Why is the Daintree Rainforest such a big deal you ask? It’s estimated to be around 180 million years old, making it the oldest tropical lowland rainforest in the world. That’s quite insane when you think about it! It makes the Amazon and its 11 million years feel like a baby.
It covers a territory 16 times the size of Singapore. And if that wasn’t special enough, it sits alongside the Great Barrier Reef, making it the only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites meet (in Cape Tribulation).
Explore the Daintree rainforest
It’s located about 1 hour drive north of Port Douglas. After crossing the Daintree River on the only cable ferry in tropical Australia (it only takes 5 minutes), you’ll start driving on the sealed road to Cape Tribulation. The road meanders through the lush Daintree Rainforest covered Alexandra Range. Take your time and enjoy the beautiful drive. If you feel hungry or need some energy on the way, take a break at the Daintree ice cream company. The fruits they use for their hand made ice cream are grown in their orchard. Trust me, it’s delicious.
What can I do in the Daintree Rainforest?
Well, one thing is certain, you won’t get bored. There are plenty of things to do here. You can choose amongst the many activities available or just wander on the tropical beaches to enjoy great views (don’t think of going in the water though as crocodiles prowl the area).
We thought that the best way to start would be to see it from the top of the canopy. So we went ziplining in the heart of the forest with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. Ziplining from platform to platform was great fun, but what made it awesome for us was listening to the guides talk about the forest and its relationship with the aboriginal tribes in the area. If you’re lucky, you might even see a wild endangered Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo. They are sooooooooooo cute!
It’s the perfect introduction to the Daintree Rainforest and you’ll definitely feel more connected to the forest when you’re finished. It’s a great option if you have kids or if you’re ziplining for the first time.
On our way there, we stopped at Whet Cafe and Restaurant. There are several options around but this one was one of the many recommendations from Astrid and Kirsty from the Daintree EcoLodge & Spa. It was delicious. So if you need to grab a bite before or after your Jungle Surfing tour, don’t miss it 🙂
The next stop on your trip should definitely be the Daintree Discovery Center. Here, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the Daintree Rainforest and its inhabitants. They have an elevated boardwalk to see, smell and experience the rainforest first hand, a canopy tower sitting 23 meters above the ground and a couple of walks on the forest floor. The staff is welcoming and very helpful (ask them if the Tree Frogs are still hiding in the bathroom haha). There is also a reptile display where you’ll meet several types of pythons. I find those animals so fascinating. With a bit of luck, you might spot a wild Cassowary too. Together with the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo and the White Lipped Tree Frog (the biggest tree frog on the planet), the Cassowary is one of the endangered Australian species you can find here in the Daintree Rainforest.
Did you know that the Daintree Rainforest is home to over 3,000 species of plants, 20% of Australian bird species, 35% of Australia’s frogs and marsupials and 65% of Australia’s bat and butterfly species? And the tallest of the trees in the rainforest stand over 44 meters tall – around the same height as the Statue of Liberty.
What about the beaches around Cape Tribulation?
After these adventures in the forest, it’s time to head for the beach. This is one of the few places on earth where the forest meets the reef, after all! And you’re spoilt for choice. We stopped at 2 beaches: Cape Tribulation and Emmagen beach.
Cape Tribulation & Myall Beach
The first one is easy to find. Start at Cape Tribulation beach and follow the short boardwalk to the lookout. The mangrove on the beach is pretty cool as well. When you’re done, follow the small track that starts at the parking entrance. It will take you to Myall beach. You can walk to the left of the beach and climb the dark boulders at the end (we were there at low tide). From there you’ll have a great view on the beach and the clear waters.
If you keep going north, you’ll end up driving on an easy unsealed road. Keep driving until you see the big fig tree. You know… that 1 tree in the middle of the forest… It seems tricky but you’ll manage (there might be a car or 2 parked there). It’s very big compared to the other ones. And if you see a “4 wheel drive only” sign, you just passed it. Turn around and drive a few hundred meters back. The beach is everything you’d expect from a tropical beach: coconut trees, lush vegetation, sandy beach. It reminded us a lot of the beaches in Costa Rica.
You can see that it’s easy to spend a few days exploring the Daintree rainforest. So you’ll want to stay somewhere close to the forest to save on travel time. We stayed at the Daintree EcoLodge & Spa. And we LOOOOVED it.
It’s ideally located and the only boutique accommodation in the Daintree rainforest. The views on the rainforest made us feel like we were literally sleeping in the heart of the forest. Astrid and Kirsty were so nice and helpful. They lived in the area for many years and gave us a ton of advice to make the most of our trip.
For us, the highlight was the food. The team pride itself in delivering delicious food. Their cuisine is locally sourced and uses seasonal produces. Trust me, it’s truly sensational. And we love our food!
Our Rainforest Banyan and the hot tub on the balcony made our stay even more incredible…. so you can imagine how hard it was to get Rafika to leave! 😛
What to do around Port Douglas
If you follow us on Instagram, you know that we regularly share pictures of endangered animals in order to help raise awareness. So when we arrived in Port Douglas, we headed straight to the Wildlife Habitat.
It’s a wildlife immersion exhibit, meaning that you are walking amongst the animals as you make your way through the 4 distinct North Queensland environments: the Woodland, Wetlands, Rainforest and Savannah. You’ll meet a bunch of birds, reptiles and mammals like the endangered Lumholtz’s tree kangaroos and Cassowaries, mahogany gliders, spotted tail quoll, and of course kangaroos and koalas. By the way, did you know that Queensland is the only state in Australia where it’s legal to hold a koala?
One of the wildlife keepers, Courtney, took us on a tour through the park. Courtney’s been working with animals since a very young age, and you could tell that it was a real passion of hers. She knew every animal’s name, their story, and she told us amazing facts about them. Especially about Cass and Airlie, the Cassowaries, probably the most famous of the park’s inhabitants. In the wild, the Cassowary plays a crucial role in the rainforest ecosystem. They eat and disperse seeds over long distances. 70 to 100 species of plants (and the animals who fed on them) depend on the Cassowary’s survival. Unfortunately, it’s believed that there are only 4,000 individuals left in the wild in Australia. As for many other animal species in the world, the population is declining due to habitat clearing, dog attacks, and being struck by cars on the roads. One thing is certain, they are impressive looking birds!
We had a great time at the Wildlife Habitat. If you’re around Port Douglas, check it out! If you love wildlife like we do, you’ll have an amazing time. Their website is packed with useful resources to plan your visit.
Talking about unmissable things in Port Douglas, you have to watch a sunrise in Rex Smeal Park. When the golden sunlight dances in the palm trees along the water, it’s simply magnificent. And if you’re lucky, you might have the park for yourself. A truly peaceful experience.
What if I have more time?
If you’re done with the experiences above and still have a bit more time, here’s what we recommend:
- The Maadja (close to Noha beach) & Dubuji Boardwalk (close to Myall beach): 2 short walks to experience the Daintree rainforest.
- Go on a nice walk on Noah & Coconut Beach.
- A Night Jungle Tour, to discover a different side of the rainforest.
- Go on a Crocodile tours.
There is something magical about the Daintree rainforest. Is it because of its ancient history or because of its surprising animals? It really feels like you’re time travelling and that a dinosaur could jump from behind the bush at any time. It’s one of those places that makes you feel very small. If you come for a visit, you’ll sure go back home relaxed and revitalised.