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.
Top things to do 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, enjoying views from lookouts along the way.
Walk with Aboriginal owners
The Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people of the Daintree region offer authentic, award-winning, guided walking tours of Mossman Gorge that are a must-do for anyone who visits. The Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk includes a traditional smoking ceremony, historical and cultural insights, spear throwing lessons and information on how the Kuku Yalanji people have used the rainforest for food, medicine and shelter for more than 9000 years. Enjoy bush tea and damper (a simple Australian form of bread) at the end of the tour.
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.
Zip-line through the canopy
Fly through the trees on an exhilarating guided zip-line tour with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. You'll glide through the different levels of canopy in a harness attached to a cable, with bird's eye views over the treetops, down to cascading streams and out to the Great Barrier Reef.
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. You can even experience a private Aboriginal art lesson and take home your work.
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 1/2 feet) tall and are arguably Australia's most spectacular feathered species.
Make Your Trip Happen