Tropical Outback Australia

via Cairns, North Queensland

An aboriginal rock painting at Split Rock, Laura, far north Queensland showing dingos and spririt beings
An aboriginal rock painting at Split Rock, Laura, far north Queensland showing dingos and spririt beings. Photo Credit: Doug Beckers CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

The wonders of North Queensland's tropical outback are accessible by day trip from the popular tourist destinations of Cairns and Port Douglas.

The world renown North Queensland rainforest meets the outback at Mareeba, Herberton and Ravenshoe: gateways to the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York Peninsula.

On a day trip from Cairns, visitors can see Historic Mining villages and townships, including Herberton, Irvinebank, Chillagoe, Tyrconnell and Mt Carbine. There are also historic Gold fields and great outback adventures.

The Tropical Outback is a region of Spectacular natural wonders, and a time capsule stretching back 400 million years, when the Great Barrier Reef was located at Chillagoe. Today this can be viewed as a legacy of fossils, intriguing limestone cave systems, outcrops of ancient coral standing out starkly against the outback sky and the bones of marine dinosaurs uncovered nearby.

On your way to Chillagoe, stop for a drink at Lappa Junction and see the old Espanol Hotel.

Between the pristine, white sandy beaches of Cairns and Port Douglas, and the rugged outback beauty of Chillagoe is an amazing array of changing landscapes accross the Tropical Atherton Tablelands.

Further west in the Gulf Savannah outback, you can visit the gem fields and gold fields of Mt Surprise and Georgetown.

Cape York Peninsular can be reached by taking the Mulligan Highway to Lakeland Downs where it joins the Peninsular Developmental Road.

Choose a route through the Tropical Outback suited to your level of adventure by using our suggested itineraries or join one of our great local guided tours for the adventure of a lifetime.

North Queensland's outback can also be enjoyed in comfort by rail on the Savannahlander train. The train departs weekly from Cairns, traveling up the Kuranda Range through Mareeba and Lappa Junction to Forsayth on a four day tour. For more information on transport, including rail, bus, air, vehicle hire and tours, see our Tours and Transport guide.

The Savannah Way video guide for Queensland, showing the Cairns to Burketown leg of The Savannah Way.

map of Cairns, Atherton Tablelands and Tropical Outback
Click to enlarge