In the tropics during the wet season, every Australian traveller needs a variety of indoor options in case it’s absolutely belting down outside.
Even the local tourist board’s officer in charge of happy faces would struggle to pretend that, in the tropics during the Wet, people don’t sometimes need to get out of the sheeting rain and inside. Mercifully, there are a few things on offer:
Magical history tour
Contrary to popular belief, the tropics aren’t all about rainforests, rocks and reefs – there’s a cultural aspect to northern Australia. Which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given that people having been living there for 40,000 years.
The Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park, just out of Cairns, is probably the best place to go to learn about Indigenous culture, lifestyle and history, even though it’s a bit touristy for some tastes. There are two main drawcards:
the theatre performances, including stories of Dreamtime creation and celebration dances; and the Tjapukai camp, where visitors can watch didgeridoos being played, boomerangs being thrown and traditional foods and medicines being prepared.
Where: Kamerunga Road, Smithfield, Cairns
Cost: $30 adults, $15 children (day); $84 adults, $42 children (night with buffet dinner)
Phone: (07) 4042 9900
If encountered during a monsoon, the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t quite have its usual magic; diving visibility can be shocking and being stuck on a boat in the midst of torrential rain is no fun at all. It’s worth waiting for a dry day to
take on the Reef, but if it’s pelting down, Reef HQ in Townsville is an excellent cheat’s method/taster for the real thing. Here they’ve transplanted a large section of coral reef and enabled it to thrive in an aquarium environment, complete with sharks and turtles swimming around a replica shipwreck. For those who want to dive but haven’t the time, courage or money, there’s an interactive section where you can go on a virtual dive of the Reef. The whole thing takes away the tedium of learning to equalise, that’s for sure.
Where: 2-68 Flinders St East, Townsville
Cost: Entry $21.50 adults, $10.50 children
Phone: (07) 4750 0800
Eye of the storm
If you think the heavy rain outside is fearsome, then thank your lucky stars you weren’t in Darwin for Christmas 1974. That was when Cyclone Tracy hit, killing 65 people and destroying 70 percent of the city’s buildings. A permanent exhibition dedicated to Tracy and the trail of devastation she left can be found in the superb Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. As well as showing a pretty resounding before and after, there’s the opportunity to put yourself in the middle of the cyclone. This entails shutting yourself in a small dark room while a genuine recording from the day plays. It’s utterly chilling. The place has a lot more going for it, too, including Sweetheart, a massive croc that got a little too friendly with fishermen, and some excellent Indigenous art.
Where: Conacher Street, Bullocky Point, Darwin
Phone: (08) 8999 8201
Grab the best deal
Aside from lack of crowds, the other bonus about going to the tropics in the Wet is that virtually everything – flights, accommodation, tours – is available at a substantial discount. However, these aren’t generally publicised until the Dry season tourists have gone home. It’s well worth shopping around for hotels and tours individually, as the slashed prices can often be cheaper than a good package deal. But if that sounds too much like hard work, Northern Gateway Holidays (1300 880 835 or www.northernterritoryholidays.com.au) do a five-day Wet season package for $785pp, including three nights accommodation in Darwin, one night in Kakadu, a two-day Kakadu tour, a Darwin city tour and a full day in Litchfield.
If you’re thinking of heading to the top of Queensland, then Travstar.com (1300 554 636 or www.cairnsinfo.com) does an eight-day Cairns package for $579, including a trip to Cape Tribulation deep in the rainforest, a sailing and snorkelling cruise on the Great Barrier Reef and a day out in Kuranda, home of the scenic railway.