Take a north Queensland EV driving holiday

Roat tripping around the tropics a memorable motoring experience.

What makes a great road trip? 

You can’t go past the combination of a great car, awesome roads and stunning destinations.

The Tropical North Queensland Electric Vehicle Drive has all three in abundance.

The route, designed for day or multi-day trips from Cairns, has six dedicated charging stations (each with two 7kW AC chargers) at six locations on 500km of great driving across tropical north Queensland.

When it was being commissioned, a colleague and I drove a Nissan Leaf to each of the destinations to test the chargers. 

The 7kW chargers provide 40-50km of range per hour at no cost, so with two to four hours at each destination you can drive the 500km while charging for free as you go.

We started by heading south from Cairns, with about 80 percent battery, heading for Paronella Park, 105km away. 

EV charging station in north Queensland.

Paronella Park is one of Queensland’s most awarded tourism attractions – a ruined castle within a lush rainforest, originally built in the 1930s by Jose Paronella.

Across the 13ha site beside Mena Creek Falls there are the ruins, picnic area, tunnel, cafe and a working 1930s hydro-electric scheme that was recommissioned in 2009.

After two hours charging at Paronella Park, we headed up the Palmerston Highway towards Herberton on the Atherton Tablelands.

The twisting upward drive to Millaa Millaa and then Herberton is fantastic with attractions along the way including Millaa Millaa Falls and Mamu Tropical Skywalk. 

Arriving at our destination, we stopped at the outdoor pioneer museum, Historic Village Herberton – a place for endless wandering and learning.  

The village pays homage to an era when mining dominated the Atherton Tablelands with 19th and early 20th-century machinery and small engines, transport, fashion and pharmaceuticals, as well as motor vehicles and war memorabilia, on display.

Downhill from Herberton, through Atherton, the next stop was Mareeba and a visit to the Coffee Works, which is heaven for lovers of coffee (and chocolate). 

The Captain Cook  Highway between Port Douglas and Cairns.

After our one-hour charge, we headed back down to Cairns via the spectacular Kuranda Range Road.

This was regenerative braking heaven for the Leaf. It’s a great feeling to drive mostly downhill for 11km and to have used no kilometres of battery range.

While having dinner in Cairns we charged the Leaf to 95 percent at the Cairns Queensland EV Superhighway Charger on the Esplanade.

The next day we headed north to Skyrail Rainforest Cableway – a 7.5km scenic cableway running above the Barron Gorge National Park to Kuranda.

This is a day-long destination providing a unique view of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, so a charge-stop here will likely fill your EV battery. 

We shortened the stay and continued north to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, the largest wildlife attraction in northern Australia. 

Nestled in the picturesque Wangetti Valley, between Cairns and Port Douglas, the iconic wildlife attraction is surrounded by World Heritage-listed National Park. 

Paronella Park, near Innisfail.

Heading further north, towards Mossman and Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway, was pure driving joy. 

With the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics Rainforest cascading down to the ocean and overlooking the Great Barrier Reef in the distance, this road is made for EV driving. 

The twists and turns were all dealt with no application of the brakes and in complete silence. 

We headed past Port Douglas to Mossman Gorge, an indigenous eco-tourism attraction which also has the northern-most point on the EV drive charging network. 

Self-guided and guided tours are available, including a walk on Kuku Yalanji land with traditional owners sharing their ancient knowledge of the rainforest. 

With our charging complete at Hartley’s on the way north and a small top-up charging stop at the Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre, we had enough range to easily drive back to our final stop, Cairns.

If there was one lesson learned from our drive, it was don’t rush your stays at the destinations.

With the added advantage of a free charge, a longer stay will let you soak up the experience, save you money and banish any driving range anxieties. 

Click here for for more information on the Queensland Electric Super Highway.

Take a break and recharge

The Tropical North Queensland EV drive builds on the Queensland Electric Superhighway that stretches from the Gold Coast to Cairns.

The highway allows electric vehicle drivers to travel from Coolangatta to Cairns and from Brisbane to Toowoomba with fast chargers installed at key locations.

The fast chargers are positioned close to major highways and where there are existing amenities, such as cafes, restaurants and shops.

This allows motorists to charge their electric vehicles and use the time to have a short break and experience more of what the regions have to offer.

STORY: Michael Kane, Director of Innovation for Economic Development Queensland and was Project Director on the Tropical North Queensland Electric Vehicle Drive.
PHOTOS: Michael Kane, Tourism and Events Queensland, Getty Images.