6 of the best things to do in the world heritage Daintree Rainforest

Boardwalk through lush tropical rainforest

Tianna Nadalin

Posted August 19, 2022

The Daintree, just north of Cairns, is a UNESCO-listed national park spanning 1,200 square kilometres from the Far North Queensland hinterland to the sea. Here's how to spend a day in the world’s oldest rainforest.

The Great Barrier Reef and silica sand beaches have long lured tourists to the Whitsunday Islands and Airlie Beach, but Aussie travellers are starting to wake up to one of tropical north Queensland’s other wonders: the Daintree Rainforest.  

According to the most recent figures from Tourism Research Australia, domestic tourism to this ancient, UNESCO-listed nature park – the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world – increased by 17 per cent in 2018. That trend is set to continue, with visitation to the region projected to surge another 26 per cent by 2027. 

This influx of local tourists is, at least partly, due to a rise in wellness tourism, which is seeing increasing numbers of eco-tourists swap the reef for rainforests and shopping strips for unsullied swimming holes.  

Cape Tribulation is an easy – not to mention magnificent – drive from Port Douglas. If you're hiring a car, it takes about two hours to reach the cape, the northernmost point accessible by car or motorhome. Beyond this is four-wheel-drive territory only.  Getting there also involves a river crossing, serviced by a single ferry that lugs cars across the crocodile-infested Daintree River, which takes about 15 minutes.  

The Daintree Coast is a small part of the Kuku Yalanji tribal area and has great spiritual and cultural significance for these people. 

If you’re planning a Daintree day trip, these are six of the best things to do while you’re there.    

Boardwalk through tropical rainforest

Light filters through the canopy on the Dubuji Boardwalk. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland.


How to spend a day in the world's oldest rainforest 

Check out Mount Alexandra Lookout 

If breathtaking vistas are what you’re after, Mount Alexandra Lookout, or Walu Wugirriga, offers picture-perfect panoramas as far as the eye can see. From this elevated vantage point, you can trace the rugged, rainforest-carpeted coastline as it collides with the azure waters of the Great Barrier Reef, or peek through overhanging palm trees to find the glistening Daintree River as it snakes its way to the sea. Weather permitting, you can even spot Snapper Island, Cape Kimberley and Port Douglas in the distance.  

Visit the Daintree Discovery Centre

If you're travelling with kids in tow (or even if you’re not), stop in at the Daintree Discovery Centre and go on an interactive journey back in time to understand the history of the ancient forest and learn about the flora and fauna that call it home. 

Here, you can explore every level of the ancient rainforest, from boardwalks along the forest floor to tree-top canopy towers. See wild cassowaries in their natural habitat, spot archerfish and other endemic animals in the Rainforest Freshwater Aquarium or learn about native bush tucker on one of the centre’s many discovery circuits.  

See Cape Tribulation  

No picture can do this wild, deserted coastline justice. The sheltered stretch of sandy wilderness is like stepping into a real-life Jurassic Park meets Castaway movie scene. Cape Tribulation is a clash of the UNESCO World Heritage titans, where the Wet Tropics Rainforest seemingly cascades into the clear blue Great Barrier Reef. Despite its breathtaking beauty, Cape Tribulation is so named because when Captain James Cook was trying to find navigate what he described as an “insane labyrinth”, his ship ran afoul of the reef. It might have been a sore point for the explorer, but this remote headland, which marks the end of the sealed road, is the ideal spot to enjoy a picturesque beach picnic so be sure to bring a packed lunch.  


Two people holding waffle ice cream cones with two scoops each of chocolate and strawberry ice cream

Sampling native flavours at Daintree Ice Cream Company. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland.


Mason’s Swimming Hole 

A cafe carpark might seem a strange place for the entrance to a watering hole, but Mason’s Cafe is custodian of the pebbled pathway that leads to this whimsical watering hole. A donation bucket – for swimmers only – hangs on a wire fence, marking the entrance to the secluded swimming spot, which is hidden in a thicket of dewy rainforest that meets a grassy field accessible from the cafe’s back veranda. Plunge into the crisp clear waters of this aquamarine bath, which is overhung with palm fronds and strangler vines, and revel in the refreshing serenity. 

 Daintree Ice Cream Company 

No trip to Cape Tribulation would be complete without a visit to the Daintree Ice Cream Company. Here, organic and sustainably farmed exotic fruit (which is grown on the nine-hectare property) is used to make seasonal, small-batch ice-creams and sorbets that showcase the flavours of the rainforest. This is ice-cream like you’ve never had it before. Flavours change daily and include everything from black sapote (a fruit closely related to the persimmon that tastes like chocolate) to wattle, which has a hazelnut coffee profile.    

Meander along the many boardwalks

Immerse yourself in the tropical wilderness with a wander along one of the myriad rainforest boardwalks, easily accessible from the serpentine Cape Tribulation Road. The 700-metre Jindalba Boardwalk, located between Cape Kimberley and Cow Bay Roads, is very well signposted and, therefore, one of the most popular boardwalks, but it is the boardwalks less travelled where the flora and fauna really take your breath away.

The sun-dappled Dubuji Boardwalk is off Cape Tribulation Road and abuts Myall Beach. The 1.2-kilometre track, which is framed by fan palms and overhanging forest vines, meanders through coastal mangroves and lush rainforest. For a longer walk, Myall Beach Walk (1.5 kilometres) runs between Dubuji and connecting track, Kulki. The track begins with a steep climb as it ascends the ridge, then makes its way down to the beach through a small, wet coastal forest. With Cape Tribulation behind you and brilliant beaches and rainforest-meets-reef ranges ahead, this is a walk to remember. 

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