how to get from cairns to daintree rainforest 3

How To Get From Cairns To Daintree Rainforest

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Getting from Cairns to Daintree Rainforest is a scenic journey and can easily be done as a day trip or extended stay. Venturing into Tropical North Queensland rainforest is an experience every traveller should have when visiting Australia.

We share how to get to the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns, including essential stops along the way, and of course, the easiest modes of transport and tours to get you there!

There is a reason Sir David Attenborough named this part of the world one of his favourite and you can experience this for yourself on a day trip to the Daintree National Park as part of your Cairns itinerary.

Daintree Rainforest over canopy

The Daintree Rainforest History

The Daintree Rainforest is the largest rainforest in Australia, encompassing approximately 1,200 square kilometres of area that grows right to the edge of the ocean in places.

The Daintree Rainforest is estimated to be approximately 180 million years old. Much older than the Amazon Rainforest.

The Daintree Rainforest was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 as a way of protecting this incredible Tropical Rainforest for future generations. The Daintree is home to the largest number of animal and plant species in the world.

And since this Tropical Rainforest stretches across such a distance, it is a must-see destination when visiting Cairns.

Where Is The Daintree Rainforest?

The Daintree Rainforest is located along the north-east coast of Queensland, Australia. It is situated north of Mossman and Cairns. Cairns is the largest city near the Daintree and the location of the nearest major airport.

See below for a Cairns to Daintree Map:

Distance From Cairns To Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is approximately 100 kilometres north of Cairns or 56 kilometres from Port Douglas.

How To Get From Cairns To Daintree Rainforest

There are many ways to get from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest and each option has it’s own benefits. How you decide to travel to the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns or the surrounding towns will depend on several factors.

One, whether you have your own car transport. Two, what things you want to do in the Daintree Rainforest. And three, how much time and money you want to spend on your visit.

Many people will say that a visit to the Daintree Rainforest must include Cape Tribulation, however if short on time or budget, you can still experience the southern parts of the Daintree National Park without heading further north.

Drive from Cairns to Daintree

Driving To The Daintree Rainforest

If you have your own car or hire a car, you can easily drive from Cairns to Daintree Rainforest. This is a scenic drive that will take you approximately 2 and a half hours, or longer if you plan to travel to Cape Tribulation area or make several stops along the way.

To drive to the Daintree from Cairns, you will take the National Route 1 through northern Cairns then follow the Cook Highway.

We took the self-drive option on our most recent visit and it is a beautiful drive, with some incredible coastline along the way that you can’t help but want to stop and snap some photos.

You can hire a Car from Cairns or from Port Douglas for a reasonable cost.

Considering there are many other incredible day trips from Cairns you might like to do while in Tropical Queensland, this can often work out to be a more budget-friendly option than relying on public transport and tours.

Places To Stop Between Cairns & The Daintree

If you are doing a self-drive option between Cairns and the Daintree region, there are many different places you can stop along the way with several things to do in the Daintree Rainforest that appeal to all ages.

If you are going to Cape Tribulation, you will need a 4WD to venture onto the Bloomfield Track. You can still enjoy Cape Tribulation up until this point though, with any standard vehicle.

Here is a self-drive Daintree Rainforest itinerary idea:

  • Cairns to Mossman Gorge
  • Mossman Gorge to Daintree River Cruise
  • Daintree River Cruise to Daintree Discovery Centre
  • Daintree Discovery Centre to Cape Tribulation
  • Cape Tribulation to Cairns

If you have more time, stopping at Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Trinity Beach are all beautiful places to take a stroll or a swim.

Cairns To Daintree Rainforest Bus

Public transport is limited in the Daintree since it covers such a large area. If you wish to visit the Daintree using public transport, rather than utilising a Daintree day tour, it is possible, but not cheap.

Take the Coastal Service bus from Cairns to Port Douglas. From here you will need to book an Uber or taxi service to the Daintree River Ferry and again from the other side.

Alternatively, Trans North runs a direct service to Cape Tribulation from Cairns on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning to Cairns on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday if you wish to have an extended stay.

The trip is dependent on the conditions of the Bloomfield Track to Cooktown and it does not stop at Daintree Village, so be sure to check the schedules. Especially in the wet season.

You would be better choosing to hire a car in Cairns or Port Douglas, or taking a guided tour instead.

The Best Daintree Day Tours From Cairns

One of the best ways to visit the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns or Port Douglas is to take a bus day tour, so you can sit back and relax in air conditioned comfort on your way to and from the world’s oldest rainforest!

The best thing about Daintree day tours is that they manage to fit in all the must-see attractions and sights that you may not as easily find yourself and they typically get priority access into popular attractions as well.

It is also a great option if you are a little nervous about making the trip by car on your own (although it is an easy, comfortable drive).

Here are some of the best Daintree tours from Cairns:

Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Tribulation Tour with Cruise & Lunch

This full-day tour from Cairns takes you to the Daintree River and Rainforest, Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation and more, on a guided bus tour.

This day trip includes a Smoke Ceremony with the Kuku Yalanji people, the Aboriginal owners of the land and a Daintree River cruise, as well as waterfront dining at the beach.

Click here to book your full-day Daintree day trip

Daintree & Cape Tribulation Small Group 4WD Tour

Get the personal treatment by taking a small-group tour of the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation by 4WD, picking you up from your accommodation in Cairns.

You will see Australian wildlife in their natural habitats, interact with Daintree Rainforest animals up close, and possibly even spot some crocodiles on a Daintree River Cruise. There are stunning views and the chance to learn more about the region with a knowledgable local guide.

The tour includes a tropical BBQ lunch, tropical fruits, damper and billy tea.

Click here to book your 4WD Small group tour of the Daintree

Aboriginal Cultural Day Tour with Lunch

Spend a day in in the pristine natural beauty of the Daintree National Park, and hunt for fish and mud crabs during this Aboriginal cultural experience.

Take part in an Aboriginal traditional smoking ceremony as you are welcomed to their land and cleansed of evil spirits by the Kuku Yalanji people.

They will teach you how to throw a spear and demonstrate how to search and hunt for fish, mud crabs, and mussels in the Coral Sea. You will also learn about bush tucker.

Enjoy a delicious lunch with local flavours at the Mossman Gorge Centre, then wander into the dense rainforest of the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park with your local guide.

Click here to book your Daintree Aboriginal Culture Day tour

cape tribulation

Great Barrier Reef and Cape Tribulation 2-Day Tour

Incorporate two of the best day tours into your Cairns visit with this 2-day tour option.

Day 1, take an Outer Great Barrier Reef cruise where you can snorkel and explore the wonders beneath the ocean in two different spots.

On day 2, you will be picked up from your Cairns accommodation for a full day Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest day tour, including Mossman Gorge and the Daintree River Ferry crossing to the Cape.

Click here to book your 2-day Reef & Rainforest tour package

Things To Do In Daintree National Park

There are many unique things to do in the Daintree Rainforest, with some of these experiences being a must-do if you have the time to fit them into your day! You could easily spend two days in the region if you have the time to do so.

Here are some of the best things to do in Daintree National Park:

Daintree River Cruise

daintree river cruise daintree rainforest

A Daintree River Cruise is a must if you are hoping to see crocodiles in the wild. While there is no guarantee you will spot them, the cruises have a very high success rate, with experiences cruise guides who know where to look.

Plus you get a safe and relaxing cruise up the Daintree River in a covered boat, seeing other Australian flora and fauna along the way. The Daintree River Cruises are approximately 45 minutes long and run throughout the day.

This is a great way to see many of the animals in the Daintree Rainforest – not just the crocodiles!

  • Location: 2914 Mossman – Daintree Rd, Daintree
  • Opening Hours: Cruises operate daily, with the frequency depending on the season.
  • Entry Price: $30 for adults and $15 for children.

Click here to book your Daintree River Cruise experience

We did this cruise during our most recent visit and had a wonderful time. We only had a distant sighting of a pair of crocodile eyes in the water, but we learnt a lot about the region and wildlife and enjoyed the tranquillity of the cruise.

Daintree Discovery Centre

Daintree rainforest things to do in cairns with kids
Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Discovery Centre is a great place to visit with kids, with aerial walkways, wildlife exhibits, a canopy tower, several different nature and wildlife tours you can participate in. There are interactive displays, cassowary spotting opportunities and much more.

  • Location: Turn off, Tulip Oak Road, Cape Tribulation Rd, Cow Bay
  • Opening Hours: 8:30 AM – 5 PM daily.
  • Entry Price: $37 for adults and $18 for children.

Cape Tribulation Snorkelling Tour

Cape Tribulation is one of the best places to go snorkelling off the Great Barrier Reef, simply because there are less tours to this area, making it much more ‘untouched’ compared to many of the Snorkelling tours from Cairns.

Take a half day snorkelling adventure to two different snorkelling locations where you may be lucky enough to swim with sea turtles and an array of underwater wildlife.

All snorkelling equipment and instruction is provided to you, so you are sure to have a great time even if this is your first time snorkelling.

Click here to book your Cape Tribulation Snorkelling tour

Mossman Gorge

mossman gorge daintree rainforest

At the southern point of the Daintree Rainforest, you will find Mossman Gorge. This is well worth a visit, heading either at the start or towards the end of your day trip.

Head to the Mossman Gorge Centre where you can take a shuttle bus to the Gorge. From here, it is a short walk to the Gorge where there is a popular swimming hole and a suspension bridge with a view over the Gorge.

If you have more time, there is a longer rainforest walk that requires a moderate level of fitness and comfortable walking shoes.

If you’re lucky, you might spot some of the local Daintree wildlife. Our unexpected sighting of the day was of a wild pig…

  • Location: 212r Mossman Gorge Rd, Mossman Gorge
  • Opening Hours: 8 AM – 6 PM daily.
  • Entry Price: Shuttle bus is $12.50.

Daintree Village

Daintree Village was first settled in the 1870s. Here you will find some delicious local foods to try or sweet treats for an afternoon tea between your adventures if you are driving from Cairns to Daintree yourself.

Aside from cafes, you will also find local artists creations on display and may find yourself some unique souvenirs too.

Here you will also find accommodation in the Daintree. See below for recommendations.

Cape Trib Farm

There is no better place to sample tropical fruit than straight from the farm! Take a fruit tasting tour at Cape Trib Farm where you can sample some exotic fruits, like a chocolate pudding fruit or the breadfruit chips.

  • Location: 3939 Cape Tribulation Road, Cape Tribulation
  • Opening Hours: Tours run at 2 PM every day during the months of July-August-September. For other times of the year, check their website for availability as it may vary.
  • Tour Price: $30 for adults and $20 for children.

Cape Tribulation Horse Riding

horse riding at Cape Tribulation
Horse riding at Cape Tribulation

Go horse riding in Cape Tribulation during a 2 hour beach and rainforest experience. Venture from the stables through open paddocks, Myall Beach and the stunning rainforest on horseback, for a unique way to experience the region.

The horses are trained to walk in the ocean creating some epic photo opportunities!

Click here to book your Cape Tribulation Horse Riding Tour

Discovering Animals In The Daintree Rainforest

There is an enormous number of animal species living within the Daintree Rainforest. Some of these animals may be easy to spot, such as the bright coloured birds flying through the rainforest canopy, while others are much more shy.

If you take a Daintree River cruise, there’s a good chance you will spot a crocodile… safely from your boat! Don’t go seeking them out on your own. This is never a good idea.

During your rainforest walks, you might also spot some of the more common wildlife in the Daintree, such as Green Tree Frogs and Green Tree Snakes, Boyd’s Rainforest Dragons and of course, those pesky bush turkeys making a mess of the rainforest ground as they dig for food.

cassowary in the daintree rainforest

If you are really lucky, you may sight a cassowary, but keep your distance. There are very few of these striking birds left in the wild.

There are many animals in the Daintree Rainforest that are not found anywhere else in the world.

Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. We recommend World Nomads.

Essential Items To Take On a Daintree Rainforest Day Trip

When visiting the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns or as part of a road trip from Brisbane, you want to make sure you’ve packed the essentials to make your day go smoothly!

Visiting the rainforest means insects and while you may be under cover from the heavy rainforest canopy a lot of the time, what makes the Daintree unique is the fact that it sits alongside the coast, so being sun smart is also essential in Far North Queensland!

Here are some essentials to pack for your day:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellant
  • Walking shoes
  • Sandals or flip flops
  • Swimwear
  • Towel
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Camera or phone for photos
  • Power bank (for charging your phone and devices if you aren’t driving yourself)
  • Poncho for wet weather

Find more of our essential travel gear and must-have accessories.

Daintree Accommodation

If there is simply too much awesomeness for you to fit into a single day trip to the Daintree, why not extend your stay overnight. This is a great way to minimise the amount of driving you do in one day since Cairns to the Daintree and back means a good 5+ hours in the car usually!

Daintree Hotel Accommodation

  • Daintree Ecolodge – Boutique lodge with a day spa and an on-site restaurant in the rainforest.
  • Cape Trib Beach House – Has a private white sand beach area and an outdoor swimming pool, just 5 minutes from Cape Tribulation town centre.

Daintree Camping

If you are looking to take a caravan or camping trip to the Daintree, there are a few campgrounds to consider:

Airbnb Accommodation

If you would prefer to stay in a private rental, there are plenty of great options perfect for couples or families on Airbnb, including these top 10 Airbnbs in Cairns:

FAQs For Visiting The Daintree Rainforest

How old is the Daintree Rainforest?

The Daintree Rainforest is estimated to be approximately 180 million years old. Much older than the Amazon Rainforest.

How big is the Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is approximately 1200 square kilometres in size, making it the largest rainforest in Australia.

What is the weather like in the Daintree?

The Daintree is located in Tropical Queensland, Australia, with winter temperatures average 25 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures around 32 degrees Celsius. The wet season (also known as the green season) is over summer.

Thanking a day trip from Cairns to Daintree Rainforest is an experience you won’t regret! After all, where else can you find two enormous World Heritage Sites sitting alongside each other in the way that the Daintree National Park and Great Barrier Reef do? It’s a must-visit in Australian for a reason!