With a 12 day drive time and over 2000 spectacular kilometers, The Great Tropical Drive is one mighty stretch of asphalt. Branching into 14 different trails, the drive is like one scenic choose your own adventure. And, for backpackers on a budget, it offers a lot of paradise for an affordable price.
If you are looking to check out the exciting routes along the Great Tropical Drive, a great way to experience the region is to hit the road in a hired camper between May and October. This way you will avoid wet season and have the freedom to explore at your own pace.
With beaches, adrenaline pumping activities and bars aplenty, you won’t see the same sights twice. To begin the trip, here is a three-day Tropical Drive itinerary around Cairns, Port Douglas and the Daintree.
Cairns to Cairns
Best Time of the Year
Jungle Adventures Nightwalk
Cairns to Port Douglas
Kicking off the road trip in Cairns, take the Captain Cook Highway north for one hour until you reach your first destination – Port Douglas. Like so many towns along the Great Tropical Drive, Port Douglas is all about celebrating North Queensland’s turquoise tropical waters.
Hit sand over to 4 Mile Beach for a relaxing swim or surf; or walk up to Island Point, where you’ll be rewarded with an unbelievable view of coastal Queensland. It’s a great place for a picnic.
If you are keen to go offshore to experience the stunning natural beauty of the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef, then contact Blue Dive tours. Limiting their diver numbers to just eight people, Blue Dive will take you out to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas, and bring you up close and personal to one of the great natural wonders of the world.
After a full day’s activities, is a great place to spend your first night. Dougies Backpackers allows campers to from only $15AUD per person, plus an extra $2AUD to tap into the sites power supply. Check out the bar then hit the sack after a couple of cold ones.
Port Douglas to Cooktown
Wake up, pack up, and head up the Mulligan Highway from Port Douglas to the Daintree Forrest. For those with a taste for adventure, try jungle surfing with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. Located in Cape Tribulation, approximately 2.5 hours north of Cairns, jungle surfing is an exciting way to experience the Daintree Rainforest via a series of fast, yet smooth zip line cables.
If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, we recommend taking the Jungle Adventures Nightwalk. Experience a side of the jungle rarely seen by visitors as the two hour guided trek after sunset, takes you into a world full of amazing creatures and exciting sounds. Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours offer Nightwalk tours from $40AUD per person and bookings are essential.
Back in the camper; continue north along the Mulligan Highway for around three and a half hours until you hit Cooktown. Situated at the mouth of the river Endeavor, the town is named after famous British explorer, Captain James Cook and lies at the spot where he came ashore in 1770.
If you’re a history buff, you might want to pay the $10AUD entry to look round the quaint James Cook Museum. Rejoice ye, because tonight you will be camping at a historic pub. The Lion’s Den Hotel offers unpowered camping for $12AUD a night and an all-day pizza menu.
Cooktown to Cairns
After waking early and gulping down a big breakfast, turn around and travel back down the coast stopping off at Black Mountain National Park.
The highlight of Black Mountain is, unsurprisingly, a black mountain made of massive granite stones. It also boasts a wide variety of wildlife and several walking trails.
Back in the camper, jump onto the Mulligan Hwy and navigate your way past the Port Douglas turn off to Cairns. One of the most popular destinations for tourists to North Queensland, there are many things to experience in Cairns. However, there is no better way to end the trip than with a heart-stopping skydive.
At 14,000 feet, Skydive Cairns offers the highest skydive jump in Australia with an epic 60 seconds of free-fall. With over 1 million jumps under their belt, the crew at Skydive Cairns will offer you one of the most unforgettable experience and views of the Great Barrier Reef for $334AUD.
So ends the first three days of The Great Tropical Drive. Where ever you choose to go next, Northern Queensland is your oyster.