Australia: from Cairns to Cape Tribulation in just one day

Are you in Australia, planning to visit the rainforest that surrounds Cairns? Do you want to learn more about nature and have the chance to meet crocodiles and the famous cassowary? Then all you need is just one day!

During one of my days off, I decided to leave Cairns and to reach the famous Cape Tribulation. If you have more than one day you can also decide to reach Cape Tribulation in 2 or 3 days, stopping for the night in Port Douglas or in the rainforest and giving yourself more time to enjoy what this trip has to offer.

However, if you have more than one day you can also decide to reach Cape Tribulation in 2 or 3 days, stopping for the night in Port Douglas or in the rainforest and giving yourself more time to enjoy what this trip has to offer.

If you have just one day, don't worry! It's more than enough to see everything…and this is a short guide that takes you from Cairns to Cape Tribulation in one day! If you want to chill out and relax, just book one of the daily trips offered by one of the companies in Cairns CBD (I suggest you Trek North). If you want to travel on your own, without a guide and without following a time table, then my suggestion is to rent a car. I suggest you to book your car at least one day before your trip day, and make sure you can leave quite early (max 8AM) if you want to be sure to reach Cape Tribulation on the same day and stopping in all the places I listed.

Cairns – Port DouglasRex lookout

It will take you almost one hour to reach Port Douglas from Cairns. The road that takes you there it's really amazing and allows you to drive really close to the sea! Don't forget to have a look around, you will see sugar can plantations and grass fields covered by wallabies!

4 miles beachI suggest you stop at Rex Lookout during your way, to enjoy a wonderful view of the sea and of the coast.

Our first stop will be Port Douglas. This is a lovely small town that has everything you need: shops, restaurants, cafés… my suggestion is to park the car and have a walk on Macrossman Street. Enjoy a lovely coffee at Whileaway bookshop & cafè, where you can also try one of their amazing cakes while reading a book and then have a quick walk on the famous Four Mile Beach. Before leaving just drive till Flagstaff Hill to enjoy a beautiful view of the beach.

Port Douglas – Mossman GorgeMe in the rainforest

From Port Douglas, it will take you more or less 15-20 minutes to reach this beautiful place. Park your car at Mossman Gorge Center and catch the shuttle bus that takes you directly to the gorge.

I suggest you to follow the rainforest walk (approx 2,5km) that takes you in the middle of the most ancient rainforest on planet Earth. It will take you 45-60 minutes but it totally worth it! If you are lucky enough you might spot the famous Cassowary, a huge bird that looks like an ostrich and it's originally from this area, unluckily there are only around 1000 wild Cassowary left (probably that's why I didn't spot any).

If you are brave enough you can also jump in the crystal clear water and swim for a while in this enchanted place.

Mossman gorge

Mossman – Daintree River

It will take you around 30 minutes to reach one of the most famous rivers in this area: the Daintree River. Here you can leave your car and join one of the many river cruises that allow you to spot crocodiles and wildlife along the river. The cruise usually lasts one hour and it's really an experience of a lifetime! It feels like you are somewhere in Africa, doing a water safari. I was lucky enough to see a 5meters long crocodile and it was really an unforgettable experience.Wild croc in the Daintree River

One suggestion: never underestimate a crocodile. For your safety never go too close to the water, of course never go too close to a crocodile and don't jump in waters with warning signs telling you that crocodiles inhabit that area. If you have a quick look on google, you can read of hundreds of accidents caused by crocodiles in this area so…be aware!

Daintree River – Alexandra lookout

After the cruise is time to jump in the car again and cross the river. To cross the river you have to use the historic cable barge. It works every day from 6am till midnight and you'll have to pay a fare to use it…however, it's the only way to cross the river so you have no choice! It takes you just 10 minutes, but again it's a quite interesting experience you'll hardly find somewhere else!

Alexandra lookoutTo reach the Alexandra lookout it only takes 15 minutes. The lookout is absolutely amazing: on sunny days you can see the forest, the river, the sea and the surrounding islands. You'll see even Snapper Island, a crocodile-shaped island, where the famous crocodile hunter Steve Irwin died because of a stingray.

Alexandra lookout – Cape Tribulation

After walking, cruising rivers and driving at this point of the day you might be a little bit hungry. Don't worry! On your way to Thornton Beach, you will find the amazing Daintree Ice Cream Company, where you can find daily homemade ice cream with fresh local fruits. Every day it offers a choice of only 4 flavors, but for sure you'll enjoy it! If you want you can also have a walk in the fruit orchard. If you love butterflies and insects, I suggest you to stop at the Daintree Entomological Museum, where you can really see hundreds of (dead) insects from all over the world and it's only a few kilometers away from Thornton Beach.Rainforest walk

Just before reaching Cape Tribulation, I suggest you to stop for a walk at Marrdja Botanical Walk, that takes you inside the rainforest where you can learn plenty of things about trees, wildlife, and mangroves.

After filling your heart with the beauty of nature and a new knowledge of what surrounds you, take your car again and drive less than 10 minutes to reach your final destination: Cape Tribulation! This is the place where historically Captain Cook had some troubles with his ship, the Endeavour…let's say that he found out that the Great Barrier Reef was there in the worst way ever: crashing into it. However, he managed to save the ship and he stopped here for a while in order to repair it.

Once you are in Cape Tribulation you can do whatever you want: chill out on the beach, take some pictures, have a walk in the forest (yes, here the forest reaches the beach!), have a proper lunch or go for a swim. If you are planning to drive back to Cairns, just remember that it will take you up to 3 hours. On the other hand, if you are planning to stay here for one more day or two, don't worry…it's just full of tours you can join to explore the ocean or the rainforest and there are lots of things you can do, such as horse riding or visit, like the Bat House.Cape Tribulation Beach

What to bring

Before leaving Cairns I would recommend you to be sure to have few important things with you:

  • sunscreen (the sun here hits hard)

  • camera

  • mobile phone (remember that the access is very limited when you are in the rainforest!)

  • towel

  • trekking shoes

  • water

  • sweatshirt or a k-way

  • repellent

Useful links:

Giorgia Doglioni

I’m a 100% made in Italy vegetarian ginger, but I consider myself as a citizen of the world. I’ve been traveling in 23 countries and I can speak 5 languages. I love photography and In my free time, I love scuba diving (I’m a Dive Master), free diving, horse riding, practicing yoga, cooking, and baking. I love animals and respect nature. I’m a Sea Shepherd volunteer and whenever I can I try to make the world a better place where to live.