The Great Tropical Drive encompasses 13 trails between Townsville and Cooktown and inland across the tablelands region. The route winds its way along palm-fringed beaches to ancient rainforests and into north Queensland's golden outback. The 2079-kilometre drive can be enjoyed in sections on day trips or in a couple of weeks in total.
Cyclone Larry wreaked havoc in the area in 2005, devastating crops and buildings, but people are recovering. Life goes on.
Forty minutes inland from Port Douglas is Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands. This agricultural area is known for sugarcane and banana growing and more recently, quality coffee. Ian MacLaughlin began Skybury Coffee in 1987 and now exports to Europe, Asia and a large local market. Skybury is Australia's leading Arabica plantation. The Mareeba altitude offers the perfect growing climate and thanks to the Tropical Drive, tourism numbers are up.
The two-storey centre is perched on top of a granite outcrop. It has a restaurant, bar, coffee cinema and laboratory. It's like a theme park for coffee lovers!
There are loads of other attractions along the drive Wallaman Falls, whitewater rafting, fossicking on gemfields, ancient rock paintings, Undara lava tubes, Cape Tribulation, Crater Lakes and Bowling Green Bay National Park.
Allawah Retreat is on 60 hectares of native bush in the Atherton Tablelands. Three self-contained lodges are elegant, spacious and furniture is of handcrafted timber. It has heated deck spas and private plunge pool and a marvellous feeling of remoteness, although Tolga village and Atherton township are just a short drive away.