The Daintree Rainforest is a tropical rainforest in the Far North of Queensland. With a landscape and ecosystem that resembles more like that of Southeast Asia's instead of Australia's, the Daintree Rainforest is the world's oldest surviving rainforest that stands today. Parts of the rainforest are protected as part of the Daintree National Park a Queensland national park, though many of the rainforest's attractions, villages and POIs are outside the national park. In 1988, it was recognised as such and inscribed on the world heritage list as part of the Wet Topics of Queensland.
The rainforest itself meets all the four natural criteria for selection to be a World Heritage Site, although it is just part of the Wet Tropics site which is one of only twelve natural World Heritage Sites which fulfill all four criterion. The Daintree Rainforest is bordered to the Great Barrier Reef on its coastline, which is another World Heritage site making it the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage Sites meet.
Although there is no well defined border, it's generally said that it starts at the settlement of Mossman and continues up till Bloomfield, but regardless of where the borders are, the rainforest has many options for visitors. The more southerly Mossman Gorge tends to be more accessible and therefore more crowded, but the northern section near Cape Tribulation is the heart of the rainforest, but less accessible and therefore gets less visitors. Nevertheless, both sections of the are a unique experience.
The Daintree Rainforest is extremely ancient; it is thought to be over 135 million years old. About 430 species of birds live among the trees. The primitive flowering plants Austrobaileya scandens and Idiospermum australiense are also endemic to the Daintree.
As part of the 450 km long Wet Tropics of Queensland coastline between Townsville and Cooktown, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. More than 75 percent of the 1,200 km2 (460 sq mi) area consists of tropical rainforest and is considered an exceptional example of ecological evolution and biological diversity.
The rainforest was named by Scottish explorer George Dalrymple after the Australian geologist and photographer Richard Daintree (1832-1878).
The rainforest has not had many controversies in the recent past, but in 1983, the controversial Bloomfield Track was constructed between Cape Tribulation and the Bloomfield River through coastal rainforest, drawing international attention to the rescue, which eventually culminated in a local campaign of blockades by activists. Although the conservationists ultimately lost the battle for the road, this led to a rethink at the federal level of the previously practiced toleration of commercial logging.
Daintree is about 3 hours north of Cairns, 1-2 hours north of Port Douglas (PD). It is much quieter than either Cairns or PD, owing to the distance, crossing the Daintree river (a ferry may take cars and buses across, for a toll), conservation efforts and being off the power grid. The Daintree region is in flux regarding conflicting demands of population and economy growth and preservation of the spectacular natural environment.
The quiet environment makes for a very pleasant, laidback tropical stay, somewhat distanced from the mass tourism of Cairns and Port Douglas although Cape Tribulation is a popular day-trip for visitors and amenities for tourists abound.
Flora and fauna
The most iconic one of all in the Daintree is the cassowary, but the park consists largely of broadleaf lowland tropical rainforests and upland tropical rainforests, although there are also significant mangrove and fan palm communities. The rainforest is an amazing array of biodiversity. Look out for the cassowary, a large non-flying bird with a "helmet" growth on its head to protect it as it runs through the forest. Of course, as with all of far northern Australia, saltwater crocodiles are present.
The Daintree Rainforest contains about 30% of the frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia, and 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species. 18% of bird species in the country can be found in this single rainforest not to forget there are over 12,000 species of insects in this rainforest. All of this diversity is contained within a single rainforest that takes up only 0.2% of Australia.
Tropical climate with moderate seasonal variations. The southern summer (November to March) is the rainy season and is best avoided – that time of year is also cyclone season.
Visitor information centre
- 1 Mossman Gorge Centre, 212r Mossman Gorge Rd, Mossman Gorge, ☏ +61 7 4099 7000. M-Sa 8AM–6PM, Su 8AM–5PM. An eco-friendly visitor centre which includes an indigenous art gallery and various exhibits about the Daintree Rainforest. On top of that, the centre includes a cafe/restaurant, a parking lot, as well as a gift shop. The shuttle service to Mossman Gorge departs here.
The most accessible way to the world's oldest living rainforest is via car.
From the tropical city of Cairns, use State Route 44 Captain Cook Highway from either National Route 1 or State Route 91, passing through Port Douglas continue until you reach the town of Mossman. Once you have arrived at Mossman, you have basically arrived at the forest, but the routes divert into two. If you are heading to the Mossman Gorge, turn onto Johnston Road, and if you're heading north to places like Daintree Village or Cape Trib, continue straight.
If you want to get to Cape Tribulation, you will need to take the Daintree River ferry, which is free of charge taking you across the Daintree River. Once you have crossed the river, the road just heads north and most of the POIs are along the way.
TransNorthBus services has bus services from Cairns to Wonga.
Fees and permits
There are no fees to enter into the rainforest, or the national park. However, tour buses may charge a fee, including the shuttle bus from visitor centre to the walks in Mossman Gorge.
You will need camping permits if you plan to camp at the grounds.
It's easiest to get around by car, but buses run from Cairns and Port Douglas all the way up to Cape Tribulation. Many companies offer packages of accommodation and transport to the area.
Some of the hostels rent bicycles which is a pleasant way to get around Daintree Village and see the sights while you're there. The ride from Cow Bay to Cape Tribulation is about 25 km (16 mi) each way and a nice daytrip, although a bit hilly in the Noah Range area.
The road is an asphalt road all the way to Cape Tribulation and all rental companies allow cars to travel as far as the Cape. 4WDs are required only for the Bloomfield Track.
- 1 Mount Alexandra Lookout (Walu Wugirriga Lookout), Cape Tribulation Rd, Kimberley. 6AM-midnight. See the views of the waters which make up the Great Barrier Reef and also Mount Alexandria, which is what this lookout mainly overlooks. Access to this lookout is fairly easy and it's just five kilometres north of the river crossing.
- 2 Daintree Discovery Centre, Tulip Oak Road, Cape Tribulation Rd, Cow Bay, ☏ +61 7 4098 9171. 8:30AM–5PM. A discovery centre with interactive and colourful displays where you can learn about the rainforest's wildlife including the reptiles that live in the Daintree River (yes, that includes snakes and crocs), the endangered cassowaries along with numerous other wildlife. The discovery centre also has an eleven-metre tall aerial walkway and a 23 metre high Canopy Tower both giving some marvellous views of the surrounding rainforest.
- 3 Daintree Entomological Museum, 9 Turpentine Rd, Diwan (near the turnoff from Cape Tribulation Road.), ☏ +61 7 4098 9045, email@example.com. A museum with a collection of the insects of the Daintree Rainforest. The museum also has a gift shop selling some unique butterfly related souvenirs you can be sure that you won't find elsewhere.
- 4 Nightwings Rainforest Centre, 2125 Mossman Daintree Rd, Wonga, ☏ +61 7 4098 7502, firstname.lastname@example.org. A rainforestation and animal rehabilitation centre caring for the local wildlife.
- 1 Walking or 4WD Tours by Mason Tours, 3781 Cape Tribulation Road, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 7 4098 0070, email@example.com. Daily 10:30AM–5:30PM. Why mention a boutique tour company? Well, Mason's Tours started at the same time as the national park, and has been a small family run tour company since 1932. The current family generation runs tailored walking tours around the national park, ranging from 2hr walks to overnight 4WD tours at Jowalbinna Bush Camp. Bookings are essential and must be made early. Cost Varies.
- 2 Canopy Ziplining (Jungle Surfing), 3922 Cape Tribulation Road, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 7 4098 0043, firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 8AM-5:30PM. Who doesn't want to see the Rainforest from the view of a bird? This activity gets close. No previous experience necessary. $109 Adults, $99 child.
Ocean Safari runs great 1/2-day tours to the Barrier Reef from Cape Tribulation.
There are several operators running riverboats so you can spot crocodiles on the banks of the Daintree River and also Cooper Creek.
- 3 Daintree River Cruise Centre, 2914 Mossman Daintree Rd, Daintree, ☏ +61 7 4098 6115. 8:30AM–3:30PM. Operates an "Ultimate Wildlife Experience Cruise" where you can learn about the history and the geography of the Daintree Rainforest and also see wildlife including the Northern Australian iconic crocodiles – these ones being Estuarine crocs
- 4 Solar Whisper Wildlife and Crocodile Cruises, Cape Tribulation Rd, Lower Daintree, ☏ +61 7 4098 7131. 9AM–3:30PM. The only zero emission tour in the Daintree. Provides similar things to see like the other river tours or cruises.
There are several walks in the park. All of them are accessible through some sort of way with four of them being in the Mossman Gorge section while five of them are in the Cape Tribulation section of the rainforest.
- Baral Marrjanga (coloured on map)
- Lower river track (coloured on map)
- Rex Creek bridge (coloured on map)
- Rainforest circuit track (coloured on map)
While the ones in Cape Tribulation include:
- Jindalba boardwalk (coloured on map)
- Jindalba circuit track (coloured on map)
- Madja boardwalk (coloured on map)
- Dubuji boardwalk (coloured on map)
- Kulki boardwalk (coloured on map)
Lemon myrtle oil is produced by tropical plants native to the area. It has a pleasant lemon scent and is said to have antimicrobial properties. Lemon myrtle essential oil and bath products are available (and marketed as an Australian-made product for visitors to purchase) to purchase at the Daintree Spa and some other businesses in the area. Lemon myrtle products are cheaper and easier to find up here than in Cairns or other areas of Australia.
- 1 Daintree Tea Company, Lot 12 Cape Tribulation Road, Diwan, ☏ +61 7 4098 9139. For those wanting to take some tea back home, this has exactly that. They can either be bought in packets, or by weight.
- 2 Friendly Grocer Convenience Store, opposite Turtle Rock Cafe, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 7 4098 0100. 9AM–5PM. Has some souvenirs for those wanting to take something back home.
Daintree Tea is also available to buy at shops and restaurants in the village and at Cape Tribulation and is very much the local specialty of Daintree.
There are a number of small shops in the Daintree area. There is one at Wonga Beach, one at Daintree, one at Cow Bay and two at Cape Tribulation. Mason's Store at Cape Tribulation has takeaway alcohol, groceries, and even a cafe. Check out the swimming hole there too. Being a remote rainforest destination, there are no Coles and the only Woolworths is in Mossman, so if you require the services of a multinational, go there before you come to the area!
- 1 Daintree Teahouse Restaurant, 3225 Mossman Daintree Rd, Daintree, ☏ +61 7 4098 6161. 10AM–4PM. It's mostly the classics of Australian cuisine that's served in this restaurant along with the tropical fruits grown in the Daintree.
- 2 Dragonfly Cape Trib, 17 Camelot Cl, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 456 199 682. Th-Su 8AM-4PM. Has several local "Daintree specialties", along with the some ice tea with other local coffees.
- 3 Julaymba Restaurant & Grill, 3189 Mossman Daintree Rd, Daintree, ☏ +61 7 4098 6100. 7:30AM–5PM. Try some native Australian cuisine at this restaurant. Rainforest salad is great, with native ingredients
- 4 Thornton’s, 2588 Cape Tribulation Rd, Thornton Beach, ☏ +61 421 094 791. T F Su M 10AM–4:30PM, Sa 10AM–7PM. A small cafe by the edge of two world heritage sites. They have what you would generally expect to find in any ordinary cafe.
- 5 Mayi Cafe and Restaurant, 212r Mossman Gorge Rd, Mossman Gorge. 8:30AM–3:30PM. A small cafe and a restaurant beside the visitors centre serving the classics of Australian cuisine along with some local specialties.
- 6 Daintree Ice Cream Company, 1819 Cape Tribulation Rd, Diwan. noon-5PM. Has natural fruit ice creams which are delicious and made from fruit growing in the orchards just behind. Also, Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm runs tours and has local tropical fruit to buy (fresh passionfruit: delicious!)
- 7 Floravilla Ice Cream Factory, 335 Cape Tribulation Rd, Cow Bay (a few minutes past the discovery centre), ☏ +61 7 4098 9100. 9:30AM–5PM. Buy one of the many flavours of organic ice cream made in the factory from the Daintree Rainforest using local produce, especially tropical fruits, including proper non-artificial vanilla, and sit in the tropical garden to enjoy it.
Most lodges and hotels will have some sort of bar with them.
- 1 The Daintree Bar, 36 Camelot Cl, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 7 4098 0000. A good place if you want to have a drink late night out but it's known to be a bit dodgy – you're probably much better off going to the one in your lodge.
There are a couple of hostels at Cape Tribulation (Cape Trib Beach House and PK's Jungle Village), and Crocodylus Lodge about 20 km south of the Cape at Cow Bay.
- 1 Ferntree Rainforest Lodge, 36 Camelot Close, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 7 4098 0000, email@example.com. Set back in the heart of a lush coastal rainforest, this is an affordable tropical getaway. Located across the road from the Cape Tribulation "village". Dorm from $30, Private rooms from $150.
- 2 Cape Trib Farmstay, 3939 Cape Tribulation Rd, Cape Tribulation, ☏ +61 7 4098 0042. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10:30AM. A B&B in a tropical orchard and offers fruit tasting as well with some of the rare tropical fruits grown in the area.
- 3 Daintree Ecolodge, 3189 Mossman Daintree Rd, Daintree, ☏ +61 7 4777 7377. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Enjoy unique spa treatments and Aboriginal culture experiences in the heart of the Daintree. The ecolodge also has a verandah with some nice lush rainforest views. On top of the spa, the ecolodge has a restaurant and a cocktail bar.
- 4 Daintree Wilderness Lodge, 1780 Cape Tribulation Rd, Diwan, ☏ +61 7 4098 9105. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. This wilderness lodge is known for its great service and rooms. Includes a restaurant with a large verandah.
- 5 Lync-Haven Rainforest Accommodation, 1973 Cape Tribulation Rd, Diwan, ☏ +61 7 4098 9155. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. A more mid-range accommodation known to be popular with families. However, it does not have much to offer compared to other lodges and motels in the region.
- 6 Wompoo Eco Retreat, 22 Buchanan Creek Rd, Cow Bay, ☏ +61 432 999 966. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. An eco retreat home that incorporates many elements of "tropicalness" in it, from the colours and design. It also has some views of mountains too, something that is very unusual for this part of Australia. from $190.
- 7 Noah Beach camping area, Cape Tribulation Rd, Cape Tribulation. A campground on the edge of two world heritage sites, in a "camp beside your car" sort of style. Bookings need to be made on the Queensland Parks service.
As it is hard to go off the beaten track in the Daintree Rainforest, backcountry camping is near impossible. Additionally, due to wildlife, camping outside designated campgrounds is prohibited.
There are significant crocodile numbers in the Daintree River and other creeks in the region, as well as in the ocean itself. Sometimes the riverbed will have a warning sign, but not everywhere. Stay away from the shore of the river and other creek beds. Attacks on visitors do occur, with a tourist being killed during a late night swim on Thornton Beach in May 2016.
Marine stingers are present in the water during the summer season. Some beaches are signposted with warnings for this.
You can bushwalk up to a spectacular view at Mount Sorrow in the Noah Range, but take care when you do the walk (approximately 6-8 hours - please check). Leave early in the morning with plenty of time left in the day to ascend and descend while it is still light. Walkers have gone missing on the trail.
- Head back to Cairns, the nearest city in the area