Drive two hours north of Cairns and you’ll arrive at the Daintree Rainforest – an unbelievable feast for the eyes. Lush ferns, thick emerald green vines, and a towering canopy make this World Heritage site one of the most breathtaking places on the planet. It’s so picturesque that it not only inspired the movie Avatar, but English broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough also called it “the most extraordinary place on earth”.
But this picture-perfect paradise is more than just eye-candy. One of the best places to visit in Australia, a trip to Daintree National Park is a life-changing experience. There’s just something about the raw beauty of this rainforest, Australia’s largest, that continues to inspire travelers even after they visit.
Yes, there is plenty to capture in photographs, but there are also many exciting experiences to fill your itinerary. Go on a jungle trek and discover endemic plants and animals, visit Cape Tribulation where the rainforest kisses the Great Barrier Reef, or cruise along the Daintree River to spy on saltwater crocodiles. The Daintree is is a bit of everything – rainforest, beach, ocean, and river. As such, it’s one of the most ideal places on earth for nature-loving adventurers.
Things to Do at Daintree National Park
The Daintree is an ancient ecosystem that was once threatened by illegal logging. Today, it is a protected National Park with a myriad of activities for all adventurers. There’s no right or wrong way to explore this spectacular place, but there are locations that you must visit to get the full experience. Here’s a list of the best things to do at Daintree National Park.
1. Take an Enlightening Walk at the Discovery Centre
For first time visitors, the Discovery Centre located at the heart of the Daintree Rainforest is a good place to start. Here, you can get acquainted with the wonders of the rainforest and learn more about its origins. Sit in the Audio Visual Theater and get oriented with the forest’s history, and then climb through a series of viewing platforms and aerial walkways where you can easily explore the rainforest from the ground to the uppermost canopies. Signposts and audio tours are available in various languages.
There are lots to learn about nature in this kid-friendly place. View various creepy crawlies in informative terrariums, study the rainforest’s marine life in the Daintree Aquarium or spy on colorful Cassowaries in the Cassowary Corridor.
2. Go on a Cruise Across the Daintree River
There’s nothing more exhilarating than spying on giant saltwater crocodiles in their natural habitat. If you’re brave enough to get close to these marine reptiles, take a cruise along Daintree River and bring a camera with you! A variety of tour operators offers adventures of different durations, from one-hour cruises to half-day escapades. Apart from crocodiles, you’re also bound to spot species of birds, frogs, snakes, and fish. Tours come with expert guides who can give you interesting insights on local wildlife.
3. Visit the Mossman Gorge
Located in the southern part of Daintree National Park, Mossman Gorge is a great place to learn about the culture and beliefs of the Kuku Yalanji, one of Australia’s indigenous populations. Mossman Gorge features stunning natural landscapes: clear waters embrace smooth granite boulders creating freshwater swimming pools. Don’t forget to ask Mossman Gorge Center if water conditions are good for swimming before taking a dip.
Looking for culture trip? The award-winning Dreamtime Walk tour offers great insights on the land’s ancient fauna and flora, as well as the Kuku Yalanji culture’s remarkably interesting traditional sacred ceremonies and bush foods.
4. Live It Up at a Luxury Eco Lodge
Those who say that you can’t experience luxury in the middle of a rainforest clearly haven’t been to the Daintree’s Silky Oak Lodge. This upscale treehouse perched high above the forest canopy offers spectacular views of the Mossman River. Want to experience the Daintree from high above? Charter a helicopter tour or try hot air ballooning.
The luxurious on-site spa, a member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, features facial, massage, and Vichy therapies to help you relax and rejuvenate after a long day of adventure. Packages come with a full gourmet breakfast, morning yoga, free wifi, and use of mountain bikes, river kayaks, gym, and tennis court, among others.
5. Zip-line Through the Rainforest
What’s the best way to take in the beauty of the Daintree Rainforest? Fly like Superman above thick jungle canopies, cascading streams, and towards the Great Barrier Reef on a guided zip-line tour. Cables extend through different levels, but higher is always better!
6. Hunt for Souvenirs at the Daintree Village
Never leave without shopping for goods at the Daintree Village, where unusual stores sell various arts and crafts including souvenirs, textiles, handmade pottery, clothing, and produce. The Aboriginal art center features artifacts and art inspired by rainforest culture. Looking for the best souvenir? The art center allows you to paint your own boomerang which you can take home. This is also a great place to chat with local artists and observe many of their works.
7. Explore Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation is a village right smack in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest – two world heritage sights. Here, you can walk along beautiful beaches, take in the gorgeous scenery, and go on rainforest walks. The journey to Cape Tribulation is in itself exciting – you’ll ride a Daintree Ferry and come across spectacular rainforest scenery and lovely coast views. If you’re lucky, you might come across an endangered cassowary – flightless birds that are two meters tall.
Daintree National Park is a bucket-list destination for adventurers around the world. It represents many things: a river, a reef, the world’s oldest UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforest, cultural villages, and intriguing Aboriginal culture. The stunning sights, rich culture, thriving wildlife, and wealth of activities promise a remarkable visit that you’re bound to remember for years to come. If you’re traveling to Australia, a visit is an absolute must.