No Australia itinerary is complete without a trip to Daintree National Park. Why? Well, besides it being the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage sites meet: the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park is the oldest rainforest in the world at over 180 million years old. It’s older than the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil.
Those two facts alone should warrant a visit, however Daintree’s unique and complex ecosystem and wildlife is the true icing on the cake.
At over 1200 square kilometers, and divided into two sections: Mossman and Cape Tribulation, exploring Daintree can be a daunting task! So, to help we’ve put together this massive Daintree guide to make planning and experiencing this ancient beauty a piece of cake.
Map of Daintree National Park
Best Time To Visit the Daintree Rainforest
Boasting tropical weather, the Daintree Rainforest can be visited all year round but you might find that you favor certain times of the year depending on the weather or the crowds.
The best weather for visiting Daintree National Park is during the drier and cooler months from May to September. During this time you can expect pleasant temperatures with reduced humidity and less rainfall. High season coincides with the dry season, so expect crowds and higher prices then.
During the “wet season”, from November to April, the temperature is warmer with frequent heavy downfalls, and the area is susceptible to flooding and cyclones. However, most of the rainfall occurs during the night. If you choose to visit during the wet season you’ll be rewarded with the rainforest at its best; lush and green with creeks and waterfalls gushing, fewer crowds, and lower prices.
How Long to Visit Daintree National Park
Ultimately, figuring out how long to visit Daintree for will depend on what you want to see and do, as well as how long you have to explore this ancient rainforest. If you want to get a taste of what Daintree has to offer and have limited time, you can visit as a day trip from Cairns or Port Douglas.
However, if you want to fully experience the park’s beauty at a relaxing pace, plan on spending 2- 3 nights. Sleeping in the rainforest beneath the stars and waking up with the animals in Daintree Rainforest will be a highlight of your trip.
How Much Does the Entrance Fee to Daintree National Park Cost
There is no entrance fee to visit Daintree National Park. However, in order to visit the national park, you have to cross the Daintree River. The only way across is via the Daintree River Ferry. The five minute Daintree ferry crossing cost AU$30 return, per vehicle. However, if you are staying for a few days, the multi day pass which allows up to 5 return trips costs AU$59 per vehicle and is a better option.
How To Get To The Daintree Rainforest
Found in northern Australia, in a region on the northeast coast of Queensland, Daintree Rainforest, though isolated, is very easy to get to. The two closest cities are Port Douglas (40 minutes away) and the popular Australian must-visit destination, Cairns, which is just a 2 hour drive from the park. Most travelers visiting stay in either location.
As there is no public transportation within the national park, there are only two options to get from Port Douglas or Cairns to the park; by car or with a guided tour.
1. Getting to the Daintree Rainforest by Car
Renting your own vehicle is the best way to visit Daintree National Park. With a car you have the freedom to explore the park at your own pace and see whatever you like. Not to mention driving to the park from Cairns or Port Douglas is straight forward with just one scenic road leading you all the way to and through the park. Also, there is no need to rent a 4WD to explore Daintree unless you want to explore the Bloomfield track. All the major highlights are accessible by 2WD as the roads are sealed all the way up until the turnoff for Emmagen Creek.
You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com.
2. Getting to the Daintree Rainforest by Guided Tour
For a stress-free and pain-free trip to Daintree, take a guided tour. To help, we’ve listed the best Cairns to Daintree rainforest tours in the next section. You’ll also find that all the tours do pick-ups from Port Douglas.
Best Daintree Rainforest Tours
Below are some of the best Daintree day tours. These full-day tours which do pick-ups from both Cairns and Port Douglas visit all the must-see sites in Daintree as well as go on a Daintree River Cruise. However, each one offers a unique activity, so keep reading to find out which Daintree tour is best for you.
- Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Tribulation Tour with Cruise & Lunch: Unlike the other tours, this one takes you through the beautiful southern sector of the world famous Daintree National Park, Mossman Gorge. There you’ll be welcomed with a smoke ceremony conducted by an Aboriginal as well as enjoy a refreshing swim in the cascading waters of the gorge.
- Daintree & Cape Tribulation Small-Group 4WD Tour: This fantastic small group Cape Tribulation tour gives you the opportunity to experience Daintree with a 4WD and takes you to places where 2WDs cannot go like the Bloomfield Track.
- Daintree Wilderness & Cape Tribulation Full-Day Tour: The excellent guides on this tour bring the forest to life with their stories, enthusiastic personalities, and Daintree rainforest facts. On this tour you will have ample opportunity to see the wildlife and animals of Daintree Rainforest.
- Cape Tribulation, Daintree and Jungle Zip Line Tour: This Cairns to Cape Tribulation tour not only visits the main attractions in Daintree but also adds a unique experience that gives you a birds eye view over the rainforest canopy as you zipline across Daintree.
- 2-Day Great Barrier Reef and Cape Tribulation Tour: This two day tour gives you the opportunity to experience two of the most popular things to do in Cairns, visit Daintree and explore the Great Barrier Reef, both of which are World Heritage Sites. This tour is like no other and is highly recommended for your trip to Australia.
Best Accommodations in Daintree and Cape Tribulation
If you are planning on visiting the park over a period of a few days, which is recommended, it’s best to stay within the national park. Daintree accommodations range from pitching a tent to private luxurious villas and self catering vacation homes. Though the possibilities are endless, here are the best Daintree and Cape Tribulation accommodations.
For a luxurious and relaxing stay in the heart of the rainforest there is no better option than Daintree Ecolodge & Spa. The private Eco-friendly villa nestled in the canopy of Daintree offers serenity and breathtaking views of the rainforest and private lagoon.
Your home away from home welcomes you at either Daintree Cascades or Black Palm Cape Tribulation. Both offer highly rated vacation homes nestled along crystal clear creeks with cooking facilities and everything you need to make yourself at home.
For those looking for comfort without the hefty price tag you’ll find Daintree Rainforest Retreat Motel. This motel is a more than suitable option with all the amenities you need including a secluded outdoor swimming pool and BBQ area.
Camping in Daintree National Park is made easy with plenty of campsites to choose from, whether it’s in the heart of the rainforest at Daintree Rainforest Village or on the beach at Noah Campground or Cape Trib Camping. You’ll love camping under the stars with mother nature and her wonderful wildlife.
Best Things to Do in Daintree Rainforest
1. Mossman Gorge
Located in the southern half of the park, Mossman Gorge is a great introduction to the Daintree National Park. It was here that we did one of my favorite walks in all of Daintree; the 4km Rainforest Circuit track. To access the Mossman Gorge park, you must take a shuttle from the visitors center (AU$11.50 return) to the entrance, where the adventure begins. Don’t expect to rush through this place as there are plenty of things to do at Mossman, including three boardwalks, a rainforest track, and waterholes to swim in.
Another recommended activity to do at Mossman Gorge is the guided Dreamtime Walk, where a local aboriginal guide takes you through a private section of the rainforest where you can partake in a smoking ceremony, learn about traditional plants and how to identify bush food, as well as listen to Dreamtime stories about the rainforest.
2. Daintree Discovery Centre
Just a few minutes drive after the ferry crossing, this stop offers an educational aspect to this trip. Here you can learn about Daintree, the wildlife you’ll probably encounter, as well as go on several small walks and enjoy views from the 23 meter canopy tower. The entire time you’ll have an audio guide with you guiding you through the center. The Daintree Discovery Centre is a great activity for families.
3. Daintree Rainforest Walks
- Jinabala Boardwalk (30 minutes / 2 hrs): One of the first walks in Daintree National Park is Jindalba Walk. Located next to the Daintree Discovery Centre, this walk is a short 650 meter boardwalk, or a 3km circuit for more adventurous people. The walk takes you through the lowland rainforest where you’ll see massive trees, flora, faunas, creeks, and wildlife.
- Marjdda Boardwalk (45 minutes): Closer to Cape Tribulation, this fantastic 1.2 km walk takes you through a dense forest that soon leads you to a different landscape where tree roots and mangroves are submerged underwater while fish swim among them.
- Dubuji Boardwalk (30 minutes / 1 hour): This 1.8 km walk guides you through the rainforest and mangroves to the amazing Stranger Fig Tree, Palm Fan Trees, and then finally to the entrance of Myall Beach. The walk can be done via a shorter 30 minute loop or via the longer loop which takes an hour.
- Mt. Sorrow Ridge Hike (6 hrs): If you are after a serious bush hike in Daintree then Mt. Sorrow is for you. This 6 hour strenuous hike offers spectacular views over Daintree. However, this hike is not to be taken lightly as the path is not well maintained and proper bush experience is needed. People have gone missing on this hike. If you do undertake this hike you should be very well prepared for it and take a map and satellite phone with you.
4. Swimming Holes in Daintree
Though there are many beaches along the edge of Daintree National Park that may seem very inviting, swimming is not permitted as deadly jellyfish and crocodiles lurk. Luckily, there are freshwater holes in Daintree where you can dip your toes or go for a proper swim.
- Mason Cafe Swimming Hole: Behind the Mason Cafe is the Mason swimming hole where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the middle of Daintree Rainforest with no crocs in sight. You do not need to order food to gain access to the swimming hole, however there is a $1 AUD fee which you place in the collection box on the way to the swimming hole.
- Emmagen Creek: The furthest point you can travel with a 2WD, Emmagen Creek is often overlooked during a day trip to Daintree National Park but is a must visit. The creek is refreshing and deep enough to jump into via the rope swing. To get there you do need to drive 10-15 minutes on gravel road until you reach the “4WD only sign” from there, you’ll have to go on foot through the forest for 5-10 minutes until you reach the Creek.
5. Daintree River Cruise
A great way to explore the Daintree National Park and it’s wildlife is on the water. This popular activity in Daintree takes you on a 45-60 minutes cruise along the Daintree River where you will not only learn about and see birds, frogs, and snakes, but also crocodiles. The best time to see crocs is in the dry season when they are out of the cold water and sunbathing on the river banks.
There are many river cruise companies doing this tour in Daintree, most of which depart from the south side of the Daintree river (before the ferry crossing). This is a great activity to do early in the morning before crossing into the park as the wildlife is more active then. If you are doing a tour to Daintree most tours will include this activity. Check out the “Best Daintree Tours” section of this article for tours which include the Daintree river cruise.
6. Zip-line Through the Jungle
If you are looking for a different experience in Daintree National Park, why not zipline through this ancient rainforest to get a bird’s eye view? This Daintree Cape Tribulation tour includes this awesome activity in their itinerary. However, if you’re traveling on your own you’ll find many companies offering Jungle canopy adventures in the park.
7. See Spectacular Views over Daintree
- Kulki Lookout: This lookout is located right next to Cape Tribulation Beach and offers fantastic views over Daintree. The lookout is just a short walk from the carpark and can be littered with mosquitoes, so be sure to put on some bug spray.
- Waluwurrigga Alexandra Lookout: One of the first stops after the Daintree ferry crossing is the popular Alexandra Lookout. Here you can see spectacular views over the ocean as well as Port Douglas from a distance. As the first stop in the park, it is often crowded, however it’s worth adding onto your Daintree National Park itinerary.
8. Ocean Safari
If you want to get into the water along the coast of Daintree, Ocean Safari is the only way. This half day tour gives you the unique opportunity to explore and snorkel the pristine untouched Great Barrier Reef off the Daintree Coast at Cape Tribulation. This Cape Tribulation tour is recommended if you are staying a night or two in Daintree Rainforest.
9. Daintree Ice Cream Company
Not your ordinary ice cream shop – at Daintree Ice Cream you don’t get to pick your own flavors, and the flavors available are made from both exotic and local fruits like jackfruit, wattle seed, zapote, mangosteen, and more. For $6 you’ll get the 4 flavors of the day and have access to their property where you can see how the fruits grow. All flavors are gluten-free (no cones are sold, so celiac safe) and there are dairy-free flavors of the day offered as well.
10. Relax On the Many Beaches In Daintree
As mentioned earlier, Daintree and Cape Tribulation are blessed with gorgeous beaches along their coast, but unfortunately these beaches are more for enjoying the views, the atmosphere, and for relaxing, not swimming. Nonetheless, we highly recommend visiting one or two as these beaches are part of what makes Daintree such an astonishing place to visit. Some popular beaches include Cow Bay Beach, Myall Beach, Thornton Beach, and Cape Tribulation Beach.
Suggested Daintree National Park Self Drive Itinerary
Day 0: Cairns to Port Douglas
Pick up your rental car in Cairns and start your scenic drive to Port Douglas along the breathtaking “Great Barrier Reef Drive”. Along the way visit the town of Palm Cove, and Wangetti Beach. Once at Port Douglas spend the rest of your day exploring the town.
Day 1: Port Douglas to Daintree National Park
Get an early morning start and begin exploring the southern half of Daintree. Visit Mossman Gorge, shop at the Aborigional Janbal Art gallery, relax at Wanga beach, and explore Daintree Village. From there, head back to the Daintree River Crossing to enter the national park. Depending on time, you can start exploring or head to your accommodation for the evening.
Day 2: Daintree to Cape Tribulation
Explore Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Start your day with a tour of the Great Barrier Reef from Cape Tribulation then Emmagen Creek and finally all the other must-dos in Daintree National Park.
Day 3: Daintree to Cairns
Time to head back to Cairns. Before you do, catch one of the early morning Daintree River Cruises to see crocs and more wildlife.
From dense jungles and mountain ranges, to flowing rivers and waterfalls, this pristine and unspoilt rainforest is a nature lover’s paradise and hopefully this guide provides you with everything you need to know to discover the ancient beauty that is Daintree National Park.