Atherton Tableland

Meet the five precincts of the Wet Tropics

Aristotle may have been one of the first to acknowledge the number five as having profound qualities – that the universe is made up of five elements – but mother nature has always known five reigns supreme.

We humans have five senses, five fingers and toes, but most importantly, the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics covers five precincts – and there’s something very special about each and every one.

You’ll find this quintuplet scattered 490km from Townsville’s nose to Tropical North Queensland’s tail, each offering a distinctly different Wet Tropics experience from one another.

From dry woodlands to misty mountains, the hardest decision you’ll make this year is which sort of World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics adventure is for you.

1. For the most famous Wet Tropics experience: Northern Wet Tropics

Mossman Gorge | Meet the 6 precincts of the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics

Mossman Gorge | Photo by @ingooeland

Tourism accounts for more than 200 million trips to the Wet Tropics each year, but the Daintree precinct captures more attention than any other on this list.

It’s no wonder – parts of the Daintree around Cooper Creek, Noah Creek and The Peaks are said to be the oldest section of the rainforest, outstripping the Amazon Rainforest by tens of millions of years.

What’s more, it’s a hotbed of tours and attractions – more so than any other area – making it ideal for visitors who want to leave the decision-making up to the people who know it best.

The world is your day-trip oyster here. Spend it walking in the footsteps of the rainforest’s ancient custodians at Mossman Gorge Discovery Centre, or sleep amongst it at Silky Oaks Lodge.

Want to know more about the Daintree? Check out these reasons you need to visit the Daintree right now.

2. For a rainforest relationship of convenience: Cairns and Central Coast

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway | Meet the 6 precincts of the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics

Photo by @jarradseng

So you’ve come to Cairns and you want a bit of rainforest action. That’s easy when you’ve got Wet Tropics rainforest just 20 minutes from your hotel’s doorstep.

The Rainforest Village of Kuranda is one of the closest tastes of Wet Tropic wonderland – best explored by a combination of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Kuranda Scenic Railway to its lofty 330m-above-sea-level heights.

This village sure knows how to put on a show, with markets open every day from 9:30am to 3:30pm, drawing a crowd who come for the rainforest but stay for local artisan treats.

If you can, time your visit with the wet season to see the thunderous Barron Falls in action. Even though the best lookouts are still kilometres away from the drop itself, you’ll be enveloped in its mist when she’s pumping.

Want to explore Cairns beyond the rainforest? Check out these hotels, shopping spots and day trips during your time in town.

3. For hardcore animal-spotting: Tablelands Wet Tropics

Lumholtz tree kangaroo | Meet the 6 precincts of the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics

Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo | Photo by @caleb.mac_media

If the Southern Atherton received a report card, it would get full marks for its fauna diversity.

Even though the Wet Tropics only takes up 0.2 per cent of Australia’s land mass, it’s habitat to more than a quarter of the marsupial species in the country – a factoid worthy of James Cook University professor Stephen Williams labelling the Southern Atherton area, “the most Biodiverse location in Australia”.

The animal encounters don’t stop here though – wrap your bushwalking gear around these stats. The Wet Tropics is home to:

  • 663 species of vertebrate animals
  • 230 butterfly species
  • 2,800 vascular plant species – 700 of which are found nowhere else in the world
  • 16 out of the world’s 28 lineages of primitive flowering plants
  • Oh, and in case that’s not enough for you, there are at least 50 flowering plant species found nowhere else in the world.

While the Southern Atherton’s most famous face might be the Lumholtz tree kangaroo at first glance, it’s not the animal which demands the most serious scientific attention up here.

Scientists are all about the white lemuroid ringtail possum which is so rare, there are just four known left in the wild. Four!

Looking for more Southern Atherton holiday ideas? Check out these reasons to visit the Wet Tropics, these waterfalls, and these places to refuel your adventure.

4. For cassowary spotters & laid back holidaymakers: South Central Wet Tropics/Cassowary Coast

Cassowary Coast | Meet the 6 precincts of the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics

Photo by @kittycatuk

It’s well known the Wet Tropics ia cassowary country – so much so that they’ve named an entire coastline after ’em.

Packed with lowland tropical rainforest and plenty of licuala fan palms, the Cassowary Coast offers the best chance at spotting these beaky birds.

Compared to other parts of the Wet Tropics, the mountains and valleys of the Cassowary Coast precinct are undeniably the wettest. But don’t let this put you off your twitching game.

Cassowaries, like humans, enjoy a beach stroll and it’s not uncommon to see them stretching their legs in the morning and afternoon sun.

Off the beaten track and in the rainforest, you’re likely to see them too. You’ll find the walking tracks around Mission Beach have been graded to suit your holiday pace – with most sitting below the 3km round trip mark – perfect for holidaymakers not so au fait with boots and a backpack.

Considering all rainforest experiences in this precinct are found within a national park footprint, there’s no price barrier to getting amongst it in this section of the Wet Tropics.

Looking for more ideas to extend your stay in this neck of the woods? Check out this guide to Mission Beach and Tully.

5. For a waterfall to end all other waterfalls: Southern Wet Tropics

Wallaman Falls | Meet the 6 precincts of the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics

Australia’s largest single-drop waterfall needs no introduction if you’ve read these five reasons to put Wallaman Falls on your bucket list.

But what most people miss in the jeux de vie of racing to the bottom is the fact they’re surrounded entirely by World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics rainforest.

Instead of just keeping your eyes peeled for this jaw-dropping waterfall, look to the forest floor for the array of plant and animal life. Count yourself lucky if you catch a glimpse of a musky rat-kangaroo or a cassowary on this walk too.

While Wallaman might take the cake for being the most famous fall in Queensland, don’t forget there are other waterfalls within the World Heritage Area, which will save you a four-hour walk to the bottom, like the Crystal Cascades, Barron Falls, and Josephine Falls, which you can read about in this list.

If you’re looking for another epic waterfall to chase, head to Paluma National Park, an hour and a half north of Townsville.

There are two famous sections to this park – Crystal Creek and Jourama Falls – which both call for togs (aka bathers) and a towel in your bushwalking daypack.

Cascading down five or six tiers in the Seaview Range, Jourama Falls manages to look and feel like lots of little waterfalls – providing plenty of bang for your waterfall buck.

On the other side of the park, Big and Little Crystal Creek promise picture-perfect swimming conditions, framed by a handmade bridge built in the 1930s.

Want more Paluma news? Check out these ways to get a natural high in Townsville.