Your day trip starts early with morning hotel pickup in Cairns by air-conditioned vehicle. With your guide, head up the McAllister Ranges to the Mareeba Wetlands, perhaps spotting emus, wedge-tailed eagles, kangaroos or frill-necked lizards along the way.
Upon arrival, enjoy morning tea and a 20-minute wetlands cruise. View lotus lilies and water birds, and hear about the breeding program for endangered Gouldian finches. Afterward, switch into a 4WD vehicle and go off road, keeping an eye out for wallabies, emus and other wildlife before passing tropical fruit farms and crossing the Great Dividing Range into the Australian Outback. (Note, if wet weather closes the road, you'll visit Granite Gorge instead.)
Continue through historic towns, mineral-rich hills and limestone karsts to reach Chillagoe, located 125 miles (200 km) west of Cairns. Learn about the town’s once-thriving mining industry and see copper smelter ruins; then enjoy lunch at an authentic Outback pub built in the early 1900s.
After lunch, head to Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. Take a ranger-guided tour of the spectacular caves, walking through underground chambers lined with sculptural stalactites, limestone formations and marine fossils from an ancient inland sea. Emerge from the caves and start the journey back toward Cairns, stopping in the Atherton Tablelands to visit Mt Uncle Distillery, the first distillery in North Queensland. You can taste its award-winning spirits and liqueurs, or enjoy some Devonshire tea, beer or wine (own expense). The stylishly rustic cafe, built with timber from the century-old Walsh River Bridge, provides views of lush gardens that contain banana, avocado and macadamia nut trees, plus peacocks, alpacas and donkeys.
Expect several hours of driving with plenty of stops during this day tour of Queensland’s far northern region, which ends with return to Cairns for hotel drop-off.