Exploring the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest continuously surviving rainforest, is on most people’s list of ‘must-do’s when they visit Far North Queensland, and its easily done as a self driving Daintree daytrip from Cairns.
The Daintree lies about 140kms to the north of Cairns along a road that hugs the coast to Port Douglas before winding through sugarcane fields, past lush rainforested hills and deserted beaches until it finally comes to a stop at the Daintree River.
After crossing over the river on the ferry (it takes about 5 minutes), the road continues through rainforest and past small settlements all the way to Cape Tribulation.
Beyond this point the road is unsealed and only recommended for 4WD’s along the Bloomfield Track to Cooktown.
It’s a beautiful drive to the Daintree through diverse tropical landscapes but as with most places in Australia, its important to plan some stops along the way otherwise you’ll just drive through a lot of scenery without actually getting to experience all that the area has to offer.
These are some stop-offs we would recommend to be sure you get the full Daintree experience:
The rainforest is the major attraction in this area but you can’t fully appreciate it from inside a vehicle.
For this reason it’s worth stopping at the Daintree Discovery Centre where you can walk around the forest on elevated boardwalks and listen in to guided talks.
The boardwalks enable you to view the forest from the ground all the way up to the canopy. In fact, the highest observation tower allows you to see right over the top.
The good thing about going there is that it has a self guided tour so you can also learn about this amazing and unique ecosystem.
If you’ve got time, another good option for seeing the rainforest from lots of different angles is to have a go at jungle surfing in Cape Trib where you can zipline your way through the trees.
There are also some good self-guided boardwalks.
- The Kulki boardwalk is a short walk up to a look-out over Cape Tribulation beach.
- Dubuji Boardwalk is a beautiful 1.2 km walk through rainforest and mangroves that is accessed from Myall Beach as well as a path near the kid’s playground next to PKs Village.
- The Maardja Botanical Walk is a flat walk that meanders through mangroves for about 1.2 kms. It is about 10 minutes south of Cape Trib.
There are quite a few operators offering crocodile spotting cruises in the Daintree.
They usually only take about an hour so they are definitely worth doing on a Daintree daytrip.
You are pretty much guaranteed to spot in the wild and they are also just a nice way to take in the views and environment of the area.
Here are a couple of options:
- Solar Whispers are located right near the ferry and they offer really good cruises along the Daintree River.
- Cape Tribulation Crocodile Cruises are also really good cruise further north at Thornton Beach.
The Daintree is also important cassowary habitat so drive slowly and keep your eyes peeled. If you see a vehicle has stopped with it’s lights flashing it is probably because the driver has seen a cassowary crossing the road so slow down and stop.
If you’ve got kids with you, there is also the option of popping into the Daintree Zoo or if you like insects check out the Bug (Entomological) Museum. If you pop into Lync-Haven Cafe for breakfast you might also be lucky enough to be invited to watch their croc and wallabies being fed – they are a wildlife rehabilitation centre.
3. beaches & swim holes
There are some beautiful beaches in the Daintree so make sure you have some beach time on your agenda, even if it’s only for 15-20 minutes of beachcombing.
Since the Daintree is prime croc-country do not swim in the ocean, in estuaries or rivers.
If you’re visiting on a hot day you should head to a freshwater swimhole instead. The best known one in this area is Mason’s Creek just behind Mason’s store in Cape Trib or further north from Cape Trib there is Emmagen Creek.
There are a few good cafes and restaurants dotted along the road to Cape Tribulation.
You should also definitely plan on stopping for ice cream at some point during your journey in the Daintree.
There are a couple of places that make locally made ice cream from some of the strange and unusual rainforest fruits grown in the area.
If you get the opportunity to try Black Sapote ice cream definitely give it a go because it actually tastes like chocolate. Its amazing.
other places along the way
If you’re travelling from Cairns there are a few other places you can stop before you get to the Daintree ferry. These include:
- Port Douglas – good for an afternoon beer on the way home
- Swimming holes in the Port Douglas area
- Janbal Gallery in Mossman where you can do Aboriginal painting
- Mossman Gorge
- Daintree village
Travel NQ fast facts:
- It takes approx. 3 hours to drive from Cairns (2 hours from Port Douglas) to Cape Tribulation on a Daintree daytrip
- The road is sealed and accessible to all traffic as far as Cape Tribulation but beyond this there is 32kms of unsealed road on the Bloomfield Track to Cooktown
- There is only one fuel station on the north side of the ferry
- Peak hours for the Daintree Ferry are 10-12.30 going north and 3-6pm going south so avoid these times if you want to minimise your wait time
- There are quite a few good Daintree accommodation options if you choose to stay, including some at the top in Cape Trib.
- Take insect repellent (for mozzies), a towel (for swimming), cash (eftpos is not available everywhere), camera and an umbrella (in case of rain)
- Be croc-wise: Don’t swim in the sea and don’t stand too close to the water’s edge