Grab your boots and adventure outdoors—7 short walks around Cairns and Townsville
Issued: 6 Nov 2018

‘These boots are made for walkin’ and that’s just what they’ll do…’ If you like the sound of rambling through ancient rainforests, wandering along palm-fringed beaches and clambering around tropical islands, not to mention, spotting awesome wildlife, read on!

Photo credit: Maxime Coquard © Queensland Government

‘These boots are made for walkin’ and that’s just what they’ll do…’ If you like the sound of rambling through ancient rainforests, wandering along palm-fringed beaches and clambering around tropical islands, not to mention, spotting awesome wildlife, read on!

Perhaps you’re a visitor to Tropical North Queensland region and have only a few hours to spare between sightseeing and ‘swanning around’ your resort? Or maybe you’ve been here for a while and are looking for something new to do with the kids or the visitors? And you might have little legs as well as longer legs in your group, or someone who prefers easy strolls to longer hikes?

Well, look no further! Queensland’s parks and forests have many short walks, suitable for all levels of fitness and abilities, where you can refresh in nature for a few hours and get home in time for lunch.

Here are our suggestions for our not-so ‘secret seven’ short walks around Townsville and Cairns—the best things you can do with your boots on!

1. Nudey Beach, Fitzroy Island National Park

Turquoise waters lap granite boulders in foreground, large trees overhang the beach where a few distant people are sitting and standing, while the mountainous mainland makes up the background.
Nudey Beach | © Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Keep your boots on. And your hat. Your clothes too. This walk is ‘nudey’ by name but not by nature! Take the ferry from Cairns to Fitzroy Island for a day and explore the 1.2km return Nudey Beach walk. Venture through rainforest and open forest, skirting around huge granite boulders (there are several steep stone steps) to reach this secluded picturesque beach.

Stretch out in the shade, watching the blue ocean sparkling in the sunlight, then cool off with a dip in the shallows. Perfect for the kids. Bring a mask and snorkel so you can check out the coral just offshore. You’ve discovered a perfect tropical idyll for the whole family!

Find out more about Fitzroy Island.

2. Barron Falls lookout, Barron Gorge National Park

People stand on a platform overlooking sheer rocky walls of a gorge and a long narrow waterfall
Barron Falls lookout | Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government

Drive up the range from Cairns (or even better, take the Kuranda scenic train or Skyrail) to watch the waters of the Barron River tumbling down into the gorge. Wander along the wheelchair-accessible (with assistance) boardwalk to the first lookout over the scenic falls and snap that 'Insta-worthy' shot! Feel like walking the 1.2km return for a closer look? Continue along the elevated walkway through the rainforest canopy and along a sloping sealed track down to a lookout near the railway platform.

What you see depends on the season! For most of the year, you’ll gaze at the precipitous drop carved by the Barron River over the eons and marvel at the deceptive power of water as you watch the river trickling over the falls. In the wet season, however, you’ll peer though rising mist to glimpse waters thundering and crashing over the drop. Seriously impressive! Barron Falls is a ‘must see’, whatever the season.

Find out more about Barron Gorge.

3. Kulki, Daintree National Park

Lush green rainforested slopes and a small headland sweep down to meet a fringe of white sandy beach, surrounded by blue seas
Aerial of Cape Tribulation | © Tourism and Events Queensland

If you’ve visited Queensland, you’ve heard of the Daintree! Images of its lush rainforest have adorned our walls for decades. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to discover for yourselves what the fuss is about. At Cape Tribulation (known as Kulki to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji peoples), rainforest-clad mountain slopes sweep down to long sandy beaches to create the iconic meeting place between rainforest and reef.

You’ll enjoy a day trip to the Daintree, with many walks, picnic areas and a few townships to entice you out of the car along the way. Once you reach Kulki, stroll along a short boardwalk to the lookout and gaze out across the deep blue sea, then wander a short way along the beach to soak up the beauty of this extraordinary place where two World Heritage Areas—the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef—connect.

Find out more about Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.

4. Fan Palm walk, Djiru National Park

Umbrella-shaped palm fronds atop long slender trunks create a dapped canopy filtering out the sunlight
Fan Palm walk | © Tourism and Events Queensland

When you’ve satisfied your longing for sunshine, sand and seawater at beautiful Mission Beach, seek a cool respite under the shady fronds of Djiru’s fan palms. Stroll along the 1.3km return Fan Palm walk, marvelling at the umbrella-like fronds of licuala palms that create a dappled canopy. This remarkable forest that has withstood cyclones over the years, and, although damage can still be seen in places, the forest is well on the way to full recovery.

Keep your eyes open for cassowaries here and remember to always be cass-o-wary and never approach these large birds, especially around the car park and start of the boardwalk. Despite their bulk they are incredibly hard to see in the forest as their black plumage blends in with the dappled light of the forest—their long blue necks and red wattles however are easy giveaways! At the end of the walk, let the kids lead you on a short detour along the Children’s walk, following ‘cassowary footprints’ to a ‘nest’.

Find out more about Djiru.

5. Children’s walk, Crater Lakes National Park

< group of children and adults walk along track through green lush rainforest, pointing and looking around, excitedly
Children’s walk | Maxime Coquard © Queensland Government

OK kids, get your parents organised for a day trip to the Crater Lakes because there is some serious fun to be had at Lake Eacham. Apart, that is, from swimming and snorkelling in the lake, spotting archer fish and bum-breathing turtles, tipping your mum out of the kayak and pushing dad off the floatie! BTW, it is incredible to think that this clear blue lake is actually a volcanic crater, 65m deep!

When you’ve dried off, drag your parents away from the shady picnic rug and set off on the 1.4km return Children’s walk. The rule is: Adults are allowed as long as they aren’t boring! You’ve (all) got to wriggle like snakes, stamp on pests and hunt for dragons on this fun discovery walk through the rainforest. And after all that, if you still have energy, there’s always the 3km circuit around the lake…

Find out more about Crater Lakes.

6. Forts walk, Magnetic Island National Park

Aerial view of rocky peak, dotted with granite boulders and green vegetation and topped by forts ruins, that rises against a backdrop of taller forested ridges.
The Forts | © Megan McKinnon

This walk has everything—a workout for the fitness-conscious with hill climbs and steps, koala spotting for kids and wildlife enthusiasts, and historic war ruins for heritage buffs (and kids with active imaginations!). Game of soldiers, anyone? Follow this 4km return walk through open eucalypt forest to old WWII fortifications perched high on the island. Make sure you crane your necks to search the branches of eucalypts along the way—you’re almost certain to see a ball of grey fluff snoozing in a tree!

Take your time to explore the ruins of the command post, ammunition store and gun sites, and gaze over bird’s eye views of the island and coast from this vantage point of The Forts. Continue the adventure on the new walking track linking the Forts to Florence Bay. We can’t think of a better place to snap the perfect selfie and to soak up the special ambiance of everyone’s 'fave' island—‘Maggie’.

Find out more about Magnetic Island.

7. Jacana bird hide, Townsville Town Common Conservation Park

A person points binoculars through a window in a wooden bird hide set on the edge of a lush wetland
Jacana bird hide | © Queensland Government

Close to town, you’ll find a ‘forgotten treasure’—the Town Common. Lose yourself (but not literally!) in this peaceful place for a few hours then have your picnic by the beach at Cape Pallarenda. Discover deep-water lagoons, seasonal wetlands and coastal woodlands on a network of trails suitable for both boots and bikes! For rewarding birdwatching, head to the Jacana bird hide track, a short stroll off the Freshwater trail.

Sit quietly and watch waterbirds such as brolgas and magpie geese foraging for food in the lagoon. You’ll see the most action during winter when the wetlands dry out and birds congregate in the lagoons. With up to 280 species recorded here, you’re sure to get a new ‘tick’ on your birdwatching list! If you want more activity, or if the kids have their bikes, check out the other trails for longer walks and cross-country mountain bike rides. Once you know it’s here, you’ll keep coming back!

Find out more about the Townsville Town Common.

Are you ready, boots? Start walkin'

Just remember your hats, sunscreen and water bottles before you hit the tracks! And if you need more ideas, see out walking page. Always check park alerts so you are up-to-date with park conditions, closures and access. Enjoy!