Get off the grid and explore the world’s oldest tropical rainforests at Cape Tribulation. A place you’ll connect with nature, zipline through the trees and swim with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef.
By Julie Johnston
What to expect
- Glide through the Daintree Rainforest on a zipline tour
- Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef
- Explore pristine beaches and encounter rare wildlife
- Time: 2 days
- Distance: 142 kilometres (88 miles)
- Transport: car, ferry and boat
- Nearest major city: Cairns
- Price: $$$
Discover a land that time forgot. A place where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Daintree Rainforest. This 2-day adventure takes you from Cairns to Cape Tribulation and back again, where you’ll zipline through the trees, go snorkelling at the reef and cruise rainforest rivers. From the forest, to the beach to fringing offshore reefs, you’ll love it all.
Day 1: River cruise and rainforest adventure
Cape Tribulation is a 2.5 hour drive north from Cairns along the Great Barrier Reef drive. It takes you away from the city, hugging the coastline with jaw-dropping views. You can also pick the drive up from Port Douglas or Mossman and follow the signs to the Daintree Car Ferry. Here your rainforest adventure begins. After the 10-minute ferry crossing you’ll roll off into the northern side of the Daintree. Get your bearings at Alexandra lookout before walking amongst dense lowland rainforest at the nearby Jindalba Boardwalk.
Before lunch, explore the mangroves at Cooper Creek with Cape Tribulation Wilderness Cruises to search for elusive saltwater crocodiles. Lunch on the beach is a must-do. Head to CJ’s Bar and Café at Thornton Beach for fresh fish and chips. Continue north, watching out for the endangered Southern Cassowarys. These birds often cross the road and aren’t car savvy, so take care when driving.
Time to leave the ground behind. Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours takes you high up into the canopy for a two-hour zipline and tree platform adventure. You’ll glide through every level of the rainforest canopy with views to the reef beyond. There’s no prior experience necessary and all ages from three years are welcome (bookings essential). Afterwards, head over and check in to Cape Trib Beach House, the only beachfront accommodation here. Cool down at the pool, then dine and unwind at their rainforest restaurant and bar.
After dinner take a walk on the wild side with Jungle Adventures Night Walks. Frogs sing and insects dance as you feel your senses expand while you move through the forest by torchlight. This is your chance to spend a night in a living museum - an ancient rainforest which has survived hundreds of thousands of years.
Day 2: Great Barrier Reef snorkelling and beach exploring
Watching the sun rise at Cape Trib Beach House is an amazing way to start your day. The soft, pastel rays light up the ocean before warming the beach and rainforest beyond. Take in the moment of calm, then prepare for your next adventure - a fast boat ride to the reef.
Ocean Safari gets you there with the wind in your hair. Bookings are essential, and check-in is at 8am at the Ocean Safari Office. From there it’s a short walk along the beach to the boat. The engines and music start up and you’re away and pumping. This half-day tour, which brings no more than 25 guests, gives you two one-hour snorkelling sessions at two different locations. You’ll float over giant clams and colourful corals, seek out schools of fish and might even swim with sea turtles.
After a lunch of fresh produce and local seafood at Whet Restaurant, it’s time for beach combing on Cape Tribulation Beach. A wide stretch of sand takes you to some amazing tidal pools where you can see starfish, reef fish and sea cucumbers. Find the Coral Sea on one side and towering rainforest mountains on the other. This is what a holiday at Cape Tribulation is all about - connecting with nature and making memories.
As the day pushes on, it’s time to wipe the sand from your feet and head back to Cairns. But before you do, be sure to grab a refreshing treat from the Daintree Ice Cream Company. With a cone in tow, head to the car ferry before driving back to the city.
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