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About 80 kilometres north of Townsville there is a sign to the left pointing to Paluma Range National Park. A quick look at the map shows a windy road to the middle of nowhere so it would be easy to dismiss it as an unnecessary diversion but this is an area of great natural beauty not to be missed.

Like many people I’ve driven past the sign to Paluma many times and never bothered to turn off. Yet all the gems to be seen along the ‘Great Green Way’ between Cairns and Townsville do require diverting off the main road.

Paluma Park bridgeThere’s very little to see from the road but take a few little side trips here and there and you’ll find quiet beaches, spectacular lookouts and picturesque waterfalls, creeks and freshwater swim holes.

Exploring the natural environment is really the only way to get a sense of what North Queensland is all about.

Paluma Range National Park

Paluma Range National Park is known as the ‘southern gateway’ for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This is the most southern patch of rainforest in Australia and a favourite escape from the tropical heat for Townsville residents.

It is definitely worth a stop so take a picnic and soak up this rainforest environment. Make sure you’ve got your camera, walking shoes and swimming gear if it’s a hot day.

Here are 4 things to see and do in Paluma National Park:

1.    Swim

paluma range national parkParadise Waterhole at Big Crystal Creek is only a short diversion off the Bruce Highway and it has a big deep waterhole for swimming and kayaking. Follow the signs and walk through the campsite to get to it.

You can also swim at Little Crystal Creek but it takes a long windy road up the hillside to get to it. Once you get there and see the cascading crystal clear water, the drive is well worth it.

A short walk up the road from here there is also a natural waterslide made up of a series of short slides over slick mossy rocks.

As with all the creeks in North Queensland, the volume of water can make swimming more dangerous during wet season.

2. Bushwalk

There are lots of great walking tracks around Paluma with plenty of opportunities to soak up the views or catch a glimpse of the local wildlife including cassowaries and other birds, platypus and the Eastern Water Dragon.

Short walking tracks include McClelland’s Lookout, Birthday Creek Falls Track and also the Paluma Rainforest Walk. Longer walking tracks include the Cloudy Creek Track, the Witt’s Lookout Track and the ‘H’ Track.

Paluma is also a great area for mountain biking.

3. Camp

There are quite a few different places to camp in Paluma Range National Park. If you just want somewhere to stopover near the Highway, stay in the Big Crystal Creek area. Otherwise  Lake Paluma, an attractive man-made lake surrounded by World Heritage Rainforest, is very popular. It is advisable to book your permit early since rangers check permits daily.

4. Stay the night

There are a handful of accommodation options in Paluma including the award-winning eco-resort at Hidden Valley Cabins. Surrounded by lush rainforest and Australian bushland, the resort offers daily tours and night safaris.