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National Parks in Cairns - Campervan Guide

Which are the best national parks to visit around Cairns?

The northern Queensland region around Cairns contains some of Australia's most magnificent national parks. From the lush rainforests of the Daintree to the crystal-clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef, there is no shortage of incredible natural beauty to explore.

  • One of the most popular national parks in this region is the Daintree National Park, known for its dense rainforests and diverse plant and animal life. The park is home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world and a wide range of exotic birds and animals.

  • Another must-see national park in northern Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the largest coral reef system in the world. Visitors can snorkel or dive among the vibrant coral and colourful fish or take a boat tour to explore the remote islands and cays that dot the reef.

  • For those who love hiking and outdoor adventure, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is for you. You will find miles of hiking trails that wind through the rainforest, offering breathtaking views of the region's unique flora and fauna.

  • No trip to northern Queensland is complete without visiting the stunning beaches of the Cape Tribulation National Park. Here, visitors can relax on the white sand beaches, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, or take a guided tour to explore the park's dense forests and diverse wildlife. A ferry ride is required to access Cape Tribulation. Tickets need to be purchased in advance, starting from $4 return per pedestrian to $16 return for a campervan.

  • Take the Skyrail or glass bottom gondola to Kuranda National Park. This park is located just 25 km northwest of Cairns and is known for its beautiful rainforests and hiking trails. It's a fantastic place to go for a day trip, and the car park easily accommodates large campervans and motorhomes.

How much is campervan entry to national parks in Queensland? Are any permits required?

Budget travellers will be happy to hear Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science (DES) doesn’t charge an entry fee for any national park in the Tropical North.

Although permits are required to drive through recreation areas elsewhere in Queensland (K’gari/Fraser Island, Morton Island, Bribie Island, etc.), travellers can bounce around the Tropical North without paying a cent.

Moreover, DES charges a meagre $7 per person per night for camping permits in all its national parks, state forests, and protected areas. That modest fee makes Queensland among the most affordable states to camp in Australia.

Families get a decent discount: $28 per night for two adults and up to six children.

Campground bookings must be made online through the Queensland National Parks Booking Service.

Access to the Cape Tribulation Area is only possible via ferry transfer. Tickets need to be purchased in advance, starting from $4 return per pedestrian to $16 return for an RV. The ferry runs from 5 am to midnight and is a short 8-minute trip.

Remote campsites typically have minimal (or zero) mobile phone reception, so book yours before you arrive. The most sought-after camps may book out in advance, especially during peak periods. Flexibility is your friend.

Popular National Parks in Cairns

Daintree Rainforest (130 km from Cairns)

The oldest rainforest on earth wows visitors with verdant canopies and unspoiled beaches. Marvel in the magic of Mossman Gorge, meander along moody boardwalks, and camp overnight on Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef.