A road less travelled: the beauty of summer in Tropical North Queensland

Coral Expeditions’ home port is the beautiful tropical city of Cairns, the gateway to the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Summer in Tropical North Queensland may be known as the wet season, but don’t let that deter you!

From November to April, the rainforest explodes with colour. The wet season is a time of magnificent skyscapes, dramatic rainstorms and rushing rivers. It is also a time of celebration as summer rain, the life force of the tropics, revitalises plants and animals which have been experiencing a prolonged dry season.

Tropical fruits are ripening, wildlife is awakening, and waterfalls will soon be pumping as Summer unfolds in two parts in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region. Summer in Far North Queensland brings a different beauty to the area. Read on to learn why the team at Coral Expeditions think summer is a great time to visit Cairns.

Snorkelling in Summer at Mackay Reef. Image Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

Snorkelling in Summer at Mackay Reef. Image Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

The Reef. From around November to April the south-east trade winds ease, meaning that the waters of the Great Barrier Reef are calm and tranquil. Calm waters mean it’s a perfect time to head to the outer reef for snorkelling and diving. Rain doesn’t matter when you’re in the water! In fact, Master Reef Guide, Daniela Matheus-Holland says one of her favourite things to do while scuba diving is look up at the surface when it is raining and admire the droplets. The Coral Sea is warmer too, with water temps peaking at around 29c in January.

Unique Experiences At this time of year marine life on the Reef is at some of it’s most active. You might spot Green Sea Turtles mating or laying, or grazing on the plentiful moon jellies that ride in on the warm currents. The world’s largest synchronized spawning takes place on the Great Barrier Reef around the full moon in November. Once a year coral simultaneously releases eggs and sperm bundles (spawn) into the water. These bundles then rise slowly to the surface where the fertilisation process begins. If successful, the fertilised eggs will settle on the ocean floor, eventually developing into coral. This is a phenomenon unlike anything else in the animal kingdom, and it happens right here on the Great Barrier Reef!

Bird Watching. Birds love a good drenching and can be found lapping up the moisture in puddles across the Wet Tropics region. As well as spotting local species, the wet season is a terrific time for birdwatchers to tick off some rare species migrating to and from Asia via the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, an important link in one of the world’s greatest bird migrations when each year, millions of shorebirds leave Alaska, Siberia, North China, Mongolia and Japan after breeding in the northern tundra’s and flying to Australia for the summer. Coral Expeditions host expert naturalists (and ornithologists on select departures), have free binoculars and field guides for guests to use as well as a comprehensive database of species spotted by staff and guests.

The Waterfalls & Swimming Holes. Waterfalls are at their most spectacular in Summer, especially the Barron Falls which thunder through the gorge. For locals, it’s amazing to see a trickle of water in the dry season transform into thundering force of water. With waterfalls come rivers, streams, and creeks which are ideal for cooling off during your day. . Surrounded by all the smells and sounds that come with the world’s oldest living rainforest, taking a tropical freshwater dip is rejuvenating!

Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park. Image Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

The Rainforest. Recognised as a part of one of 35 international global biodiversity hotspots, home to over 2800 plant species and a significant percentile of Australia’s wildlife, the Wet Tropics is the ideal place to get up close and personal with nature. There is a certain magic exploring the rainforest in the rain and discovering species large and small. None larger than rainforest giants, the Twin Kauri Pines and the iconic strangler fig trees – the Cathedral Fig and Curtain Fig. All of which are impressive feats of nature and time with the kauris boasting 1000 years of age and both figs hailing over 500 years old. In the likelihood of rain, you can even try to take shelter inside the Cathedral Fig Tree.

The Wildlife. The sound of frogs croaking during a rainstorm is an experience you won’t find many other places. Then when the rain stops, birds of all species call out to one another and come out looking for food. Wallabies forage on the rainforest floor and bush turkeys, bandicoots, and wildlife from all levels of the eco-system emerge. Surrounded by abundant wildlife of the thriving rainforest is an experience you won’t forget.

Tropcal Summer Fruits_Far North Queensland Cairns

Summer fruit from Rusty’s Markets. Image Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

The Food: Fresh Tropical Fruits & Seafood. This time of year is also known as mango season. In the warm summer months before the rain sets in, mango trees start to produce their delicious fruit. Trees are dripping with lush, sweet fruit, backstreets are littered with fallen fruit and the air has a sweet tang. It’s also the season for other luscious tropical fruits like pineapples, lychees, avocado, bananas, watermelon and papaya as well as some unusual tropical fruits such as soursops, carambolas and black sapotes. The fresh, locally caught seafood is world-class in Cairns, so make the most of it by tasting the exceptional painted crayfish, in season prawns, reef fish and mud crabs.

Connect with the Far North and its story. The world’s oldest living culture, Australia’s First Nations people, look to nature to determine the time of year with their six-season calendar marking the changes in their environment. The Kuku Yalanji people of Mossman Gorge share the stories and legends (Ngadiku) of their people who have lived in the area for 50,000 years. With an intimate knowledge and deep respect for nature and its cycles, learn about culturally significant sites, plant use, bush foods, and the importance of the wet season to the local Indigenous people.

Mingle with the locals. As most people tend to visit North Queensland in the dry season, you will find the region less crowded in the wet season, so you’ll be able to mingle more with locals than travellers. The wet season is also a beachcomber’s paradise when after the rain, beautiful shells, spectacular pieces of driftwood, coconut shells and seed pods wash ashore.

Join us on the Great Barrier Reef this summer to fall in love with the colours, the moods, the scents, the subtle and mysterious light, the poetry, and the kind of beauty that makes your heart full.

> Explore Tropical North Queensland on our Outerknown Adventures of the Great Barrier Reef and Cape York Arnhem Land and Torres Strait cruises