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Taking up a sizeable chunk of Far North Queensland, the Daintree Rainforest is one of the most spectacular areas in Australia. Just a couple of hours north of Cairns, there are plenty of things to do in the Daintree Rainforest to keep you occupied.
The Daintree Rainforest is in Far North Queensland, just around two hours north of Cairns and two hours south of the town of Cooktown.
The world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree is part of the Wet Tropics, a huge area of tropical rainforest that includes several mountain ranges and national parks. Just off the coast from the Daintree Rainforest is the Great Barrier Reef, another of Queensland’s biggest attractions.
Today much of the tropical rainforest sits within the Daintree National Park. The Daintree is home to a huge range of natural wonders, from the beauty of Mossman Gorge to the gorgeous rugged landscape of Cape Tribulation.
In short, yes. The Daintree Rainforest is an 180 million year old UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with a fascinating ecosystem that hosts a breathtaking range of natural scenery and a variety of uniquely Australian animals.
Everything from crocodiles, cassowaries and rare breeds of kangaroos live in the Daintree. David Attenborough called the Daintree Rainforest “the most extraordinary place on Earth”.
There are many different ways to explore the Daintree, from looping boardwalks that guide you through the forest, to hiking trails that pass through the ancient wilderness to spectacular waterfalls and mountain-top viewpoints.
You can learn all about the rainforest at attractions such as the Daintree Discovery Centre, while no trip to Far North Queensland is complete without taking a cruise along the Daintree River to see some of the saltwater crocodiles that live in the rainforest.
You can also discover the Daintree’s rich Aboriginal history, especially at Mossman Gorge. Here you can learn all about the ancient culture and traditions of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, the Aboriginal tribe who lived in the Daintree Rainforest for over 50,000 years.
If you have a little longer time to spend in the area then there are many other places and attractions worth visiting near the Daintree forest.
Our guide to the best things to do in the Daintree also covers some of the highlights that are worth seeing nearby, including Port Douglas, Kuranda, Cairns, Cooktown and more
We’d recommend spending at least five days to fully explore the Daintree Rainforest region.
You can easily spend a lot longer here as there’s a lot to see and plenty that can be packed into a longer trip. There’s also a lot to do just outside the Daintree that you can easily add to a tour of this part of Far North Queensland.
The best time to visit Daintree is between May and September.
The Daintree has a tropical climate, meaning that it has a wet and dry season. Between May and September is the dry season, which runs from the end of autumn to the beginning of spring.
During the dry season top temperatures reach around 25°C/77°F with very little humidity. It can get cooler in the winter, between June and July, especially at night. Rain and overcast days are also not uncommon.
In the wet season torrential downpours are an almost daily occurrence, though they mainly happen at night. As a result flooding is common in some parts of the Daintree during the wet season. Temperatures are higher at around 27°C to 33°C (80 – 91°F) and the humidity ramps up to around 80%.
If you’re coming from overseas then the best way to get to the Daintree Rainforest is by car via Cairns.
The Daintree is around an hour and a half drive from Cairns, the largest city in Far North Queensland.
There are several daily domestic flights into Cairns Airport from destinations across Australia, including Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.
If you’re visiting the Daintree from overseas you may need to connect to a flight to Cairns from one of these major cities.
» To find the best deals on flights to Cairns on Skyscanner click here.
The only way to get around the Daintree is by car or camper van.
All of the main and most commonly used roads in the Daintree region are fully sealed but if you plan on heading north of Cape Tribulation towards Bloomfield you’ll need a four wheel drive vehicle.
The Bloomfield Track is unsealed and crosses a few creeks and only four wheel drive cars are allowed to venture beyond this point.
If you need to hire a car for your trip then all of the major car hire companies have a branch at Cairns Airport. We always use Discover Cars to find the best deal on car hire wherever we travel.
» To find the best prices on car rentals in Cairns with Discover Cars, click here.
The Daintree is also a great place to explore in a camper van.
The Daintree is well set up for those living the van life dream, with plenty of camping sites dotted in and around the Daintree, many of which start from around AU$20 a night.
If you need to hire a campervan then there are several companies that rent a range of different vehicles that suit all kinds of different requirements.
One of the most popular is Travellers Autobarn, an Aussie company that offers a variety of different campers of different sizes, kitted out with all the essentials needed for the perfect van life road trip.
» For the best deals on camper van rentals in Cairns with Travellers Autobarn, click here.
The best place to stay in the Daintree will probably depend on what kind of area you want to stay in and the type of accommodation that suits your needs.
There’s something for everyone in and around the Daintree, from beach-side cabins, secluded holiday homes to resorts in towns stocked full of all essential amenities.
» You can search for accommodation throughout the Daintree here.
If you need some suggestions then here’s a run down of some of the best places to stay in and near the Daintree Rainforest.
The majority of accommodation within the Daintree Rainforest is made up of holiday retreats and lodges nestled deep within the beautiful surroundings.
Rainforest Hideaway has comfortable rooms and bungalows set on 5 kilometres of land deep in the Daintree forest. The Cape Trib Farm is another hugely popular rural getaway offering private bungalows and tropical fruits for breakfast. The cosy chalets at Noah Creek Eco Huts also offer total seclusion deep within the heart of the rainforest.
» You can search for more accommodation within the Daintree Rainforest here.
There is a small selection of accommodation available in Daintree, a tiny picturesque town located right on the Daintree River. Daintree is around a 15 minute drive from the Daintree Ferry – a perfect spot for exploring the region.
Cassowary Falls Gateway Daintree is a beautiful private chalet set in gorgeous grounds just outside Daintree. The Daintree Ecolodge offers a range of beautiful villas set within a section of the rainforest, while nearby Cloud 9 is a heavenly holiday home with stunning views of the surrounding scenery.
» You can find more accommodation in Daintree here.
One of the most popular places to stay is Port Douglas, around a 20 minute drive south of Mossman Gorge. A bustling town packed with shops, cafes, and bars, Port Douglas has a huge choice of accommodation.
A short walk from the centre of town, the Port Douglas Motel has a range of well stocked colourful rooms along with a small communal pool. Just a short walk from Four Mile Beach, Tropical Reef Apartments offers a range of rooms with private balconies which are ideal for families.
If you’re looking for a spot of luxury, book into one of the suites at the Coconut Grove, whose gorgeous rooms come with an en suite spa plus mountain views.
» You can search for more accommodation in Port Douglas here.
Palm Cove resembles a scaled down version of Port Douglas. Here there are plenty of places to eat, several bars, plus a beautiful beach.
Ellis Beach Oceanfront Bungalows offers excellent affordable cabins right on Ellis Beach, just to the north of Palm Cove. The Marlin Waters Beachfront Apartments are located right in the heart of the action on Palm Cove beach, or you can treat yourself with a suite at the spacious Island View Beachfront Apartments.
» You can search for more accommodation in Palm Cove here.
Featuring a heavy dose of breathtaking natural scenery, here are the best things to do in the Daintree Rainforest.
Mossman Gorge offers a wonderful insight into the incredible beauty of the entire Daintree Rainforest.
Mossman Gorge can be reached via a shuttle bus from the Mossman Gorge Centre. After being dropped off, there are a couple of elevated boardwalks with easy walking paths that lead into the Mossman Gorge and to the Mossman River.
As one of the few places in the Daintree that is free from crocodiles, the Mossman River is one of the most popular places to swim in the region. Don’t forget to bring a towel in case you fancy taking a dip.
Head across the Rex Creek suspension bridge that towers over the Mossman River. Once on the opposite side, follow the 2.4 km rainforest circuit loop trail through some of the Daintree’s most stunning natural scenery.
You can learn so much more about Mossman Gorge and the whole Daintree Rainforest on the highly recommended Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks.
The Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks last around an hour and a half and are led by a guide from the local indigenous Kuku Yalanji people, the Aboriginal community who have called the Daintree home for tens of thousands of years.
The walk begins with a traditional smoking ceremony, before continuing through a section of the forest that is only accessible on the tour.
The fascinating tour reveals how the Kuku Yalanji people used their knowledge and the forest’s wealth of fauna in their daily lives to survive and thrive in the Daintree. The guide explains how trees, plants and the rainforest’s animals were traditionally used in all aspects of Aboriginal life.
You’ll also learn about the rich history and cultural heritage of the Kuku Yalanji people that was developed over several thousands of years of living in the Daintree region.
The Daintree region is home to a large population of saltwater crocodiles. The best way to spot some of the local crocs (from a safe distance) is on a cruise along the Daintree River.
Crocodiles are commonly seen along the Daintree River, where they like to sun themselves on the riverbanks or next to the river’s mangroves.
Most of the tour companies that run the crocodile river cruises claim a 99% chance of seeing a croc, offering an incredible chance to see one of the world’s most deadly predators up close in their natural habitat. You’re likely to catch a glimpse of other types of local wildlife along the river too, including snakes and a range of native birds.
A crocodile cruise is one of the best things to do in the Daintree Rainforest, and also one of the most popular. It pays to book a Daintree River croc cruise in advance.
Tour operators run crocodile cruises from two different parts of the Daintree River. Some start from near the Daintree Ferry crossing, and others begin further upstream from the town of Daintree.
At the top end of the Daintree Rainforest north of the Daintree River is Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation is amongst some of the oldest parts of the Daintree Rainforest. Described as the place where the rainforest meets the reef, Cape Tribulation is still as wild and as rugged as it has been for tens of thousands of years.
After crossing the Daintree River, Cape Tribulation Road leads through the thick ancient forest, often skirting along the beautiful coastline. The Madja Boardwalk and the Dubuji Boardwalk are both excellent walks and offer wonderful views of the rainforest.
Keep an eye out for the wildlife too. You might spot a cassowary as well as pythons and flying foxes. The Dubuji Boardwalk also leads to the sweeping bay of Myall Beach. For an alternative and exhilarating view of the rainforest you can zipline across the treetops.
As well as the forest, along the coastline are a number of beautiful beaches (more on these in a moment). The Kulki Boardwalk leads to a viewpoint with a wonderful view of Cape Tribulation beach.
Elsewhere, the Mason’s Swimming Hole next to the Mason Cafe is one spot in Cape Tribulation where you can take a swim that is croc-free, and don’t miss the jaw-dropping views from the Mount Alexandra Lookout.
The coastline along the Daintree Rainforest is packed with beautiful beaches. However, due to the saltwater crocodiles that live in the region, swimming is not allowed in the seas around the Daintree.
Also, between November and May, a species of jellyfish called marine stingers are also commonly found in the sea along the Daintree’s coastline. Marine stingers carry a nasty sting and potentially fatal sting – vinegar is kept at most beaches as a first treatment for stings, though professional medical treatment will also be needed.
Though you can’t swim in the sea you can relax or take a walk along any of the beaches. Just remember to keep at least a few metres away from the water’s edge in case there are any crocs lurking around.
Near Cape Tribulation are Cow Bay Beach, Thornton Beach, Noah Beach and Myall Beach, all stunning stretches of sand lined with palm trees with sensational views of the shoreline.
Cape Tribulation Beach also has sweeping views of the rainforest as it slopes down towards the coastline. Further north you can see the exposed roots of the isolated mangrove trees at Cowie Beach during low tide.
There are two beaches where you can swim to the south of the Daintree River. Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas has a netted section that is monitored by lifeguards, as does the beautiful Palm Cove beach further south towards Cairns.
Just a few minutes drive north of the Daintree River, the Daintree Discovery Centre offers the chance to learn all about the forest’s rich biodiversity.
Inside the Daintree Discovery Centre are elevated boardwalks and aerial walkways that look over the forest floor, as well as a 23 metre tall canopy tower that offers incredible views of the forest from the top of the tree-tops. See if you can spot the elusive cassowary from the cassowary circuit boardwalk, and learn about the dinosaurs that once roamed Queensland on the jurassic forest trail.
The Interpretive Centre teaches the full history of the rainforest, starting millions of years ago when Australia was part of one giant landmass called Gondwana. You can also learn about the rich flora and fauna that lives within the forest, as well all about the cassowary.
There are several hiking routes dotted throughout the Daintree Rainforest. Whether you’re looking for a simple walk or a more arduous several-hour trek, you’ll find many beautiful trails that offer exactly what you’re looking for.
The most manageable hikes in the Daintree are the Madja and Dubuji boardwalks. Another easy walk leads from the Bloomfield Road to the Emmagen Creek Swimming Hole, just north of Cape Tribulation.
More challenging hikes can be found in the Mount Sorrow Ridge Walk, a steep multi-hour trek that leads to a platform with a stunning view over the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean. The Manjal Jimalji trail, also known as the Devil’s Thumb trail, is an even tougher and steeper hike that offers arguably some of the best views in Queensland.
There are plenty of trails further south worth exploring too, many of which lead to picturesque waterfalls and isolated swimming holes. The hiking trails to Spring Creek Falls and Big Mowbray Falls, both near Mowbray outside Port Douglas, are well worth exploring.
Far North Queensland is not home to one breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site, but two. A huge stretch of the Great Barrier Reef lies just off the shore from the Daintree Rainforest, and there are several ways in which you can get up close to the reef’s spectacular corals and marine life.
One of the best things to do in the Daintree is explore the Great Barrier Reef. There are a number of tour operators who offer snorkelling and scuba diving trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.
Based in Cape Tribulation, Ocean Safari offers morning and afternoon boat trips to the reef, though the majority of operators depart from the popular town of Port Douglas.
Most trips are between 8 to 10 hours, during which time you can explore a number of different areas of the reef. You can choose a trip to see the reef near the Low Islands or you can take a dive near the more vibrant outer reef, where you’re likely to see more of the ocean’s exotic marine life.
Whichever you choose, you’re sure to come away with a lifetime of unforgettable memories from the Great Barrier Reef.
The Daintree’s tropical climate means that the area is a great place to grow exotic fruits and plants. There are several local growers in and around the Daintree making a range of delicious foods and drinks that are an absolute treat for the tastebuds.
Just north of the Daintree River, the Daintree Ice Cream Company is an essential stop for anybody with a sweet tooth.
The Daintree Ice Cream Company makes sumptuous ice creams and gelatos from a variety of tropical fruits grown on the trees in the orchard on the company’s own organic farm. Flavours include passionfruit, mangosteen, jackfruit, durian, and a whole host more.
Fruits of the rainforest – ice cream, cocoa pods and bottles of mango and jaboticaba wine
Nearby you can also call in to the tea fields of the Daintree Tea Company. The Daintree Tea Company plantation was founded in the 1970s, and you can wander through the tea fields and stock up on a box or two of locally grown tea bags from the on-site shop.
Near Mossman Gorge are the Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery and The Australian Chocolate Farm. The Shannonvale Tropical Fruit Winery produces a range of excellent single blend fruit wines from ingredients such as mango, jaboticaba, black sapote, lychee and more. You can book ahead or just drop in for a tasting session.
Just around the corner is the Australian Chocolate Farm. Here you can try a sampling set of some of the company’s award-winning chocolates in the farm’s cafe.
The chocolates are all made from the cocoa grown on the farm’s plantation, which you can also see as part of a guided tour. The tours teach about the process of growing the cocoa and how it is processed to make such delicious chocolate. Tastings are also included as part of the tour.
While there are plenty of things to do in the Daintree Rainforest to keep you busy, if you have the time then there are plenty of places worth checking out nearby.
Here are a few of the best things to stop and see near the Daintree.
A unique way to see some of Far North Queensland’s most spectacular rainforest is via the Skyrail Cableway. The Skyrail Cableway is a 7.5 kilometre cable car that departs from Smithfield on the edge of Cairns, gliding over the rainforests of the Barron Gorge National Park towards the town of Kuranda.
There are two stops en route, at Red Peak and Barron Falls, where there are boardwalks and viewing points where you can explore more of the forest’s stunning scenery – the view of Barron Falls is particularly special, especially during the wet season.
From Kuranda you can either return to Smithfield on the cableway or choose to come back via the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. The vintage railway carriages of the Kuranda Scenic Railway winds through some of the region’s most beautiful scenery on the way back to Cairns, including passing right past Stoney Creek Falls.
The vibrant town of Kuranda is well worth visiting, whether you get there via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or by car. Kuranda is a pioneer town that dates from the late 19th century that’s located around 30 kilometres north of Cairns.
Since the 1970s, Kuranda has gained a reputation for being a hippy town, and many people looking for a more laid back lifestyle have settled here over the years. The town still retains much of the hippy vibe, with several markets dotted around the town that specialise in local souvenirs, jewellery and much more.
There are also a number of other highlights that make Kuranda a popular spot for visitors Among the town’s main attractions are Kuranda Koala Gardens, a small wildlife park where you can see koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles and much more.
Nearby, Birdworld Kuranda is home to a beautiful range of indigenous and imported tropical birds. Meanwhile you can walk amongst over 2,000 colourful butterflies in the large aviary the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
Don’t miss the giant fig trees that line Coondoo Street and if you’re driving to Kuranda be sure to stop for the sensational views at the Rex Lookout on the edge of the town.
Port Douglas is the largest town between Cairns and the Daintree. Featuring a pretty town centre, Port Douglas is home to Four Mile Beach, one of the best beaches in the region. A section of the beach is netted and is monitored by lifeguards, so you can get in the water without fear of crocs and marine stingers.
In the centre of the town are a cluster of busy streets that are packed with bars, restaurants, cafes and a variety of shops, making this one of the most popular places to eat when visiting the Daintree.
Port Douglas is also one of the most popular places to stay in the region, thanks to the high number of holiday apartments, hotels, and resorts that are here.
There’s a wonderful view of the coastline high up on the edge of the town from the Four Mile Beach Lookout at the end of Murphy Street while the palm trees and seaside location make the Rex Smeal Park a wonderful spot to watch the sunset.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the sunset is on a unique scenic sail on a traditional Chinese junk ship from Port Douglas harbour.
The Daintree isn’t the only river around here where you can see crocodiles. Just south of Port Douglas, next to the Mowbray River Bridge, is a viewing point where you can often spot saltwater crocodiles.
Crocodiles often rest up on the banks alongside this stretch of the Mowbray River, especially on hot days and at low tide. They can also be seen lurking just beneath the water when they come up for air.
You might need a bit of patience and maybe even a set of binoculars to spot them, but crocodiles are regularly seen here from the footbridge that runs parallel to the road bridge.
Exhibits at Cairns Museum
The largest city in Far North Queensland, Cairns is modestly sized and easy to navigate. Around an hour and half drive south of the Daintree, Cairns has plenty to see and do to easily fill a day.
If you’re looking to explore the Great Barrier Reef a number of tour operators run snorkelling and scuba diving trips from Cairns. Alternatively you could take a trip to beautiful Fitzroy Island and combine a tour of the reef with a spot of hiking.
In town, the Cairns Aquarium has a huge collection of marine and sea life, as well as a host of hands-on tours. Kids will also love the animals and adventures at Cairns ZOOM & Wildlife Dome. The excellent Cairns Museum tells the full history of the city, while the Esplanade is the perfect place to relax or grab a bite to eat.
Quinkan Split Rock Art Site is a fascinating insight into the local Aboriginal history and culture. Aboriginal people lived in this region of Queensland for over 50,000 years.
At the Quinkan Split Art Rock Site near the town of Laura on the Cape York Peninsula, there are several examples of Aboriginal rock art that are open to the public.
The site is named after quinkan, which were a type of mythical spirit in Aboriginal folklore. Images of the quinkan are depicted in some of the artworks at the Split Rock site, along with paintings of people, a range of animals, handprints and engravings. The age of artworks are believed to be between 2,000 to 14,000 years old.
The ancient artworks are spread across three giant rocks that can be reached via a short but steep trek. It’s around a three hour drive from the Daintree to Quinkan Split Art Rock Site, or an hour and 20 minute drive from Cooktown.
While it’s a few hours’ drive, if you can fit it into your schedule a trip to the town of Cooktown is well worth the journey.
The town is named after Captain James Cook, who spent several weeks here in 1770 after his ship ran aground against coral reef nearby. There are spellbinding 360 degree views of the ocean and the Endeavor River from the Grassy Hill Lookout, the site where Cook stood on coming ashore during his expedition.
You can learn all about the town’s varied story in the Cooktown Museum. The fascinating museum documents the long history of the region’s Aboriginal tribes and the arrival of Cook. The museum even has one of the original anchors from Captain Cook’s ship, the HMS Endeavour.
The museum also documents the impact and experience of the pioneer settlers and the Chinese community who came to Cooktown during the gold rush in the 18th Century.
You can also walk along the beautiful sands of Finch Bay and don’t miss the incredible sight of the granite boulders on Black Mountain from the lookout on the outskirts of the town.
» Read More: The Best Things to Do in Cooktown
Here are a couple of things to be aware of before heading to the Daintree.
The only way to get to Cape Tribulation is by crossing the Daintree River on the Daintree Ferry. The Daintree Ferry runs every day of the year from 5.00am to midnight. There is no regular timetable as ferry crossings run continuously.
While the ferry crossing takes just a couple of minutes, wait times can be long when there is a build up of traffic. At busier times you can expect to wait at least half an hour to board the ferry. This is something you might need to factor into your journey time if you do need to cross the river.
Tickets for the Daintree Ferry cost AU$27 one way or AU$47 for a return for most vehicles. Tickets can be bought from the ticket booth on the south side of the river and be paid in cash or by debit or credit card.
There are many parts of the Daintree where mobile phone signal is sketchy or non-existent. If you rely on your phone for maps and directions, we recommend downloading the Maps.me app to help you get from A to B.
Maps.me works even if you’re offline, and you can plan journeys and work out where you are even if there is no mobile phone signal. Once installed, open the app and download the Queensland map and you’ll be able to find your way around the Daintree without ever worrying about signal.
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