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Captain Cook Highway in Australia

A scenic drive along the east coast of Queensland

Best time: all year round

Captain Cook Highway
Captain Cook Highway
Captain Cook Highway

Captain Cook Highway in Tropical North Queensland is a major rival to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Known also as Great Barrier Reef Drive, it provides stunning views of tropical rain forests, mountains, pristine beaches, and coral reefs. The highway starts in the city of Cairns and ends in Mossman, or there is an option to continue driving to Daintree to visit Daintree National Park. The road is 75 km (47 mi) long and is open year-round.

Captain Cook Highway provides access to many beautiful secluded beaches along the way which makes it one of the best drives in the country. There are also many lookouts along the way that give panoramic views of the Coral Sea. The coast is popular for hang gliders, motorcyclists, and other adrenaline-seekers. A Hackett bungee jumping in Cairns features a steel jumping tower in a tropical forest suspended over a pond. At the north part of the highway, you can stay in Port Douglas, a perfect destination for tours to the Great Barrier Reef.

Captain Cook Highway is also known as one of the best deep-sea fishing destinations, especially near Cairns. In many areas, you can fish from land. Marlin, whiting, and huge barramundi—you can get plenty of it. Also, don't hesitate to stop on Ellis Beach, by Mossman Gorge, and over the Daintree River to admire Australian flora and fauna.

Practical info

When is the best time of year to drive on Captain Cook Highway?

Visit Captain Cook Highway between May to November for perfect weather as these months are cooler and provide a dry season perfect for a scenic drive. However, it is important to plan your trip during November to April tropical wet season carefully, as that's when the region can be affected by cyclones and heavy rainfall. Show more

Where are the best places to stop for panoramic views along the highway?

When driving on Captain Cook Highway, stop by Rex lookout near Palm Cove, Ellis Beach Bar & Grill or Thala Beach Nature Reserve for a panoramic view of the coast. Thala Beach Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for nature lovers as it offers dramatic views of the Coral Sea and the rainforest. Ellis Beach Bar & Grill provides excellent food and drinks while enjoying spectacular ocean views. Show more

What are some fun adrenaline activities you can do along the way?

Take advantage of the abundance of adrenaline activities on Captain Cook Highway, go bungee jumping in Cairns, try hang gliding over the coast, or kayaking around the beaches and waterways. If you prefer off-road driving experience, several local companies offer guided ATV tours through the rainforest. These activities will leave you breathless with a memorable experience of adventure. Show more

Where is the best place for deep-sea fishing on Captain Cook Highway?

Book a charter boat from Cairns and surrounding areas for a great deep-sea fishing experience. Cairns, near Captain Cook Highway, is well-known for its deep-sea fishing with popular catches such as marlin, barramundi, and whiting. However, ensure that you have the proper fishing permits and licenses recommended before starting your fishing excursion. Show more

What unique flora and fauna can be spotted on stops along the way?

The Captain Cook Highway offers a diverse range of flora and fauna, suitable for nature lovers. Visitors can spot the endangered cassowary bird, saltwater crocodiles, exotic tree kangaroo and the Bennett's tree kangaroo along the highway rainforest offering a breathtaking view. Port Douglas provides access to the Great Barrier Reef, which offers an unforgettable underwater experience. Show more

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