Ace Rental Cars Blog

Best Spots to Explore Between Cairns and Cooktown

Does tropical weather, salty sea water and historical lookouts sound like your cup of tea? A trip across Far North Queensland will deliver all the above! From seaside villages to thick rainforests, take your Ace rental car through a variety of landscapes for an excitingly scenic journey. To make your drive easy, we’ve listed the top things to do in Cairns and Cooktown, and the best spots to discover in between.

  • Cairns

  • Port Douglas

  • Daintree Rainforest

  • Kalkajaka (Black Mountain)

  • Cooktown

Cool Off in Cairns

Your journey begins in the thriving, sunny city of Cairns. Here, you can explore golden beaches, lush greenery, and the famed Great Barrier Reef. Bask in waterfront scenery and a laid-back atmosphere with a walk along the Cairns Esplanade. Art galleries, lively cafes and parklands stretch along the waterfront, giving you plenty of ways to spend your time here. If you’re travelling with kids, they’ll love splashing around at Muddy’s Playground, and adults can watch on from Muddy’s Cafe while recharging with a cuppa and a meal. A visit to Cairns isn’t complete without a dip in the iconic man-made lagoon! Bring your bathers and take some time to paddle in the city’s centre. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’, it’s the perfect time to discover the natural wonders of the Reef during your visit to Cairns. From snorkelling to glass-bottom boat tours, immerse yourself in the beauty of the world’s largest coral reef system.

Port Douglas and Daintree Rainforest

Heading North, you’ll find the seaside village of Port Douglas, an hour’s drive from Cairns. Now’s the best time to roll down the windows of your Ace rental car, turn up the tunes and breathe in the fresh, salty air! In Port Douglas, you can pace the shoreline of Four Mile Beach at your leisure, swim in the clear waters and even try kayaking or paddle boarding. Take a walk under the palm trees on Macrossan Street and discover the heart of this marina town within the shops, cafes and restaurants that line it. In town on a Sunday? Stop by the Port Douglas Markets to check out homemade goods and a taste of locally made ice cream. As you travel towards Cooktown, we recommend stopping at the Daintree Rainforest. Here, you can walk among some of the oldest trees in the world on a canopy tour or appreciate the natural beauty from the roots.

Kalkajaka (Black Mountain)

Break up the drive between Port Douglas and Cooktown with a stopover at the magnificent Kalkajaka National Park (Black Mountain). A lesser-known hidden gem in Far North Queensland, Kalkajaka comprises large, black granite boulders balanced on top of one another, creating a unique and striking geological formation to marvel at. The National Park is an important meeting place for Aboriginal communities in the region and the source of many Dreaming stories. Roll down the window of your rental car as you pass by to see the mountain from the highway or take a brief stop at the lookout for photos and a one-of-a-kind view.

  • Large black boulders forming a mountain

  • Striking geological formation

  • Culturally significant

  • Visible from the highway

Unearth History in Cooktown

Your last stop holds a wealth of history and significance as a place where Captain James Cook repaired his ship, the HMB Endeavour, thus earning the name ‘Cooktown’. Head to the Cooktown Museum to learn about the voyager’s stopover and the first recorded act of reconciliation between the Traditional Owners and James Cook. You can even spot the original anchor and cannon from the HMB Endeavour. After your visit to the museum, take a short drive to Grassy Hill Lookout and admire the sweeping bird's-eye view of the town and the surrounding Endeavour River. This spot is a popular place for tourists and locals alike, and the nearby lighthouse adds to its charm. A visit to Cooktown offers a waterfront holiday vibe with plenty of places to stop and uncover cultural treasures.

  • Historically significant town
  • Cooktown Museum
  • Grassy Hill Lookout
  • Street parking

From time spent by the seaside in Cairns to strolling the charming streets of Cooktown, your journey across Far North Queensland is guaranteed to be rich in history and natural beauty. With plenty of moments and places to stop and reflect, a visit to the region is an excellent opportunity to recharge and reflect. Whether travelling solo, taking the kids, or catching up with family and friends, these towns and attractions provide activities to accommodate all.

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