Daintree Rainforest 1-Day Itinerary: a complete guide

Daintree Rainforest is just over 100 kilometres north of Cairns, along Australia’s picturesque east coast. It is home to one of the world’s oldest surviving tropical rainforests. With incredibly diverse flora and fauna, this UNESCO-listed rainforest is essential to the world’s ecosystem.

Daintree Rainforest is famous for being where the ‘Rainforest Meets the Reef‘. With the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef fringing the idyllic coastline of the Daintree Rainforest, the view of these two UNESCO world heritage sites expanding side-by-side is simply nature at its best & one not to be missed!

Although there are many fascinating walking tracks and idyllic beaches to explore in Daintree Rainforest, 1 Day is typically enough to visit its highlights. That said, if time and budget allow, I highly suggest spending at least a night in DaintreeOpens in a new tab., so you can better experience the wilderness of the Daintree Rainforest.

Where to Stay in the Daintree Rainforest

Daintree Rainforest is typically referred to as the densely forested area north of the Daintree RiverOpens in a new tab.. Although not an island, Daintree Rainforest is only accessible by ferry via the Daintree River. This is also one way to keep this ancient rainforest protected.

Since most attractions in the Daintree Rainforest are on the northern shore of the Daintree River, it only makes sense to stay north of the Daintree River for an authentic Daintree Rainforest experience. This will also save you from the trouble and repeat cost of catching the ferry daily.

Wake up to nature in one of these Daintree accommodations:

  • WildwoodOpens in a new tab.: peaceful cabin, in the heart of Cape Tribulation.
  • Noah Creek Eco HutsOpens in a new tab.: wake up to nature, with the convenience of local shops and restaurants nearby.
  • Daintree Manor B&BOpens in a new tab.: feel at home, with a balcony view of the beautiful Daintree Rainforest.

How to visit Daintree Rainforest

Public transport is generally limited in the Daintree region, especially within the Daintree Rainforest. Regardless of the direction you are visiting from, there are practically only two options for visiting the Daintree Rainforest: self-drive or guided tours.

If you are visiting from Cairns or Port Douglas, you can typically find various car hire options in both places. From my experience, East Coast Car RentalsOpens in a new tab. usually offers a more competitive pricing point; Budget Opens in a new tab.and Hertz Opens in a new tab.tend to have a lot more pick-up locations & more vehicles to select from.

Many tour companies also run guided tours for visiting the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns or Port Douglas. Here are a few guided Daintree Rainforest tours you may wish to check out:

Cairns Departure:

Port Douglas Opens in a new tab.Departure:

Daintree Ferry

Daintree Ferry is the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest.

A one-way ride on Daintree Ferry takes only about 5 minutes. It runs back and forth continuously from 5 am to midnight daily to transport passengers and vehicles between the southern and northern banks of the Daintree River.

To access Daintree Ferry via its southern terminal, you need to turn onto Cape Tribulation Road from Mossman Daintree Road, then follow the signage towards the ticket booth to purchase a Daintree Ferry return ticket. From there, all you need is to line up & board the next ferry as directed by the operators.

A return ticket for Daintree Ferry was AUD 45 when I visited & make sure you keep the ticket for your return ferry as well.

During peak hours, the queue can get quite long at the ferry terminals, and it may take a few runs before your turn. That said, since the turnaround is relatively quick, it shouldn’t take too long in most cases.

While waiting for the next ferry, you can get off the car to check out the crocodiles along the Daintree River. Just make sure you observe the warning signs and don’t get too close to the water/crocodiles.

Once you have crossed the Daintree River, you will drive straight into a dense rainforest with tall canopies blocking most of the sky. This winding road hugs the pristine coastline and provides some of the best views along this stunning coast.

Tips on visiting Daintree Rainforest:

  • Swimming: Crocodiles and poisonous jellyfish are commonly found in the water around Daintree. Although the beaches and rivers are incredibly gorgeous in the Daintree Rainforest, they are unsafe for swimming. If you are keen on a cool swim, check out one of the picturesque swimming holes, such as Mason’s Swimming Hole and Emmagen Creek, instead.
  • Driving: With only one main road hugging the coast, navigating is relatively easy in Daintree. That said, the area north of Cape Tribulation is only suited for 4WDs & it can be easily identified by the road signs and challenging road conditions north of Cape Tribulation. So make sure you have an appropriate vehicle and are driving in suitable weather conditions before exploring further north.
  • Petrol: When I visited, there was only one petrol station in the Daintree Rainforest. It is located near Thornton Beach. That said, it is still better to fill up the tank before starting this day trip.
  • Walking Trails: Various walking trails are available in the Daintree Rainforest. As fascinating as the rainforest can be, make sure you only explore within the designated walking tracks. This is not only for protecting this ancient rainforest but also for your safety.
  • Cassowary: Cassowary is an endangered bird native to Far North Queensland. It is a giant, shy bird, identifiable by its colourful exaggerated head attire, glossy fur-like feathers, and dinosaur feet. Although difficult to spot in the wild, Daintree Rainforest is the best place for spotting cassowaries. Although cassowaries are not violent, they may attack if they believe you are trying to harm them. So make sure you keep a safe distance when admiring these stunning birds.

Daintree Discovery Centre

Daintree Discovery Centre is a beautiful and educational rainforest centre located near the ferry terminal in the Daintree Rainforest. It offers a selection of elevated walkways with information boards for visitors to explore and learn about the ecosystem of the Daintree Rainforest.

On entering, you will also receive an interpretive guidebook and a self-directed audio guide to help make the most of your visit to the Daintree Discovery Centre.

The highlight of Daintree Discovery Centre is undoubtedly its iconic 23-metre tall Canopy Tower, which allows visitors to climb up its top lookout platform for an unobstructed bird’s eye view of the lush green rainforest you are visiting.

Within Daintree Discovery Centre, you can also find interesting Reptile Enclosures with giant pythons, a fascinating Rainforest Aquarium with beautiful fishes, and an educational Bug Room with a range of native insects to discover.

These all make Daintree Discovery Centre one of the best places to make sense of the impressive yet fragile ecosystem of the Daintree Rainforest.

Entry ticket to Daintree Discovery Centre was AUD 39 per adult in my memory & concession tickets are available for kids. Although not a vast area to explore, I suggest planning at least 1 hour for a walk around to cover all the highlights and read the information boards around the discovery centre.

Daintree Discovery Centre is one of the best places to get an insight into the diverse yet fragile ecosystem of the Daintree Rainforest. However, if travelling on a tight budget, you can certainly skip this spot and still enjoy a delightful day trip to the Daintree Rainforest, as all other attractions on this itinerary are either free or only charge a small fee.

Toilets and a small cafe are available on-site at Daintree Discovery Centre.

Jindalba Boardwalk

Jindalba is located only a few hundred metres further down the road from Daintree Discovery Centre. You can either drive to and park at the designated car parks at Jindalba Boardwalk, or take a short walk from Daintree Discovery Centre to Jindalba Boardwalk.

Two loop walks are available at Jindalba: a smaller 700-metre circular boardwalk for a taste of Jindalba & a more adventurous 2.7-kilometre circular walk to explore Jindalba in-depth.

On the information board at Jindalba, the longer loop walk was only suggested for the more experienced walkers, so I did not attempt it during my visit. That said, it might be the right walk for you if you are up for some challenge.

In terms of the shorter walk, it was mainly along a well-maintained boardwalk tucked within a lush rainforest. It also passes through a few tranquil creeks with beautiful bridges. It is a great walk to explore the rainforest and its incredible wildlife.

No entry fee is required for visiting Jindalba Boardwalk. Making it an excellent option when visiting the Daintree Rainforest on a budget.

Public toilets are available near the Jindalba Boardwalk car park.

Daintree Ice Cream Company

After visiting Daintree Discovery Centre and Jindalba Boardwalk, we will drive further north along Cape Tribulation Road to explore more of the Daintree Rainforest.

Along your drive, make sure you stop by the Daintree Ice Cream Company for some delicious refreshments!

Daintree Ice Cream Company is nestled in a beautiful fruit orchard. It offers a range of ice cream flavours from the exotic tropical fruits harvested from the orchard.

Although made on the premises, the ice creams at Daintree Ice Cream Company were all prepackaged into cups for convenience. The individual cups were AUD 6 & mixed cups were AUD 7.5 when I visited. Depending on the season, the flavours can change.

The mixed cup I purchased had four flavours: coconut, mango, black sapote, and wattleseed. They were all refreshing and delicious. The serving was also very generous. That said, since they were all prepackaged, you can’t choose and mix the flavours yourself & they were also a bit hard to scoop when first out of the freezer.

Various tables and chairs are dotted around the orchard for visitors to enjoy their mouthwatering ice creams.

Toilets are available on-site.

Cape Tribulation Beach & Kulki Lookout

Cape Tribulation Beach and Kulki Lookout at Cape Tribulation is the northernmost area on this Daintree Rainforest day trip itinerary. You can explore further north if desired, but a 4WD will be required. (With a 2WD, you can push to as far as Emmagen Creek, a 10-minute drive further north from Kulki Lookout, on a rough gravel road, but it was a rather unenjoyable ride in my experience)

Cape Tribulation Beach is about a 30-minute drive north along Cape Tribulation Road from Daintree Ice Cream Company. It is, in my opinion, the most gorgeous spot on this day trip!

Protected by lush green headlands on both ends of the beach, Cape Tribulation Beach provides incredibly calm water and a long stretch of buttery-soft white sandy beach.

Note: Although extremely inviting, Cape Tribulation Beach is unsuitable for swimming. Jellyfish (especially during the rainy season) and crocodiles are frequently found along the beaches in Daintree.

Towards the southern end of Cape Tribulation Beach, there are a couple of walkways leading to a short boardwalk, Kulki Boardwalk.

Kulki Boardwalk is only about 350 meters long. It starts from the Cape Tribulation Beach car park to the impressive Kulki Lookout up the small headland south of Cape Tribulation Beach. A return walk along Kulki Boardwalk should only take about 15 minutes for most of us, but you will likely wish to plan more time for admiring the views at Kulki Lookout.

Located on a small headland, Kulki Lookout offers an unparalleled bird’s eye view of the pristine Cape Tribulation Beach and the alluring turquoise water at Cape Tribulation. This is one of the best places in the Daintree Rainforest to admire where the Rainforest Meets the Reefs. Although frequented by visitors, it still provides a peaceful vibe with only the sounds of the ocean waves and birds chirping.

Since Cape Tribulation Beach and Kulki Lookout are one of the most popular day trip destinations in the Daintree Rainforest, their parking area can fill up quickly during peak visiting hours. You may want to visit this spot early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.

Public toilets are available near the car park.

Dubuji Boardwalk & Myall Beach

After visiting the idyllic Cape Tribulation Beach and Kulki Lookout, we will start heading south along Cape Tribulation Road to check out a few more stunning attractions along this coastal drive.

Dubuji Boardwalk is only a brief 5-minute drive south of Cape Tribulation Beach. It is a well-maintained 1.2-kilometre loop walk through lush rainforests and incredible mangrove forests. It will also lead you to the beautiful Myall Beach for a pit stop.

Along the walk from Myall Beach back to the car park, there is a good-sized picnic area with bowling greens and picnic tables. It can be an excellent place for lunch if desired.

A loop walk along Dubuji Boardwalk took me about 20-25 minutes. If you only intend to visit Myall Beach and/or the picnic area, you can access them directly from the car park & it should only take about 5 minutes to get there, depending on your fitness level.

In comparison to Cape Tribulation Beach and Kulki Lookout, the car park for Myall Beach and Dubuji Boardwalk is much bigger and less crowded. Public toilets are also available near the car park.

Mason’s Swimming Hole

After spending half the day exploring the rainforest and beaches, let’s now head to Mason’s Swimming Hole for a refreshing cool swim, followed by a late lunch.

Mason’s Swimming Hole is only a 2-minute drive south of Dubuji Boardwalk. It is one of Daintree’s limited swimming spots, free from jellyfish and crocodiles.

Surrounded by beautiful rainforests with crystal clear water running through, Mason’s Swimming Hole provides a tranquil spot for visitors to swim. Various fishes will also swim by your side, adding more fun to your visit.

Located at the back of Masons Cafe, Mason’s Swimming Hole is part of a private property requiring a small access fee: AUD 1 per person. The gate to Mason’s Swimming Hole is unmanned, but there is a small coin box on your left-hand side at the gate for visitors to drop off their entrance fee.

From the gate, there will be a short walking trail to lead you to the swimming hole.

After cooling down at Mason’s Swimming Hole, make sure you check out Masons Cafe for their signature Crocodile Burger! If crocodile meat is outside your consideration, Masons Cafe also offers a good selection of food and drinks to suit different dietary requirements, making it an excellent place for a late lunch on this fun-filled day trip.

Madja Boardwalk

After a delicious lunch at Masons Cafe, let’s walk along Oliver Creek to check out the incredible transition between a beautiful tropical rainforest and a tough mangrove forest at Madja Boardwalk.

Madja Boardwalk is a 1.2-kilometre loop walk, a 10-minute drive south of Mason’s Swimming Hole. It is a relatively flat walk & can be effortlessly completed within 30 minutes for most of us.

Along the walk, you will find the crystal clear Oliver Creek, stroll through lush rainforests, and be impressed by the sudden landscape change near the river mouth. Various signage boards can be located throughout this walk, with informative details on the ecosystem and plantations along Madja Boardwalk.

Compared to Jindalba Boardwalk and Dubuji Boardwalk, Madja Boardwalk is not equipped with public toilets. There are also a very limited number of parking spots at Madja Boardwalk. That said, there were fewer visitors at Madja Boardwalk when I visited. 

Thornton Beach

If you still have some energy left for a beach stroll, why not check out Thornton Beach on your way back to the ferry terminal?

Thornton Beach is a less than 10-minute drive from Madja Boardwalk. It is a pristine sandy beach overlooking a small offshore island, Struck Island. With sapphire blue water, white sandy foreshore, and barely any visitors, it is a beach from paradise!

That said, being a typical beach of the Daintree region, the picture-perfect Thornton Beach is also not suited for swimming, with crocodiles and jellyfish frequenting. So make sure to stay clear of the water here and pay attention to crocodiles when visiting.

Mount Alexandra Lookout

Mount Alexandra Lookout is a picturesque vantage point just off Cape Tribulation Road. It provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Daintree River Mouth, the lush rainforest below, and the stunning coastline nearby. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Port Douglas from Mount Alexandra Lookout.

Being the closest attraction to the ferry terminal, most visitors tend to visit Mount Alexandra Lookout on their way into the Daintree Rainforest. However, I suggest visiting Mount Alexandra Lookout on your drive back to the ferry terminal. So you do not need to hold up the traffic behind you when turning into the car park & can avoid an awkward right turn when driving out of the car park.

2 Days in Daintree

Although one day is typically sufficient for visiting the highlights of the Daintree Rainforest, two days will be ideal if you wish to explore the Daintree Rainforest at a more enjoyable pace and feel its serenity when all the day trippers have left Daintree.

With two days in Daintree, you can also check out a few more iconic Daintree attractions, such as the Daintree River Cruise and Mossman Gorge.

Here are a few popular attractions and activities you may wish to check out when spending two days in the Daintree Rainforest.

Daintree River Cruise

Since most of the waterways in Daintree are not suited for swimming, a Daintree River Cruise is undoubtedly the perfect way for visitors to get a good glimpse into the fascinating rivers and creeks in the Daintree Rainforest & get up and close to its resident crocodiles in a controlled environment.

Multiple companies in Daintree offer sightseeing cruises along the Daintree River. They are mostly 1-2 hour cruise tours, operated at different time slots throughout the day. A few options you may wish to check out are:

Solar Whisper Daintree River Crocodile and Wildlife CruiseOpens in a new tab.:

  • 1-hour cruise on a solar-powered cruise.
  • Located only a short walk from Daintree Ferry’s southern terminal.
  • Multiple departure times to choose from.

1-Hour Daintree River Wildlife CruiseOpens in a new tab.:

  • 1-hour guided cruise along the Daintree River
  • Multiple departure times to choose from, with complimentary beverages provided.

Daintree River Early Morning Wildlife CruiseOpens in a new tab.:

  • 2-hour cruise to discover the peaceful Daintree River at dawn.
  • Departures from the heart of Daintree Village.

Daintree River Late Afternoon Wildlife CruiseOpens in a new tab.:

  • 2-hour Sunset Cruise along the beautiful Daintree River.
  • Departures from the heart of Daintree Village.

Mossman Gorge

Although not geologically part of the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge has been a popular attraction for people visiting the Daintree Rainforest.

Located less than 30-minute drive south of the Daintree River & just off Captain Cook Highway, Mossman Gorge also makes a convenient stopover for travellers visiting Daintree from Cairns/ Port Douglas.

Within Mossman Gorge, visitors can stroll through lush rainforests and swim in its picturesque rock pools. Its visitor centre also provides eateries, shops, toilets, and shower facilities, so you can even spend an entire day at Mossman Gorge if desired.

There is no entrance fee to Mossman Gorge, but you will need to purchase a shuttle bus ticket to access the walking tracks in Mossman Gorge. The shuttle bus only takes about 5 minutes one-way to drive between the visitor centre and the walking trail in Mossman Gorge.

A return shuttle bus ticket was AUD 13 per adult when I visited. There was only one bus going back and forth between the visitor centre and Mossman Gorge, so it should take only about 10 minutes for the next bus if you happen to miss out on one.

Although there are a lot of car parks at the visitor centre, they can fill up quickly due to the number of visitors at Mossman Gorge. So you may want to plan your visit in the early morning or late afternoon.

Parking within Mossman Gorge is prohibited between 6 am and 6 pm. So in most cases, driving directly to the walking tracks in Mosman Gorge is not practical.

Hiking up to the walking tracks and rock pools in Mossman Gorge is doable. In fact, I did see a young couple walking along the road between the visitor centre and Mossman Gorge. That said, this is an uphill walk and can be pretty boring too. So I personally will not go there on foot.

Once you have arrived at Mossman Gorge, you will find a 300-metre boardwalk to a lookout platform, providing a spectacular view of the Mossman River. You can also find some picturesque rock pools for a cool swim along the walk.

From the lookout, you can continue this walk further along a 2.4-kilometre circular walk to explore more of the rainforest and waterways of Mossman Gorge. That said, this walk can get a bit muddy and slippery, so make sure you have the appropriate footwear.

Why not check out this Guided Mossman Gorge Adventure TripOpens in a new tab. for a guided tour of Mossman Gorge with river snorkelling?

Great Barrier Reef

Running alongside the iconic Great Barrier Reef, a visit to Daintree Rainforest is incomplete without a snorkelling/diving tour of its adjacent Great Barrier Reef!

Many tour companies around Daintree offer snorkelling/diving tours of the Great Barrier Reef. A few options you may wish to check out are:

Ocean Safari Great Barrier Reef Experience in Cape TribulationOpens in a new tab.:

  • A half-day snorkelling adventure to marvel at the amazing marine life along the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Provides an impressive view of the Daintree Rainforest from the water.
  • Departures near Turtle Rock Cafe in Cape Tribulation.

Reef and Rainforest Combo – Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef:

  • 2-Day guided tour of the Daintree Rainforest & the Great Barrier Reef.
  • A packed itinerary to explore Far North Queensland from the land and the water.
  • Departures from Cairns.

3-Day Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef, and Kuranda Combo TripOpens in a new tab.:

  • 3-Day guided tour to 3 of the best Far North Queensland destinations: Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef & KurandaOpens in a new tab..
  • Departures from Cairns.

Bec's Travel Itinerary

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