When it comes to natural wonders and wide-open spaces, there’s plenty worth seeking out in Australia. With over 500 national parks, the problem isn’t finding them – it’s choosing just one or two to visit. Here’s where we think you should head once you’ve picked up your rental car at the nearest Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch.
Whilst Cairns is a fantastic destination in itself, you’d be missing out if you didn’t hire a car and explore the beautiful surrounding area. From wildlife to waterfalls, there are plenty of exciting day trips on offer. Here are five of the best.
The oldest tropical rainforest in the world is one of Far North Queensland’s most popular attractions. Jump on the highway and head north for approximately 1.5 hours to arrive at the ferry. Take in the beautiful scenery of the Daintree River with a backdrop of lush greenery on the short transfer, and then meander your way through the tropical vegetation. See crocodiles in the wild on a specialist cruise, sample locally made tea, ice cream, and other treats, or enjoy a scenic bushwalk. Emerge from the dense forest onto stunning secluded beaches, and make your way to an array of lookouts boasting exquisite views. A guided tour will introduce you to the diverse range of flora and fauna found here, and you can opt to explore by car, kayak, horseback, or on foot.
Known for its glistening lakes, cascading waterfalls, and charming towns and villages, the Atherton Tablelands are sure to impress all travellers, whatever your interests are. Discover the beauty of Millaa Millaa Falls on the Waterfall Circuit, enjoy the thrill of a natural waterslide at Josephine Falls, or unwind in the natural infinity pool at Davies Creek Falls. Foodies will adore the range of farms and wineries, where you can sample and purchase a wide variety of mouth-watering delicacies, and even watch the process that goes into making them. Look out for platypi and the elusive Lumholtz tree kangaroo near Yungaburra, before enjoying lunch in a quaint cafe or country pub. Meanwhile, the larger town of Atherton offers shops, unique tourist attractions, and more. If one day isn't enough, you'll find plenty of camping and accommodation options, too.
Drive up the winding range to Kuranda, a quirky and vibrant village in the rainforest. Alternatively, park the car at Freshwater Station and take the vintage Scenic Rail to the top, returning by Skyrail rainforest cableway later. Once in Kuranda, you will discover bustling markets and shops selling a wide range of unique merchandise. This could be the perfect place to pick up some unique souvenirs or gifts. Get to know the true locals at several wildlife parks, or wander down to the Barron River to enjoy a cruise or a stroll. Don’t miss Barron Falls – one of the Queensland’s most impressive waterfalls, particularly during the wet season when it’s in full flow. When your stomach begins to rumble, Kuranda will leave you spoilt for choice with restaurants, cafes, and pubs serving up tasty treats from all around the globe.
Many tourists head to the Daintree Rainforest in the hopes of spotting a cassowary. However, you’re much more likely to see one further south on the Cassowary Coast, a short drive away from Cairns. Make your way to Etty Bay, one of the east coast's best-kept secrets, in the early morning or late afternoon for the best chance of spotting one of these remarkable flightless birds taking a stroll along the gorgeous beach. Discover the dreamy golden sand of Mission Beach, and explore the spectacular walking tracks nearby. Take a water taxi to nearby islands if you want to venture further afield, or go snorkelling at quiet sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Head further south to Cardwell if you want to soak in a natural spa pool, where a natural depression causes the water to bubble like a jacuzzi.
One hour north of Cairns lies a slice of tropical paradise: Port Douglas. If you’re looking for somewhere relaxing, this is it. Enjoy a swim at delightful Four Mile Beach, where you can enjoy pretty views of the mountains and palm trees from the sea. Walk or drive up to the lookout for sensational views of the beach and ocean, and take a walk down the main street to discover delightful souvenir shops alongside high-street chains. This small town is home to some of the area’s most exquisite restaurants, so don’t miss the opportunity to indulge. Visit on a Sunday if you want to experience the hustle and bustle of the Sunday markets, where locals and tourists come together to shop for everything from locally-made delicacies to fashion to homewares. When evening arrives, select the perfect spot to enjoy one of Port Douglas’ breathtaking sunsets.