A Great Inland Day Trip from Coast via Great Barrier Reef Drive

Port Douglas, Julatten, Mt Molloy, Mareeba and Kuranda

Taking a Day Trip along the Great Barrier Reef drive on the coast to inland Atherton Tablelands along Mulligan Highway makes it one of the most changing scenic drives in Far North Queensland. You get to witness the dramatic changes of scenery that keeps you going for more…

What you will see on this Day Trip Drive

Taking a long circuit drive along the coastal city of Cairns to the inland region of Atherton Tablelands along Great Barrier Reef Drive will give you a great insight into some of the unreal scenic adventure this region has to offer. The city of Cairns is full of fun activities and attractions for tourists, making it one of the top holiday spots in Australia. The city of Cairns and its surrounding areas is also privileged to be surrounded by incredible natural beauty, with world class attractions – Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Outback and more with laid back beach side suburbs and towns.

Being inland the nature-rich Atherton Tablelands and Daintree boasts rainforest covered mountain ranges, national parks and charming country towns to explore. I would recommend anyone staying for an extended stay in Cairns region, take a few day trips out to these attractions is a must. This great place with an abundance of natural wonders are located here. I made sure that I was well prepared by reading about all the things I wanted to know before taking this scenic day trip.

In wasting no time gettting on the road in the early hours of Saturday summer morning, I left Cairns city and drove along coastal Great Barrier Reef Drive as I enjoyed the spectacular views over the Coral Sea. Driving along this picturesque road, felt like I was driving on the edge of the sand. Just 30-minutes of drive from Cairns, is Rex Lookout.

Rex Lookout

Rex Lookout, a cliffside beside the road that overlooks towards the reef, coastline and mountain ranges. Stopping here for the birds eye view of place, was sure to satisfy my craving for photography and stunning views. It is a popular viewing stop for tourists, tour buses and any travellers along this scenic route. A great location to relax while enjoying the dramatic landscape view of the mountain, the ocean, the coastline and the cool sea breeze splashing onto my face while thrill-seekers, hang-gliders jumping off the cliff and flying above at the same time.

Port Douglas

I continued driving northbound with comfortable highway cruising before ducking off the highway to the resort town of Port Douglas, located on the seaside and the gateway to Great Barrier Reef. For any visitors, it is highly recommended to visit this little lively tourist seaside town. It has few local attractions which cannot be ignored – having breakfast with the birds at the Rainforest Habitat, Outer Reef trips and has some of the best restaurants in town. Without having to stop for shopping nor visiting tourist attractions sites on day trip drives, I headed straight to Port Douglas lookout and the view from the lookout did not disappoint me either.


A little drive further, I turned off to the left for Julatten and Mt Molloy via the Rex Range road about 10 kilometres past the Port Douglas turnoff. This road can be slippery during winter and rainy season and considered to be dangerous. The Julatten and Mt Molloy Tableland is very scenic and well known for its benign climate at a little over 400m elevation. As I began my drive up the range, I could feel the coolness of fresh air in the high country of Julatten, surrounded by greeen lavish trees and feel the energy of the rainforest. This tiny place, Julatten is tucked away in the rainforest just to the west of Port Douglas and ten minutes drive from Mt Molloy. This small town is the heart of wildlife, especially birds and attracts thousands of bird-watchers each year. Here, I settle for lunch at the only pub – ‘The Highlanders’ situated among the rainforest.

Mt Molloy

After an incredible pub lunch among the rainforest, it was only 10-minutes drive to Mt Molloy. This small town with a population of around 300 makes it an interesting town to visit. Only with one pub, a bakery, small general store, petrol station, a cafe and couple of tiny shops. However, tourism is growing steadily as visitors discover the beauty, wildlife and history of this area and its surrounding towns of Julatten, Maryfarms and Mt Carbine, considering Mareeba township 30 kilometres away.


Just 30 minutes from Mt Molloy on the Mulligan Highway, is the town of Mareeba. This town is multi-cultural, rich in wildlife, coffee and wine, with 300 days of clear blue skies makes it perfect for flying. Mareeba has a rich history dating back to the gold mining days. This town is a farming land, once a major tobacco growing area but now bananas are the most important crop by value apart from other vareity of fruits and vegetables. The region is a magnet for self-drive visitors and during winter months. It becomes a popular destination for Grey Nomads as they make their pilgrimage journey during the winter periods each year for suntan and enough time to explore the area. The town is the gateway to Cape York and Gulf destinations but entertainment heart of this town is the famous Mareeba Rodeo and The Great Wheelbarrow Race. It is fun and vibrant town. It was worth a visit to the Heritage museum, Saddler shop and Coffeeworks where I had my afternoon coffee with local produce, home-made cake.


With just the distance of 30 kilometres of easy drive, I arrived in Kuranda Village from Mareeba, my final destination. This small picturesque village located in the rainforest is well known for its diverse market including local arts and crafts shops and attracts visitors from all over the world. Many visitors come to enjoy its superb wildlife attractions, walking trails, river cruise, sovenir shopping and artists’ galleries. Since Kuranda Village is a major tourist draw-card to visitors from Cairns region and its surrounding areas, near and far, I made sure to allow myself plenty of time to enjoy the delights of Kuranda local flavour before making my way to admire the mighty 125m Barron Falls which cannot be missed when visiting Kuranda Village on a self-drive trip. Yes, no visit to Kuranda Village is complete without seeing the Barron Falls, arguably one of the most stunning falls in the region.

Leaving Kuranda Village late in the afternoon provided ample time for one last pitstop before real ‘home time’, this time just a couple of kilometres from Kuranda township heading to Cairns is the Henry Ross Lookout on the Kuranda range.

After spending a day on this Saturday scenic Day Trip Drive, it is no wonder, it is a go-to-do for holiday makers visiting the region. This drive will continue to be for decades for visitors to the region.

Categories: AUSTRALIA

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