From spending the night in a rare exotic fruit orchard and tasting Davidson plum ice-cream to ziplining through the forest and horse riding on the beach, here’s what not to miss when you visit Tropical North Queensland’s Cape Tribulation.
Cape Tribulation is a significant UNESCO World Heritage-listed site where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. As the highway meanders north through the Alexandra Ranges, roadside signs promise tourists an exceptional experience and the winding roads and stunning beaches certainly deliver. The jungle is hot and steamy, especially in the summer months, but this means that the soil is rich, well irrigated and perfect for growing bananas, mangoes, passionfruit, papaya and a multitude of weird and wonderful tropical fruits.
Ancient stories wind through the lush branches and leaves of the jungle down to the water’s edge of the magnificent beaches that lead out to the Great Barrier Reef. Cape Tribulation, 141 kilometres up the Captain Cook Highway, two hours north of Cairns, is a gateway to the forest and a meeting point for the many adventures this area offers. It’s a place at the end of the sealed roads of civilisation, where crocodiles lurk and fan palms hang overhead. With a population of just over 300 people during dry season, less during the wet when the roads can be flooded and communities isolated, locals are passionate about sharing their knowledge and love of the jungle.
1. Visit the Daintree Rainforest
Follow one of the many hiking tracks and marvel at the magic of the most ancient rainforest in the world, estimated to be 180 million years old. Take a guided tour with a local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal guide and absorb the ecological and cultural significance of the area as well as the flora and fauna of this world famous rainforest ecosystem.
2. Cape Tribulation Rides
Emerge from the shaded verdant forest paths out onto Cape Tribulation beach and canter through the sand on a horse handpicked for you by experienced staff. Cape Tribulation Rides tour leader Steve tells yarns like a true Aussie bushman and, if prompted, will point out his favourite croc who basks alongside the track. In dry season, horses frolic in the water, swimming with riders clinging to their backs.
3. Whet Restaurant
Whet Restaurant is certainly a great place to ‘whet’ your appetite. Situated off the main road and built amidst the lush tangle of jungle flora, Michelle and Matt Wenden’s restaurant caters brilliantly to backpackers, families and honeymooners alike. With a happy hour every day, and wild, fresh, local barramundi on the menu, it’s certainly the best restaurant in town. A gooey, rich chocolate pudding tempts almost everyone to indulge in dessert.
4. Marrja, Kulki and Dubuji Boardwalks
Traversing these clearly marked paths takes around an hour. Signs are scattered along the journey, giving detailed information about the littoral (shoreside) forests and mangroves that make up the ecosystems encountered along the way. The canopy forms a protective shade from the sun’s rays, offering tourists a delightful opportunity to reflect and meditate on the magnificence of the environment.
5. The Daintree Ice Cream Company
The Daintree Ice Cream Company produces surprising and refreshing flavours from fruit grown on its farm. Challenge your palate with a dish of black sapote, wattleseed or Davidson plum ice-cream, then wander around the orchard of this 22 acre property. A detailed map shows where each section of the orchard is situated and trees are marked clearly. The massive jackfruit are as large as watermelons but heavier, some weighing as much as 55 kilograms, and are but one of the 15 species of rare and exotic fruit trees on the property. This is a must-do side trip on your journey up to the cape.
6. PK’s Jungle Village bar and cafe
The charming set-up at PK’s Jungle Village bar and cafe has budget accommodation, a swimming pool and a pub. Don’t miss the trivia quiz on a Thursday night where backpackers and locals unite in teams in a battle of wits. The prize is beer so travellers should brush up on their rhyming slang and be prepared to be questioned on the local area as they tuck in to their hearty pub meals and drink a pint or two.
7. Mason’s Waterhole
Leave your donation in the honesty box and trek down a short path for a swim in a divine (and croc-free) waterhole. This secret spot that all the locals talk about is a natural wonder. Make dams with the perfectly spherical rocks or simply float in the fresh clear water, gazing up at the rainforest canopy above.
8. Daintree Entomological Museum
The spider web gates remind visitors that the golden orb spider is a permanent resident of this jungle area. This museum, the life’s work of Stephen Paul Lamond, contains one of the world’s best butterfly and beetle collections. Take a self-guided tour and see rare and exotic species like giant cockroaches, leaf and stick insects and the colourful butterflies of the Daintree Rainforest.
Tempt your tastebuds on the fruit tasting tour at rare exotic fruit orchard, Wildwood, where you learn about atypical tropical fruits like mangosteen, soursop, jaboticaba, rambutan and rollinia. Tours run most days at 2pm. Check the website or call the farm to confirm. Eco-friendly accommodation, set among six hectares of private World Heritage Rainforest, is also available for two to 12 people. If you’re patient, you’ll see a range of birds, butterflies and bats.
10. Turtle Rock Cafe and Bar
Located right in the heart of town, adjacent to the tourist office and caravan park, this outdoor cafe space is a meeting point for locals after their morning coffee fix. Meals at Turtle Rock Cafe and Bar are wholesome, fresh and made with local produce as much as possible, and coffee is served in recycled cups, for a crowd keen to preserve their pristine jungle environment. Surrounded by the magnificent flora and fauna of this jungle paradise, it’s heartening to see sustainability in action.
11. Ferntree Rainforest Resort
With two peaceful, well maintained pools surrounded by leafy palms and abundant with wildlife, Ferntree Rainforest Resort is reminiscent of holidays in the simpler days. Watch for hours as the golden orbs spin their webs in the trees and along eaves and keep an eye out for the cassowaries and other birds who also make appearances. Wi-fi is hard to come by in the top end and expensive, forcing holidaymakers to switch off and enjoy each other’s company in the communal area which houses a TV and a snooker table.
12. Mt Sorrow
This is undoubtedly a strenuous seven-kilometre day walk but those who accept the challenge won’t be sorry when they reach the high ridges of this glorious forest track. On a clear day there are spectacular views out to the Daintree coastline. As with all hikes, walkers must carry water and first aid gear, and ensure that someone knows their intended route. The Mt Sorrow trail is steep and scrambling over logs is required. Allow about six hours.