Our Journey: Van life in Tropical Queensland

The far north of Queensland is my favourite part of the East Coast; from Mission Beach to Cairns, Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest.

It’s all about palm tree fringed beaches, calm turquoise waters and of course the Great Barrier Reef beyond.

This is what we got up to on our tropical Queensland roady and my recommended stops:

Mission Beach

If you’re heading north Mission is the first stop for palm trees and beach bathing.

There’s a handful of caravan parks, a couple of restaurants and cafes and one Woolworths to stock up at.

Otherwise it’s all about sunsets and reading a book on the sand.

This is a slice of what’s the come the further north you head.

Atherton Tablelands

Head inland for some waterfall hopping.

A favourite is Millaa Milla waterfall, made famous by Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl and the Herbal Essence shampoo advert…

Though I can’t say the waterfall looked much like either.

The water is freezing but you can take a swim – or like us, walk around and view it from a dry ridge.


Cairns is like a bigger Darwin – propelled by its humid climate, Bucks parties, hen groups, bogan holiday goers and equally as unkempt backpackers fill the bars and food stops on the promenade.

But look a little closer and there’s lots to love; it’s easy going round here with all the amenities of a bigger city.

The sunset makes for a perfect beach front stroll, there’s a giant lagoon with sandy beach to enjoy (because we all know the water is too dangerous up here) and a shiny marina with coffee stops that offer views of helicopter rides coming and going.

We spent our time here working on one of the many tour boats heading out to the reef. You can read more about how to save money and bag free scuba dives here.

Evenings are for mooching the waterfront for night market discounted food stalls and ice cream in the warm evening breeze.

Head north from the city and you’ll soon find quiet beaches you’ll only have to share with the local residents; Palm Cove to Ellis Beach.

Port Douglas

This is where the families holiday and the retired retreat.

Picturesque Port Douglas is a sort of upper class haven from Cairns, with restaurants and cafes and a safe swimming beach.

On a Wednesday you can head to the local yacht club in hope of being invited out for a sunset sail by a member.

We got lucky and enjoyed an evening on the water. Buy a drink or meal to give back to the club by way or thanks.

Cape Tribulation

Where two world heritage sites meet, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef…

The realisation you’re about to be cut off from the outside world hits you as you cross the Daintree River.

After this there’s nothing but dense rainforest, no mains power or water supply, and no mobile network for the next few hundred kilometres to the most northern point of the east coast of Australia.

You can read more about our time spent relaxing in this paradise here.

Kuranda Rainforest Village

A perfect day trip when the clouds roll in.

Head up into the moisture of the rainforest around Cairns and you’ll find Kuranda village complete with rainforest market and waterfalls.

The market wasn’t anything unique or special in my opinion, more a hippy hub selling the same stuff you’ll spot elsewhere. Though you can grab some Emu or Crocodile Jerky if you so fancy it.

There’s an option to ride a cable car and train up to the village, but driving is far cheaper.

We spent the most amount of time from the whole of our East Coast road trip in the tropical far north, just over two weeks, including the time dedicated to volunteering.

My top tip is budget enough funds and time to enjoy this end of the coast.

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