Millions of years older than the much more famous Amazon, the Daintree in northern Queensland is the world’s oldest living rainforest. An incredible eco-system of interesting and colourful animals and plants call this tropical region home, some of which can be found nowhere else in the world.
Truly a place like no other, here are five unique Daintree rainforest experiences you definitely shouldn’t miss.
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Explore the rainforest and mangroves
The easiest way to get a crash course in the Daintree rainforest is by walking one of the super accessible boardwalks. Although I would have loved to have tried all of the boardwalks, we chose to explore Marrdja (a local Kuku Yalanji word meaning ‘rainforest walk’) at the northern end of the Daintree National Park.
It may only be 1km long, but there is plenty to see every metre! Note – learn from our mistake and make sure to bring bug spray!
The Marrdja path first winds beneath a dense rainforest canopy (think huge trees, ferns and vines) before transitioning into a boardwalk over mangrove forest. Here, huge buttress root structures emerge from the muddy floor, supporting shrubs and trees above.
Despite not seeing any animals, we could hear them all chirping and talking all around us. Our favourite sighting on the boardwalk was a strangler vine creeping up a tree. This plant does exactly what its name suggests and looks pretty epic doing it!
Taste tropical treats
Soursop, grumichama, rollinia, carambola, black sapote….just a couple of the many tropical fruits it is possible to find and taste in the Daintree region. And taste you must – the last one I mentioned, the black sapote, is nicknamed the ‘chocolate pudding fruit’!
There are a few different places offering tastings, but our favourite was the Daintree Ice Cream Company. Located in a tropical fruit orchard, the Ice Cream Co offers a sample cup of four ice cream flavours which change daily.
Not only did I love this concept (the more flavours the better!) but the ice cream was also the best I’ve ever had. The surroundings are pretty beautiful too.
For something a little more savoury, we stopped by the Daintree Tea Company. This family owned plantation was established in the 70s and produces completely 100% Australian grown and processed black tea.
The little plantation exhibition has an honesty box for visitors to use to purchase tea bags or loose leaf tea. Even if you don’t like tea, it’s worth stopping here for the unobstructed views of the forested mountains.
Meet the locals
Much like the trees, the oldest residents of the Daintree region have lived here for millions of years. The most famous local of all must be the formidable saltwater crocodile. We joined a boat tour down the Daintree River in the hopes of spotting one for ourselves.
Just a short distance away from our launching point we got lucky – the local patriarch, a five-metre long male croc nicknamed by local tour guides as ‘Scarface,’ was basking in the sun. He may not have moved much, but he didn’t have to – we were in still in awe of the power and strength emanating from this prehistoric creature.
Just around the corner were a couple of Scarface’s descendants, cleverly camouflaged on the bank and a log. Above them, hundreds of flying fox bats hung in the trees, jabbering and squeaking away.
These bats have an incredible wingspan of over a metre. From big to small, our tour guide also pointed out a bright green tree frog on a lower tree branch.
One Daintree local that we were unfortunate not to see close-up was the cassowary. The third largest bird on the planet, cassowaries are closely related to the emu but have distinctive neck markings and a large casque (helmet). They are often seen near roads, so it pays to be cass-o-wary and drive slow when in the Daintree rainforest!
Sleep under the rainforest canopy
Many people visit the Daintree rainforest on a day trip from Cairns or Port Douglas. In my opinion, they are definitely missing out! Our number one experience was sleeping under the ferns, in a rainforest bungalow at Cape Trib Beach Resort.
At night, the rainforest doesn’t sleep – in fact, many animals are wide awake at this time and will let you know it! The local frogs, in particular, love to ribbit away to each other.
Opening the big wooden blinds on our bungalow windows (with insect screen behind) allowed us to bring the ambient rainforest sounds into our air-conditioned room, without the bugs too!
The second night of our stay, it rained for hours on end. The animals were quieter; instead, we had the comforting pitter-patter of rain on leaves to fall asleep to.
Before the rain clouds had come in, we had managed to watch the stars on the beach (just a two minute walk away from our bungalow!). Being located at the very end of the paved highway, the stars sparkle brightly above the resort.
The whole of Queensland has amazing beaches, I know, but I couldn’t finish writing about Daintree without at least a small mention. After all, this area is the only place on the whole planet where two World Heritage Areas meet – the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
The beaches also happen to be beautiful too, with long golden stretches of sand bordered by mangrove and rainforest. It’s possible to see reef sharks and rays from shore plus plenty of crabs and other sand dwellers.
Sunbathe, admire and beach comb all you like but this isn’t, however, a place to swim. Marine stingers (specifically box and irukandji jellyfish) float around these winters during the summer months.
There is also the potential for a crocodile to be swimming nearby, especially at night. Local swimming holes such as Emmagen Creek are preferable for swimming since they are refreshingly cool for humans but are much too cold for crocs!
Disclaimer: Cape Trib Beach House kindly hosted us while in the Daintree region but all opinions about our stay remain our own!
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada