Escape to the Daintree, for a relaxing getaway.
Spend 4 days with Mother Nature and escape to the Daintree. Peace and quiet, an abundance of birds and wildlife and never-ending rainforest scenery made this holiday the perfect getaway!
I have lovely memories of the Daintree in my early 20’s. Many weekends were spent camping by the beach, fishing, or lazily swimming in rainforest creeks and waterfalls without seeing another person. I was keen to return.
A birthday weekend for my significant other was the catalyst for our escape to Australia’s most tropical wilderness.
In days of old
The Daintree was considered remote in the 80’s despite being just 2 hours north of Cairns. There were few houses, no shops or accommodation and just a handful of people. For us, the Daintree was our favourite weekend camping destination.
The Daintree River Ferry carried vehicles across the river but it was not the modern slick ferry it is today. I remember a decrepit old barge with a lop-sided precarious list.
The road north of the Daintree River was a narrow dirt track winding through the rainforest. Often the road was blocked by a fallen tree or we had to wait patiently for a cassowary and her young family to cross the road.
Just an hour north of Port Douglas, the Daintree Rainforest boasts the largest variety of rare plants and animals found in any rainforest around the world.
Estimated to be over 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. The Daintree region sits within the Wet Tropics and has become a refuge for ancient and unique plants and animals.
Ancient ferns, gingers and native orchids and the rainforest’s lush canopy provide a natural habitat for rare plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet.
You may sight the endangered Southern Cassowary on your travels. These elusive flightless birds can stand up to two metres tall and are arguably Australia’s most spectacular birds.
Read more: Australian UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Our planned escape
We planned a 4 day getaway so we could relax and unwind and be a tourist in what was once familiar country. We wanted a little luxury, in an eco-friendly kind of way!
Our flights arrived into Cairns late evening so we checked into a city hotel and planned to head north after breakfast.
Day 1: North to the Daintree
The picturesque drive north takes approximately an hour and a half from Cairns and travels along the coast.
Enjoy the drive and make sure you stop and enjoy lunch at one of the beautiful beachside villages of Palm Cove, Ellis Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach or Port Douglas as you head north.
We stopped at Port Douglas, wandered around the marina before settling in for a leisurely lunch at Lure Restaurant of fresh fish and chips with a side of ‘fabulous view over the marina’. The perfect start to our escape.
Checking into the eco-friendly Daintree Ecolodge was a pleasant surprise. We felt quite decadent our the tree-house bayan tucked away in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest.
Our getaway plan was to chill-out and escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Our accommodation choices offered an onsite a restaurant with an award-winning chef and we had decided that if we wanted a lazy day – we would take one. Perfect!
Read more about our stay at the Daintree Ecolodge: Escape the Busyness of Life – Visit the Daintree Ecolodge
Day 2: A day trip to Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is where the Rainforest meets the Reef (two World Heritage sites). You will find gorgeous scenery, beautiful shallow beaches and an abundance of rainforest walks.
After a late breakfast we headed to Cape Tribulation, crossing the Daintree River on the Ferry. The old barge had been replaced with a much more robust model and the crossing took 15 minutes. The road north was sealed so it was not as rough as in my earlier visits and there was signage to access scenic views along the coastline. The rainforest was exactly as I remembered – dense and lush.
It was raining lightly, but as often happens in the tropics the weather changes so we took a chance. My photography was a little limited because of the rain, however the leaves were glossy and fresh after soaking in the fresh water so there were some advantages.
Discover the Discovery Centre
Stop in at the award-winning interpretive Discovery Centre.
Walking platforms at all levels give visitors access to every level of the Daintree Rainforest – from the forest floor to the upper most reaches of the canopy. Take the interactive audio tour to learn about the ancient rainforest and the rare plants and animals that inhabit the Daintree Rainforest.
Although still drizzing with light rain we grabbed an umbrella and rain poncho and headed onto the canopy walk to see all that we could. The fact is: the raindrops add a glossy shine to the leaves and bushes and the warmth of the tropics meant that the weather temperatures were perfect.
As we were heading back along the Cape Tribulation road, we saw a Cassowary and her chick foraging for food along a damp creek bed.
A sneaky dingo watched the pair from across the creek. I daresay, waiting for an opportunity.
Day 3: Mossman Gorge & the Daintree River
Located in the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park, Mossman Gorge is only 20 minutes drive north from Port Douglas and 40 minutes from our accommodation.
Its a beautiful cool fresh water stream that can turn into a rapid flow with a little rain. Experience the beauty of the lower end of the Daintree Rainforest with it’s ancient plants, cool streams, towering trees from the canopy walk.
If you have time, take one of the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks and learn about the land of the local Indigenous people. The walks visit culturally significant sites, and take you past traditional bark shelters and over meandering cool rainforest streams.
Sunset on the Daintree River
At sunset we took a river cruise with Daintree River Wild Watch. Our guide Alex was very knowledgeable and adept at spotting the wildlife on our cruise.
Rare birds such as the Azure Kingfisher (below), the Wompoo Fruit Dove, Great Billed Heron and a Papuan Frogmouth owl were some of the birds we saw. Alex pointed out a number rare plants that are only found in Far North Queensland along our trip.
We were disappointed to only see one crocodile (half hidden in the reeds on the rivers edge) but knew there were others lurking nearby. The bonus for us was the amazing sunset over the Daintree River.
Day 4: Kuranda
After a lazy breakfast, we drove south towards Cairns to spend our last day exploring Kuranda and Cairns city.
We had planned to visit the Barron Falls lookout as there had been significant rain over recent weeks so we were hopeful of a spectacular waterfall display. We drove drive up the range, but if you haven’t done the Kuranda Cableway and Scenic Rail experience, I recommend you take this option. The views are sensational!
The Barron Falls is often at peak in the wet season (November to March) and at times, can produce a cloud of mist as the falls thunder spectacularly down the gorge.
The falls were not as spectacular on this trip but even so, some nice photos were taken.
The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary was a must see attraction whilst we were in Kuranda.
The largest butterfly sanctuary in Australia is home to over 2000 tropical butterflies. All butterflies are local rainforest species including the electric blue Ulysses and the stunning green and yellow Cairns Birdwing Butterflies.
Butterflies are attracted to bright colours so wear red, white or hot pink when visiting.
We ended our Kuranda visit with a delicious lunch at Frogs Restaurant accompanied by this curious Water Dragon.
How to get there
Day tours to Cape Tribulation by 4WD or coach depart from Cairns and Port Douglas all year round or, hire a car and drive yourself.
We stayed at the Daintree Ecolodge, however there are many local lodges, hotels and B&Bs nearby.
Daintree, the town is approximately 1.5 hours north of Cairns. To get the most out of your visit, stay in one of the villages on the rainforest’s doorstep such as Daintree, Port Douglas, Mossman or Cape Tribulation.
When to go
We travelled to the Daintree in late January (Australian summer). It rained lightly during most of our visit, with occasional sunny moments. We slept soundly with the sound of rain on the roof, cool evening breezes and the frogs and crickets chirping each night.
The tropics can get quite humid and rain frequently. For me, the rain means that waterfalls and rainforest streams flow and the rainforest has a beautiful glossy sheen. I love it.
If you visit during the dry season (Australian winter months) it is much cooler and there is usually no rain. Plants flower less at this time of year and don’t have that lustre the rain gives them. You may need a light jacket of a night.
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I believe some places should be automatically added to your bucket list – and this is one of them! The Daintree offers so much and you can experience it all in just 4 days.