagoe landscape below. It’s a treat for the eye and you haven’t even set foot in the caves yet. 520 steps from start to finish will bring you up close and personal with a huge central mass of limestone and finally a spectacular chandelier formation.
  3. Should you be sleeping off a hangover, you can always meet your tour guide at 13:30 at the Royal Arch Cave car park by the shelter shed.
  4. Situated around four miles from Chillagoe, it takes you around 15min to get there, because the roads are dusty and visibility is not the best. 385 steps in total lead you through passages and 11 chambers in one of the largest cave systems in the area. Upon arrival, you will be handed a handheld lamp to explore the labyrinth of tunnels like in the old days. They will point out naturally sculptured limestone formations and ancient marine fossils to you and as you crawl in the dark, darting bats will get you from all sides.

Amazing scenery

I’ve seen a clip on YouTube where people were swimming in one of the cave pools. That will be entirely up to you, but definitely not my cup of tea. Who knows what lurks under that water, ready to drag you down to the depths below?

Caves at Chillagoe

To visit any of the three caves, will cost an adult £22 or $29 and children between the ages of 4-14 can enter for £10 or $14 and younger than that can enter for free. Two-cave tour packages cost £36 or $46 per adult and £16 or $24 for children. Three-cave tour packages cost £44 or $58 per adult and £22 or $29 per child and three years of chiropractic therapy to straighten your back again from all that crawling. All other caves in the area can be visited on your own and I don’t think that you need to pay anything then; just for the emergency services when they drag you out of a small opening somewhere.

Indiana Jones’ rock

Balancing Rock Chillagoe

If, by some coincidence, the emergency services take you past the Balancing Rock once they had rescued you, you can ask them to stop for a quick look-see. If not, you can park in the Donna Caves car park and hike the 1.5 mi to the rock. The surface to the rock is uneven, so do take care when you walk. Once you get to the rock, it’s a given that you would pose for pictures and if you want to recreate Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, you can get your mate to push over the rock while you run for your life. Just don’t forget your fedora and whip for the occasion; it will make for an awesome video.

Chillagoe is not just caves and boulders. The landscape is truly beautiful, so keep your eyes open and take in the amazing scenery if you are lucky enough to visit.

Cairns

Cairns

As with any city throughout the world, accommodation will be plenty and you can pick and choose where you want to stay and how much you would like to spend. Please check here. Once you sorted your accommodation, you can just drive through the city, especially along the white, sandy coastline and just take in the scenery. It’s no surprise that this city is the 4th most popular international tourist destination after Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Considered a gateway to The Great Barrier Reef, this tropical climate city also has an esplanade where you can swim in the lagoon, barbecue big Aussie steaks and since 2003, even tan topless. Now that is something you shouldn’t miss. Some sunglasses so that your ball and chain can’t see where your eyes are looking, a set of high-powered binoculars and Bob’s your uncle.

Wet Tropics of Quensland

Wet Tropics of Queensland

Once again Jaco has delivered and found you the perfect place to visit another world’s best. This rainforest is officially the world’s oldest rainforest and even older than the Amazon. I would say that it’s also a lot safer to visit than the Amazon, so my vote goes to the Wet Tropics. You don’t have to worry that you’ll end up in one of those huge black pots as some indigenous tribe’s dinner. Aussies are normally pretty well behaved, accept on the cricket field.

Wallaman Falls

This 8,940 km² rainforest is a listed World Heritage site and has the highest concentration of primitive flowering plants in the world. It also has Australia’s highest waterfall, the Wallaman Falls, which has a drop of 879 ft and a 66-ft deep pool at the bottom. I think that’s deep enough if you want to attempt a jump, at your own risk of course.

Amazing fauna and flora

Many animal and plant species are found nowhere else in the world, so unless your friends have been to this forest, you can hold this over their heads. Over 390 rare plant species grow there, with 74 that are threatened and 85 that are endemic. 90 different orchid species have been found and also seven ancient fern species that can still be seen there today. Needless to say, looky, no touchy.

370 different types of birds, 107 mammals, 113 reptiles and 51 different amphibians have made this forest their home with 68 of these species that are endemic to the area. From Australia’s rarest mammal, the Flores tube-nosed bat to other rare animals like brush-tailed bettong and yellow-bellied gliders, you will have plenty of stories to brag about to your friends when you return home. Another treat that awaits you will be spotting the musky rat-kangaroo; an early stage type kangaroo and one of only 50 species unique to the forest.

Wet Tropics Queensland

Various reptiles and amphibians are bound to cross your path, so do not walk with your eyes closed. After all, we are in Australia and you should consider them all dangerous unless told otherwise by an expert. And if you come across any of the Aboriginal Rainforest People that have lived there for over 5,000 years, just smile and wave.

This rainforest can be visited and viewed a whole lot of different ways:

Karunda Scenic Railway

Karunda Scenic Railway

Starting in Cairns and making your way through the beautiful rainforest, snaking through the Macalister Range and various suburbs and finally ending in the town of Karunda, this 23 mi railway is purely for visitors and operates every single day except Christmas. The 1h 55min journey will stop at the Barron Falls and is one of the top 150 icons of Australia. It is gorgeous. You will pass by smaller waterfalls; some just metres away from the train. But be careful and do not stick your hands out of the window; you never know what it might hit. Once you have reached the section in the picture above, it will be a good way to get rid of any unwanted baggage, like your mother-in-law maybe?

Enjoy a day out

Karunda Railway

Once you have reached the railway station, you can choose between visiting the gift shop and cafe or make the short walk into town where you can visit the markets, art galleries and aboriginal crafts or go to the zoo where you can hold koalas and feed kangaroos. Just don’t try to take any of the cuddly creatures with you when you leave, because Bruce, the mean boxing kangaroo, moonlights as the zoo’s bouncer. Trust me, his combos are lethal.

Prices start from £40 or $50 for an adult and £20 or $25 for a child, just the one way, where you get to sit in a refurbished heritage carriage and enjoy some filtered water or you can spring for the gold option which costs £80 or $99 for an adult and £60 or $74 for a child and be pampered like a king with tropical mocktails, welcome drinks, afternoon tea, your own individual lounge chair, a gift pack and an attendant that will cater to all your needs. If you keep on slipping the attendant some money under the table, you might never have to leave. Tickets and tour packages can be booked here with Expedia.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

This beauty is a must-do when you visit the rainforest. Zooming above the treetops, this 4.65 mi journey will take you about an hour and a half. An hour and a half of pure joy. Running above the Barron Gorge National Park and finally reaching the Edge Lookout, it’s situated a 160m above the floor and you will experience views of the Gorge and Falls below you, which are truly majestic. To make your journey even more exhilarating, your cable car has a glass floor to take in the scenery directly below. Either that or for easy cleaning if heights are not your thing.

Skyrail Cableway

It comes as no surprise that this attraction has won more than 25 awards and you get to enjoy it all for £46 or $57 per adult and £23 or $28.50 for children between the ages of 4-14 years, just the one way. For a full price list, please click here.

Just don’t get on the machine operator’s bad side when you cue up for the ride. Waiters in a restaurant will spit in your food, this person will leave you hanging…… Literally.

Hot Air Balloon Trip

Hot Air Balloon Trip in Cairns

Another must do is taking a hot air balloon trip over the rainforest. You get to experience the forest in all its magnificent glory in one of the best ways possible and for many people, this is a bucket list experience that they will get to tick off. Two birds.

This trip will also take you past the Atherton Tablelands and if you have your camera ready, you might be able to photograph some wildlife from a very cool vantage point.

Hot Air Balloon Trip Cairns

Suitable for all people older than four, these trips usually last around 30 min to an hour and you can even be picked up from your hotel. You will need to get up with the birds as these trips start very early to take advantage of the calm weather in the early mornings. Don’t worry; your captain will be an experienced pilot that comes with commentary. If your kids are noisy enough at home and would rather have a quiet flight, just stick some tape over the captain’s mouth before he starts chatting your ears off. And this goes without saying; do not sit down on the throttle, even by accident, otherwise you’ll be up, up and away.

This experience is a bit pricy, especially since it doesn’t last that long, but it is still worth it. Adults would need to fork out around £200 or $259 each and children between the ages of 4-14 would need to pay around £150 or $181 each. Different operators charge different prices, but these are about par for all of them. You can also choose between combo deals; two different flights, once of which will take you over The Great Barrier Reef or a combo that includes a flight and a cruise. Full details and prices can be found here.

Hiking

Last but not least is hiking. This will be the most cost-effective way to see the rainforest, but you would need to do your homework. There are so many entry points, because the forest is quite big. It all depends where you would like to start. I would suggest starting where you got off the Karunda Railway trip or Skyrail trip. Each of those have starting points with experienced rangers to show you the way. You can also swing your way through all the trees like Tarzan, but hiking will be enough for me.

Palm Cove

Palm Cove

This coastal suburb of Cairns will make you feel like you are on a tropical island, without having to pay an arm and a leg for it. Two birds again. Just a stone’s throw from the city centre, this beach is named after the palm trees that line it. The summer temperatures range between 24 – 33 degrees Celsius and the winter temperatures range between 14 – 26 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not too shabby, which means that you can pretty much visit whenever you feel like it. Obviously the summer would be better, especially if you have children that would like to swim, but for someone like me, the winter will do.

Just 19mi from the Great Barrier reef’s Arlington Reef section, you can hook onto a passing dolphin and make a free day trip to The Reef. The Palm Cove jetty allows for fishing and is one of the most popular fishing spots where anglers regularly catch sharks or mackerel, or that dolphin that you would need for your trip.

Bungee jumping

Bungee Jump Cairns

Sure you can visit another crocodile farm, but you are in a paradise. Leave the crocodiles for when you are in The Outback and rather get the juices flowing by doing something that you cannot do anywhere else in Australia; a bungee jump from a tower. It’s nothing too serious; you hurl yourself off a 50m platform and all that saves you from becoming a kebab in one of the trees below, is a rope tied to your waist by a complete stranger that you only met 20 min before and hopefully didn’t pee off. For this privilege you would need to pay £145 or $179 or £120 or $139 per child between the ages of 10-14. Upon completion, you will receive a t-shirt and a certificate to show off to your friends at home and if you slip the rope tier a little something extra, he can tie the other end of that rope to an acme anvil…… So who are you going to choose for the jump?

Choose your jump

Bungee Jump in Cairns

If you don’t feel like doing a conventional jump, you can pick and choose off a menu with 16 different jumps available. From back dive and blindfold to driving off the edge with a BMX whilst fully naked, the adrenaline will not stop and if that’s not enough you can finish the day with a swing from that same tower or an even more exhilarating 15,000 ft skydive. And at £300 or $366 for a jump and a skydive combo, these will be two of the best things you’ll ever get to do in one day.

For anyone that would rather keep their feet safely on the ground, you can ride a quad bike for 90min through the rain forest with snakes, spiders and rabid bats getting you from all sides or you can take on the crocs while rafting in the rivers. If one of them bites a hole in your dingy, you will shoot off like a rocket and complete the course in a record time. Just make sure that you hold on. For more adventures and activities and full combos and deal prices, please click here.

Water Sports

Kayak in Palm Grove

With the sun high up in the sky and trying its best to burn you like the wife’s Sunday roast, where else would you rather be than in the water? I found three companies, that specialise in the different water sport activities, which will try their very best to tire you out so much, that you will be a lump of clay at the end of the day and a major pain in your better half’s hindquarters.

Snorkelling in Palm Grove

Snorkelling and kayak combo. Costing around £95 or $120 per adult and around £75 or $90 per child, you will paddle to the fringing reefs where you will get to see fish jump out of the water in front of your boat, before descending into the clear turquoise water to watch the reef and its residents in all their glory. Up close and personal with the whole cast of Finding Nemo; now that’s another thing to brag about to your friends.

Stand up paddle board. It’s just as it sounds. You stand up on a board with a paddle in your hand and you row while looking for turtles and dolphins. A 45-min tour will cost you around £40 or $50 and for your little one under the ages of 16, around £22 or $30. Full details and prices for the above two activities can be found here.

Go extreme

Kite Boarding in Palm Grove

Kite boarding. This is an exciting one. If you haven’t done this before, you would need some lessons, otherwise it will just be you being dragged through the water by a kite, while desperately clinging to a board to stop you from drowning. It never happened to me before. The cost for this experience will be around £80 or $100 for a one-hour lesson, so it’s a bit pricy, but imagine the satisfaction you would feel once you were able to surf behind a kite. Longer lessons and group lessons are available, so please check all details here.

Jet Ski Palm Grove

Zooming along on a jet ski. Now this is something I’ve always wanted to do and for some reason never really had the chance. This is definitely on my bucket list; racing across the blue water and passing close enough to my ball and chain on her kayak and make her fall over. For that I’ll easily pay a couple of grand, but these people only charge £80 or $100 for 15min or £120 or $150 for 30min. I think the 30min option is the most cost effective and 15min will seem way too fast. The good thing is that you don’t need a licence or even previous experience, so you can get straight into the zooming stuff without having to sit through lessons first.

A few honourable mentions:

  1. Hiring a fishing boat for £120 or $140 for two hours.
  2. Boogie boards.
  3. 12 ft tinny
  4. Aqua Bike
  5. Sailing cats
  6. Other watercraft, please see here for full details.

And this is it for Queensland, folks. Brisbane, the capital, has so much to do that I would need to do another post just for that city.

As always, safe travels and don’t forget to share this post with everyone that you know. It will show them that you care.

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