Guide to the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.
By Kris Madden
The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is so beautiful that its ancient ferns, emerald green vines and lush canopy provided inspiration for the movie Avatar. Here, you can trek through jungle and discover plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. Fly through the trees on a zip-line for a bird’s-eye view. Cruise along the winding waterways of the Daintree River, looking for saltwater crocodiles. And head to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. When Sir David Attenborough calls something “the most extraordinary place on Earth”, you know it must be good.
- Take a guided night walk through the jungle looking for Australian wildlife
- Cruise the Daintree River looking for crocodiles
- Zip-line through the emerald green rainforest canopy
How to get there
Daintree National Park is a two-hour drive north of Cairns, or about an hour north of Port Douglas. Day tours by 4WD or coach depart from Cairns and Port Douglas year round, or you can hire a car and drive yourself. For longer visits, stay in a picturesque town or village on the rainforest's doorstep, such as Mossman or Cape Tribulation.
Things to do and top attractions in the Daintree Rainforest
Orient yourself at the Discovery Centre
Start your Daintree experience at the Daintree Discovery Centre. Here you can learn all about the origins of the ancient rainforest before heading out onto the series of aerial walkways and viewing platforms connected to the centre. This allows you to easily explore all levels of the rainforest up close, from the forest floor to the uppermost reaches of the canopy.
Cruise the Daintree River
Take a cruise on the Daintree River and look out for saltwater crocodiles. Several operators offer tours of varying length, from one-hour to half-day cruises. This is an excellent way to see and photograph the Daintree's incredible wildlife at close range, in one of the most beautiful forest environments on the planet.
Explore Mossman Gorge
Within Daintree National Park lies the magnificent Mossman Gorge, where clear waters cascade over granite boulders in the Mossman River, creating freshwater swimming pools (there are no crocodiles here, but you should check that conditions are safe for swimming beforehand, at the Mossman Gorge Centre). Take a stroll along the boardwalk through the lower rainforest canopy and return along the riverside track. Or, deepen your experience of this ancient landscape on an award-winning guided Dreamtime Walk through Mossman Gorge. Your Aboriginal guide will share with you their Kuku Yalanji culture, walking you through local lore concerning bush foods, sacred ceremonies and connection to the land.
Walk with Aboriginal custodians
The Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people of the Daintree region offer authentic guided walking tours of Mossman Gorge that are a must-do for anyone who visits. With Adventure North Australia, you'll learn traditional techniques that have been passed down for more than 9,000 years, like spearing fish and catching crabs. Walkabout Cultural Adventures will immerse you in Kuku Yalanji traditions. Sample bush foods, learn about medicines utilised from nature and experience first-hand the incredible connection Kuku Yalanji people share with the land beneath their feet.
Stay at a luxury eco lodge
Stay in a tree house perched high above the rainforest at Silky Oaks Lodge, spectacularly located overlooking the Mossman River. The lodge offers a range of activities from helicopter tours to hot air ballooning, has an award-winning on-site spa that specialises in natural therapies and is a member of the prestigious Luxury Lodges of Australia.
Visit the Daintree Village
Explore the delightful Daintree Village and its unusual stores selling local arts and crafts including handmade pottery, textiles, produce, souvenirs and tropical clothing. Visit an Aboriginal art centre, Janbal Gallery, which features Aboriginal artefacts and art steeped in reef and rainforest culture. Here, you can paint a boomerang or canvas, share stories with artists and observe the many works. You can also purchase a piece of art or jewellery to take with you.
Head to Cape Tribulation
Head to the village of Cape Tribulation, the meeting place of two World Heritage sites (the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef), and explore gorgeous scenery, beautiful beaches and rainforest walks. The journey to get here is part of the experience – you'll take your car across the river on the Daintree Ferry, and pass through amazing rainforest scenery and wonderful views of the coast. You might also spot an endangered cassowary during your visit. These elusive flightless birds can stand up to two metres (6.5 feet) tall and are arguably Australia's most spectacular feathered species.