It’s Tesla Time In Tropical North Queensland.

Published in Explore Travel

Heads turn as the shining red Tesla pulls into the circular drive of the Sea Temple at Palm Cove, our accommodation of choice for a family holiday this week. Zac, from Cairns Luxury Car Hire, is delivering our car and is about to run us through the functions of the first electric vehicle available for hire in the region. With electric vehicle chargers being incorporated into many new hotel designs, and travellers considering sustainability more and more when they travel, Zac says there’s never been more demand for a service such as this.

red Tesla parked in canefields of far north queensland
The Tesla parked in the sugarcane fields.

First things first, the biggest worry on my mind is ‘what if I run out of charge?’ This is my first time driving an electric vehicle and I am nervous, but Merryn King, the owner of this luxury car rental business, has already sent me a list of all the tourist locations that are set up with charging stations. There are dozens of places we can visit this week without getting stuck. She has assured me that we can travel up to 400 kms without recharging and our resort has a Porsche electric charger, which is exactly what we need, so there is nothing to worry about.

Indeed, anxiety is replaced by extreme excitement the moment I sink into the leather driver’s seat. Zac runs me through the touchscreen which controls the whole car, then starts to show me the fun stuff – the ‘Toy Box’, the car’s entertainment system. You can make fart noises (ranging from standard to ludicrous) ring out from all different speakers of the car and blame it on your passengers. 

Also in the on-screen toy box for passengers is a full suite of entertainment options; a drawing sketchpad, sudoku puzzles and other games, and Netflix. When the car is stationary and in park, the kids can even play car racing games using the steering wheel. For a more romantic moment, the screen becomes a cosy fireplace and the heater cranks up, making the car a toasty little space for an off-road sojourn.

Merryn tells us that the heritage listed tourist attraction, Paronella Park in Mena Creek, 90 minutes drive south of Cairns, now has a charging station that is actually powered by the old Hydro electric station on the property. A visit to the Catalan style castle and a walk through the curated tropical rainforest is highly recommended. She says that we can go as far north as the Daintree Village and charge our vehicle at stations in the district.

But we have other plans. 

We hit the Captain Cook Highway, with my friend Sam at the wheel, and head up the Queensland Electric Super Highway for the Port Douglas Sunday markets. While we wander around the stalls of locally made arts, crafts, clothes and fresh fruit, the car waits for us, in a safety/power off mode, conserving energy. When we’re ready to set off for Mossman Gorge we jump in again. The car’s top speed is 130 kms per hour but we follow road speed rules. On arrival we park at the charging station to give the precious Tesla some juice while we take the 2.4km Circuit Track through the forest. The car remains locked while the charger is on, so it’s perfectly safe and we have no worries leaving it there while we explore nature’s bounty.

Later that night, we drive to the Main Street of Palm Cove and set up the light show – a two minute extravaganza where the car channels the Knight Rider – its boot and windows raise and lower, lights flash in a disco-esque display, music booms from the speakers and there is a general kerfuffle. Passers-by stop to watch, of course. There is absolutely nothing subtle about this. Our teenagers walk away, faces shielded, embarrassed by the attention.

The following morning we take the Kennedy Highway inland to join an ATV tour with Kuranda Rainforest Journeys. After our quad biking adventure we head to town to find the Skyrail charger so we can plug in while we eat lunch but it’s a quiet day, shops are still closed due to staff shortages, and we can’t find anyone to help us when we can’t locate the charger at the station. We’ve hardly used any charge at all so it’s not necessary, but I’m risk averse, and like to be safe, not sorry.

The interior of the Tesla has a practical flat storage console which charges my iphone, wirelessly (of course). The car has rear and side vision cameras and an extra side camera appears when the indicators are flicked on. It’s a bit disconcerting at first but it only takes a few turns to comprehend how useful it is – it’s a head check done in the flicker of an eye.

An electric car designed by a billionaire has many design features that make it a pleasure to drive and I find myself easily convinced that this would be a great next car for our family. We feel delighted to be exploring a world heritage area in a car that’s not having an environmental impact. 

Breakout Box

Where to find a charger in Tropical North Queensland

  • Skyrail Rainforest Cableway (Smithfield Terminal)
  • ​​Mossman Gorge Visitor Park
  • Historic Village Herberton
  • Paronella Park
  • Hartley’s Crocodile Farm
  • Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas
  • Coffee Works Mareeba

In Cairns itself there are many locations: 

  • Stockland Cairns
  • Cairns Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
  • Cairns Bus Charters
  • Cairns Central Shopping Centre
  • Cairns Southern Esplanade carpark

Hotels with EV Chargers

  • Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple
  • Pullman Cairns International
  • Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple
  • Oaks Port Douglas
  • Cairns Sheridan Hotel
  • Crystalbrook Riley

Superchargers – fully charge your car in 40 minutes at the ShangriLa Hotel and Pullman International.

If all else fails the Tesla comes with connectors that enable you to plug the car into an everyday powerpoint in the wall.

Danielle was a guest of Tourism North Queensland and Cairns Luxury Car Hire. She stayed at the Sea Temple Palm Cove.