Road Trip from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest

Tropical North Queensland has to be one of the most enchanting regions in Australia, if not the world.

Just a little way offshore you have the world’s biggest reef system – the Great Barrier Reef and then hugging the coastline is its very good friend, the oldest rainforest in the world – the 140 million-year-old Daintree Rainforest.

Yep. The Amazon doesn’t even come close to reaching its wisdom.

Please do yourself a favour and dedicate at least a few days soaking up all that this incredible coastal drive has to offer. There is no reason to rush, you might miss just why it’s so much more special than the labels could ever give an inkling to.

We spent almost a week exploring the region, road tripping from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation.

Port Douglas

Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia

Port Douglas is a fantastic place to spend a few days exploring the local area, enjoying sunset views from the marina, eating good food, partying and shopping. It’s a perfect base to head out to the reef from and explore more of the surrounding region.

For eating and drinking don’t miss:

  • Surf Club Bar and Bistro – A local’s favourite for lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks.
  • On the Inlet – Great location. Go early and feed George (a 250kg Groper fish).
  • Yacht Club – Fantastic location and seafood. Great value meals and well-priced drinks.
  • Courthouse Hotel – It’s an absolute must for beer and fresh prawns.
  • The Tin Shed – Watch the boats come in late afternoon and enjoy the cheapest drinks in town.
  • Salsa Bar – Excellent ambiance and food. Fantastic cocktails and margarita jugs!

I prefer Port Douglas over Cairns as a place to holiday for awhile.

couples travel
overlooking 4 Mile Beach, Port Douglas

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge, Queensland, Australia

Mossman Gorge is at the southern most end (and my favourite part) of the Daintree Rainforest.

It’s ancient, pristine and full of high vibrational energy. Mossman Gorge is free to enter but you do have to purchase a pass to catch the shuttle bus into the main walking area. Or you can walk the 2km yourself.

A boardwalk takes you to the Mossman River and a beautiful swimming area. The river can be dangerous after heavy rain, which is why it was recommended we not swim when we visited.

The Mossman River water is said to be the second most purest in the world.

Mossman Gorge, Queensland, Australia

Isn’t that just so amazing? The rainforest is 140 million years old and it will touch your soul walking amongst twisting vines, strangler figs, epiphytes and cycad trees that date back to prehistoric times.

We highly recommend that you take one of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks. Your Aboriginal guide will take you into a private section of the forest teaching you about Aboriginal customs, sharing about the food and medicinal properties of the plants, and sharing a few Dreamtime stories. This was such an amazing experience.

Stand up paddle boarding is also a great activity to do on the Mossman River.

Cooya Beach

Spear fishing at Cooya Beach Cairns (4)

Just east of Mossman is Cooya Beach, there’s not much to do here aside from spearfishing and mud crab hunting!

We highly recommend you take a Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour with Brandon Walker. You’ll spend the afternoon learning the traditional ways of the local Aboriginal culture and having a lot of fun doing it. You get to eat what you catch after.

You can read more about it spear fishing at Cooya Beach.

Daintree Village

Daintree Village ARgo tours
Do this Argo tour

So this was a delightful find!

Many people miss the Daintree Village by heading straight over on the ferry to go into the Daintree National Park. Craig and I couldn’t work out if we felt like we were in Asia, Victoria, or Ireland.

The rainforest here was cleared many years ago (during settlement times before it was protected) for cattle farms. The peaks of these impressive rolling mountains are covered in rainforest and down into the valley on the banks of the river are emerald green fields.

We stayed in a lodge at the Daintree Riverview Lodges and Van Park and had the most divine views from the common balcony overlooking the river. The sunset was just magnificent.

Daintree Village sunset

While staying at the Daintree Riverview join an Argo 8×8 tour through the owner’s cattle property and the Daintree Rainforest. It was wild fun!

The girls squealed as we went up really steep and rough terrain, past herds of cattle, and to the hill peaks for sensational views out over the Daintree River and rainforest.

Cape Kimberley

Cape Kimberley Daintree

Cape Kimberley is the first of the beaches you come to in the Daintree National Park and just over the Daintree River crossing.

It’s a 5km detour from the main road, but if you’re after serenity, this is it. It’s very quiet with lovely views of Snapper Island just offshore.

crossing the Daintree River
crossing the Daintree River

Alexandra Lookout

Daintree Natioanl Park, Queensland, Australia

Stop in here for beautiful views out over the Alexandra Range and Snapper Island.

Here is where you see the Daintree River going into the sea and can get a clear picture of where two World Heritage Sites – the Daintree rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef meet. What a special part of the world.

Daintree Discovery Centre

Daintree Discovery Centre (2)

The Daintree Discovery Centre is a definite must do. Not only did the girls have a ball, they learned so much about the rainforest as well.

The aerial walkway takes you up into the forest canopy and climbs up a 23m high tower, each level giving you the opportunity to experience a different rainforest layer and learn about the various plants and animals that live there.

There are also paths that go on the lower floor of the rainforest as well.

Daintree Discovery Centre

Your entry includes a self-guided audio tour with a shortened version for the kids. They loved hunting for the numbers, punching it into the guide and then listening to the stories of the forest.

It was great to listen and see in front of them exactly what hey were learning from the narrator. It also offers an indigenous interpretation, which we all enjoyed learning more about traditional food and medicine.

The centre has rainforest talks throughout the day. I enjoyed sitting in on one about ants. It’s an animal no one pays much attention to apart from trying to keep them out of your picnic basket.

I was fascinated by just how clever they are and how vital their role in the thriving ecosystem of the rainforest is.

Cow Bay

Cows Beach

I didn’t think this beach was as pretty as the Lonely Planet made out – I’m still confused as to how they came up with the “beautiful white-sand beach to rival any coastal paradise description.”

No matter how I looked at it, I could not get the white sand to appear.

I do think the other beaches in the Daintree are prettier, but it’s worth a look to judge for yourself.

Daintree Ice Cream Company

Daintree Ice Cream Comapny

Who doesn’t love an ice cream on a hot day in a rainforest?

Well, I’m the one who usually says no. I’m not a huge ice cream lover, but I did say yes to the four exotic flavours on offer at the Daintree Ice Cream Company.

For $6 you get a bowl of ice cream with four scoops. The flavours depend on what they’ve made at that time based upon the exotic fruits that have been harvested from the orchard. We had coconut, wattle seed, yellow sapote, and blackberry.

The wattleseed had a slight coffee flavour to it. My favourite was definitely the yellow sapote and coconut. This is the type of ice cream I could eat buckets of.

Read more great ice cream places in Australia.

Thornton Beach Cafe

Thornton Beach Cafe, Daintree National Park

The Thornton Beach Cafe is a lovely spot to stop for lunch or breakfast right on Thornton Beach.

Try the Thai fish cake burger – delicious. The only downside to this cafe is the toilet block is currently under construction so you have to use the porta-loo.

Maardja Botanical Walk, Noah Beach

Marrdja Boardwalk

This was one of the prettiest and interesting walks we did in the Daintree.

The 540m interpretative boardwalk follows the creek through a section of rainforest and past the eerily twisting roots and vines of the mangroves to a lookout over Noah Creek. Your eyes will be fascinated. Wear mosquito repellent though as the midges are biting.

Mason’s Cafe and swimming hole

Masons Cafe

The burgers at Mason’s Cafe are quite legendary. Pick your animal: wild boar, emu, crocodile or kangaroo.

It’s  a little challenging to get your mouth around their size, but the burgers are nice enough – although I wouldn’t put them into legendary memorable status.

Take a short walk from the cafe to the swimming hole in the creek. It’s very pristine and, I gathered from all the people standing only up to their knees, very cold!

IMG_2224

Dubuji Boardwalk

The 1.2km Dubuji boardwalk winds its way through the mangroves, shaded by its canopy of enormous fan palms, strangler figs and vines. It takes you to another boardwalk leading down to Myall Beach.

We walked over a small bridge that just hovered above the muddy ground beside it – ground that had the huge sliding marks and footprints of what could only have been a croc! I couldn’t imagine being on that path as it was crawling on through – a little too close for comfort!

Certainly made me pay attention to those crocodile warning signs everywhere on the Daintree beaches.

Daintree National Park, Queensland, Australia

Myall Beach

Myall Beach, Daintree National Park, Queensland, Australia

If you have your own caravan, camper trailer or tent consider staying at Cape Trib Camping. This is the social campground with lovely camp spots right on pretty Myall Beach.

Even if you don’t stay It’s a great place to come for wood-fired pizzas of an evening and communal campfires.

Cape Trib camping pizzas

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation Beach, Queensland, Australia

Definitely the prettiest of the beaches in the Daintree Rainforest and so serene and empty.

Walk along the beach and then back up to the Kulki boardwalk for stunning views back across Cape Trib beach. Once again seeing where that ancient rainforest meets the sea.

Here are some activities to consider while staying in the Cape Tribulation region:

  • Jungle Surfing – I did this activity when we visited last year. It’s a fun adventure zip lining through the canopy of the world’s oldest rainforest. The last flying fox gives you the chance to slide down upside down like a bat.
  • Kayaking Cape Tribulation Beach – Craig loved doing this activity while I was jungle surfing. You can read more about it here.
Cape Tribulation - view from Kulki boardwalk
view from Kulki boardwalk

Emmagen Beach

Emmagen Beach Daintree Rainforest

Just go a little further north of Cape Tribulation, right before the road turns to the 4WD only Bloomfield Track, to visit Emmagen Beach.

The track is next to the big strangler fig on the right-hand side of the road. It’s a short five-minute walk down to the beach and is definitely worth a look. There was no one around when we went. It is right next to Emmagen Creek so be wary of crocs.

Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation road trip Videos

Watch our videos from this trip to Port Douglas, Daintree Village, the Daintree Rainforest and staying on Cape Tribulation Beach. Subscribe to our YouTube channel

More Far North Queensland Tips

Planning a trip to the Daintree and Port Douglas

Accommodation

Flights

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

What are some of your highlights between Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest?

23 thoughts on “Road Trip from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest”

  1. Great post! Brought back fond memories. I also loved the exotic fruit tasting we did in cape tribulation. Mossman Gorge walk with the elder was great too and taking a dip in the healing pool.

  2. Beautiful part of the world up there, particularly at this time of year when it’s a bit cooler and not so humid. Queensland as a whole is our favorite state in Australia (we lived there for 5 years). Missing it a little, particularly those beautiful blue waters.

    Glad to see you are having a great time 🙂

    1. Yes Rosetta, this time of year is great for North Queensland. The humidity and the stingers in the water would be hard to handle in the summer.

  3. I love seeing pictures from Cape Tribulation! This is the place my fiancé and me met almost 3 years ago. We are both German and had to travel to the other side of the world to see each other for exactly one day before he had to travel back to Germany. I, however stayed in Oz for another 2 1/2 months and surprisingly we stayed in contact all this time and met again when I came back. Now we have a house together, are engaged and are planning our wedding next year! LOVE this place! 🙂

  4. Gosh, it looks like the road beyond the ferry has received a serious upgrade! When I last visited (more than 10 years ago) it was a rough washed-out rocky dirt track. Actually it was so bad that you were not allowed to take a rental car without 4×4 across the ferry. The ferry man made a decent extra income from spotter’s fees: he reported rental vehicles on his vessel back to the rental companies, who then charged clients enormous fines for breach of contract.

  5. The more I see of Australia’s tropics, the more I want to hop on a plane so I too can bask in its beauty … looks like you had an excellent adventure guys!

  6. I remember when the road was rough too, great little trip even then though. Also heard the stories of the ‘spotters fees’ on rentals. One of my favourite memories is riding along the Cape Trib beach on a horse and then by bike. Such a stunning area… must return and do more of the walks soon!

  7. Did you drive yourself between all these places or did you take tours? I am flying into Cairns and would love to rent a car and see these places at my own pace. Thanks for all the info on your blog and the great photos!

  8. That was an amazing tour you guys went through! I am inspired by how well you documented the whole trip. My girlfriend and I also went on a trip like yours through North QLD and we enjoyed the Daintree rainforest tours so much. We also tried the horseback riding tour around Cape Tribulation Beach.

    Hope to return there next year!

  9. This is super helpful! We are just planning our 7 week campervan trip from Melbourne to Cairns March-May 2016. Still struggling with best route to do that combines outback travel, beaches and forests! Finding it difficult to find loops. for e.g. I saw the savannah way trip and want to do that but need to get back to Cairns so looking for another way back seeing other parts of queensland. Would appreciate any suggestions and of course will be browsing through all these posts so can plan our perfect roadtrip over 7 weeks 🙂

  10. Have 3 nights to spend in the daintree/cape trib region and am wondering if you have any suggestions on a good base. Would prefer to stay in 1 place if possible vs being on the move. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Emily! We’re actually heading up that way tomorrow for the next five days. We’ll be staying at a few places while there so stay tuned. We’ll be able to give you more suggestions. Follow along via our Instagram stories http://instagram.com/ytravelblog and Snapchat: ytravelblog We’ll be sharing live behind the scenes on those channels. All we’ve experienced is the Cape Trib camping in the Daintree. That area is a good base, Stay tuned

  11. Fantastic blog. I have just read through and am excited for our trip to this magical region in July. Woohoo. Thanks heaps for the ideas of what to do and why.

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