The Daintree Rainforest is a world away from civilisation but a snap to get to. And the drive north from Cairns is something worth marvelling at.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland, the Daintree is barely touched and completely isolated. So, you might be wondering how to get to the Daintree Rainforest. Well getting there is actually really easy, so follow our guide for everything you need to know before you leave.
Where is the Daintree?
The Daintree’s closest airport is roughly 110 kilometres south of the rainforest in Cairns. Located in Tropical North Queensland, the trip up is nothing short of amazing, with incredible coastal views and scenery that will blow your mind.
There are two ways you can get to the Daintree from Cairns; hiring a car and making your own way on a mini road trip or jumping on one of the tours that will take you to the Daintree from Cairns, Palm Cove or Port Douglas.
The Great Barrier Reef Drive takes you to where the rainforest meets the reef. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Did someone say road trip? Although not a huge drive, the Great Barrier Reef Drive has some beautiful stops along the way that you simply can’t go past. Whether you’re just passing through and stop for a coffee and lunch, or you stay the night, both Palm Cove and Port Douglas are must-stops.
The Great Barrier Reef Drive offers unmatched views of the Coral Sea. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Palm Cove is home to Nick Holloway’s iconic Nu Nu restaurant which brings award-winning Australian dishes and a great atmosphere to the table. With spectacular views of the Coral Sea, the beachfront location framed by stunning palm trees is dreamlike.
Sunset in Palm Cove is incredible. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Another 40 kilometres up the highway you’ll reach the laid-back coastal town of Port Douglas. A hot spot in Tropical North Queensland, Port Douglas has plenty of incredible places to eat and accommodation for every budget, so even if you stay here for a couple of days, you won’t run out of things to do.
Four Mile Beach is the most popular beach in Port Douglas. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
When you’re ready to make the final leg to the Daintree, you’ll come across the Daintree Ferry about 50 kilometres up the road. There are some Daintree accommodation options that are located before the ferry near Daintree Village, so you may not need to cross the river until you’re ready to explore the wealth of things to do in the Daintree and in Cape Tribulation.
The 43-metre-long Daintree Ferry provides vehicle access across the Daintree River, connecting the northern Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation with the rest of Far North Queensland.
The Daintree Ferry can fit 27 vehicles. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
The ferry operates between 5am and midnight 365 days a year, with a priority lane for locals between 9am–4.30pm from July to September. The crossing is pretty quick and easy, taking approximately 15 minutes, including time for boarding and disembarking all vehicles. During peak season there might be a bit of a wait though, so factor that into your travel time.
Ferry tickets are $45 per car for a return ticket and an extra $16 if you’ve got a trailer. You can buy the ferry tickets on the southern side of the river before you cross.
You might even see a croc while you cross the river, but if you don’t, the Daintree has plenty of river cruises designed for spotting crocodiles in the wild.
The Daintree River is a hot spot for crocs. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Once you’ve passed the Daintree River, you’ve reached the oldest living rainforest, which is estimated to be 180 million years old – tens of millions of years older than the Amazon. Make sure you stop by the Mount Alexandra Lookout located shortly after the ferry, which offers excellent views over the Coral Sea and the mouth of the Daintree.
The views from Mount Alexandra Lookout are amazing. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
You’ve then got about an hour until you get to Cape Tribulation, the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage sites meet. You’ll have the best of both worlds exploring the rainforest, but also heading out onto the Great Barrier Reef for a bucket list reef experience.
There are lots of places to stay in Cape Tribulation, and also plenty of camping spots, so whether you’re into luxury accommodation, budget stays or sleeping under the stars, there’s something for you.
Camping in Cape Trib is a common choice. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
With no mobile phone service and one of the highest concentrations of plants and animals anywhere on earth, the call to adventure beckons loudly here.
Do not forget the essentials – a torch and plenty of time up your sleeve – because exploring the beaches and the rainforest at night, especially around Cape Trib, increases your chances to see some of the most amazing wildlife on earth. For example, ghost crabs (they are translucent, so you see right through them) are best spotted scurrying around at night.
It takes less than three hours (with no stops) to get from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, an easy journey for anyone looking to get away.
Cape Tribulation Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Take a tour
If you’d rather just come up for a day or two, and you don’t want to hire a car, then a tour is your best bet. Getting to see all the best bits in a fast-tracked tour is a great way to see the Daintree and Cape Tribulation for the time-poor.
Sometimes a tour to the Daintree is the best option. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Most of the tours have a stop at Mossman Gorge where you’ll get to go on a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk with a local Kuku Yalanji guide. Some tours will also take you on one of the Daintree River cruises that get up close and personal with the native saltwater crocs.
Mossman Gorge is a stunning spot. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
If you’re staying in Port Douglas and your Daintree tour doesn’t take you on a crocodile cruise, we’ve also found the best spots in Port Douglas to spot a crocodile.