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Jelly Oshen’s Local Guide To The Hidden Gems of Tropical North Queensland

Jelly Oshen gives us the lowdown on the best hidden gems to visit while travelling in Tropical North Queensland.

Cairns-born artist Jelly Oshen knows that when it comes to exploring the beauty of Australia, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular place to visit on your travels than Tropical North Queensland.

Whether you’re keen to unwind on the sun-drenched beaches, have an island escape to remember, or take in some of the world’s most beautiful natural landscapes with snorkelling and reef tours, there’s truly something for everyone when it comes to a holiday in the popular tropical area.

And while the famous sights of Tropical North Queensland are still a must-see, it’s the area’s hidden gems that really showcase the natural beauty of our own country.

With so much to do and see, we got the lowdown from local indie rocker Jelly Oshen about the lesser-known places to check out on your next holiday to Tropical North Queensland.

Embrace Nature

A lot of the great activities in Tropical North Queensland are nature-based,” Jelly explains to Rolling Stone Australia.

“There are a lot of hiking trails that lead to really nice views or a beautiful creek. Cairns is also really popular for its beaches – like Ellis Beach – because it has freshwater flowing into it so it’s much less salty.”

“While I’m not someone who heads to the beach regularly, swimming in the local creeks is probably my favourite pastime. One of my favourite local ones is Crystal Cascades.”

“It’s got several swimming holes along the stream – but the longer you walk the deeper and nicer the water gets.”

Plus, If you’re feeling adventurous you can visit Fairy Falls, the local’s secret found just a 15-minute walk from the left of the Crystal Cascades car park.

Jelly adds, “There are quite a lot of spots like that in just a 10 to 15-minutes drive from the city from the main area. I feel really lucky to have grown up here, it’s really beautiful.”

Crystal Cascades is a series of water holes and waterfalls in a section of Freshwater Creek only a short 20-minute drive from Cairns Central Business District. Credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland

Local Dining Gems

“This place is great for food, especially because a lot of tourists come from all around the world and end up staying here” Jelly explains.

“I’m really liking Greek food right now – there’s a place called Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar on the Esplanade, it’s upstairs and it’s incredible!”

“They have a slow-cooked lamb shoulder that’s absolutely amazing,” Jelly says of his favourite local dish.

“And I really, really love the mixed olives they sell because it’s all locally grown.”

Among some of the other epic dining venues on Cairns Esplanade Dining Precinct include the newly-opened Flynn’s Italian, which offers signature Italian dishes that wouldn’t feel out of place on Nonna’s kitchen table. For pizza lovers, look no further than the aptly-named La Pizza, which has been locally owned and operated for 25 years.

There’s also the newly-refurbished Iyara by Sakare, which offers samples of culinary delights like stir fry prawns with chilli jam and caramelised crispy pork hok, washed down with a Tom Yum cocktail. If you’re in more of a grab-and-go mood, head to the Night Markets (both Abbott Street or Esplanade entrances) for street-style Asian food, including Bahn mi and pho.

If you’re craving a sweet treat, be sure to make your way to the night markets to Churro Time for a scrumptious churro with your choice of topping, washed down with a bubble tea.

Or, head through the night markets to the Abbott Street entrance for an array of dessert options, including crepes, lollies and all-natural watermelon sorbet. Ice cream lovers can head to the locally-owned Gelocchio, which serves 100% natural ice cream, including the iconic ice cream or sorbet on a stick.

Get Entertained With the Local Nightlife

“There are around 15 music bars in town – and our town here isn’t very big,” Jelly says.

“I really love Elixir Music House. It’s very small and has lots of great multicultural music.” Image: Instagram

As for his current venue of choice, the “Good Days” rocker continued, “I really love Elixir Music House. It’s very small and has lots of great multicultural music.”

“Just yesterday, they had live reggae from local artists. It’s kind of a jazz bar but they really mix it up, it’s really good!”

You can also catch live music at popular venues like Salt House, Bar36 at the Casino, Ellis Beach bar & grill, Hemingways Cairns, and Boardwalk Social on Cairns Esplanade.

You can also check out Ticketlink for info on upcoming events, such as Cairns Summer Sounds 2022, which sees a stellar cast of live acts, including Thundamentals (feat. Horrorshow), The Cat Empire, Dami Im, Jessica Mauboy, Eric Bibb, and Stella Donnelly will perform across five different events in Cairns, bringing the tropics alive with big beats and vibrancy.

If you’re keen to get dreaming about your next holiday in Tropical North Queensland, head to cairnsgreatbarrierreef.com