Cairns (tours from Yorkey's Knob), QLD, Australia cruises
The Great Barrier Reef stretches for almost 1,500 miles off the Queensland Coast. It is an astonishing system that combines thousands of individual reefs, coral cays and tropical islands. Over 600 varieties of hard and soft coral attracts and shelters an extraordinary array of marine life, including starfish and crabs, a dazzling palette of tropical fish, turtles, sharks, dolphins and whales. You can explore part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site during your visit, whether by boat, on a diving or snorkelling trip, or perhaps even on a stunning overview by helicopter or light aircraft.
A huge swathe of Queensland itself has UNESCO World Heritage status too. It includes Daintree and Cape Tribulation, the world’s oldest surviving rainforest. Amidst its giant ferns, emerald vines and soaring trees are found the highest number of plant and animal species that are rare, or threatened with near extinction, anywhere on earth. Within its vast expanse, you can cruise along the Daintree River on the lookout for enormous saltwater crocodiles, or head into Mossman Gorge, a vision of granite boulders and freshwater pools.
Up in the hills, Kuranda’s nickname of the ‘village in the rainforest’ tells you what to expect. Getting there is simply magnificent. There’s a scenic railway that twists and turns its way up 1,000 feet above sea level. The journey takes you through 15 hand-carved tunnels, over bridges and past the dramatic veil of the Stony Creek Falls and the mighty Barron Falls. There’s also a cable car that glides effortlessly above the steamy canopy. You can choose to get there one way and return the other.
In Kuranda itself, you could handle non-venomous snakes, feed kangaroos and wallabies by hand, pose for photographs with a koala and step inside a butterfly sanctuary. The market stalls here are stacked with handicrafts if you’re looking for souvenirs.
The Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park makes a fascinating excursion too, inviting you to glimpse into a culture that dates back an astonishing 40,000 years. You could watch traditional dances, didgeridoo players and fire making ceremonies, and learn about hunting methods and tribal law. And who knows, you may even perfect the art of boomerang throwing.