Most of the state's great attractions are up along the coast: the huge Daintree Rainforest, the Outback oases of the Atherton Tablelands and the kaleidoscopic colors of the Great Barrier Reef. Palm Cove and Port Douglas make excellent bases, with small-boat cruises exploring the reef, or you can head into the mountains that hug the coastline. There are also luxury resorts on a few Great Barrier Reef islands and character accommodation in the heart of the rainforest. It's worth taking time to explore the Outback, with a few nights on a station giving a flavor of this pioneer world.


Cairns
Cairns is the colorful capital of Tropical North Queensland and the major gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The city is a gateway to an amazing selection of touring options encompassing the Reef, the Outback and the Rainforest. Take the Skyrail gondola to the market town of Kuranda and return to Cairns via the Kuranda scenic railway through lush rainforest. A visit to the Tjupukai Aboriginal Park is a must to learn of the local Aboriginal tribes and culture. The exclusive resort of Palm Cove lies 20 minutes north of Cairns, with hotels set on an esplanade behind a pristine palm fringed beach. An hour north of Cairns brings you to Port Douglas, the closest town to the Great Barrier Reef with Rainforest clad mountains sweeping down to sparkling sandy beaches.

Port Douglas
Located just north of Cairns, Port Douglas offers a sophisticated and low-key escape for travelers from around the world. Known as a glamorous hotspot for the famous, Port Douglas still manages to retain an unpretentious and relaxed ambiance: you'll only find buildings up to three stories high, not much taller than the nearby palm trees, boutique clothing shops and exquisite alfresco dining restaurants. A visit to Four Mile Beach is essential where you can laze away the day on the pristine sand. Enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes scattered along Macrossan Street or spend the afternoon shopping at the Marina Mirage. The Surf-Life Saving Club is located at the northern end of the beach, and during summer, is a great spot to take a refreshing dip in the protected waters in front of the club. Port Douglas is also a popular base from which to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests of the Wet Tropics, Daintree and Cape Tribulation. There are numerous tours that embark from Port Douglas, many combining the adventure experiences of the Reef and the Wet Tropics.

Palm Cove
Palm Cove offers a serene holiday experience. Set amidst an idyllic stretch of beach and luxurious resorts just north of Cairns, Palm Cove is a haven for the indulgent. Palm Cove offers a variety of activities for you. Spend your days lazing away on the beach or take a stroll along the esplanade through the many boutique shops and cafes. And when evening comes, there's a plethora of fine-dining restaurants and bars for you to enjoy late into the night. Spoil yourself with a relaxing massage or be more adventurous and participate in one of the tours that visits the Great Barrier Reef and nearby islands. Accommodation options range from luxurious resorts to boutique villas. So come visit Palm Cove and enjoy all that it has to offer. Only 20 minutes north of Cairns this beach community provides the perfect coastal town experience. A stroll along the beachfront esplanade past al fresco dining and luxury resorts and spa’s is the perfect end to a day. Palm Cove is also developing a reputation as the spa capital of Australia. The town has multitude of award winning spas for you to try each with there own special signature treatment. All the tours and activities that Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef are famous for are available from Palm Cove.

Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef, off Australia's east coast, is one of the wonders of the natural world. It is World Heritage listed and is one of Australia's, and the world's, premier vacation destinations. The combination of glorious weather, pristine rainforest, white sandy beaches, and an ocean varying in hue from blue to turquoise to green, ensures it's where the world wants to go to lie on the beach, swim, surf, snorkel, sail, bushwalk and birdwatch. The largest reef in the world measuring 2011 km in length and 72 km across at its widest point. Of the many hundreds of varieties of coral growing on the reef, the Staghorn (antler type) is one of the most common. The Great Barrier Reef is a true wonderland of color and beauty. The reef can be reached from many coastal points and can be explored on private charters, daily cruises, by seaplane, air charter and now, on special helicopter flights.

The area abounds with wildlife, including dugong and green turtles, varieties of dolphins and whales, more than 1500 species of fish, 4000 types of mollusc and more than 200 species of birdlife. The Great Barrier Reef system consists of more than 3000 reefs which range in size from 1 hectare to over 10,000 hectares in area. The reef is scattered with beautiful islands and idyllic coral cays and covers more than 300,000 square kilometres.

The corals which make up the various reefs and cays, and which are the base for this variety of sea and animal life, consist of individual coral polyps - tiny live creatures which join together to form colonies. Each polyp is a tiny jelly-like blob crowned by tentacles, and looks not unlike an anemone, but much smaller. Each polyp lives inside a shell of aragonite, a type of calcium carbonate which is the hard shell we recognise as coral. The polyps join together to create forests of coloured coral in interesting fan, antler, brain and plate shapes.

There are many different types of coral, some are slow growing and live to be hundreds of years old, others are faster growing. The colours of coral are created by algae. Only live coral is coloured. Dead coral is white. The ideal environment for coral is shallow warm water where there is a lot of water movement, plenty of light, where the water is salty and low in nutrients. Reefs are sensitive to climate change, to changes in patterns of water movement, and to physical damage - so problems like global warming, El Nino, the building of moorings or breakwaters, any additional nutrients running off land from human habitation, may well have a negative effect on the reef system, and thus on the sea and land animals which depend upon it for survival.

Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is over one hundred and thirty-five million years old – the oldest in the world. Approximately 430 species of birds live among the trees, including 13 species that are found nowhere else in the world.

North of Cairns in tropical far North Queensland, the Daintree is one of the most diverse and beautiful examples of Mother Nature in the world. It is home to the largest range of plants and animals on earth, and all are found within the largest chunk of rainforest in Australia - an area spanning approximately 1200 square kilometres.
This World Heritage Listed area contains the highest number of plant and animal species that are rare, or threatened with extinction, anywhere in the world. The Daintree Rainforest is a unique area, precariously balanced between the advances of development and the warnings of environmentalists. The Daintree Rainforest contains 30% of frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia, and 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species. 20% of bird species in the country can be found in this area. And it all lives in an area that takes up 0.2% of the landmass of Australia.

The Daintree Rainforest's addition to the World Heritage List in 1988 in recognition of its universal natural values highlighted the rainforest as being:
• An outstanding example of the major stages in the earth's evolutionary history,
• An outstanding example of significant ongoing ecological and biological processes,
• An example of superlative natural phenomena,
• Containing important and significant habitats for conservation of biological diversity.