The road wound its way along the coast, with spectacular views of the aquamarine water, white sands, tall palms and dense tropical rainforest that tumbled down into the sea. We were on our way to Cape Tribulation, up in the depths of the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest remaining rainforest in the world.
In a previous trip, I learnt that Cape Tribulation was named so because of the trials and tribulations Captain Cook and his crew encountered in this area during their explorations. History seems to be rich in this part of Australia – not only is it rich with European history, it is also home to the oldest rainforest in the world, a place where mega fauna roamed the land and where giant fig trees decided to make their home hundreds of years ago. I cannot begin to imagine that time, but it does seem magic up here. Perhaps if I were ever to step back in time, this would be the place it would happen.
Passing through Port Douglas (worth a stop in itself), we arrived at the ferry crossing and paid the $25 return fare and chugged across these warm waters, where crocodiles were lurking in the murky depths. Then, we jumped straight onto a crocodile cruise with Solar Whisper ($25 each) and spent the next hour and a half floating up the river, trying to find these ancient creatures.
We spotted four juvenile crocodiles and one fully grown female (named Beatrice). These are wild crocodiles, but the tour guides recognise them over time and give them names. Unfortunately, Scar Face and Elizabeth were nowhere to be seen! We also enjoyed the other wildlife on the banks of the river, including a small kingfisher, a sunbird sitting in a tiny nest, which dangled by a thread over the water, a herron, a green tree frog, a tree snake about to shed his skin, crabs and mudskippers (walking fish)!
Later, we headed up to the lookout point, where we could see a beautiful view of the rainforest all the way to the sea, before driving right up to Cape Tribulation to find some accommodation for the evening.
The next day, we would explore the area in more depth. There are so many places to visit, but here are my recommendations:
Cape Tribulation Beach (and viewpoint):
This is a stunning beach. We saw people swimming here, though I would highly advise against it, as its stinger season and there are salt water crocodiles in the area. Nonetheless, it is a very peaceful place to take a walk and soak in the beauty. I have even seen people take horse-riding tours along the beach, which could be fun!
There are several boardwalks you can do in this area, which take you through the rainforest. We enjoyed Marrdja Boardwalk – it only took around half an hour and we enjoyed looking at the ‘snorkel roots,’ which help the mangroves to breathe! There was also an incredible woven strangler fig and lot of fan palms. Beware of the mosquitoes and drink plenty of water as the humidity up here is unbelievable.
Coconut Beach and Myall Beach
Last time I was at Coconut Beach with another friend, we were lucky enough to spot a sea turtle in some of the rock pools. Both beaches are beautiful and worth a stop.
Rainforest Discovery Centre
Entrance fee: $32 each
This rainforest centre offers a wealth of information about the Daintree Rainforest and the local flora and fauna. The entrance fee covers an extremely comprehensive self-guided audio tour and gives you access to the sky walk and boardwalks throughout the forest.
Last time I was up here, I had a go at ‘Jungle Surfing,’ which was lots of fun. All harnessed up, you zipline through the rainforest, with a knowledgeable guide. Whizzing through the trees, you can get a taste of what it might feel like to be a monkey! Highly recommended!
If you are interested in insects and all the beautiful butterflies of the area, take a look in this small museum. The colours of the insects are astounding! I particularly love the Ulysses Butterfly, with their bright blue wings.
Ice cream Factory and Fruit Farm
In such sweltering conditions, it is no wonder someone came up with the idea to run an ice-cream factory! They use local tropical fruits to create some exotic flavours, some delicious and some more of an acquired taste! We tried: Black Sapote, Passionfruit, Jackfruit and Wattleseed Ice-cream. If you’re after more flavours, another shop (Floravilla) down the road also serves the exotic fruit ice creams!
PK’s Jungle Bar and Cape Tribulation Beach House
PK’s Jungle Bar is a great spot for nightlife, if you’re searching for that kind of thing! With lots of pool tables, live music, food and drinks, there’s plenty to keep you occupied for a good night out. If you’re after a more leisurely dining experience, Cape Tribulation Beach House has a nice restaurant, with less of the party scene. Their bungalows, nestled in the heart of the rainforest, are also great value.
Jungle Lodge (camping)
If you’re after more basic camping facilities, Jungle Lodge is a great option. We stayed there on our second evening. For $10 per person a night, it is the cheapest option available and you can enjoy jungle camping, but also make use of their kitchen/laundry/bathroom facilities and swimming pool if you need a few of the basics. We really enjoyed it here.
Our eyes were peeled for cassowaries the whole time we were up here and, though we saw many Cassowary Crossing signs, we were finding them difficult to spot. These beautiful birds are only found in this corner of Australia and, sadly, they are often run over by vehicles that are traveling too fast. On my last two trips, I never even saw a glimpse of these magnificent birds with their blue, red and black colouring. But on our second day, as our van rounded the corner, there it was: a huge cassowary on the side of the road. It scarpered into the bushes as we approached and we pulled over to the side, taking a few photos. Finally! I felt very lucky to see one of these endangered creatures. They are quite magnificent.
On the drive back to Cairns, we stopped via Mossman Gorge for a swim. The water was refreshingly cold compared to the temperatures outside. The rainforest offers such a shady haven in these climates. You can catch a return bus fair for $8 each (a bit steep for a 2km journey), or you can walk up through the forest. Either way, you will be treated with a glorious swim!
For anyone planning a trip up to Far North Queensland, I hope some of these ideas come in handy. It certainly is a beautiful part of the world!