Daintree and Cape Tribulation – Where the Rainforest meets the Sea


Published on: June 2, 2017

Cape Tribulation – Where The Rainforest meets the Reef!


Captain Cook’s journal entry for the 10th of June 1770 sums up his experience of that eventful day when his ship ran aground at Cape Tribulation, as he was making his way back to England after having discovered Australia and New Zealand.

…the north point [was named] Cape Tribulation because here begun all our troubles”.


Although Captain Cook may not have had the best things to say about this spot which almost ended his epic voyage, Cape Tribulation today offers the intrepid visitor an opportunity to play Robinson Crusoe and Tarzan, all in one go. This after all is the place where two world heritage sites meet – The 135 million year old Daintree rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef.

Cape Tribulation lies about 85 kilometers north of Port Douglas (our previous destination – See Post) and the journey entails a river crossing via barge which opeartes from 0600 Hrs to midnight. Cost of a return ticket – $24 (Car included). (Tip – Hold on to the ticket for your return journey)
Once you have crossed the river, the sealed road meanders along the virgin rainforest for about 35 kilometers in a northerly direction until it ends abruptly at Cape Tribulation, seemingly intentionally, as if drawing each visitor to pay homage to the precise spot where Captain Cook and his crew probably seeked shelter and effected repairs on the ‘Endeavour’.

North of this point you only have a little used dirt road and Cooktown lies about 100 kilometers north but you need a four wheel drive and a serious prayer epecially during the flood seasons to proceed any further.
The drive past the river crossing is through wild landscapes of densly wooded forests and dripping foilage overhanging lazily over the roads. Occassionally you see dirt roads branchng out from the main access road dissappearing into the thickets and leading to the eco-friendly and themed resorts that have been established in the last few decades.Compared to a lot of famous tourist destinations along coastal Queensland, Cape Tribulation is still an off the beaten track destination.

The area has a number of walking tracks ranging from easy to difficult. We did the Dubuji Myall Boardwalk which is a walking trail from the main highway to the beach that has toilet and picnic facilities. It leads mainly through swampland with many mangroves. A characteristic of this walk are the tree trunks the path is built around.

Out here we bumped into Hilda, a young French backpacker who hitched a ride from us when we wwere a few kilometer short from the end of the sealed road. A single traveller, all she had with her was just a medium sized but well travelled backpack and an equally time-tested daypack. We spent some time together sharing our travel experiences and during the conversation it turned out that Hilda had visited India during one of her travels and she absolutely loved the country. So much so that she even took up Bollowood dancing once she was back in France. She even did a few pirouettes to prove her point.
Hilda’s Australian travel plans bordered on the extreme to say the least. Having arrived on a working holiday visa, she had been travelling for over three months already and her adventures included sleeping in her single person tent all alone in the outback wilderness, living with the abroginies in the remoteness of Darwin and hiking solo across the vastness of Northern Territory. When we bumped into her, she was making her way to Cooktown and her plan was to hike all the way and hitch a ride whenevever possible. I could not even imagine being in her position because for me the most daunting prospect for me was being caught out after sunset in the middle of nowhere, with just the eerie bush sounds of the night, an army of mosquitoes and heaven knows what sort of nocturnal creatures for company. Aftre bidding her farewell we jumped back in the car and turned its nose south heading back to civilization once again.

We did make one stop though beofre we crossed the river and this was to sample the locally made ice cream at the Daintree Ice Cream parlour. This establishment makes a variety of fruit based ice creams using produce from theire own farms and visitors are encouraged to walk in their 22 acres spread of orchards to get to know the trees and the fruits. They grow around 15 different varieties of fruits including exotic sounding names like – Sapote, Capuassa, Araca, Jaboticaba, Carambola and Durian to name a few.
Although the ice cream itself is average the location of this joint is simply breathtaking as it overloks the surrounding rainforest-clad mountains. Lonely PLanet has termed it ‘The Most Scenic Ice Cream Company Ever!’

Exotic Fruit Ice Cream Home Grown in our Rainforest Orchard

Tips and Practicalities:

Caution : Apart from snapping hungry corcodiles which are an ever present threat in these tropical waters, you may get the occasional glimpse of the giant cassowary in this region if you are lucky (or unlucky if you get close to it). These giant flightless birds are the third talles birds living bird on the planet and can grow up to 2 meters tall. They can run at speeds in excess of 50 km/h. Generaly shy and reclusive they are quite formidable if provoked and can cause serious injury.

Daintree National Park, national park in Australia in the northeastern part of the state of Queensland. Established in 1962, the park consists of 7,080 sq km (2,734 sq mi) of ancient tropical rain forest near Cairns. The forest, spread over the Bellenden Ker Range and the lowlands below, is believed to be the oldest virgin rain forest in the world. It originated between 50 million and 100 million years ago, when all of Australia was covered by similar rain forests. The vegetation in the park includes more than 90 species of orchids, several other kinds of flowering plants, and a variety of ferns.

Cape tribulation is best visited from Port Douglas . The Drive from Port Douglas to the Ferry Landing is about 1 hour. From the Ferry Crossing to the end of the sealed road at Cape Tribulation is about 1 hours of leisurely drive with few stops at the viewpoints and coffee breaks.

You could visit Cape Tribulation as a day trip from Cairns through some of the charter buses that operate from the city but this is not the best option.
Tip: The last petrol pump is located at Diwan, 20 kilometers south of Cape Tribulation. However it is highly recommended that you tank up at Port Douglas it self.

Take enough drinking water, carry mosquito repellant, sun screen lotion, a broad brimmed hat and sturdy pair of walking shoes.

I personally would prefer the drive to Cape tribulation over a visit to Upper Daintree Village (http://www.destinationdaintree.com/locations/daintree-village) which I found to be a bit more commercial, reason being it was more accesiblebeing on this side of the river.

6 Daintree Rainforest Safety Tips



The Daintree Rainforest is exceptional in many ways. It is one of the oldest continuous living tropical rainforests in the world – over a hundred million years old.

It contains one of the most complete and diverse living records of the major stages in the evolution of land plants, particularly in the origin, evolution and dispersal of flowering plants. It is also provides a glimpse in the history of marsupials and songbirds, containing species older than human life itself.

Added to the World Heritage List in 1988, this forest is home to the largest range of plant and animal species that are rare, or threatened, anywhere in the world and abounds with biodiversity: 30% of all frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia live here, alongside 65% of bats and butterflies species. Approximately 430 species of birds live in the Daintree Rainforest, including 13 species not found anywhere else in the world.

The World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef is the world’s most extensive coral reef system, extending over 2000 km in a broken maze of around 2900 individual reefs, of which 760 are fringing reefs skirting the mainland or around islands.

UNESCO-listed in 1981 as an outstanding example representing major stages of earth’s revolutionary history, the Great Barrier Reef supports the most diverse ecosystem known to man. This unique ecosystem has evolved over millions of years.

It provides habitat for many diverse forms of marine line such as an estimated 1500 species of fish, 360 species of hard, reef-building corals, 4000 mollusc species, 1500 species of sponges as well as anemones, marine worms, crustaceans, echinoderms, dugong, turtles and sea urchins.

The Great Barrier Reef is also a breeding-ground, of world significance, for several turtle species and for humpback whales which migrate from Antarctica to give birth in these warmer waters.



The Daintree Rainforest is a world untouched by the world of urban development, noise and air pollution. Breathe in the purity and scent of the rainforest and explore your natural surroundings. Cape Tribulation has so many activities on offer including bush walking, kayaking, horse riding treks, diving and snorkelling, exotic fruit tastings, river cruises, zip lining through the rainforest canopy and even 4WD safaris.

Around 17,000 hectares between Daintree River and Cape Tribulation is declared National Park and much of the area is also World Heritage listed to ensure protection of the rainforests which have been evolving for the past 135 million years. Plants representing all stages of the evolution over the last 400 million years are found here. Under the forest canopy a menagerie of animal life includes many varieties of insects, birds, over seventy identified mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The Cape Tribulation region is home to over 3,000 plant species including trees, vines, palms, ferns, epiphytes, as well as the world’s largest and smallest tree ferns and cycads. Unknown plants and animal species are still being discovered. Many of the animals come alive at night and the region has many nocturnal activities, which are especially enjoyable in the summer months

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Cape Tribulation

Getting to Cape Tribulation

Drive north 45 minutes from Port Douglas and arrive at the only cable ferry in tropical Australia, the Daintree Ferry, which provides the southern access into the lowland Daintree Rainforest.

The sealed road north of the Daintree River meanders through the lush Daintree Rainforest covered Alexandra Range, to spectacular lookout points and glorious tropical beaches. It is here that the rainforest meets the reef.

There are a range of Cape Tribulation tours that leave Port Douglas every day, which will take you to some of the hidden treasures the Daintree Rainforest holds. If you are a self-drive visitor to Cape Tribulation you will find many local tour options that take you where your hire car cannot!

The sealed road ends at Cape Tribulation and the 4WD track through to Bloomfield Falls and further north to Cooktown begins. Go on an adventure through the rugged rainforest terrain with eco-accredited 4WD tours and explore the pristine beaches, swimming holes and ancient rainforest plants that only this very unique piece of nature can provide.

No trip to the tropical north is complete without visiting this natural wonderland.


The rainforest in the Daintree Region is estimated to be 135 million year old, making it arguably the oldest and most primitive rainforest in the world. This area is often described as a tropical paradise ‘where the rainforest meets the reef’. Many of the species still here originated 120 million years ago when Australia was still part of the ancient landmass of Gondwana. The Wet Tropics rainforests (From Cooktown to Townsville) contains: Over 3,500 vascular plant species; Australia’s largest range of ferns and the world’s largest concentration of ancient flowering plants; The highest number of endemic mammals of any region in Australia; Almost half of Australia’s bird species; Nearly a quarter of Australia’s frog species, more than 20 of which are endemic; A greater diversity of freshwater fish than any other region in Australia; Outstanding invertebrate diversity, including well over 60% of Australia’s butterflies (Source: Wet Tropics Region NRM Plan, Statement of Planning Intent – Rainforest CRC 2002)

Our Experience

After receiving some pointers from them, we spend the first day exploring Port Douglas itself. The town seems like a larger than life set of ‘The Lifestyle of Rich & Famous‘ television series. Only this time, we were a member of the cast! White washed mansions with flowing tendrils sat side by side with boutique resorts, complete with flaming torches and impressive waterfalls at the entrances.

We spent the afternoon at the Four Mile beach followed with a drive along Macrossan Street. We ended the night sipping wine and enjoying a lovely Fish and Chips Meal at the Restaurant Central.

The next day we had an early start and drove all the way to Cape Tribulation via the Daintree Cable Ferry Crossing.

Day Three was reserved for a visit to Mossman Gorge where we were left spechless by the pristine beauty of the place. Follow the Link for more. In the evening we drove up to Flagstaff Hill before sunset to catch an elevated view of Four Mile Beach. We sat by the waterfront at the Rex Smeal Park to watch the tropical sunset with the backdrop of the ANZAC mountains and the million year old rain forests as a back drop!

We drove back to Cairns on Day Four and handed our rental car back before moving onto our next destination – Townsville.

If you do have the time and the resources I would highly recommend to hire a car from Cairns and visit Port Douglas by car and spend a few days here and use it as a base to visit Mossman Gorge, Daintree Forest and Cape Tribulation. Although these tourist spots can be covered as a day trip from Cairns you would spend more time on the road that actually visiting the sights.

 Further Information

Nestled at the end of a peninsula, the tranquil waters of a natural harbour on one side of the village lead to the The Reef Marina. Along the other side of the peninsula stretches the breathtaking sandy sweep of beautiful Four Mile Beach

Things to do in Port Douglas:

  • Port Douglas is the closest gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. There is a Great Barrier Reef tour to suit all ability and experience levels, whether you want to go diving and snorkelling, fishing, or perhaps staying dry on a reef pontoon
  • Sunset Cruise on one of the Chartered Sail boats
  • Soak up the sunshine on Four Mile Beach. Voted in Australia’s ‘Best Beach’ lists every year, Four Mile Beach continues to deliver. Unspoilt by any man made structures the 4 miles of beach is simply stunning to stroll sunrise to sunset
  • Stroll along Macrossan Street
  • See the sunset and dusk from the Rex Smeal Park on the point. From 4:00pm on any given day you can see the flotilla of Great Barrier Reef cruise operators return from their day out. The Anzac mountains make perfect backdrop from this park.
  • Walk or Drive up Flagstaff Hill and see Four Mile Beach in all its glory. Look out for the World Cities Distance Compass
  • From Mid-June to early October, Moonlight Cinema (a giant outdoor cinema) screens the latest release movies on the lawns of QT Hotel & Resort. Gates open at 6pm and screenings start at approximately 7:15pm. There is a licensed bar and catering at the venue, or BYO picnic and wine for a relaxed night out. Visit Moonlight for the film program and tickets, or grab them at the gate.

Getting Here:

Port Douglas is 70km north (approx 1 hour drive) north of Cairns Airport. Hire a car from the airport and stop along the way at secluded beaches and a photo at Rex Lookout, all you need to do is turn right onto the Captain Cook Highway from the airport and then right at Port Douglas. For an even easier option, jump on a coach transfer so you don’t miss out on the view.  The coaches meet every flight into the airport and will take you directly to your accommodation.

Further Research : 

Cape Tribulation




For further reading and travel Inspirations to this region buy one of the recommended books on Amazon. LINKS BELOW

NOTE – These are affiliate links so I get a teenie-weenie commission when you buy the product through my website. There is no additional cost to you but it helps with the costs of running this website. 
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Sailor, Adventurer, Thrill seeker. I am an avid traveler who seeks every opportunity to travel and evolve . Join me on my numerous adventures and voyages of discovery of the Outside World as well as the Inner Self.


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