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Self-Drive Day Trips from Port Douglas

Port Douglas has a unique location between rainforest and reef, and most visitors come with a plan to see both.

But wait, there’s more. Head inland and you’ll find a multitude of places to while away a morning, an afternoon, or an entire day. Here are five we recommend.

Tropical winery

Where? Shannonvale

How far in the car? 20 minutes

Far North Queensland and wine aren’t two words you hear in the same sentence too often, but there are in fact many wineries, with one difference – the wine isn’t made from grapes. Located a skip off the Captain Cook Highway towards Mossman, Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery puts the emphasis on wine rather than fruit, so forget any preconceptions of sweet pineapple fizz. Taste a selection of elegant table wines and fortified drops, stroll around the orchards, and enjoy the wonderful scenery on the drive home.

Scenic railway

Where? Smithfield to Kuranda

How far in the car? 50 mins

Opened in 1891, the scenic railway takes you up and over the Great Dividing Range, through a tropical paradise framed by rugged mountains with waterfalls tumbling forever into deep ravines. Refurbished heritage carriages are pulled by a 1720 Class Diesel Electric Locomotive. It takes about 1.5 hours and ends up 328 metres above sea level in the small town of Kuranda, known for its markets, galleries cafes and butterfly sanctuary. Take a short cut back to the car park via the cable car that glides over the spectacular rainforest canopy below.

Coffee trail

Where? Mareeba

How far in the car? 1 hour 15 mins

The Atherton tablelands is the perfect spot for coffee-growing, and a great day out for lovers of the bean. At Coffee Works in Mareeba, you’ll find a museum of memorabilia dating to the 18th century, and an espresso bar that serves coffee (of course) and excellent cakes. Just a few km north east along the Kennedy Highway is the turnoff for Jaques Coffee Plantation, home to Australia's first mechanical coffee harvester, which visitors can see on a guided tour. Take the Mareeba-Dimbulah road west of town, and you’ll come to Australia's biggest coffee producer, the 145ha Skybury Plantation. Its Australian Coffee Centre offers a plantation tour, roasting demo, and a cafe with views over the Tablelands.

Pleasure palace

Where? Mena Creek

How far in the car? 2 hours 50 mins

Paronella Park was built by Jose Paronella, who came to Australia from Italy to seek his fortune in the cane fields. On five hectares of bushland beside Mena Creek Falls, he built a castle, complete with follies, ballroom and an ice cream parlour. In the landscaped grounds were picnic areas, tea gardens and a swimming pool. His ‘pleasure palace’ opened to the public in 1935. Catastrophic floods, cyclones and fires have all since taken their toll, leaving a magical (and a little eerie) reminder of what was once the epitome of grandeur and romance. Take a guided tour for the full story, and marvel at the falls which, unlike the castle, have stood the test of time.

Limestone caves

Where? Chillagoe-Mungana National Park

How far in the car? 3 hours

You’ll have to get up early to do this one but the drive alone will make it worth your while. Guided tours by local rangers take in the Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch caves, all of which feature stunning rock formations such as stalagmites, stalactites and grand chandeliers, plus ancient marine fossils and cave-dwelling bats. The Royal Arch cave has a level entry and is the easiest to explore. The Donna and Trezkinn caves have several steep flights of stairs, so wear sensible shoes! Tickets must be bought in advance from the information centre in Chillagoe.

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