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Daintree Rainforest Best Things To Do (& Daintree Itinerary)

Daintree Rainforest Best Things To Do (& Daintree Itinerary)

When I was planning my trip to Australia, there was one place that really caught my attention – The Daintree Rainforest.

Instead of doing just a quick day trip into the rainforest, I wanted to truly experience everything that the rainforest had to offer.

This guide will talk through the top things to do in the Daintree Rainforest and will go over everything you need to know about the area and how to go about planning your itinerary.

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1) What is the Daintree Rainforest

At over 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is known to be the oldest rainforest in the world (even older than the Amazon!). The tropical rainforest makes up 1,200 square kilometers in the northeastern part of Queensland as part of Daintree National Park.

You will find everything and anything in the rainforest – from dense jungles and mountain ranges to flowing rivers and waterfalls, the Daintree is packed with it all.

You are also sure to find an abundance of wildlife throughout. There are thousands of different species all around, from birds to reptiles to insects. Spending a couple of days exploring the rainforest is a great add-on to any Australia itinerary.

One of the most special aspects of the Daintree is that right next to it is another natural world wonder – The Great Barrier Reef.

There are several spots along the coast where you can see where the “Rainforest Meets the Reef”, and enjoy two incredible natural landscapes right next to other.

This comprehensive guide will talk about many of those spots throughout.

Cape Tribulation Beach

2) Daintree Rainforest Tips

Before talking more about everything that the rainforest offers its visitors, I wanted to point out some helpful tips for the Daintree in general.

Cell Service: There is barely any cell service in the Daintree Rainforest. To help get you from place to place, I recommend downloading offline maps to your phone before you go (either on Google Maps or through an app like

Daintree River Crossing: To get to most Daintree attractions, you will need to cross the Daintree River. The Daintree ferry goes back and forth constantly but do expect a wait time during peak hours. The round trip cost is $39 AUD and runs from 5:00AM – 12:00AM. More on this soon.

Limited Stores: There are limited stores in the Daintree north of the river. If you are coming in for a few days, I recommend bringing/buying anything you would want from Cairns/Port Douglas. One of the grocery stores for essentials inside the Daintree would be the Friendly Grocer Convenience Store.

Gas Stations: Beyond the Daintree River there are very limited gas options. In case you are running low on gas you can head to the Daintree Rainforest Village. I would however recommend filling up your tank before you head out.

Stingers & Crocs: While the waters will seem inviting, you should not swim for a couple of reasons. During the rainy season, the stingers (jellyfish) are out in full force and that certainly won’t be pleasant if you encounter any. Secondly, the waters are known to have some saltwater crocodiles lurking, so do be careful.

Cassowary: The cassowary is the one animal you will hear about most in the Daintree. It looks like some sort of prehistoric dinosaur bird with its colorful head and is known to be dangerous if you get too close. So if you do see one, be sure to step back and keep your distance.

Best Time to Visit: The Daintree is a year-round destination, however the dry season from May to September is the preferred time of year to visit for most. Although heavy rain is common during the wet season, this can make the rainforest even more lush.

Daintree Cassowary

3) How to Get to the Daintree

Since I wanted to make this guide more of a do-it-yourself option, the best way to go about a Daintree Rainforest tour is to hire your own rental car.

I ended up staying in both Cairns and Port Douglas prior to my time in the Daintree and both towns (and Cairns airport) would have car rental options available.

With your own car, you will be able to head on into the Daintree at your own pace and choose exactly which places and activities suit you best. You will be able to start as early as you would like and end your days past sunset (more on that later).

If you are more than one person, it can also be a super economical way to go about your time there as car rental prices are not too pricey (I got mine for $35 AUD / $25 USD per day).

Once you have your own car and are ready to go from Cairns or Port Douglas, it is time to make your way up north on your road trip.

Nearly all the attractions mentioned in this guide (besides the Mossman Gorge & some Daintree River tours) are located across the Daintree River, which I will go into a bit more detail on in the next section.

Driving in the Daintree is relatively simple with one main road connecting most of the attractions. As mentioned though, be sure to download offline maps as cellular service is not great.

If renting a car in the Daintree Rainforest, feel free to check out, which will have various options to browse through. You can filter by car type, price, and more to find the perfect car for your trip.

Now, if you are just not comfortable driving a car (remember Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road), your next best option would to join a group or private tour. You can browse through some highly rated options to choose from but remember that they will not be as flexible as having your own wheels.

Daintree Driving

4) Daintree River Crossing

To get to nearly all Daintree attractions, you must make your way to the north side of the Daintree River. Every day from 5:00AM to 12:00AM, there is a car ferry that continuously goes back and forth bringing cars to either side.

The car ferry can fit around 30 vehicles on it and costs $47 AUD for the round trip ticket (don’t lose that receipt!), and takes just 5 minutes each way.

One thing to mention is that there can be a long line of cars during those peak times of day (mid-morning northbound and late afternoon southbound).

So, if you are heading across during those times you should expect to wait a couple rounds before going across.

Daintree River Crossing

5) Where to Stay in the Daintree

To really get a full Daintree Rainforest experience I highly recommend staying within the Daintree itself for one or two nights.

There is much more to to see and do in the Daintree that goes beyond a day trip, and it is quite the experience of sleeping among the wildlife and waking up to nature.

Below are some of the best options when it comes to choosing an accommodation option:

1. Daintree Ecolodge
2. Daintree Village Hideaway
3. Daintree Peaks Eco Stays
4. Daintree Manor B&B
5. Cape Trib Beach House

Looking for a budget option, check out Safari Lodge

Learn More: Check out some of the other top Daintree Accommodation options to choose from

Cow Bay Daintree Beach

6) Where to Eat in the Daintree

Along the main Cape Tribulation Road is where you will find most of your dining options in the Daintree. I have listed below some of the most popular spots that you can choose from when it comes to dining out:

Julaymba Restaurant & Bar
Whet Restaurant
Turtle Rock Cafe
Masons Cafe
PK’s Jungle Village
Tides Bar and Restaurant
CJ’s Bar & Grill

And don’t forget one of the best places to get some dessert at the famous Daintree Ice Cream Company!

Daintree Ice Cream Company

7) Daintree Rainforest Things To Do

From rainforest walks and beaches to swimming holes and mountain hikes, the Daintree Rainforest is full of it all.

In the next few sections, I will break down the different types of activities that you can take part of during your time in the area. These will include:

Daintree Rainforest Walks

1) Dubuji Boardwalk
2) Jindalba Boardwalk
3) Marjdda Boardwalk

Daintree Experiences

1) Mossman Gorge
2) Daintree Discovery Centre
3) Daintree River Cruise
4) Ocean Safari

Swimming Holes

1) Emmagen Creek
2) Mason’s Café

Daintree Beaches

1) Cow Bay
2) Myall Beach
3) Thornton Beach
4) Cape Tribulation

Mountain Hikes

1) Mount Sorrow Ridge Walk


1) Kulki Lookout
2) Mount Alexandra Lookout

Trees of the Daintree

8) Daintree Rainforest Walks

While the Daintree is a massive place, there are just a handful of official boardwalk rainforest walks that you can take part in during your time in the area.

Dubuji Boardwalk

The Dubuji Boardwalk is a fantastic 45-minute, 1.3 KM loop through the Daintree with several types of landscapes to enjoy including rainforest, swamp, and mangroves.

What makes Dubuji even that much better though is that you can pit stop right on Myall Beach before finishing up the trail.

The Dubuji Boardwalk Guide I put together will go more in-depth about what to expect.

Dubuji Boardwalk Bridge

Jindalba Boardwalk

Located right near the Daintree Discovery Centre is the Jindalba Boardwalk. It can be explored on a shorter 0.7 KM boardwalk walk or a longer 2.7 KM rainforest track alongside the huge amount of natural surroundings.

From massive trees to a variety of wildlife, you will be able to experience it all.

Jindalba Boardwalk

Marjdda Boardwalk

Finally, there is the 1.1 KM Marjdda boardwalk, located just in between the two. Similarly, you will be able to enjoy the vast variety of plants, wildlife, trees, and more as you make the loop around the boardwalk.

During the walk, you are sure to pass by the rainforest and mangrove landscape before heading back to the parking area.

Now, you do not need to take part in each one, but adding 1-2 of them to your Daintree itinerary is a great way to get a better sense of what the rainforest is all about.

9) Daintree Experiences

The next four attractions are unique experiences that would be a great add-on to any Daintree Rainforest Tour.

Mossman Gorge

First up is the Mossman Gorge. The gorge is one of the most visited places in the Daintree due to the fact that it lies on the south side of the Daintree River. That means you would not need to take the car ferry across to visit it.

It also happens to be home to a beautiful blue-colored river and a few hiking trails. Once you arrive at the Mossman Gorge visitor center, you will hop on the quick shuttle bus that will take you to Mossman Gorge itself.

Once there you can make the loop on the boardwalk to the viewing point and back on the River Circuit Track or you can also decide to add on the longer Rainforest Circuit Track to get further into the forest.

Mossman Gorge also offers the chance to jump in the water here and enjoy a refreshing swim.

The Mossman Gorge Guide I put together will go more in-depth about what to expect

Mossman Gorge Swimming

Daintree Discovery Centre

Another very popular add-on to a Daintree Rainforest tour is the Daintree Discovery Centre.

Out of all the places in the Daintree, this one is probably the most helpful when it comes to learning what the Daintree is all about.

Not only are there several walking tracks around the area, but you will also find an aerial walkway, a 23-meter-high canopy, and a super helpful interpretive centre to learn more about the rainforest.

Along the whole journey inside you will be given an audio guide and accompanying guidebook that will give you all the information you need and more about the Daintree.

The Daintree Discovery Centre Guide I put together will go more in-depth about what to expect

Aerial Walkway Daintree Discovery

Daintree River Cruise

Lastly, is the Daintree River Cruise. This is the perfect way to get up close and personal to some of the wildlife in the area.

Many of the cruises depart on the south side of the Daintree River (near the river crossing) while others may have pick-up points further inside in the rainforest.

The main highlight though on a Daintree River Cruise is the chance to see those crocodiles lurking on the shores. For about 45-60 minutes you will go up and down the river spotting those crocs and other animals of the Daintree.

You can book your Daintree River Cruise experience ahead of time with a highly-rated tour company

Daintree River Cruise

Ocean Safari

One of the only experiences that offers the chance to get out on the Great Barrier Reef in the Daintree is to take part in the Ocean Safari boat ride.

You will get on off to the reef and head out to some incredible snorkeling spots to get up close and personal with some of the underwater life of the reef.

I did not take part in this Ocean Safari boat ride but did do the same type of experience with Ocean Rafting (their sister company) in the Whitsundays. I would highly recommend this trip!

Be sure to book your Ocean Safari Tour ahead of time because they do sell out!!

Whitsundays Snorkeling Turtles

10) Swimming Holes

While the ocean will seem inviting, unfortunately, it is not the safest place to swim. As mentioned earlier, this is because of the saltwater crocodiles and stingers.

Instead, you can head to some swimming holes not too far away (you can also swim at Mossman Gorge!).

Emmagen Creek

The furthest that a non-4WD drive can make it in the Daintree is to Emmagen Creek (although the last bit of road is unpaved).

Once parked on the side of the road, continue along the 10-minute path that will bring you to a great swimming hole to enjoy.

If you are up for it, give the rope swing a try and launch yourself into the water.

Emmagen Creek

Mason’s Café

There is a great café in the Daintree that also offers access to its swimming hole.

For a moderate $1 AUD you can walk your way around the café and on the path towards the water. Here you can enjoy a swim and cool down.

Masons Cafe Swimming Hole

11) Daintree Beaches

One thing I really enjoyed during my time in the Daintree was the opportunity to explore the rainforest in the morning and then hit the beach in the afternoon.

There are several beaches all along the coast but I wanted to point out some of the main ones in the area.

As mentioned before, here is your chance to witness where two natural world wonders collide, a very rare site to see in the world.

Read More: Check out the Daintree Beaches guide up on the site that will walk through 10 of them!

Cow Bay

Cow Bay is one of the best beaches in the area with plenty of space to find your own spot and enjoy some time on the sand.

You will also find a variety of beachside swings alongside a small Daintree tributary.

I also did a bit of exploring here and began to walk north alongside the rocks to some hidden beaches around the corner. So if you are looking for your own private beach you can give it a try yourself!

Cow Bay Beach

Myall Beach

If you head on the Dubuji Boardwalk, then you will be able to make a pit stop on Myall Beach along the way.

Even if you do not head on the boardwalk itself, there is a short path that will connect directly to the beach from the parking lot.

Myall Beach

Thornton Beach

Another potential beach option is Thornton Beach. Here you will find one of the only beachside restaurants (CJ’s) and it is a great place to enjoy some lunch after a morning of discovering the Daintree.

Right off the beach, you will also find Struck Island, one of the only islands you will find off the coast here.

Thornton Beach

Cape Tribulation

The most famous of all beaches in the Daintree Rainforest is that of Cape Tribulation. It is one of the most picturesque places in the Daintree to experience and you should definitely make your way there for sunset and sunrise if you have it in you.

While the days will be crowded with all the day trippers, heading there earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon will be a very relaxing experience.

During my time on the beach waiting for sunset, a cassowary was making its way all along the beach as we all looked on (but we kept our distance!).

Cape Tribulation Sunset

12) Mount Sorrow Ridge Walk

If you are looking to get high above the Daintree Rainforest and want to take in some views from above, your best option is the Mount Sorrow Ridge Walk.

This 4-6 hour round trip trail will take you to a viewpoint that looks over the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef out in the distance. Make sure you are prepared for the trail before you head out!

Learn More: The Mount Sorrow Hiking guide I put together will go more in-depth about what to expect

Mount Sorrow View

13) Daintree Lookouts

There are a couple of lookout points in the Daintree where you can take in some of the surrounding water, beaches, and more!

Kulki Lookout

Located right next to Cape Tribulation Beach is the Kulki Lookout. After parking your car in the lot you will see signs pointing you up to the right to this viewpoint.

It is only a few minutes short walk until you reach the platform with views over Cape Tribulation.

Kulki Lookout

Mount Alexandra Lookout

One of the first stops you will come by in the Daintree Rainforest is the Mount Alexandra Lookout.

At the lookout spot, you will be able to see all the way to Port Douglas with several other points of interest out in the distance.

Mount Alexandra Lookout

14) Daintree Rainforest Map

Below is a map that highlights each of the places mentioned in this guide. You will find all the attractions, activities, restaurants, hotels and other Daintree destinations pinpointed for your reference.

15) A Daintree Rainforest Itinerary

Now that you have a better sense of nearly everything one could do in the Daintree, I thought it may be helpful to put together what a Daintree Rainforest itinerary could look like.

I will assume a 2-day / 1-night trip starting early on day 1. Depending on how long you would like to stay at each place you may need to cut a thing or two out.

Day 1

  1. Leave Cairns or Port Douglas Early AM
  2. Mossman Gorge
  3. Cross Daintree River
  4. Alexandra Lookout
  5. a) Daintree Discovery Centre and/or
  6. b) Dubuji Boardwalk / Myall Beach
  7. Cape Tribulation Sunset & Kulki Lookout

Day 2

  1. Emmagen Creek and/or Mason’s Cafe Swimming Hole
  2. Cow Bay or Thornton Beach
  3. Cross Daintree River
  4. Daintree River Cruise (on your way back)
  5. Back to Port Douglas / Cairns

Mount Sorrow: If you would like to head up to Mount Sorrow, you can do so on day 2 instead of the places mentioned, or you can add an additional day in between to hike up the trail.

Daintree Rainforest Trails

That about wraps up a complete guide to a do-it-yourself Daintree Rainforest tour.

If you have any questions about anything mentioned above feel free to write them in the comments. Don’t forget to check out the other Australia itineraries and guides up on the site.

Flying into Sydney? Check out the 3-day Sydney itinerary and Blue Mountains Day Trip.

Going to the Whitsundays or Cairns? Take a look at the Ocean Rafting Northern Exposure Tour and Great Barrier Reef Liveaboard Experience.

Have fun out there and safe travels!

Daintree Rainforest Tour

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Thursday 27th of October 2022

AWESOME guide. Exactly what I needed to make sure I didn't miss anything. Thank you so much!


Saturday 13th of August 2022

Lovely guide, super helpful!

Am departing from Cairns and looking to do just a day trip there, is there a time you would recommend to depart?

Many thanks, Will


Monday 15th of August 2022

Hi Will - if you are looking to just do a day trip from Cairns, I would recommend leaving very early on in the morning. Total driving time for the day can be close to 6 hours if you head up to Cape Tribulation and you will then need to pick and choose what attractions you want to visit. Enjoy your time there!


Thursday 21st of October 2021

Hi! Love your blog, I was just wondering which car rental company you used? Thank you!


Friday 22nd of October 2021

Hi there! Thanks so much. When I visited the Daintree I picked up a car rental in Cairns from Enterprise, but I am sure there are plenty others out there too! Hope thats helps you out.


Wednesday 15th of January 2020

Excellent guide. Totally demystified Daintree for me!


Thursday 16th of January 2020

Thank you! It is an incredible place and you will have a great time visiting it all!