Most visitors to the area head straight for the beaches of Cape Tribulation, but it’s worth taking some time out to explore the Daintree rainforest area.
ocated just a couple of hours north of Cairns in tropical far north Queensland the Daintree rainforest area represents many things: a river, a rainforest national park, a reef and the home of the traditional owners, the Kuku Yalanji people.
For travellers it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in a sublime natural environment – the fan palms, ferns and mangroves are just some of around 3000 plant species and the forest is alive with a chorus of birds, frogs and insects. This is a place to explore and admire, but leave undisturbed.
Daintree National Park
The greater Daintree rainforest is now protected as part of Daintree National Park. The Daintree area has a controversial history. In 1983 the Bloomfield Track was bulldozed through sensitive lowland rainforest from Cape Tribulation to the Bloomfield River, attracting international attention to the fight to save the lowland rainforests. The conservationists lost the battle, but the publicity generated by the blockade indirectly led to the federal government’s moves in 1987 to nominate Queensland’s wet tropical rainforests for World Heritage listing.
The protection of the Far North Queensland’s Wet Tropics area is essential as the area has amazing pockets of biodiversity. The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area stretches from Townsville to Cooktown and covers 894,420 hectares of coastal zones and hinterland, diverse swamp and mangrove-forest habitats, eucalypt woodlands and tropical rainforest. It covers only 0.01% of Australia’s surface area, but has:
- 36% of all the mammal species
- 50% of the bird species
- Around 60% of the butterfly species
- 65% of the fern species
Interesting Daintree Rainforest Facts for Kids
- The Daintree is a 110-million-year-old rainforest where plants that are fossils elsewhere in the world exist in living colour
- The Daintree was named after British-born geologist, gold prospector and photographer, Richard Daintree, who carried out important work in northern Queensland in the mid-19th century (including geological surveys and collection of plant specimens)
- The Daintree area was threatened by logging and development in the 1980s
- The Daintree is now largely protected as a World Heritage area
- The Daintree rainforests are part of the Wet Tropics, a World Heritage area that stretches from Cape Tribulation to Townsville
- The Wet Tropics area has 65% of Australia’s bird species, 60% of its butterfly species, and many of its frogs, reptiles, bats, marsupials, and orchids
- The Daintree is a popular destination for croc-spotting and bird watching tours
Daintree Rainforest Tours
Just about everyone who visits Port Douglas or Cairns takes a guided four-wheel-drive day trip into the beautiful Daintree and Cape Tribulation rainforests. Although they are two separate national parks, the forests merge into one.
You can rent a four-wheel-drive and explore on your own, but you won’t understand much about what you are seeing unless you have a guide. Most companies basically cover the same territory and sights; they include a 1-hour Daintree River cruise to spot crocs, a visit to the Marrdja Botanical Walk, a stroll along an isolated beach, lunch at a pretty spot somewhere in the forest, and a visit to Mossman Gorge. Some tours also go to the picturesque Bloomfield Falls in Cape Tribulation National Park.
Most four-wheel-drive Daintree tours include a 1-hour cruise on the Daintree River, but if yours doesn’t, or you want to spend more time on the river, cruises are available on a variety of boats, ranging from open-sided “river trains” to small fishing boats.
Daintree River Cruise
If you’re heading to the Daintree Rainforest area, a Daintree River Cruise should be at the top of your itinerary. Sightings of resident saltwater crocodiles are at the top of the ‘to see’ list while cruising on the Daintree River; while sightings are frequent they are not guaranteed. Whether you see crocodiles or not, there’s plenty of other things to see here: birds and butterflies in particular.
Daintree River Cruise tours can be booked at several reputable agencies that operate from Daintree Village.
Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises – One-hour cruises on a covered boat
Chris Dahlberg’s Daintree River Tours – Two-hour tours specialising in bird-watching
Daintree River Experience – Serene two-hour sunrise and sunset cruises specialising in bird-watching
Solar Whisper – Electric boat fitted with croc-cam
Electric Boat Cruises – 1 hr cruise; also offers a 1 1/2-hr tour at 8am including muffins and coffee
Crocodile Express – Eight departures from Daintree Village and 12 from the Daintree ferry crossing. Also offers a lunch cruise
Daintree Discovery Centre
The Daintree Discovery Centre is a multi-award-winning attraction and one of the top tourist attractions in the Daintree area; it’s worth visiting if you’re in the area. Located 10km (6 miles) north of the Daintree river ferry crossing, you can view the Daintree rainforest canopy from their Canopy Tower, climb into the middle of the Daintree rainforest on their Aerial Walkway and learn about the Daintree rainforest ecosystem through their Interpretative Display Centre. The center’s aerial walkway links the entrance to the 23m (76-ft.) high Canopy Tower and the display center, which provides easy-to-understand information about the surrounding rainforest. The display center has the latest touch-screen technology, an audio-visual theater, and sweeping all-weather verandas.
Open from 8:30am to 5pm daily (except Christmas Day), the Daintree Discovery Centre is an alternative to taking a cruise on the Daintree river or a tour through the Daintree rainforest. Visit Daintree Discovery Centre for more information.
One of the attractions in the Daitree area is the Daintree Village. On your way to Cape Tribulation, it’s worth taking the left-hand (ie straight ahead) detour to the tiny settlement of Daintree Village for a croc-spotting tour on the broad Daintree River. While neither Daintree Village nor the surrounding countryside is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, there are still pockets of untouched rainforest.
Daintree Village itself is a tiny, low-key tourist hub, with plenty of secluded accommodation and a handful of places to eat. There’s a general store and an unofficial tourist information centre in the village, but no fuel is available.
The main street is Stewart St, just back from the river, at the end of which is a public-access wharf – the departure point for a number of small tour operators. More tour operators have their own departure points along Daintree Rd between the Daintree river ferry crossing and the village.
If you’re looking to head into Daintree National Park and over to Cape Tribulation, you’ll need access to the Daintree River Ferry. This cable ferry operates across the Daintree River taking people, vehicles and cargo back and forth. The ferry provides the only sealed road access to this area and takes about 5 minutes to cross the river. Operating from 6am until midnight, the ferry can carry a maximum of 40 vehicles. Expect to pay a toll for using the ferry services.
Where is the Daintree Rainforest located?
The Daintree Rainforest location is 124 km north of Cairns, 69 km north of Port Douglas and 16 km south of Cape Tribulation. It takes about a 2-hour drive from Cairns, heading north on Captain Cook Hwy and 1 ½ hours from Port Douglas on Mossman-Daintree Rd.
Daintree Rainforest Map
Daintree Rainforest Address
2333 Cape Tribulation Road