Review: Get up close and personal with the Queensland Wet Tropics rainforest on a Cairns quad bike tour
Far North Queensland's stunning Wet Tropics rainforest is endlessly fascinating for visitors, and it seems there are endless ways to enjoy it. You can choose to travel by historic train, cableway, bus and 4WD — and now quad bikes and a Hummer! Review: Julietta Henderson
This Cairns quad bike tour will show you a different side of the Queensland Wet Tropics rainforest. This tour is suitable for the whole family. Children aged between 10 and 14 can ride their own bikes, while children under 10 years old are free but must ride with an adult. There are morning and afternoon tour options. Hummer rainforest tours are also available. Duration: 4 hours (1-hour ATV ride)
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
Any opportunity to explore the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth is one I never take for granted.
I am constantly ambushed by the incredible beauty and diversity of this patch of North Queensland paradise, and the ingenuity of local tourism operators in coming up with new ways to show it off. So the opportunity to go off-road with Global Travel Services (GTS) on their Cairns quad bike tour to two places I’d never been before (despite having been literally on my doorstep my entire childhood) was one I not only couldn’t pass up, but almost trampled several small animals in my haste to take up. Disclaimer: No small animals were actually harmed in my haste.
I’m picked up by Peter from GTS in a vehicle that looks like the family Tarago on steroids. It’s actually a 4WD bus and our transport for the first part of the trip. We head up the Kuranda range and leave the highway at the Clohesy River Road turn-off into Dinden National Park. The road is sealed for the first few kilometres, but then it degenerates into a rough corrugated dirt track and the fun starts!
Peter navigates through creek crossings, mudslides and potholes and it’s so much fun I’m almost disappointed when we arrive at the Clohesy River fig tree boardwalk. That’s until I see the fig tree itself. It’s just a short stroll around the boardwalk under the shadow of this magnificent tree, but the interpretive signs and Peter’s impressive knowledge of the local ecology make for a very interesting botany lesson.
After a teeth-jarring ride back to the highway, it’s on to the next destination on our itinerary — Barron Falls Estate. After introducing us to Perry Marshall, the estate tour guide (and family owner since 1969), Peter bids us farewell. Of course, it’s sad to say goodbye to Peter, he was such a… Wait! What’s that you say? ATVs? Let me at ’em!
It’s at this point that you usually choose between a jaunt around the 165-acre property in a H1 military Hummer, or driving yourself on an ATV (all terrain vehicle) — but, lucky me, I get to do both. All in the name of research, you understand.
After a briefing from Perry on how to handle our bikes (fastening the helmet is actually the hardest part!) we set off, very slowly, along the rainforest trail. Within a matter of minutes we have the hang of the throttle and brakes (yep, that’s all there is to it) and the pace picks up. The ATVs are extremely safe and the accelerator is limited so there’s no chance of anyone getting too cocky and coming a cropper.
Barron Falls Estate is absolutely magic, set right on the edge of the spectacular Barron Gorge. Nestled within the rainforest are acres of exotic fruit orchards of lychees, rambutans, mangosteens and Queensland’s largest durian plantation. As we trundle along we pass Perry’s house, the original (relocated) Barron Falls hydro scheme village post office (bit of a collector, is Perry), and Skyrail’s Barron Falls station — where we stop to enjoy mind-blowing views over the gorge.
It’s not all sedate sightseeing on the quad bikes though — we get to navigate some creek crossings and try some gentle off-roading. For me, the highlights are meeting a resident baby cassowary up very close and personal, and seeing the incredible sculptural roots of the massive Crows Foot Ash.
We’ve barely removed our helmets before Brad from GTS rumbles into the rainforest clearing in the star of the show — a massive H1 Hummer. I could rattle off its specs (designed to help it get through, up, over and around virtually anything in its way), but suffice to say it’s big, it’s powerful and it’s very sexy. Brad shows us over the engine (and yes, it is interesting!) before we climb aboard to start our next adventure.
Seated high up in the Hummer with plenty to hold on to (luckily), Brad takes us on a bumpy, fun-filled tour along the estate’s trails. It’s a ride to remember (although perhaps I did miss a few sights laughing a little too much) and a unique way of exploring the rainforest.
When we get back to Cairns, I can’t believe it’s only been 4.5 hours since we left. I feel like I’ve experienced a week’s worth of fun on my wonderful, bumpy day with Peter, Perry and Brad and their fleet of off-road vehicles. This Cairns quad bike tour has shown me a side of our World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics that I’ve never seen before. Mission accomplished Brad — now back to base!
Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.