We love the Daintree Rainforest. Our first visit was almost three years ago during our 18-month road trip around Australia with our kids. That experience left us longing for more.
After our recent two-day getaway back to the Daintree from Port Douglas, I have no hesitation in listing this ancient and magical rainforest in Tropical North Queensland in our top three places in Australia.
There is no place like it in Australia, possibly the world.
At an estimated 110 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent and the oldest living rainforest on earth – even pre-dating the Amazon Rainforest.
What else makes it unique? It’s the only place in the world where two World Heritage Listed sites collide, the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, how can something so old be so beautiful?
The beauty of the Daintree not only lies with its flora and fauna, its mystery and history, but it’s a place you can escape too, where you can get back to nature and unplug from the chaos of life on a digital detox.
We all need time out now and again, to get away from the routines and normalcy of life, and the Daintree offers you and your family the chance to present with yourself and each other in one of the most magical places in the world.
Driving to the Daintree Rainforest
You know you are back in Tropical North Queensland and heading for the Daintree when beautiful lush rainforest scenery surrounds you on the side of the road.
While it is possible to do a day trip to the Daintree from Port Douglas, I believe that is way too rushed, and it deserves more time.
If you’re going to visit the oldest rainforest in the world, you might as well sleep in the rainforest and allow yourself time to immerse yourself and discover everything it has to offer.
The Daintree Rainforest is easily accessible to self-drive from Port Douglas. The road is fully sealed all the way to Cape Tribulation (85 kilometres) and a 4wd is not necessary.
It’s hard to get lost, but grab a map from one of the information centres as once you cross the Daintree River, phone reception is non-existent and the maps are handy for points of interest along the way.
About 20-minutes after departing Port Douglas, we drove through the town of Mossman, which is home to Mossman Gorge at the southern most end of the Daintree Rainforest. We didn’t visit the gorge on this trip but highly recommend it – take a Dreamtime Gorge Walk.
What you can’t miss as you drive through the town of Mossman are these incredible trees by the side of the road.
Fancy a spot of fishing?
We stopped in at Hook-A-Barra in Wonga Beach, about 35 minutes drive from Port Douglas, to try our hand at landing a barra. We’re not typically a fishing family but they love it up in Tropical North Queensland and barramundi is a local favourite.
Barramundi is an Australian native species and is beloved of anglers worldwide, not only for its fight but its delicious flavour.
Hook-a-barra is the recreational side of Daintree Saltwater Barramundi Fish Farms, who have been producing Australia’s best hand-reared Barramundi for over a decade. Their ponds are stocked with over 1,500 Barramundi (including albinos) and Mangrove Jack and range in size from 1-12kg.
We grabbed a rod each and started off with a quick casting lesson from the friendly assistant. A few tangled lines later and we were like pros, even little Savannah was casting and reeling her line in like she’s been watching fishing shows for the past five years, not cartoons.
The bites got more frequent and then, to our excitement, bam, Savannah hooked one.
I quickly grabbed the net and Caz the camera, and with a little help from the assistant Savannah landed this nice 3kg barra that put a smile on her face a metre wide.
We decided to catch and release. But rest assure, even if you choose to purchase your fish, you are not depleting Australia’s wild stock.
It’s not wild fishing, but a fun introduction and offers anglers of all abilities the chance to practise their lure and land techniques against an idyllic rainforest backdrop.
Lunch at Daintree Village Hotel
It was only another 15 minutes drive, and we arrived in the Daintree Village, a charming and peaceful little village that borders the Daintree Rainforest and sits on the southern banks of the Daintree River.
Here you can check out the local shops and art galleries or just sit back and relax and enjoy the village atmosphere.
We worked up quite an appetite with all that excitement fishing, so lunch was in order at the newly renovated Daintree Village Hotel.
Caz and I enjoyed a mackerel burger in the quiet garden setting, and then Kalyra challenged me to a game of pool.
Chillax at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa
After lunch, we headed back down the road another 5 minutes and checked into our accommodation for the first night at the Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa.
What an introduction to the oldest rainforest in the world this place is. Talk about escaping city life and getting back to nature – like I said, if you’re going to visit the Daintree, you may as well sleep immersed amongst the rainforest. Serenity at its best.
The kids and us big kids could hardly contain our excitement as we moved into our lodges immersed surrounded by lush greenery.
We took advantage of an hour of relaxation. The kids played in their lodge, Caz relaxed on our balcony and I did some gentle exploration and walked the path up to the waterfall – a waterfall visited over thousands of years by generations of Aboriginal women who came to the special place and were at one with their spirit.
You won’t just find the locals hanging out in the pub; the other locals reside in the Daintree River.
Okay, if there’s one thing that makes us a little nervous with our young kids in the northern part of Australia, it’s the crocs. But in reality, you have nothing to fear. Almost all croc-related incidents are due to plain stupidity and not showing due respect.
The safest way to get up close and educated about these ancient creatures is on a croc tour.
Our afternoon activity was an hour spent on Crocodile Express, the first wildlife cruise operator on the Daintree river in 1979. Led by a local larrikin as our guide we enjoyed learning about the importance of this amazing World Heritage location.
Our guide, who grew up on a property across the river, was an expert on crocs, knew them all by name and their favourite resting spots within the mangroves or where they loved to sun themselves on the sandy river banks.
An excellent tour guide is one of knowledge AND humour – he kept our kids well entertained, and in awe, for the duration of our cruise.
Besides croc spotting, we learnt about other wildlife and flora along the foreshore and the river, and the surrounding scenery was beautiful, so lush and green and added a relaxing element to the cruise.
Crocodile Express departs from Daintree Village (check-in at Daintree Tourist Information Centre in Daintree Village) several times daily. Click here for all the details.
Overnight at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa
Before dinner, we had time for a soak in the hot tub with a cup of herbal tea that felt like we were outside sitting in the rainforest. One night is never enough here.
Even if you don’t stay at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa, the meals in the restaurant are well worth the visit and a favourite dining venue for the locals. The setting by the pond is serene and the food top notch.
We thoroughly enjoyed our seared scallops, kangaroo fillet, and desserts.
When you awaken, breakfast is served by the pond, and you’re just around the corner from the Daintree River Ferry that takes you and your car deep into the rainforest.
Watch the video of our first day in the Daintree Village. You can see Savannah reel in her big barra! Don’t forget to subscribe. Day two in the Daintree coming soon.
Crossing the Daintree River
As you cross the Daintree River on the ferry, you’re about to go deep into the oldest rainforest in the world. It’s time to unplug from all devices (there’s no phone reception) and be at one with nature.
Keep your eye out on the short trip across; you might spot another croc watching the action.
The Daintree River Ferry operates daily between 6 am and midnight ($26 return per car), and you can buy a multi-day ferry pass if you want more time to explore like we did. EFTPOS is available at the ferry between 8.30am-5pm seven days a week.
Our first stop in the Daintree Rainforest was at Alexandra Lookout, a short drive once you cross over the Daintree River in the car ferry.
From this lookout, you get expansive views out over the rainforest, Alexandra Range, and Snapper Island. It’s a great perspective of where two World Heritage Listed areas collide – rainforest meets the reef.
Daintree Discovery Centre
You know a place is engaging and educational when you have to drag your kids out of there.
Our girls loved the self-guided tour, going from number to number, pressing play on their audio guides and learning all about the 110 million-year-old Daintree Rainforest.
Climbing the 23 metre high Canopy Tower is a must. It has five different viewing platforms with information on each level, and excellent views over the canopy at the top.
And check out the new Dinosaur exhibit. Four of the seven models are believed to be remnants of a select group of dinosaurs that lived in various parts of Queensland around the Jurassic Period.
The Daintree Discovery Centre is a “must visit” during your time in the Daintree.
Lunch at Whet Cafe & Bar
The short pathway through the forest from the car park to Whet Cafe & Bar is another quick reminder you are deep in the Daintree Rainforest.
And the outside deck keeps you immersed in the Daintree providing for a relaxed atmosphere in nature, while indoors is more of a city lounge feel, and as the locals later told us, a favorite bar for evening drinks.
To our delight, whet caters to all specific diets including a gluten free menu and excellent options for the kids. And the bonus, no meals are over $20.
We love taking walks with our kids. It’s another great way to bond as a family and let them burn off some energy.
When you visit the Daintree, don’t just drive through it, take every opportunity to get out of your car and get up close and personal the rainforest.
One of the beautiful Daintree Rainforest walks you can do to experience the region on foot is the Dubuji Boardwalk. At only 1.2kms it was easy for our kids to manage and winds its way through lowland rainforest swamps and mangroves with some pretty cool trees that offer plenty of shade if you are visiting in warm weather.
The name Dubuji means ‘place of spirits.’ Part of the track was currently being repaired during our visit, but once fully open leads to Myall Beach.
At only five years old Savannah amazes us with her bravery and adventurous spirit. As does 9-year-old Kalyra. What will they be doing at 15 and 20?
Yes, you can drive through the Daintree Rainforest, walk through the forest, climb to the top of the tower at the Discovery Centre, but the most exhilarating experience is by jungle surfing (zip lining) high up amongst the canopy.
We had so much fun zooming between the trees with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours.
Once harnessed up by our enthusiastic guides, the adventure began with us rotating their human powered Hamster Wheel that takes you up to the first platform. From there we jungle surfed between six canopy platforms deep in the most ancient section of the Daintree Rainforest.
Little Savannah and Kalyra were so brave, going solo, tandem, and even upside down.
If the only surfing you’ve done is at the beach or on your smart phone, seriously give this a go.
An afternoon on Cape Tribulation Beach
Our second night was spent at Cape Trib Beach House, the only resort in the Daintree with beachfront rooms on famous Cape Tribulation Beach.
Upon check in, we headed straight for the beach to catch the last hour of light and let the kids play in the sand. An afternoon on Cape Tribulation Beach, with the Daintree Rainforest as your backdrop, is a lot like this.
So peaceful and beautiful.
When you walk along the access track from the beach house and out onto the beach, turn left and head north for a few minutes. You’ll come to these incredible trees our kids loved climbing amongst and which provided some pretty awesome photo opportunities.
Dinner at Cape Trib Beach House
Tides Bar and Restaurant is a super casual outdoor place for a meal set just off the beach and beside the pool at Cape Trib Beach House.
There’s a wide variety of meals on offer, and we were impressed with the quality of size of the dishes. Caz’s kangaroo was cooked to perfection.
Overnight at Cape Trib Beach House
We slept in one of the Escape Family Cabins that came with a double bed and two singles nestled amongst the rainforest and a short walk to the beach.
Cape Trib Beach House is budget friendly and family friendly, with a variety of accommodation to suit all travelers from couples, to solo travelers, to backpackers and the location can’t be beaten, especially for the price!
Sunrise on Cape Tribulation
When you stay at Cape Trib Beach, waking up to sunrise is a spectacular way to start the day and live the magic of Tropical North Queensland.
The sun is golden as it peeks above the horizon and the morning light on the rainforest is spectacular.
After breakfast, walk south along Cape Trib Beach to Kulki Lookout which offers stunning views over Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest.
Or you’re not up for walking, jump in your car at the beach house and drive to Cape Trib Beach car park; then it’s only a 500m walk to the Kulki viewing platform.
Lunch at Mason’s Store & Cafe
At Mason’s Store & Cafe the burgers are legendary. Pick your animal: wild boar, emu, crocodile or kangaroo. I went with the emu burger.
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.
Besides burgers, their menu is quite extensive.
Take a short walk from the cafe to the swimming hole in the creek. It’s very pristine and no one around when we were there but gets popular in peak season (gold coin donation) to swim.
One of the prettiest Daintree Rainforest walks is the 1.2km loop Marrja boardwalk.
It 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.
Along this interpretive walk learn about the plants found in this environment. Your eyes and mind will be fascinated.
Floravilla Ice Cream
We couldn’t visit the Daintree Rainforest without treating our kids to a specialty local ice cream. And special they are.
Floravilla Ice Cream sells Biodynamic – Organic Icecream from the Daintree Rainforest using all natural local ingredients that create a unique range of over 26 flavours.
We enjoyed the Daintree Rainforest signature ice cream; it seriously tasted like a Thai green curry. Surprisingly yummy and refreshing! It’s cash only – there’s an ATM a short drive away at the service station.
Got more time?
Here’s a list of other things to do in the Daintree Rainforest or on the drive between Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation:
Win a family holiday to the Daintree Rainforest
We partnered with Tourism Port Douglas Daintree on this trip who are offering you the chance to win a family holiday for two adults and two children to the Daintree Rainforest, to disconnect with your devices and to reconnect with each other.
If you want to unplug from the daily digital overload and unwind in the Daintree Rainforest, swing through the jungle, sleep at the beach, and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.
Click here to enter.
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Have you visited the Daintree Rainforest? What was your highlight?