July 22, 2006
The Great Tropical Drive. No.2 of the Great Drives of Australia
You won’t find this anywhere else on earth. Two of the world’s greatest living treasures – the reef and the rainforest – meet on the Great Tropical Drive, which is divided into five sections: Northern, Western, Southern, Central and the Great Green Way. Loop north from Cairns to Cooktown via the Captain Cook Highway (right), then inland south through lush tropics and golden savannah to Charters Towers, before curving north again to the coast via Townsville. Rainforest spilling down mountainsides to meet the sea in a chain of magnificently deserted white beaches, cassowaries darting in and out, the loop through the jungley Atherton Tablelands – it’s a piece of Tropical Queensland most tourists don’t even know is there.
Total distance: Cairns to Cairns loop, 2079km
Day 1: Cairns to Port Douglas, 72km
Day 2: Port Douglas to Cook Town, 261km
Day 3: Cook Town to Atherton, 300km
Day 4: Atherton to Undara, 209km
Day 5: Undara to Charters Towers, 395km
Day 6: Charters Towers to Townsville, 133km
Day 7: Townsville to Cairns, 349km
Slow down for . . .
Best kept secret
Hou Wang Temple in Atherton is all that remains of a once thriving Chinatown. The small timber and iron temple built in 1903 has somehow managed to survive, while all around it buildings were demolished and carted away for scrap. It’s still fitted out with the original elaborate carvings, bell and metal vessels brought from China. Guided tours run on demand.
The new Australian Coffee Centre at Skybury’s coffee plantation near Mareeba runs guided plantation tours and also has a terrific cafe. Taste their delicious own-grown coffee on a deck with views that stretch forever.
Accommodation pick of the bunch
Jabiru Camp, Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve. phone: (07) 4093 2514 website: www.mareebawetlands.com
This article appeared in Issue 10 of Australian Traveller.
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