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The tropics: Rockhampton to Cape York


The tropics kick in at Rockhampton, 100km north of Gladstone, but with the exception of the Mackay region – a splash of green with a couple of good national parks – it’s not until you’re well past the tropic line and north of Townsville that the tropical greenery associated with north Queensland finally appears. Then it comes in a rush, and by the time you’ve reached the tourist haven of Cairns there’s no doubt that the area deserves its reputation: coastal ranges covered in rainforest and cloud descend right to the sea. Islands along the way lure you with good beaches, hiking tracks and opportunities for snorkelling and diving: Great Keppel near Rockhampton, the Whitsundays off Airlie Beach, Magnetic Island opposite Townsville, and Hinchinbrook and Dunk further north are all must-sees. Cairns itself serves as a base for exploring highland rainforest on the Atherton Tablelands, coastal jungles in the Daintree and, of course, for trips out to the most accessible sections of the Great Barrier Reef.

The region’s weather involves dry, relatively cool winters (June–Aug) and extremely humid summers (Dec–Feb) with torrential rainfall and devastating cyclones – February and March are the months when the worst systems, such as Cyclone Yasi in 2011, are most likely to hit.

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