The Daintree region covers almost 900,000 hectares of Tropical North Queensland and is home to the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park.
The Daintree area covers the Mossman Gorge at the southern point, the Daintree River at its centre and then all the way up to the dense rainforests of Cape Tribulation. The region has numerous tourist attractions including the lush dense rainforest, crocodile infested rivers, cool fresh water streams, pristine beaches and the Great Barrier Reef.
This is the only place in the world where 2 World Heritage listed sites exist side by side – Daintree National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.
You can visit the Daintree in a day trip from Cairns, or better still spend a few days exploring this magnificent area.
Things to do in the Daintree
1. Mossman Gorge
The Mossman Gorge, located in the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park, is the start of the Daintree region and is about an hour’s drive from Cairns. A visit to the Mossman Gorge is in my view one of the best things to do in the Daintree.
To access the Mossman Gorge visitors, need to first go to the Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre to purchase tickets for the shuttle which takes you the few kilometres to the gorge. Whilst you can actually walk to the gorge free of charge, but the walk requires you to walk through an indigenous community and as I understand it the aboriginal community prefer you to take the shuttle rather than walk through their village.
The centre is open daily between the hours of 8 am to 6 pm and shuttle tickets are $9.50 per adult and $4.70 per child. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes and it only takes a couple of minutes to reach the entry of the gorge.
To access the spectacular gorge, you first need to take a short bush walk through the Daintree Rainforest where you will see gorgeous fresh streams and dense tropical rainforest. If you take the track a bit further you go over a suspension bridge where you will get fantastic views of the Mossman River. There is a much further walk which is a 2.4 kilometre through the rainforest.
There are various lockouts where you can stop and admire the gorgeous Mossman Gorge – this is one of the most brilliant views within a rainforest I have ever seen. The gorge is full of massive round smooth boulders and water gushes through creating a mesmerising view which you can easily stare at for hours.
A few metres down the water in the gorge is calm and clear, creating such a peaceful and welcoming environment. This area of gorge was super crowded when we were there with numerous tourists taking a dip in the refreshing but absolutely freezing water. There were signs warning tourists against swimming in the gorge but it appeared reasonably calm here – although obviously I am no expert.
To go back to the where the shuttle picks you up from you can continue to follow a path along the Mossman river with various of areas where you can go out to the river.
The Mossman River is absolutely stunning and in my view not to be missed when visiting the Daintree region. This stop was easily one of my favourites. We spent around 1.5 hours here, you will need longer if you wish to have a swim.
2. Daintree Village
The next major stop in the Daintree is the Daintree Village. Blink and you will most certainly miss this quaint little village which is no more than a handful of cafes and caravan park along the Daintree River.
There probably is no need to stop in the Daintree Village unless it is lunch time – which is the reason we stopped here.
3. Daintree River Cruise
Just outside of the Daintree Village you will find a variety of tour operators offering 1 hour cruises along the Daintree River – another attraction not to be missed.
The Daintree River is home to numerous species of fish, birds as well as the massive Saltwater Crocodiles.
We joined Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises and were not disappointed. Bruce provides tours right from the banks of his gorgeous property on the banks of the Daintree River. Whilst Bruce didn’t take our cruise we had a wonderful guide who provided super informative commentary as we made our way down the river.
The boats are nice and small, and you are encouraged to move around to get closer views of the various wild life you along the way. Binoculars are also provided as well as special ones for the kids.
During our trip we hit the jackpot seeing not 1 but 7 saltwater crocodiles! These weren’t crocodiles just bobbing out of the water either – although we did see a few like this – the majority where sitting on the banks completely out of the water. We also saw a variety of Australian native birds and 1 phython in a tree.
Our guide was fantastic – he answered all the questions and ensured every single person on the boat got an opportunity to see the various wildlife.
After the cruise complimentary tea and coffee is provided, as well as slushies for the kids.
The price of the cruise is $27 per adults, $12 for kids (under 4s are free) and family passes are $70 (2 adults and 2 kids). There are regular cruises throughout the day. We were given some inside knowledge when choosing our cruise which was to go when it was low tide as the crocodiles are more exposed – so if you have the flexibility, be sure to check when low tide is before going on your cruise.
A river cruise is one of the best Daintree Rainforest tours.
4. Daintree River Ferry
Just past the Daintree Village and the various river cruise operators, you will need to use the Daintree Ferry to continue your journey through the Daintree.
Whilst not an attraction in itself, I thought it was necessary to include the ferry in this list so you have all the information you need when visiting the Daintree.
The ferry operators daily between the hours of 6 am to midnight. It only takes about 10 minutes to cross the river, but depending upon the traffic you may need to wait. The cost of the ferry is $27 AUD return.
During our ferry crossing we did not have any wait to go north, but we waited around 10 minutes to board the ferry coming south. Just be sure to factor these times in.
5. Daintree Discovery Centre
The Daintree Discovery Centre is a great place to learn more about the ancient Daintree Rainforest via a self guided tour.
With your entrance fee, you are provided with a mobile like device. As you walk throughout the rainforest, there are various marked stops where you press a button on your device and you are provided with commentary informing you about the various species of trees, plants and animals found within the Daintree Rainforest. The audio guides can be set to various languages and even a special commentary for kids.
There are various walk ways throughout the Daintree rainforest all at different heights enabling you to explore the rainforest at all levels:
- Aerial Walkway: Set 11 metres from the ground, the aerial walkway is up high among the rainforest canopy and provides great views of McLean’s Creek which flows alongside the aerial walk. The aerial walk is 125 metres in length and is accessible by both prams and wheelchairs.
- Canopy Tower: You can then climb the 23-metre-high Canopy Tower where you have fantastic views high above the tops of the trees and across the sprawling Daintree Rainforest.
- Boardwalks: There are over 400 metres of boardwalks along the rainforest floor. Apart from the peaceful rainforest, this is where you will find the new dinosaur display which has life size models of the dinosaurs that existed in the region millions of years ago.
During the walk you may even get a glimpse of the wild Cassowary. The centre is located in the centre of what is known as the “Cassowary Corridor” as there is plenty of food and water for the Cassowaries in the area. The platforms provide visitors with the ideal spot to watch the Cassowaries. Unfortunately, we did not see any during our visit to the centre.
The centre also has an interpretive display centre, with various touch screen presentations, interactive displays, 2 theatres and various other 3D model displays which educate visitors further about the Daintree Rainforest.
Tickets to the centre are $35 per adults and $16 for children (under 5’s are free). Family passes are $85 and include 2 adults and 2 children. Allow around 1 – 2 hours to experience the various attractions at the centre.
6. Great Barrier Reef
Whilst the Great Barrier Reef stretches some 2300 kilometres along the east coast of Australia, in the Daintree region this is the closest point to the main land you will find the reef. This means you can be out exploring the reef in around 30 minutes.
You can explore the Great Barrier Reef from Cape Tribulation with Ocean Safari.
7. Daintree Rainforest Beaches
With the backdrop of the Daintree Rainforest coming right out to meet the palms on the beach – the beaches along the Daintree Coast are absolutely stunning! Due to the remoteness of the area, the beaches in this region are secluded and you may well find yourself the only one of the beach.
It is also the only place in the world where two world heritage sites meet – the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
Beaches in the area include Wonga, Cape Kimberley, Cow Bay, Thorntons, Coconut, Myall, Cape Tribulation and Emmagen.
Located 5 kilometres along an unpaved road, just off the main highway is the stunning Cape Kimberley. To access the beach, you need to go for a short walk through the bush which then opens up to the beach. You will know you’re on a beach in the tropics of north Queensland when there are signs along the beach warning of crocodiles and stingers.
It is just stunning here – I went nuts with taking photographs here!! The beach is wide and goes on forever – plenty of space for the kids to run wild. You can also see out to Snapper Island which is a few kilometres off the beach.
Even if you don’t get as far as Cape Tribulation you can easily visit Cape Kimberley as it is located not far from the north of the ferry. We stopped here on the way back from the Daintree Discovery Centre for an hour or so just strolling the beach and soaking up the atmosphere.
There are no facilities here.
Possibly one of the more famous beaches in Cape Tribulation is Cow Bay. We didn’t make it up as far as Cape Tribulation but from what I heard it is stunning and unlike Cape Kimberley has facilities such as picnic areas and toilets.
Another one of the beaches located in Cape Tribulation with easy access from the main road. From the beach you can see Struck Rock Island and in fact during low tide you can walk out to it. There is also Café on the Sea located here for some lunch.
Near the beach is Cooper Creek – it is recommended not to swim here as crocodiles have been seen here.
Cape Tribulation Beach
This is the most northern beach in the Daintree area. There is a lockout here you can walk to with fantastic views of the rainforest and coast and the Beach house which has a bar and restaurant close to the beach.
8. Alexandra Lookout
Just 10 minutes north of the Daintree River is the Alexandra Lookout which has spectacular panorama views of the Daintree coast. From the look out you can see the mouth of the Daintree River, Snapper Island, Port Douglas, Cape Kimberly and the turquoise shades of the Great Barrier Reef.
9. Daintree Rainforest Walks
There are a variety of free walking tracks through the Daintree region. Below are the details of a few short walks, there however much longer walks up to 6 hours return. Click here for details of these longer walks.
Remember this is crocodile territory and you must stick to the tracks unless you want to be a crocodiles dinner!
- Mardja Botanical Walk: Located 10 minutes drive south of Cape Tribulation, this is a short 10 minute boardwalk through the rainforest and to Oliver Creek.
- Dubuji Boardwalk: Just off the main road at Cape Tribulation this is an hour long walk trhough the forest and mangroves and onto the beach.
- Cape Tribulation Beach: This is an hours long walk linking Cape Tribulation Beach with Myall Beach offering brilliant views as you walk over the ridge of Cape Tribulation down onto Myall Beach.
- Kulki – Cape Tribulation Beach Lookout : This is a 10 minute walk which takes you to a look out on the north side of the Cape Tribulation headland providing views to the north of the mountains and the beaches.
10. Jungle Surfing
Another way to experience the Daintree Rainforest is by a guided tour through 6 tree platforms and 7 ziplines.
At Jungle Surfing Canopy tours there are various platforms ranging from 5 to 19.5 metres above the ground offering various views into the different levels of the rainforest from over the top of the canopy right down to the fresh water streams. It takes 2 hours to complete the course and suits children from as young as 3!!
Tours cost $105 per adults and $95 per child or you book a day trip which from Cairns which includes various other attractions in the area.
11. Bloomfield Track
This is a 30 kilometre 4WD coastal drive to Wujal Wujal along the Bloomfield river via creek crossings, past beaches and the rainforest with brilliant views. Click here for more information about the track.
12. National Park Boardwalks
There are a range of free boardwalks through the Daintree National Park. I have provided some brief information below, click here for a map of these walks.
- Jindalba Boardwalk: An easy 45 minutes return walk through the tropical lowland rainforest. Near the boardwalk entry there is another 3 kilometres walking track, Jindalba circuit, through the forest which crosses rainforest creeks.
- Marrja Boardwalk: An easy 45 minute walk through the rainforest and mangroves.
- Dubuji Boardwalk: An easy 45 minute walk through the lowland rainforest swamps and mangroves with display signs providing information about the rainforest plants and animals.
- Kulki Boardwalk: A short 10 minute walk from the picnic area to a platform with views of the ocean and beach.
13. Daintree Ice Cream
The Daintree Ice Cream Company provides delicious exotic tropical ice cream and is a must stop for anyone visiting the area. Known for their unique flavours such black sapote or roasted wattleseed, flavours available change daily and are based on the season.
To work off some of the calories, customers are encouraged to stroll around the 22 acre property and learn about the fruit trees on the self-guided orchard walk.
14. Cape Tribulation Exotic Fruit Tasting
If you are interested in trying a variety of exotic fruits from around the world then make sure you join a fruit tasting tour at Cape Tribulation Farm. Tours last 90 minutes during which time you will get to taste a variety of exotic fruits as well as learn about their origins and uses.
Tours are 2pm daily and cost $30 per adults and $20 per child.
15. Swimming Holes
Tropical North Queensland is known for its beautiful natural swimming holes and creeks – doesn’t cooling off in a rock pool whilst being surrounded by gorgeous lush rainforest sound amazing!!
However, given the region is also crocodile territory it is best to only swim in areas recommended by the locals.
- Mossman Gorge: For more information see above in this post.
- Cassowary Falls: Located near the Daintree Village
- Mason’s Waterhole: The not so “secret” swimming hole is located just behind Mason’s Shop (the tourist information centre). You may even be lucky enough to see fish and turtles here.
- Emmagen Creek: This swimming hole is located approximately 5 kilometres north of Cape Tribulation. To access this swimming hole you will need to walk 400 metres through the rainforest until you reach the deeper pools.
- Hutchinson Creek: This swimming hole is accessible from Cape Tribulation Road and a short walk to the creek.
How to get to the Daintree / Getting Around the Daintree
To see the Daintree you can either DIY or join one of the Daintree Rainforest Tours.
If you do it yourself you will need to hire a car. We hired a small car for 2 days from East Coast Rental in Cairns for $90 AUD. Driving from Cairns to the Daintree and back again only cost us $20 AUD. Of course you will need to add on any of your entrance fees to this – but I really think this is the cheapest way to visit the area. I usually check Skyscanner for the cheapest car rental, thats where I booked this one – yes they do car hire not just flights!
You will need at least 1 day to see a glimpse of the Daintree region – I would highly recommend you spend at least 2 days exploring the area though.
Daintree Rainforest Tours
If you prefer having someone else do all the driving, navigating and organizing – there are heaps of great Daintree Rainforest tours from Cairns which explore the area. Check out these tours:
Cape Tribulation & Mossman Gorge Day Tour – adults $115 and kids $80
Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest 4WD Tour (includes lunch) – adults $230 and kids $175
Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest & Mossman Gorge 4WD Tour (includes lunch) – adults $196 and kids $124
Cape Tribulation and Daintree Wildlife Tour (includes lunch) – adults $161 and kids $81
Daintree Rainforest Accommodation
During our visit we were short on time so we drove to Mossman after our day exploring Kuranda and spent the night at the Mossman Holiday Villas. Then the next morning we drove up to the Daintree Discovery Centre – the furthest point we made it to in the Daintree and then stopped off at the various attractions as we made our way back down to Cairns.
If you decide to stay in Mossman, I can highly recommend the Mossman Holiday Villas. The cabins are spacious and contain a queen bed, bunks as well as a lounge & dining area. There is a tiny kitchette as well but it only has a microwave and fridge. There is however a fully equipped kitchen which is shared among guests.
The villas are lovely with a nice balcony out front, lovely pool area and small playground.
99% of people on Tripadvisor rate the villas either excellent or good and at the time of publishing the cheapest rate was $161 for 2 adults and 2 kids on Agoda. Check here for the cheapest rates and availability.
The villas are within walking distance to a supermarket and a variety of a few cafes for meals. We can highly recommend the Temptations Café for a meal. It is great café for families as it has a small play area for kids with toys as well as high chairs for the little ones. The staff there are super friendly and accommodating too. They are open daily from 6.30 am to 6 pm.
If you have the time though – spend an extra night in the region and stay in Cape Tribulation. There is a great range of Daintree Rainforest accommodation in Cape Tribulation.
In my opinion, the Daintree region is a must see for anyone coming to Far North Queensland and you must spend at least a day here, but preferably 2. I found even just driving around between attractions absolutely spectacular. The landscape is gorgeous, with rolling farmlands one minute and thick, lush green rainforest the next. The rainforest is so thick in the region that the trees bend over the road, creating a dark green tunnel that you drive through. It’s really awesome!
However similar to Kuranda, we found a lot of the attractions in the Daintree rather expensive, particularly for a family. Make sure you consider any paid attractions wisely and make use of all the wonderful free attractions in the area such as the walks, lookouts and beaches.
Special thanks to the Daintree Discovery Centre and Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises for hosting our visit.
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