February 17, 2023
8 mins Read
Cape Tribulation is a truly special place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, meet, and there are so many things to do to immerse yourself in its magic.
As the highway meanders north, 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, which means the soil is rich, well irrigated and perfect for growing bananas, mangoes, passionfruit, papaya and a multitude of 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. It’s a place at the end of the sealed roads of civilisation, where crocodiles lurk and fan palms hang overhead.
Whether you base yourself in Cape Tribulation, sleep under the stars or stay elsewhere in the rainforest, there are so many things to do in the Daintree, you could be here forever. Here, our favourite things to do in Cape Tribulation.
Cape Tribulation is in the heart of the Daintree, and it would be a crime to not explore the oldest continuously living rainforest in the world while you’re there.
Head to Mossman Gorge Cultural Centre to go on the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk with a local Kuku Yalanji guide. Beginning with a traditional ‘smoking’ ceremony to cleanse and ward off bad spirits, your guide will then lead you through the stunning, lush rainforest, observing traditional huts or humpies along the way.
Your guide will show you the traditional use of certain plants, all the while providing an enchanting narrative of the rainforest and their own special relationship with it. At the end of the tour, you’ll enjoy traditional bush tea and damper – the perfect treat after your journey.
When you think of heading out on a boat to take you to one of the many reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef, you imagine a slow, gentle ride that could almost rock you to sleep. Well, Ocean Safari is anything but.
The high-speed boat ride takes about 25 minutes to get you to the two snorkelling spots for the day, Mackay and Undine reefs. You have the option to sit on the 700-horsepower boat’s inflatable sides as the skipper “drives it like he stole it”, and boy does he. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and if you’re not feeling the inflatable sides, there are normal seats you can sit on.
Mackay and Undine reefs are much closer to the mainland than most other reefs along the coast, so it makes it a much quicker and more enjoyable experience. The half-day trips depart from the beach and include everything you need for snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
If there’s ever a place you wake up early to watch the sunrise, let it be at Cape Tribulation. There’s something thrilling about walking through the pitch black to go sit on the beach and wait for the sun to rear its head in the morning (especially when crocs can be present in the water). As long as you stay a distance from the crashing waves, you’ll be just fine. Guests at Cape Trib Beach House often watch the sunrise here, so they have some chairs set up so you can watch in comfort.
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. Whet is fully self-sustained and off-grid – with generated diesel power, their own private water supply and rubbish removal. With a happy hour every day, and wild, fresh, local barramundi on the menu, it’s certainly the best restaurant in town.
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.
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.
Emerge from the shaded verdant forest paths out onto Myall Beach in Cape Tribulation and canter through the sand on a horse handpicked for you by experienced staff. Cape Trib Horse Rides is an Ecotourism Australia ECO-certified tour that is locally owned and managed. You will have the opportunity to walk your horse into the shallow waters of the ocean (clarity permitting and only at the discretion of the guides), providing great photo opportunities to capture your experience.
The tour duration is 90 minutes and runs twice daily (except Mondays) departing at 11am and 2.30pm in a group of maximum 11 riders.
If you are travelling from Cairns or Port Douglas in peak season please allow sufficient time to cross the river at the ferry.
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.
At the end of Rykers Road after passing Turtle Rock Cafe, the Cape Tribulation Bloomfield Road turns into an unsealed, gravel road. Eventually, the road will dip, and you will come to the Emmagen Creek crossing.
The path to the swimming hole isn’t signposted well. Look for a gap between the scrub and you should spy a well-trodden dirt track, follow this path and soon you’ll come to a bamboo arch. Keep an eye out for a Pandanus palm before turning left. At this point, you’ll be able to spy the creek through the branches. Follow the creek edge and eventually, you’ll reach Emmagen Creek swimming hole.
Here, the swimming hole is fresh water, and the water is cool and crystal clear. There is a rope tied to a small sturdy branch which naturally encourages visitors to swing off the rope and into the swimming hole.
Tempt your tastebuds on the fruit tasting tour at rare exotic fruit orchard Cape Trib Farm where you learn about atypical tropical fruits like mangosteen, soursop, jaboticaba, rambutan and rollinia. The 90-minute tours run most days at 2pm and will set you back $45. Check the website or call the farm to confirm availabilities as they change seasonally.
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 ridge trail is steep and scrambling over logs is required. Allow about six hours.
Important: Only experienced bushwalkers with above-average fitness should attempt this trail.
If you’re heading up to Emmagen Creek, keep your eyes peeled on the right side for the majestic strangler fig. This giant tree is a marvel to look at and definitely worth a quick pull-over to snap a photo. If you follow the tree’s roots you’ll find that they go for hundreds of metres around the tree.
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