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Self Drive Tropical North Queensland: Fun & Adrenalin for all levels of Crazyness!!!


Elisa, Max and Greg, are three international travellers in search of adventure and good fun for their self drive holiday in Australia. They have 7 days, a 4WD and loads of energy to explore and discover Tropical North Queensland. Starting in Cairns the crew headed north to Cooktown before driving south to Mission Beach and then back up the coast to Cairns… and what were their best experiences along the way? Let’s just say they weren’t all the same. There is truly something for everyone in Tropical North Queensland!

Elisa the Intrepid Explorer

  1. Koala cuddling

Australia is famous for its wildlife, fluffy or deadly… Queensland is one of the two States in which you can actually hold and pet a koala. They are so cute, sure, but don’t even think of touching them in the wild, they have big scary claws! So I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to hold one and had to walk into Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas. Excited like a little girl while waiting for the iconic animal to arrive, I didn’t know what to expect…The koalas you can hold are well trained and very much used to being in contact with  people, just enjoy the moment like it would be with your new baby 🙂  It’s an amazing feeling to have this creature in your arms, it’s like nothing else you have ever touched before. The most difficult thing is to not run away with it!!

Did you know that koalas can’t “work” more than 30 min per day and a maximum of 3 days in a row? Sounds like a pretty good job to me.

Elisa with the cutest Koala!
Elisa with the cutest Koala!
  1. Flying in a “hot” basket (Hot Air Balloon)

6am, up high in the air, watching the sun rising over the green rolling hills in the Tablelands… the crop fields are still covered by an early morning mist, giving an impression of a giant lake… stunning. Quietly and smoothly the basket transports you through the sky… Hot air ballooning makes people happy, I could see the smiles on every face! Such a joy to discover the tropical garden of Queensland from above, pineapple farms, mangoes trees and perfect geometrical crops… we could also follow some wallabies jumping around! A photographer’s delight for sure! What’s so special about a Hot Air Ballon? It can’t steer, seriously! Basically it just floats according to the wind and the gas the pilot gives makes it go higher or lower depending, and best of all the pilot has no idea where it is going to land! And landing is an interesting part of the journey… always different depending on the weather conditions this can make the trip a bit more adventurous to say the least! Anyway, even terrified of heights, I could do it, respecting a simple rule… never look straight down when the basket is at its highest point and it’s all good!

Hot Air Ballooning
Hot Air Ballooning!!
  1. Jungle Surfing

Australia is all about surfing and not only the waves but also through the oldest rainforest on Earth, the Daintree!! I found myself upside down, suspended to a zip-line “flying” above the canopy! The best place to see the giant ferns, I reckon! How crazy and cool is that?!? This was 100% safe thanks to a reliable harness and the fabulous guides who take you from A to B.  Backwards, upside down, turning around, there are multiple ways to enjoy yourself while learning and discovering a world heritage area. You might be lucky and even spot a tree kangaroo…yes you read well… a kangaroo that lives in trees! They are very special, rare and live only in Tropical North Queensland in specific areas like the Daintree. The best Zip-lining tour ever. This place is magic, better make the most of your visit 🙂


Max the Adventure Addict

  1. Mountain Biking

Wow, and I thought skiing in France was great! This must be the summertime equivalent. With Green, Blue, and Black runs it almost felt like I was on a ski hill back home, but with a bike, and warm weather! It was a pleasure to explore the seemingly endless sets of beginner to advanced trails winding their way through beautiful hills. During the Adventure Youth Drive through TNQ we stopped at a newly built Mountain Bike Park just outside Atherton in the aptly named ‘Table Lands’ with upwards of 50km of trails. It is situated in a pristine forest with easy access to great trail rides for any skill level. I have been lucky to visit this place twice and have thoroughly enjoyed both trips.

It is an amazing feeling to let go of the brakes, lean into a turn and trust the grip of the tyre to pull you around that next bend, just missing two trees and flying into the next turn. It is a sport I have recently gotten into and one I see myself doing much more of in the future. Skiing is really expensive, the Mountain Bike Park in the Atherton Table Lands is free, you just need your gear, a map, and some good friends! Now that sounds pretty good to me.

Trails in the Atherton Tablelands
Trails of the Atherton Tablelands
  1. Scuba diving

Double checking in my mind, I do a quick visual on my gear before following Elisa into the Big Blue. BCD, check, weights, check, regulator, check, depth gauge, check, mask, check, fins, check, okay this it, go time, I take the giant stride entry and am immediately surrounded by bubbles. I quickly float to the surface and look towards the divemaster, getting the okay we all descend and into the Big Blue we go.

I love diving for the silence and for the challenge it presents my photography. I have gained such skills and been subject to so many incredible experiences captured with the lens that you would think transferring these skills to the water seems a natural progression. It’s not. Shooting underwater is a completely new game and I have loved learning all of the little techniques used to get the perfect shot. When 20 meters under life seems to move at a slower pace, everything is so fluid and interconnected. You can float in a perfect harmony with the sea allowing your eye to adjust to the scene and challenging yourself to get that snap you’ve been thinking of. Not to mention wildlife entering in and out as they wish, undisturbed by your foreign presence and sometimes more curious than you would expect.

Scuba Diving is an amazing outlet and addictive sport. I am so happy to be able to learn about and explore the underwater world here in Cairns. The Great Barrier Reef is famous worldwide for a reason and I have had some truly incredible experiences exploring its hidden pleasures.

Unda da Sea :)
Unda da Sea 🙂
  1. Microlight flight

Now this was a first for me and something I wasn’t exactly sure when the opportunity was presented. So it’s a hang glider attached to a motor with a fiberglass and steel carbonate frame for the passengers? …or something along those lines… One thing for sure though, it looks really cool. The Adventure Youth Drive is about pushing the limits of adventure and trying new things, Mircoflight seemed like a good place to start, and was it ever, what an awesome experience!

The frame is just big enough for two people, the pilot and a passenger. It was like being on a motorbike in the sky. The are no doors, no roof, no windshield, just a space big enough for two adventurous spirits looking to explore the world above.

The take-off was incredible, revving the engine and reaching a speed strong enough to catch the hang glider wing and up we went. It all happened so fast, before you knew it we were soaring high above the Cain fields and headed for Port Douglas and 4 Mile Beach. Seeing the world from the air always gives one another perspective, especially when you’re not too far off the surface. From just 1,000 feet, most things were still very recognisable and we could even spot Sea Turtles on the fringing reefs.

The flight lasted 30min and it was amazing!! I felt completely safe and had a very cool and new sensation of riding through the sky. We had a super smooth descent and came in hot for the landing. Just like a Pelican skims across the water, we landed without a hitch and the smile stretched ear to ear. I think I might have to get a motorbike.

View from the Microflight
View from the Microflight passenger seat

Greg, the adrenalin junkie

  1. Rope Swinging

The first time I hit a good rope swing was in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It scarred the crap out of me. The water was freezing cold, jet black, and the drop a big one. My local friend Jordan had been there before and knew the spot, the first thing he did was a double backflip sticking it clean and smashing into the soul crushing lake like a boss. I was immediately forced to give er and push out the craziest thing I could think of off this giant rope swing. Of course my mind was on a different plain then my body and when I hit the apex of the swing my intended laid out slow motion backflip turned into a pitiful cry and a crashing fall into the freezing lake below.

Fast forward seven years and I have gotten mildly better at owning rope swings. Lucky for me there are two sweet swings found in Tropical north Queensland and as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. One is pretty small with just enough force to swing a little jungle flip through the Daintree Rainforest (awesome!). The other is a massive pendulum style juggernaut launching you into Eacham Lake in the Atherton Tablelands. Both are worth a visit if you’re in the area and looking for something to scare the wits out of you.

Rope swings are an adrenaline kick mostly due to the lack of understanding of what’s in the water below you, also making them somewhat dangerous, but still awesome all the same. They are also an adrenaline kick because you can feel the perfect moment to let go, when the rope just hits that apex and you know that of you let go it is going to launch you into oblivion. But if you hold on you’ll come crashing back into wherever it is you left off, which is generally a bad idea. The best bet is to create as much momentum as possible and when you feel the rope hit its apex let go and enjoy your few seconds of absolute freedom before you come crashing down into the water below. Sound like fun? I know. It is!

Its all about the coordination effort
Its all about the coordination effort
  1. Bungee jumping

Now this gets a very high rating on our list because it’s f***king scary. I am a self-confessed Adrenaline Junkie and love almost all adventure sports, but there’s something about Bungee that gets my heart rate up just that much more than other activities. I think it’s because the second time I ever jumped I felt like my feet were slipping from the towel harness wrapped around my ankles. I probably shouldn’t write that, but it really freaked me out and since then every bungee jump has been a little more worrying. Now that being said, I am also extra cautious with the jump preparation and make sure the harness is tight enough. Of course there is also a safety, and nothing could ever go too wrong, it’s more a mental thing than anything else. And like all adrenaline activities the mental factor tends to play the largest role.

Bungee Jumping is awesome. It is a pure adrenaline rush and hits you hard and fast, like a giant wave just after you surfaced from getting pummelled by the last. The hardest part of bungee is waiting to jump. It is generally a really high platform and the ground is funny enough not that far away (at least in comparison to skydiving). You look down and as it seems far, you know there’s a good chance you’ll dip into the water below… meaning you’ll hit the ground and that’s pretty scary. It is a heart racer just sitting there waiting for your turn to test fate and get that rush you crave. It’s almost like you are given the time to sit in this state of anxious anticipation, waiting.

We rank Bungee at number nine because it is a true adrenaline pumping sport and as scary as it is, it is just as addicting and in Cairns you get your second, third, fourth, and fifth, jump for only $100. You should how many people turn up for one and leave with five. Incredible!

Ready. Set. See ya!!
Ready. Set. See ya!!
  1. Skydiving

This is by far my favourite adventure sport and the purest form of prolonged adrenaline rush, truly an amazing experience. I have met dozens of people who are ‘too scared’ to ever go skydiving, they’re then somehow peer pressured or forced into a jump and come out absolutely raving about it. I have never met anyone in person who hasn’t enjoyed the experience. Jumping form a plane is fun. Full stop. It is also incredibly daunting, especially if it’s your first time, and I’ll admit it’s not really ‘normal’ behaviour. This fear of jumping out of a plane and falling from the sky is what makes Skydiving top our list of most adrenaline pumping adventure experiences. And for good reason, it is a nerve-racking decision, but you’ll be so happy that you made it once you land back on earth.

Most tandem skydive experiences hit terminal velocity at the height of their fall. 220 miles per hour plummeting to the ground below, yet for the first 30 seconds it doesn’t really look like you’re moving at all. The earth isn’t getting any closer and you actually get the sensation of floating. The rush takes over and there is a certain sense of calm. Can you believe it? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. It is an overpowering emotion that is very difficult to replicate. Your body instinctively produces a natural adrenaline that makes you smile ear to ear. It is a feeling of absolute bliss and profound happiness with a pumping energy that courses through your veins. It truly makes you feel alive putting yourself in the face of death.

Although it may seem dangerous, skydiving is actually a very safe adventure sport and has a ton of behind the scenes failsafe measures to ensure the upmost safety possible in the case of an emergency. Now of course there are inherent risks when jumping out of a plane, but have trust in your gear and in the professionals that do this every day (sometimes ten times a day). There are people out there who want to help first time jumpers experience the rush that is skydiving. Once you’ve jumped you’ll have a much better understanding of why I write so passionately about the subject.

I love skydiving and have found yet another ‘hobby’ to spend my time and money on, and best of all I get to share the amazing jumps and life changing experiences with my fellow skydivers, friends, and family. Jumping over Tropical North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef is unlike anything I have ever seen. It was amazing and I can’t wait to get up there and do it again!!

Wheels up!!!! G.

Whoa!! Falling from 14,000 feet above the Great Barrier Reef is something else entirely.
Whoa!! Falling from 14,000 feet above the Great Barrier Reef 


We all go on holiday for a different reason, to relax, to escape, to unwind, to discover, or to go on a new adventure and get out of your comfort zone. Travel is an opportunity to see and do new things. It is the perfect chance to experience activities you would have never thought possible and to walk away from those experiences feeling proud and confident that you were able to successfully complete such amazing new things!

Having access to your own vehicle and being with good friends makes this kind of adventure vacation that much easier. We were lucky to self drive the route through Tropical North Queensland, having the 4WD and making our own way gave us a lot more freedom and allowed us to create our own itinerary. Being with three good friends helped boost confidence for all of us and a certain amount of friendly peer pressure can always be a bit of fun.

Overall the self drive adventure through Tropical North Queensland was an absolute blast allowing us all to experience new things and share the best highlights with the world. We hope you’ve enjoyed this post; and picked a few of the activities to discover for yourself. There is so much more to explore in TNQ, I think its time to hit the road again!!

Cheers from Elisa, Max, and Greg #TeamBestJobs

Team Best Jobs
Team Best Jobs