“Will this turn out to be a really bad idea?” I wondered just before booking February flights to Cairns, Queensland. February, you see, is in the middle of Far North Queensland’s wet season.
Some of the other questions floating around my mind were – Would all those picture-perfect beaches be washed out? Will it rain every day? Would there still be things to do? Will I still be able to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef?
All these questions and I needn’t have worried. We had an incredible trip to Far North Queensland in the rainy season! If you find that your own travel plans lead to you visiting Far North Queensland in the wet season, read on for some answers to your own questions.
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When is the wet season in Far North Queensland?
Far North Queensland is the most northernest part of the state, above and around the city of Cairns. The region has two distinct weather seasons.
May to November is the ‘dry’ season and is characterised by warm temperatures, minimal rainfall and very little humidity. Cairns is a popular winter destination for many Australians for exactly these reasons.
December to April is the ‘wet’ or rainy season. Temperatures are hot and humidity is high. The majority of Far North Queensland’s rainfall occurs in these months.
How rainy is the wet season really?
Looking up the average rainfall for each of the wet season months, it can be a bit astounding at first. The numbers don’t lie, there’s no doubt it is a lot of rain dropping on Far North Queensland during the wet season.
The thing to remember is that the rain usually falls hard and fast, often in the evenings or overnight. This means that there is still plenty of opportunity for sunny days.
Over nine days in early February, we experienced just one night of intense rain. Other than that, we saw absolutely no other rainfall. Every day was hot, humid and mostly sunny.
Our expectations had been pretty low for visiting Far North Queensland in the wet season. We were hoping for just a few days of sun. So to get blue sky every day, we felt wonderfully lucky.
It is important to know that the wet season is also the cyclone season. Keep in mind, however, that cyclones vary in intensity and do not necessarily happen every year.
Advantages of visiting Far North Queensland in the rainy season
Here are just a few reasons why travelling in Far North Queensland in the wet season is actually pretty great:
It is less busy
At Lowe Island, the snorkelling cruise boats were half empty. More wonderfully uncrowded coral reef for us! In Port Douglas, we didn’t have to make dinner reservations.
On our two night trip to the Daintree Rainforest, we had the boardwalks, swimming holes and lookout points almost all to ourselves.
Wet season travel is cheaper
The wet season is the ‘low’ season for travellers in Far North Queensland. As a general rule, travel expenses are therefore generally less costly.
In our research, we found that the same flights, accommodation and car hire were substantially cheaper in February compared to June or July.
The weather is hot
Rain doesn’t mean that the weather in Far North Queensland is cold. Quite the opposite in fact!
Temperatures are highest during the wet season months, averaging at around 28c in December, January and February compared to 22c in June, July and August. Do however note that the increased heat also comes with added humidity. It can be a bit sticky!
The ocean is calmer and warmer
The air temperature isn’t the only thing that increases during the wet season. The ocean is warmer too. Water temps peak at around 29c in January, a whole 7 degrees more than the average in July.
Something else to keep in mind is that the south-east trade winds ease up from November onwards, bringing calmer ocean conditions.
The Daintree rainforest is at its peak in wet season
The name kinda gives it away, but the Daintree rainforest and its residents love rain. Waterfalls and rivers are flowing fast, the animals are ribbiting and croaking, the trees are full of fruit, the tropical birds are splashing in puddles….you get the idea.
I loved listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the leaves of the forest and the croaking frogs during an overnight thunderstorm at Cape Tribulation.
What to do when visiting Far North Queensland in the wet season
During Far North Queensland’s rainy season, you can still see and experience so many amazing places. Here are some tried and tested ideas:
- Snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef is a must-do experience! And after all, even if it rains, you’re already wet anyway! We loved snorkelling around Low Island, a coral cay that is a short 15-minute boat trip away from Port Douglas.
- Explore the world’s oldest living rainforest – the Daintree. Walk beneath a dense rainforest canopy (think huge trees, ferns and vines) and over mangroves on one of the boardwalks in Daintree National Park. Try and spot the elusive cassowary, the third largest bird on the planet.
- Crocodile watching on the Daintree River with a guided tour. Not only did we get to see some of the resident crocs, but our guide also pointed out tropical frogs, Spectacled Flying Fox bats and other local wildlife.
- Go tropical fruit tasting. Far North Queensland’s Daintree region is home to some unusual tropical fruits such as soursops, carambolas and black sapotes. The latter is nicknamed the ‘chocolate pudding fruit!’
- Whitewater rafting on the Barron or Tully rivers near Cairns. With all of the extra water around, the river is positively raging in the rainy season. Prepare for an exhilarating ride!
- Beachcombing on one of Far North Queensland’s many stretches of sand. The rains of wet season bring all kinds of interesting shells, driftwood and coconut shells to shore.
- Float in a swimming hole in the rainforest. The perfect place to cool down in the wet season is in a freshwater swimming hole. We loved the one at Emmagen Creek (just north of Cape Tribulation) but there is another, more popular spot behind Mason’s Store.
Looking for more ideas? Here’s a round-up of unique things to do in the Daintree rainforest.
Far North Queensland wet season travel tips
- With the wet season also being the low season for tourism, be aware that some businesses will be shut during this time.
- The rain also brings marine stingers to the water. You must wear a full body Lycra stinger suit to protect against stings from box jellyfish and the Irukandji when snorkelling or swimming. They are not particularly flattering but the stinger suits also protect against UV rays.
- Roads may become flooded in the wet season so always have extra time in your itinerary to allow for delays.
- The wet season does also bring with it the risk of tropical cyclones. Keep track of warnings on Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology website.
Should you still visit Far North Queensland in wet season?
In my opinion, yes. As the only place on the whole planet where two World Heritage Areas meet (the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef), there is no doubt Far North Queensland is a special place to visit.
Whatever season you choose to explore, the best of the reef and rainforest can still be experienced. Something to remember in the wet season, however, is that a little positivity and flexibility can go a long way!
Book a stay in Port Douglas now:
Lazy Lizard Motor Inn – Great value
Regal Port Douglas – Awesome location
Port Douglas Motel – Highly rated on Booking.com
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada