The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia is one of the Countries most iconic road trip’s and renowned for it’s popular tourist attractions such as the limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles and the London Arch, popular surf towns and scenic views. The meandering roads cutting through cliffs and hugging the coastline make up the 250km journey.
However, Australia is a pretty big Island and you’d have thought there must be some other spectacular ocean drives out there right!? Yep…and i’m pretty sure i have found one. Okay, okay that’s not entirely true, this drive has been likened to the Great Ocean Road by others before me, but now i know why!
The Captain Cook Highway from Port Douglas to Cairns at approximately 60km is simply stunning! The view to your left, often fringed with leafy, green palm trees, has mostly uninterrupted views of the ocean that is so close you can taste it, and to your right is the luscious green rainforest. At a mere quarter of the distance of Victoria’s Great Ocean road this drive could be done in only half a day and still pack a punch. But apart from the breathtaking views what else is there to see and/or do i hear you ask!?
So here are my suggestions for a full day…
Port Douglas in the North is your starting point on this drive so that you will be driving South and closest to the ocean for optimal views! You can’t visit Port Douglas without a trip to Four mile Beach. If you’re not familiar with Tropical North Queensland do your research about the stingers and crocs (yes, salt water crocodiles!!) that inhabit the waters up there and only swim in cordoned, patrolled areas that specifically state they are for swimming in – regardless, you will always swim at your own risk. Being on the east coast, Four Mile Beach is a fantastic spot to watch the sunrise. Take a drive or walk up to Flagstaff Hill Lookout for a stunning view over the beach then hit the many shops, cafe’s and restaurants of Macrossan Street for brekkie and a mooch around!.
As you leave Port Douglas on the glamorously palm-fringed road out of town you very quickly catch glimpse of the ocean. You can enjoy these views for quite some time, with small beaches dotted along the stretch of road that you may like to stop at, i didn’t check them all out but they all look like paradise!
The first place you will definitely want to pull over at is ‘Rex Lookout’, this is approximately half way between Port Douglas and Cairns in Wangetti and is the highest point along the highway. The panoramic views of the Great Barrier Reef are divine (my new fave word!) and i have since read that there are hang gliding options available here… Dammit!
Next up between Ellis and Pebbly Beaches is a man-made, rock-balancing, phenomenon! You will have likely seen these little rock stacks elsewhere but this magnificent world of well over one hundred of the creations is quite a sight, it’s almost alien like, like landing on the moon! Make sure you keep your eyes peeled as this could be easily missed as the rocks are positioned on the beach which is little lower than the road and your line of sight.
Palm Cove, a gorgeous village by the sea with a cute, melaleuca tree-lined esplanade is the next must stop destination on the route. Take a stroll along the jetty or try your hand at fishing from it, give one of the many watersport choices a go such as jet skiing and paddle boarding or just sit back with a cocktail or three (so long as you aren’t designated driver of course) and lap up the sun and the view!
Finally, the drive will bring you to Cairns and you can cool of in the gorgeous man-made lagoon running parallel with the ocean at Cairns esplanade. You should have plenty of time left to hit the shops and restaurants for dinner time and sample the nightlife of Cairns with the likes of the Wool Shed, Courthouse Hotel and Gilligan’s Bar to name a few.
No visit to Port Douglas or Cairns would be complete without a Great Barrier Reef trip and exploration of the Daintree Rainforest so be sure to give yourself an few extra days in either location.
So there you have it, for a short but sweet, more Tropical version of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road drive, hit the Captain Cook Highway and prepare to be impressed!