Australia is an ideal destination for road trips, with its well-developed infrastructure. One popular route is from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest, which is easily accessible by car. This journey does not require covering a vast distance and offers numerous attractions along the way, such as beautiful beaches, charming villages, lush forests, and other points of interest to explore.
The drive to the beaches and attractions is straightforward, as you simply stay on the highway and follow the clearly marked signs.
When driving along this road, be prepared for a slow journey as the highway follows the curves of the natural coastline. You will encounter twists and turns, as well as hills weaving through the mountainous forests and the sea. However, this scenic route promises stunning views along the way.
Starting in Cairns?
Cairns is a convenient starting point for a road trip, thanks to its well-connected airport. Various airlines, including JetStar and TigerAir, offer affordable flights to popular destinations like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. For example, I recently booked a flight from Cairns to Brisbane for just $75.
If you are in need of a car or camper van, you have the option to rent one through Wicked Campers. Whether you possess an Australian or International license, you can visit their website to browse and select the car or camper van that suits your needs. Once you have made your choice, you can proceed to book it online for the desired duration of your trip.
When arriving at the Wicked Yard, located just one block from Cairns Central Shopping Mall, you will find a car ready for you. To make your trip convenient and comfortable, we have selected a 2-seater, 2-sleeper camper car. The cost for this car is approximately $55 per day, which includes the full insurance cost of $25 per day. Compared to other car hire companies in Cairns, this option is significantly more affordable.
Cairns, located in far north Queensland, is a bustling town offering a wide variety of accommodation choices, restaurants, and an abundance of tours and activities. It is the perfect launching point for adventurers looking to discover the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Forest, the Kuranda Scenic Railway, Cape Tribulation, and Palm Cove.
While in Cairns don't forget to
- Take a leisurely walk along the esplanade during the evening hours, as shown in the picture above.
- swim in the lagoon
- The place is free of charge and it provides lifeguards and showering facilities (as shown in the picture below).
- Visit Rusty's Markets
- Discover the opportunity to purchase the most delicious tropical fruit at incredibly reasonable prices. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Black Sapote, also known as the Chocolate Pudding fruit, available online every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
- Visit the botanical gardens
If you're looking for a fun and affordable experience, make sure to visit the night markets where you can explore a variety of stalls and try delicious vegetarian Chinese food. Additionally, don't miss the opportunity to go diving and explore the stunning reef.
If you are a backpacker looking for a convenient and affordable place to stay in a popular Australian town, consider Gilligans Backpacker Hotel and Resort or The Jack Backpackers. These hostels are both centrally located, allowing easy access to markets, shops, the esplanade, and the lagoon. They also offer a range of activities and event nights, making your stay enjoyable and eventful. In addition, these hostels provide excellent value for money in an otherwise expensive tourist destination. For more accommodation options, visit hostelworld.com.
If you've arrived in Cairns on a Working Holiday Visa and are interested in fruit picking at farms in Mareeba, Tully, Innisfail, or the Tablelands, there are helpful resources available. Dream Time Hostel's “Working in Cairns: Backpackers Guide” is a valuable source of information to assist you in this endeavour.
If you're a Working Holiday traveller looking for farm work in Australia, Banana Barracks in Tully is a highly recommended hostel. To learn more about the Working Holiday experience in Australia and find job opportunities, check out the article “Australian Working Holiday Visa jobs: How to work in Australia.”
When exploring the Cairns Night Markets, don't forget to grab a copy of the complimentary Cairns Magazine. This magazine offers useful guides, town maps, as well as maps of neighbouring beachside villages. It also provides suggestions, information, and tour options for activities to enjoy during your stay in Cairns.
Best beaches and attractions to visit along the way
Trinity Beach is a charming coastal destination located within the peaceful residential village of Trinity Beach. While it offers limited amenities such as small walking trails, public restrooms, and showers, there are only a handful of cafes and restaurants in the area.
If you are looking for a beach to visit during your road trip, I would suggest Palm Cove over Trinity Beach. However, if you have some extra time, Trinity Beach is located only a short distance from the highway and is worth checking out, even if it's just for a quick stop to take photos and grab a drink.
Palm Cove is a renowned destination in Australia that should not be missed when travelling in the region. The beach has earned recognition as one of Australia's Top 10 Beaches and has also been honoured with the title of Far North Queensland's Most Friendly Beach. While it is unclear whether this award refers to the beach's safety for swimmers or the welcoming nature of the local community, it is clear that Palm Cove offers a truly enjoyable experience.
The beach offers stunning views and the small village accommodates a diverse range of travellers, including backpackers and luxury seekers. The charming streets are filled with boutique shops and a variety of dining options, as well as opportunities for exciting tours and activities.
Palm Cove is an ideal destination for water sports enthusiasts, especially those interested in kayaking or paddle boarding. For an unforgettable experience, consider joining the sunrise tour organized by Palm Cove Water Sports. During this tour, you will have the opportunity to witness turtles, manta rays, and other fascinating marine creatures. In addition to offering kayak and paddle board rentals, Palm Cove Water Sports also provides snorkel and stinger suit rentals. They offer a variety of lessons and tours suitable for all skill levels and preferences.
The Cairns to Kuranda railway is a scenic route that includes pickups at Freshwater Train Station. Along the way, passengers will pass through 15 hand-made tunnels and cross 37 bridges. Kuranda, a charming village nestled in the heart of the rainforest, offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
When travelling to the village, you will have the advantage of a trip map, a map specifically for Kuranda and English commentary to assist you. Once you arrive in Kuranda, there are various activities you can partake in. You can explore the village, visit the charming boutique stores, take leisurely walks along nearby paths, and enjoy the breathtaking views from several lookout points.
When buying a ticket, you can choose from three classes: Heritage Class, Gold Class, and Royale Class. Each class offers different seating and services during your journey. In Heritage Class, you will be seated in beautifully restored timber carriages and enjoy the audio commentary. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to stop at Barron Falls and receive filtered water and refreshing chilled towels.
A return ticket for this experience is priced at $76.00. Opting for a Gold Class ticket will provide you with exclusive benefits such as the comfort of individual lounge-style chairs, a small gift pack containing a badge, pen, and postcard to take home, welcome drinks upon arrival, morning cocktails, and a selection of local produce including muffins, fruit, wines, lager, and coffee. The cost for a return Gold Class ticket is $174.
If you are looking for detailed information about Kuranda Scenic Railway tickets, stations, and tours, you can visit seeksr.com.au.
Skyrail rainforest cableway
The Skyrail is a 7.5-kilometre cableway that stretches from the park located between the Caravonica and Kuranda terminals. Riding the Skyrail offers a unique experience of the rainforest, where you can glide just meters above the canopy and witness a captivating birds-eye view of the Coral Sea and Barron Gorge.
At Red Peak Station, you have the option to participate in a ranger-guided boardwalk tour. Additionally, at Barron Falls station, you can explore the rainforest interpretation centre and enjoy the beautiful views from three different lookouts overlooking the Barron Gorge and Falls.
If you're interested in experiencing Skyrail, there are different ticket prices available. You can choose to take a return Skyrail trip, or you have the option to take the Skyrail one way and return on the Kuranda Scenic Railway train. To find out more about the ticket prices and compare your options, visit skyrail.com.au/tours/compare.
The scenic drive from Cairns to Port Douglas follows the coastline, providing breathtaking views of pristine waters and majestic mountains. Port Douglas is conveniently located just one hour away from Cairns, covering a distance of 77km. This charming town offers a selection of boutique shops, cosy cafes, and delightful restaurants. In addition, there are a handful of bars, hotels, and hostels available for visitors to enjoy.
Port Douglas exudes a tranquil yet elegant atmosphere, making it the ultimate destination for luxury in far north Queensland. The area boasts opulent homes and magnificent resorts that adorn the main road leading to the town centre. Additionally, golf enthusiasts can indulge in a top-notch 18-hole golf course within reach.
For backpackers, there are multiple hostels and bars conveniently located along the main street. This makes it effortless to find accommodation within walking distance of the beach, marina, and shops.
Port Douglas, located on the mainland, is the nearest town to the iconic Great Barrier Reef. If you are interested in exploring the underwater world through diving, both Port Douglas and Cairns serve as excellent starting points for your diving adventures.
Four Mile Beach is a popular spot for swimming, offering ample space for beach activities like ball games. If you're looking for a change of scenery, you can also visit the marina on the other side of town, which provides picturesque opportunities for photography. While there is a lookout at one end of the town, it offers a relatively average view.
Mossman Gorge is situated within the lush rainforests of Daintree and Cape Tribulation national parks, known for their wet tropics climate. This enchanting destination is conveniently located just a quick 20-kilometre drive from Port Douglas, or approximately 77 kilometres north of Cairns, making it easily accessible for visitors.
Mossman Gorge provides visitors with a range of activities to explore its natural beauty. You can enjoy scenic walking tracks, take a refreshing dip in freshwater swimming holes, and even join guided walking tours led by knowledgeable locals who are traditional Aboriginal landowners.
When you arrive at the visitor's centre car park, you can explore the crafts and souvenirs available at the visitor's information centre. Feel free to ask the staff any questions you may have, and if you're hungry, there is a small restaurant where you can grab a snack.
The information centre provides free toilets and showers for visitors. Additionally, you can conveniently purchase a shuttle bus ticket at the information centre, which will transport you from there to the starting point of the Mossman Gorge Walk.
The shuttle service is available for $8.90 AUD per person, with a child ticket priced at $4.45 AUD. Departures occur every 15 minutes. It is important to note that there is no car park available at the beginning of the walk. Visitors are advised to park at the visitor information centre and pay for a 5km bus trip, which will drop them off at the edge of the forest.
There are two trail options available for exploring the Daintree. The first is a .6km walk, ideal for visitors who wish to prioritize swimming in the beautiful natural pools. The second option is a 3km loop, which allows for a more extensive exploration of the rainforest for those who enjoy walking and discovering the various wonders it holds.
The 0.6km walk leads you from the shuttle bus drop-off point to a suspension bridge and takes you over raised boardwalks, offering scenic views. Along the way, you'll also come across swimming lagoons and small waterfalls.
The 3km loop encompasses all the mentioned attractions and offers additional opportunities to explore the forest. It is not considered difficult or demanding; however, it's important to note that the walking tracks are unpaved, there may be some ants if you deviate from the path for a photo, and walking in the rain may not be enjoyable.
My top tips for visiting Mossman Gorge:
- If the weather is warm, don't forget to bring your swimsuit to go swimming. The water in this area is known for being one of the purest sources in Australia.
- It is important to remember to bring plenty of mosquito repellent to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- If you are planning to embark on the 3km walk, it is advisable to wear closed-toe shoes in order to prevent ant bites. I made the mistake of wearing flip-flops, which left me vulnerable to ant bites.
- Visitors have the option to bring their own snacks to enjoy while taking a break near the lagoons or at the open space undercover tables and chairs in the visitor's centre. Although there is some food available, it is limited to coffee, tea, hot chocolates, and simple meals.
- To freshen up for the remainder of your road trip, it's a good idea to take a quick shower after your hike or swim..
The Daintree and Cape Tribulation regions, located in far north Queensland, are both recognized as World Heritage sites. These wet tropic areas have withstood climate changes for over 130 million years, making them highly significant on a global scale.
To find out more about Mossman Gorge and the various tours offered, please visit the official website at mossmangorge.com.au.
If you are looking for information about attractions and tours in Queensland, you can visit the website tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au.