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From reef to rainforest, would-be Robinson Crusoes can cruise around Queensland.

From reef to rainforest, would-be Robinson Crusoes can cruise around Queensland.

Palm Cove

Transformed from quaint beach community to exclusive resort in the 1980s, Palm Cove is now home to numerous boutique hotels and first-rate restaurants. Despite the development, the area has retained its natural beauty and has brilliant beaches on which to play Robinson Crusoe. Looking for an indulgent hideaway? Check into the Angsana Spa, an exclusive retreat overlooking the shimmering Coral Sea.

By car: take the Captain Cook Highway north; journey time approx 20 mins.

Kuranda

This picture-postcard mountain village in the tropical highlands is crammed with old clapboard houses. Highlights include the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway, which climbs past waterfalls and ravines, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway that glides above tree level, and the Kuranda Wildlife Noctarium with its rainforest animals. Those with many pink pounds to spend should try the Liberty Resort, a swanky hotel, predominantly gay, featuring villa-style accommodation, two pools, gym, beauty centre, etc.

By car: take the Captain Cook Highway north; journey time approx 30 mins. By rail: daily service; journey time approx 90 mins.

Daintree National Park

Set in the heart of Queensland's fruit-growing district, the main attractions here are Mossman Gorge and Daintree village. The former is a perfect picnic spot featuring walking trails and crystal-clear swimming holes. Daintree offers many wildlife and rainforest excursions. If you feel like sleeping over, reserve a room at the sumptuous Daintree Eco Lodge (00 61 7 4098 6100), which, along with informative nature walks focusing on bush medicine and bush craft, features indigenous spa treatments.

By car: take the Captain Cook Highway north; journey time approx 1 hour.

Port Douglas

Rub shoulders with the rich and famous at this favoured celebrity playground. Elle Macpherson, John Travolta and Kylie Minogue have all been seen here recently, soaking up rays on the glorious Four Mile Beach. Wander around Port Douglas, which has a relaxed village feel, then venture up to Flagstaff Hill Lookout at dusk and watch a perfect sun set over the Coral Sea. Landlubbers head for the Rainforest Habitat on the outskirts of town, which is home to marsupials, birds and butterflies. Seadogs can set sail to the Great Barrier Reef on a catamaran or a charter boat.

By car: take the Captain Cook Highway north; journey time approx 1 hour.

Cape Tribulation National Park

Reef meets rainforest at Cape Tribulation, one of the world's most outstanding areas of natural beauty. Stunning stretches of deserted beach lie adjacent to tropical rainforest, while the rugged, forest-covered mountains of Thornton Peak and Mount Sorrow provide a spectacular backdrop. Outdoor activity options include horse riding on the beach, kayaking, and nature and night treks.

By car: take the Captain Cook Highway north, followed by Cape Tribulation Road; journey time approx one hour plus.

Lizard Island

The ultimate paradise island escape, Lizard is one of the world's most exclusive resorts and it offers both inner and outer reef experiences. There are diving, snorkelling and walking options and more than 20 beaches. Throw in spa treatments and fine dining and you may never want to leave the Great Barrier Reef's northernmost island resort.

By air: Skytrans (00 61 740 462 462; www.skytrans.com.au) offers a range of charters; journey time approx 1 hour.

Travelmood (0870 066 4546; www.travelmood.com) offers 10 nights at the Plaza Palms Hotel from £815 per person, including accommodation and flights. They offer car hire from £19 per day. Further information: Australia Travellers' Guide (0191 501 4646; www.australia.com).



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