Tropical, touristy Cairns is an unmissable stop on any east coast traveller's itinerary. Experienced divers and first-time toe-dippers swarm to the steamy city for its easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, while those more interested in submerging themselves in boozy good times are well served by a barrage of bars and clubs. The Atherton Tablelands – home to cooler climes, volcanic craters, jungly waterfalls and gourmet food producers – are a short, scenic drive inland.
The winding road north of Cairns hugs ludicrously scenic sections of shoreline en route to ritzy Port Douglas; keep going and you'll meet the mighty Daintree River's vehicular ferry. From here, profuse, protected rainforest stretches up to Cape Tribulation and beyond, tumbling on to long swaths of white-sand beaches; don't be so awestruck that you forget to keep an eye out for crocs!