Experience the 21 Natural Wonders of Cairns that are magical and stunning
In Queensland, there is a lot that makes Queensland stand out from other states – the seafood, incredible hiking trails and of course, some of the natural wonders. In the northern part of Queensland state, just 2.5 hours flight from Brisbane city is the Tropical North Queensland city of Cairns. Cairns city is the jewel of Tropical Far North Queensland. This popular laid-back seaside city is an amazing place surrounded by unique landscapes and natural wonders. With so many reefs, camping spots, views and waterfalls. Cairns city’s trademark is the Great Barrier Reer and Daintree Rainforest.
Queensland is known for its stunning scenery and vast outback. With bustling cities scattered around the state, the real star of the show is the natural world. These natural wonders will take your breath away! If you are holidaying in this tropical paradise, you won’t miss these ultimate Far North Queensland natural wonders.
With super easy access to most of the natural wonders, makes Cairns a popular destination. I am fortunate that I didn’t have to drive hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to see these natural wonders. Incredibly, I live right on the door-step to one of the most famous natural wonders of the world – The Great Barrier Reef located here in Cairns. Beautiful in its own right, the city is full of stunning secluded beaches and rugged landscapes.
Over the past decade I have been fortunate to have been able to travel the world and seen some of the natural wonders of the world. For some reason, my last trip around French Polynesian Islands before the Covid pandemic hit truly changed my perception on how I view the world and its natural wonders. As a intrepid traveller, I like to capture some of this stunning reefs, lush jungles, natural beauty and most importantly is wanting to experience island life.
Here in tropical Cairns, I have captured and visited some of the breathtaking natural wonders that every visitor to the region need to visit and see these magical natural wonders. I have taken day trips (both sea and air) to the Great Barrier Reef and islands, driven to Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest, to Atherton Tablelands waterfalls, craters and lakes and to outback towns such as Chillagoe and Undara to see the caves and lava tubes.
I have been to these places many times and still conitnue to do so but quite honestly I am still surprised by how much I still enjoy these places. I’ve chosen 21 of Cairns regions most awe-inspiring natural wonders that will blow your mind away, not in particular order.
Natural Wonders of Tropical North Queensland
1: Great Barrier Reef
Australia’s icon, the Great Barrier Reef, is a sight not to be missed without a doubt. Being one of the world’s seven natural wonders, it holds the name of being the world’s largest coral reef. This Australia’s most iconic natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef is a ‘must-visit’ or ‘must-do’ list for those who love the ocean.This is the only living thing on Earth visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef was born 25 million years ago. The world’s largest reef system that stretches for 3,000 kilometers off the Queensland coast has 400 different types of coral and 1,500 species of tropical fish.
It is beautiful, stunning, magical and precious. If you are under it, on it, in it, above it – there are so many ways to experience this magical wonder and the crystal clear waters surrounding it. Great Barrier Reef is a colourful, upbeat, exotic and free spirited destination that will Change Your Latitude.
2: Daintree Rainforest
Going off the grid in the Daintree, the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. I orient myself at the Daintree Information Centre and learn about the origins of the rainforest. Explored the playground of nature and trekked through the dense flora and cruised along the winding waterways of the Daintree River. This jaw-dropping tropical rainforest made me felt like I’ve stepped straight onto the set of Survivor. The Daintree Rainforest is one of the most diverse and beautiful examples of Mother Natures work in the world. This ecologically unique rainforest is home to the most extensive range of rare plants and animals on earth, and all are found within an area of approximately 1200 square kilometers – the largest chunk of protected tropical rainforest in Australia and the oldest living rainforest in the world! It also contain the highest number of plant and animal species that are rare, or threatened with near extinction, anywhere in the world. The Daintree Rainforest is a unique area.
3: Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is where the two World Heritage sights of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest meet. Driven about 150km north of Cairns, an easy drive, took my car across the river on the Daintree Ferry (a unique experience for sure) and passed through amazing rainforest scenery and wonderful views of the coastal line. Tour Cape Tribulation Village, marvel at nature and stretch your legs with a rainforest walk. This stunning Cape has some incredible walking tracks and is home to some extremely rare fauna.
4: Mossman Gorge
Just 70 kilometres north of Cairns is the section of Daintree National Park, lies Mossman Gorge. Here I found immaculate water cascading over large granite boulders and into the Mossman River. I took a stroll along the boardwalk through the lower rainforest canopy and return along the riverside track. It is very important that I made sure to pack my camera as I want to have these scenic sights on film. Again, this jaw-dropping tropical rainforest made me felt like I’ve stepped straight onto the set of Suvivor in the Jungle.
5: Barron Falls
Just half an hour drive up Kuranda range from Cairns is Kuranda Village. Just 5 minutes drive out of the Kuranda village lies Barron Falls. The Barron Falls (Aboriginal: Din Din ) is a steep tiered cascade waterfall on the Barron River located where the river descends from the Atherton Tablelands to the Cairns coastal plain, in Queensland, Australia. The Barron Falls can be seen from Skyrail or Kuranda Scenic Rail journey where you will be able to disembark and capture this stunning falls.
6: MillaMilla Falls
MillaMilla Falls located in Atherton Tablelands is just a short drive away from Cairns. Travelling from Cairns, up Gillies range (off Gordonvale) to Malanda. Take on the MillaMilla-Ravenshoe road and the township is approximately 30 kilometres away from Malanda or 98 kilometres from Cairns. The images of its multiple picturesque waterfalls have graced thousands of travel pages. At 850 metres above sea level, the falls is nestled among emerald hills surrounded by lush dairy pastures, majestic rainforests and those magnificent cascades.
Home to panoramic views and the famous waterfalls circuit, Millaa Millaa Falls is a popular swimming spot…and good for spotting wildlife. The 17-kilometre waterfall circuit begins at Teresa Creek Road, just south of the township of Millaa Millaa encompassing Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls. Together, these falls are the most photographed waterfalls in Australia.
7: Curtain Fig Tree
Yungaburra is a picturesque village, largely unchanged since 1910 is just 68 kilometres from Cairns. This towns high profile landmark is the amazing Curtain Fig Tree, is only minutes from the village. It is a heritage-listed tree and is one of the largest trees in Tropical Nort Queensland, Australia. With no surprise, it is one of the best known attractions on the Atherton Tablelands.
The area is accessed by a short boardwalk from the sealed road and able to view this spectacular curtain fig tree from different vantage points along the boardwalk. This large fig tree in Curtain Fig Tree National Park is unique because the extensive aerial roots, that drop 15 metres to the forest floor, have formed a ‘curtain’. Starting from a seed dropped high in the canopy, this strangler fig grew vertical roots, which gradually became thicker and interwoven. Over hundreds of years these roots have strangled the host causing it to fall into a neighbouring tree-a stage unique to the development of this fig. Vertical fig roots then formed a curtain-like appearance and the host trees rotted away, leaving the freestanding fig tree. The tree is thought to be nearly 50 metres tall, with a trunk circumference of 39 metres, and is estimated to be over 500 years old.
8: Mt Hypipamee Crater
The Hypipamee crater, referred to as a volcanic pipe lies between Atherton and Ravenshoe township. The pipe was opened upward through surface rocks by gas produced from molten rock below and as a result of tremendous pressure, the vent exploded sending volcanic bombs far across the landscape. It has a diameter of 61 metres at the water level which is 58 metres below the platform. Even 85 metres below the water surface, the pipe hasn’t lost any of its dimensions.
9: Lake Eacham
Surrounded by stunning wildlife and beautiful forests, Lake Eacham is of volcanic origin placed on the Atherton Tableland (the Wet Tropics) in North Queensland. Lake Eacham is the more bumptious compared to Lake Barrine. Lake Eacham is popular spot for families and people to swim there and the lake frontage near the car park has easy access to the water, a big swathe of grass for sun bathing or a kick round and tables for picnicking. A pontoon is provided for swimmers. There’s a perimeter walk of 3km round the foreshore, which will take an hour or so but just take a short stroll down the path and you’ll see fish and maybe turtles in the clear water. There’s also a 1.4 km children’s walk with playful activities on the way.
10: Lake Barrine
Photo credit: website
Lake Barrine, 70km from Cairns is relaxation personified. The best way to enjoy this lake, I had to take a seat in its charming tea house and be mesmerised by the view out over the water to the old-growth rainforest all around. I have found my happy place. The lake is also about 65 metres deep and about a 1km wide. Indigenous people named it Barany. At 730m above sea level it has the look of an alpine lake albeit with tropical foliage. I took a boat trip round the edge of this volcanic crater’s brim to get to know the fascinating tropical ecosystem better. Birdlife galore, eels, turtles, fish and the occasional python.
11: Cathedral Fig Tree
With a crown as big as two Olympic swimming pools towering nearly 50m over you, this mighty 500-year-old tree will take your breath away, as I stroll along the boardwalk, gaze into the roots and canopy of this rainforest giant. To learn all there is to know about the tree from a sign near its base. Some of the fig facts will astound you. The Cathedral Fig Tree, Danbulla National Park is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, famed for its exceptional natural beauty, outstanding examples of the record of life, evolutionary history and remarkable diversity. The Cathedral Fig Tree is on the central part of the Atherton Tableland, 70km (1.5hrs) from Cairns. The tree is 26.6km from the western entrance and 4.4 kilometre on eastern entrance on Boar Pocket Road, off Gillies Range.
12: Green Island
Photo Credit: website
Green Island, located within the Great Barrier Reef is a very popular coral cay 27 kilometres offshore from Cairns. Just 45 minutes by boat across the Coral Sea from Cairns, has a magnificent, 6,000-year-old coral cay. This small island is surrounded by coral reef and protected in the Green Island National park and has an area of only 15 hectares (37 acres); it’s easy to walk the entire circumference of it in less than half an hour. Ringed by white-sand beaches and diverse marine life, and with a rainforest interior populated by a multiplicity of bird species, Green Island offers a taste of the attractions of the Great Barrier Reef conveniently close to Cairns.
13: Fitzroy Island
Fitzroy Island, an unspoiled paradise is a 45-minute ferry ride from the hub of Cairns. This island national park is close to Cairns on the mainland, and its surrounding waters form part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Fitzroy Island National Park is rugged with diverse landscapes featuring granite outcrops, open woodlands, rainforest, mangroves and coral beaches. I wasn’t disappointed as I stepped off the ferry, where I had the pleasurable time discovering Fitzroy Island’s peaks, valleys, rainforests, coral beaches, crystal clear springs, and wildlife. This island is an ideal place for families and for those who love the island life.
14: Davis Creek Falls
Davies Creek Falls located in Atherton Tablelands is in Davies Creek National Park, lies between Cairns city and Mareeba township. It is only just 53 kilometres of drive north-west of Cairns. To reach the Davies Creek Falls, is a 5km drive along the corrugated dirt road, off the main Mareeba highway. I drove along the gravel path that lead to the lookout and the view was surpringly very rewarding. The huge rock platform allowed me to see straight down to the Falls and to the rockpool below. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking.
15: Crystal Cascade
Crystal Cascades just 25 minutes drive from Cairns city is one of the secrets of Cairns and Tropical North Queensland that locals wish they could hide from visitors. It is a secluded freshwater swimming hole, hidden in a wonderfully cool tropical rainforest accessible by self drivers. Set in a deep gorge, Crystal Cascades has a series of water holes and waterfalls in a section of Freshwater Creek. Shaded by rainforest canopy and surrounded by boulders, this hidden paradise is not regularly frequented by tourists, as it can only be reached by driving your own car.
Take a walk along the concrete pathway from the car park, surrounded by rainforest and within seconds you to see a series of steps that lead down to the pools and waterfalls. Tucked away among the rainforest, this delightful swimming hole is one of Cairns best kept secrets. Crystal Cascades is a freshwater swimming hole and very popular with locals. It is one of the most stunning areas of Tropical North Queensland, Crystal Cascades – so named for its sparkling clear water.
16: Granite Gorge
Granite Gorge, a privately owned nature park near Mareeba is popular with day-trippers and campers. It is situated in Atherton Tablelands, about 75 kilometres drive west from Cairns and only 12 kilometres west of Mareeba on Chewko Road. This gorge is nestled in a eucalyptus forest with stunning scenery and lots to see and do. Once you get there, it you feel the sense of quietness and tranquility, with a maze of walking tracks over acres of massive granite boulders through national park.
The Gorge is like no other place in the world, this spectacular landscape stretches as far as the eye can see, volcanic activity has forged up huge weird-looking boulders with some resembling animals, these massive boulders will leave you in awe. The trademark of this park is the rock-wallabies that your able to come close this amazing creature and your able to feed them.
17: Frankland Islands
Photo credit: website
To experience a tropical island that is uninhabited and unspoilt is Frankland Islands. The Great Barrier Reef’s Frankland Islands are a pristine archipelago located south of Cairns (via Deeral and the Mulgrave River) 10 kilometres off shore, about 45 kilometres south-east of Cairns (between Cairns and Babinda).
The group consists of five continetal islands which are part of coral cay, part coral atoll, with a rainforest with varied flora and fauna. These islands: Normanby, High, Russel, Round and Mabel, which together they form part of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Cairns Tropical North Queensland, Australia. To be on the island was an incredible way to experience this tropical islands that are uninhabited and unspoilt. With limited number of people allowed (max 100 people) on the island makes it a perfect place to go with no crowds.
18: Babinda Boulders
Babinda Boulders, located 6 kilometres to the west of Babinda township is about 60 kilometres south of Cairns. The Boulders are a series of large granite boulders in the Babinda Creek which have been worn smooth by tropical rains. They are dramatic and dramatically beautiful sight to see.
To see this natural beauty, I didn’t have to travel far from cairns to see and enjoy it. It is truly beautiful and a hidden spot in the tropical rainforest in the foothills of Bartle Frere, Queensland’s Highest Mountain (1622m). The creeks were crystal clear for a cool swim but the Boulders were worth seeing.
19: Josephine Falls
Just 75 kilometres south of Cairns lies Josephine Falls. The Josephine Falls is a tiered cascade waterfall on the Josephine Creek and is a scenic waterfall fed by rains falling on Queensland’s highest peak, Bartle Frere. It was extremely refreshing place to visit this natural beauty and certainly refreshing to cool off in the creek.
20: Chillagoe Caves
Photo Credit: website
To get to Chillago, it takes approximately 3 hours’ drive west from Cairns (or 2 hours from Mareeba). To see this spectacular limestone caverns, passages and stalactites, you need to journey down narrow passageways and steep winding stairs to discover the spell-binding natural beauty of limestone caves. Most of the action is deep underground—a labyrinth of caves, caverns and passages, formed by dissolving of the limestone bedrock over eons (we’re talking 400 million years). This striking, yet unusual rock formation formed after intense volcanic activity and mineralisation shaped the then coral reef environment are stunning and worth visiting this place.
21: Undara Lava tubes
Just 265 Kilometres or 4-hour drive south-west of Cairns lies one of the longest lava tubes in the world – Undara Lava Tubes. It is the place where you can explore natural geological wonders, enjoy the comforts and hospitality of a unique outback setting. These voIcanoes are extinct but only just. Active from 8 million years ago, they are some of Australia’s youngest volcanoes.
Undara needs to be experienced!. The only best way for me to experience Undara Lava Tubes and the wildlife was to stay in the restored train carriages overnight. I was glad I did.
With all this natural wonders within proximity of each other, the interesting fact I have learnt is that the best way to enjoy this stunning and magical natural wonders is to stay a little longer rather than spending only few days.
So very beautiful.
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Great article. Look forward to seeing some of these places
Thank you and enjoy the places when you visit