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10-day Wild North Queensland itinerary: Cairns to Cooktown

When you’ve got enough time to explore beyond the city limits – and you’re itching for a little adventure – why not add swimming with minke whales, 4WD adventuring along the Bloomfield Track and experiencing spine-tingling Indigenous rock art to your list of things to do in Cairns and beyond.

This 10-day Tropical North Queensland road trip itinerary showcases the best of the World Heritage sites on offer, from the reef to the rainforest, and the rugged Wild North, where Indigenous storytellers and pristine dive sites await!

Day one

The Cairns Esplanade

AM: Arrive into Cairns and taxi 10 minutes from Cairns Airport to Hinterland Aviation, or spend a couple of hours walking around the beautiful Esplanade and Cairns City if you have time.

Lizard Island Resort

1pm: Fly to Lizard Island to overnight in luxury and get ready for one of the most epic dive experiences of your life! Mike Ball’s ‘Fly Dive Coral Sea’ expedition departs Cairns every Thursday and is geared towards the more adventurous diver with world-famous sites like the Cod Hole in the remote reaches of the Coral Sea.

(Alternatively, you can leave from Cairns and do three days on a liveaboard with Spirit of Freedom and end up at Lizard Island and spend a night in remote luxury.)

Day two to day five

AM: Meet the rest of the Mike Ball Dive Expedition crew for your liveaboard diving adventure. Prepare yourself for a hyper-colour reef reality and the potential to share the waters with dwarf minke whales (June and July).

Day six

Bloomfield Track Emmagen Creek

AM: Dock back in Cairns, hire a 4WD and head north to conquer the Bloomfield Track.

Stop in at Shannonvale Winery in Mossman to taste tropical fruit wine before driving 15 minutes to Silky Oaks Lodge for lunch at the Treehouse Restaurant and a refreshing swim in the Mossman River.

1:30pm or 3pm: Drive 40 minutes north to the Daintree River and catch the 2:30pm or 4pm tour with Bruce Belcher’s Crocodile Safari.

Daintree Wilderness Lodge

3:30pm or 5pm: Drive another 30 minutes and overnight at the Daintree Wilderness Lodge.

Day seven

Daintree Discovery Centre Boardwalk

AM: Learn more about the world’s oldest rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre and walk along Cape Tribulation beach – where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree.

Lions Den Hotel Cooktown

PM: After lunch at Whet Restaurant, drive the spectacular Bloomfield Track, across the many crystal clear rivers for around two hours before you reach the Lions Den Hotel for an afternoon sundowner beer with the old timers.

It’s just another 25-minute drive before you’ll arrive into Cooktown for the night.

Day eight

Guurrbi Tours

7:45am: Spend a half day with Willie Gordon, a Nugal-warra elder and master storyteller from Guurrbi Tours and join an Indigenous walk past an ancient birthing rock to learn more about this deeply spiritual location.

James Cook Museum

1:15pm: After grabbing some lunch, spend the afternoon checking out the James Cook Museum and learn the story of Australia’s earliest maritime explorer.

Stroll the wide welcoming streets, lined with grand Queensland architecture from the bygone gold rush days, and the botanic gardens filled with 62-hectares of native and exotic plants.

Day nine

Quinkan rock art Laura

AM: Wake early and drive two hours west to Laura to see the incredible Quinkan rock art. You can self-guide or book a tour through the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre.

Bring a packed lunch or head to the Laura pub for a meal afterwards.

Port Douglas Sail

Photo by @maxcoquard

PM: Drive three hours back to Port Douglas and settle into the seaside town just in time for a sunset sail and dinner.

Day ten

With Sugar Port Douglas

AM: Shop for homewares and pick up some souvenirs this morning. If your visit falls on a Sunday, head to the markets for a fresh lime and sugarcane juice.

PM: Have lunch at any of the alfresco restaurants in town before driving 66 kilometres south to Cairns to fly out.

Still want more? Then check out some other Great Tropical Drives and some hot Queensland holiday deals.

Did we miss anything? What else would you squeeze in with 10 days in the Wild North?