Tropical North Queensland: The ideal family holiday destination

A recent holiday with my family to Australia has me convinced: Tropical North Queensland is the ideal family holiday destination.

It's an amazing destination with loads to do for tourists of all ages and I've written about my holiday highlights below.

Great Barrier Reef

If there's one thing you need to know about Tropical North Queensland, it's its proximity to the incredible Great Barrier Reef.

Port Douglas is the closest mainland port to this stunning region and we took a full day cruise with amazing snorkelling, spotting plenty of turtles and reef sharks in the crystal clear water. 

Fish and Coral

The pontoon at the Agincourt Reef is designed for everyone to enjoy the underwater world, even non-swimmers, with an underwater observatory, a semi submersible, helmet diving options and marine biologists on hand to answer any quirky questions. When you are travelling with kids, there's always a few of those.

There's even a helipad for those who want to take a 10 minute flight above the reef. We took the flight and it was well worth it - we were all blown away by the multitudes of colours and the opportunity to spot wildlife from above. It's a picture postcard view that gives an amazing perspective of the vast region below.

Cairns Aquarium

Back on land in Cairns, we headed to the Cairns Aquarium, which was a surprise highlight of the trip. It's the only aquarium in the world to exclusively showcase the stunning aquatic wildlife from tropical North Queensland's two World Heritage listed areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest under one roof.

It's gone to great lengths to do this, with 71 different exhibits showcasing the extremely rare and incredibly unique species of this region. 

Tropical North Queensland: The ideal family holiday destination

Endangered Freshwater Sawfish, Grey Reef Sharks and Humphead Maori Wrasse dominate the massive freshwater and marine habitats, while the Amethystine Python and Boyd's Forest Dragon make a spectacle of themselves in their treetop displays. Add to this a panorama of wildlife and fish that create an underwater world filled with a kaleidoscope of colour.

We were impressed that it had a strong conservation focus too, with biologists growing their own coral on site so as not to take from the ocean. They also have a turtle rehabilitation centre, looking after rescued turtles from all over Australia, plastic bag ingestion being one of the most common, and deadly problems.

Well worth a visit!

Aussie Wildlife

When you think of Australia, it's hard not to think about koalas and kangaroos. It turns out you can never pet, feed or cuddle enough of them and it's a constant highlight for the whole family throughout our stay.

We got to see blue tongued lizards, the elusive, massive cassowarys and have breakfast with the birds at Wildlife Habitat. We also got to scare the snakes and feed one of the largest crocodiles in captivity at a crocodile adventure park. 

Both of these attractions are in Port Douglas, and offer the awesome chance to revisit across multiple days on our entry ticket, so if you run out of time or would like to head back for a night visit, it doesn't cost extra. This is gold for families and means if you miss anything or the kids love something so much they want to return, you can.

The Daintree National Park is about a 45 minute drive from Port Douglas, and the Daintree Discovery Centre is right in the heart of the forest just north of the Daintree River. 

Tropical North Queensland: The ideal family holiday destination

It's here you can experience the forest from every level, from the forest floor to the uppermost canopy tower, 23m above the ground. 

Keep a keen eye out for pythons and cassowarys in the wild, plus the masses of butterflies and birds that live in this beautiful rainforest.

We drove a further 10 minutes into the forest for a well timed cold treat at a local ice-cream company - the amazing Daintree Icecream Company. 

Here, you can not only taste the food, you can see what its made of by walking amongst their organic fruit plantations.

Cairns Highlights

When basing yourself in Cairns, there is so much to see and do in a small amount of time, so we opted for a full day tour with a local operator offering a trip that ticked off the big four attractions: The Kuranda Scenic Railway, Skyrail, Rainforestation Nature Park and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.

The original Kuranda Scenic Railway is a spectacular journey with unsurpassed views of dense rainforest, steep ravines and picturesque waterfalls. This famous railway winds its way on a journey of approximately one hour and 45 minutes from Cairns to Kuranda, the village in the rainforest.

Tropical North Queensland: The ideal family holiday destination

The Cairns-Kuranda Railway was constructed between 1882 and 1891, and even today is considered an engineering feat. Hundreds of people were employed to build the 15 hand-made tunnels and 37 bridges that now stand as a monument to the pioneers of tropical North Queensland who lost their lives while working on the railway.

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in Australia - an all-weather experience in the heart of Kuranda. 

It's home to over 2000 magnificent tropical butterflies, which are all local rainforest species, including the electric blue Ulysses and the majestic green and yellow Cairns Birdwing butterflies.

After walking through the aviary, we visited the breeding laboratory, home to up to 4000 caterpillars.

This is a 100 acre tourist attraction set in the midst of World Heritage Rainforest. There's plenty to do here, including a trip on the amphibious World War II Army Duck, and a chance to learn how to throw a boomerang - properly. It's a memory that will keep coming back.

I was nervous about the final in our big four: a 45 minute journey on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over and through the ancient Wet Tropics Rainforest. 

It's a fully immersive experience and we were once again blown away by the beauty of the area. 

Tropical North Queensland: The ideal family holiday destination

The perspective when being up high is incredible. On a fine day you can spot tree kangaroos and pythons in the forest. 

Our guide had a wealth of knowledge and passion for his job, like so many we met on this incredible trip, Australians really do love their country, have so much to offer and we loved it too.

Carly Flynn, Magic Talk's Saturday Life host, travelled with her family courtesy of Tourism Queensland.