The Daintree Rainforest is a marvelous rainforest in Northern Queensland, Australia. If you will be visiting the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns area, I suggest spending a couple of days visiting the Daintree Rainforest. Did you know the Daintree Rainforest is supposed to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world? They think it is over 130 million years old! That is incredible! It is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Get ready to be surrounded by wildlife and ancient rainforest for your visit to the Daintree Rainforest.
How To Get There
I would recommend flying into Cairns International Airport in North Queensland, Australia and renting a car. There is public transportation in Cairns, but if you want to explore further, like the Daintree Rainforest or the Atherton Tableland Waterfalls, I would recommend renting a car for the time you’ll be visiting the area. From the airport, it is about a 2 hour drive north to the Daintree Rainforest.
Where To Stay
If you’re open to having a little adventure when staying in the Daintree Rainforest, I would recommend staying at Daintree Crocodylus. This eco lodge has the nicest owners and is set in the middle of the rainforest. It is also really great if you’re on a budget. They have dorm rooms, like a hostel, and private rooms- all of which are large tents. Daintree Crocodylus also has a swimming pool, free wifi, self-catering facilities and free board games to play! There is also a bar and small restaurant on site. There is also free parking on site for you to park your rental car. I was a bit worried at first about sleeping in a tent, but it was like almost halfway to “glamping”. To hear the rainforest just come alive at night was incredible.
Travel Tip: If you are on a strict budget, like we are, stop at the grocery store on your to the Daintree Rainforest. There is a good size Woolworths in Mossman that will have everything you need! The further north you go, the less options you will have for grocery stores and restaurants. Daintree Crocodylus even has self-catering facilities to help you cook dinner and breakfast when you stay.
Start your day by driving north from Cairns. Take in this scenic drive by stopping along the way at the viewpoints that overlook the ocean. You’ll soon realize you’re surrounded by wildlife as you start seeing signs warning of jellyfish, crocodiles, cassowaries and more dangerous animals!
Travel Tip: Try to see if you can see “Big Moe”, the huge, wild crocodile that likes to bask in the sun on the banks of the Mowbray River on the drive north from Cairns.
The first stop of the trip is at Mossman Gorge. Mossman Gorge is a gorge on the Mossman River about 25 minutes from Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia. There is a beautiful swimming hole here. While it is technically “free”, you cannot access the gorge by foot and have to take the shuttle from the Mossman Gorge Centre. The shuttle costs $11.80 AUD (about $8.02 USD) for for a roundtrip ticket. This shuttle departs every 15 minutes to take you to the gorge.
The Mossman Gorge Centre also has an indigenous art gallery, a gift shop, bathroom, shower facilities, and a small cafe and restaurant. The Mossman Gorge Centre also offers guided Dreamtime walking tours. These tours cost $78 AUD (about $53 USD) for an adult and help give you a deeper insight into the ancient plants of the Daintree Rainforest and learn about the indigenous culture of the area. They have several tours a day. The Dreamtime walking tour lasts about an hour and a half. At the Mossman Gorge Centre, you can also learn about a few self-guided walks (better for the budget friendly people out there!) They can provide you with a map for the four different self-guided walks they offer.
Crossing the Daintree River
After Mossman Gorge, you will be in the Southern area of the Daintree Rainforest. You will need to take a ferry across the Daintree River to get to the northern area. This ferry costs $30 AUD (about $20.39 USD) per car for a roundtrip ticket (as of late 2019). The ferry can fit a maximum of 40 vehicles! This only takes a few minutes to cross but you might have to wait to let all the people crossing from the other side off. While you are waiting, keep an eye out for some crocodiles! Just do not get too close to the water; they could be much closer than you would expect!
The Daintree Rainforest Ice Cream Company is a must visit for anyone visiting the Daintree area. This organic ice cream is made by hand on site in small batches based on the season and what is growing. Daintree Rainforest Ice Cream Co. is open 11am – 5pm daily (except Christmas). You could buy your ice cream and then go sit directly next to the plant that grew the flavor. Also, make sure you take the time to do their self-guided walking tour around their orchard to see how different fruits and vegetables from around the world are grown!
After filling up on ice cream, head to Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation is where the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree National Park meet making it the only location where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites meet! Cape Tribulation is the furthest north you can go with a car; the road literally ends here! It is a beach area, although you shouldn’t swim there since there are saltwater crocodiles lingering in the area. It is beautiful area to jump out of the car and do a some relaxed hiking in the area.
Travel Tip: Take care while hiking in the Daintree Rainforest area. While it is beautiful, there are many dangerous animals lingering within the beauty. Never jump into rivers or swim in the beaches as saltwater crocodiles and boxed jellyfish could be close. If you want to go swimming, make sure to do it at the hotel/hostel pool. There are also many snakes including pythons, beautiful yet dangerous cassowary birds, mosquitos, leeches, and ticks. Just be careful where you step and be aware of your surroundings.
After exploring the Cape Tribulation I would suggest calling it an evening and get ready for the second day exploring the Daintree Rainforest!
Visit Cow Bay Beach
If you are going to stay at the Daintree Crocodylus, take some time in the morning and go to the Cow Bay Beach at the end of the road. It is a beautiful beach you can walk along. Just remember do not actually go swimming in the ocean because of the saltwater crocodiles.
This is something that I wish we would have done! For $35 AUD (about $23.78) you can access the Daintree Discovery Centre. For this you can climb to the top of their 23 meter lookout tower, and the 11 meter high sky walkway along the rainforest canopy. Your entry ticket also includes a free self-guided audio tour (available in 8 languages).
Crocodile Boat Tour
Cross back over the river for a crocodile tour on the Daintree River. These are reasonably priced for what you will get! While there are many crocodile cruises in the area, I would suggest choosing Crocodile Express Daintree Cruises. You can get two croc boat tours for the price of one! We went with Crocodile Express Daintree Cruises and had a great time seeing many, many crocodiles, a few beautiful birds, and even a python! With Crocodile Express Daintree Cruises, you get to do two different boat tours. One is in the lower Daintree right by where the ferry crossing is, and then another is a 15 minute drive away in the town of Daintree. Each boat tour lasts about an hour and you can do one right after the other. Our ticket was $30 AUD ($19.78 USD) for the two tours. While you can do them in either order, we started with the tour that leaves from Daintree town. You will definitely see some salt water crocs!
Travel Tip: Book your tickets with Crocodile Express Daintree Cruises on their website online to save 10%!
After the crocodile boat tour, we ventured south to the Atherton Tableland area to see platypus, waterfalls and the amazing curtain fig tree! If you are interested in chasing 10+ waterfalls in one day near Cairns, keep reading here!