Self-Drive Guide to Cape Tribulation

Cairns, I’m sorry, but you are a little disappointing. You make a good central base for the Atherton Tablelands, Kuranda Sky Rail, Fitzroy Island, Green Island, the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation but other than being the middle man, you haven’t really got much going for you. Which is why readers, Cairns should not be the end of the road for your East Coast journey and instead, take the unmissable road trip up to the majestic Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. You will not regret it.

The Rainforest is now my second home. I have lived and breathed its nature for over three months. I also happen to be the Front Desk Agent for the Daintree Ecolodge so it’s my job to know. And finally (it’s taken a while) I have found the time to share my expertise with you. You will soon understand why this is David Attenborough’s favourite destination in the entire world.

Here we go, first things first – get yourself a rental car. Working for an Ecolodge, to our guests we recommend Europcar because of their partnership with Greenfleet which allow you to offset your emissions. Please please please, I beg you, please do not travel without your own vehicle. I cannot express enough how much freedom your own vehicle will give you. However, if for some reason you can’t, or you choose not too, there are still ways to see Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Back Country Bliss – one of the best tour operators out there, offer a fantastic Daintree Adventure Day. Go check them out and contact Jason for any questions!

Right, you have your car. Now what? Well, make your way to the very exciting Daintree Ferry. The gateway to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation which I am afraid isn’t actually that exciting… A return ticket will set you back $28. The ferry is available from 6am to midnight and all it does is go back and forth, and back and forth so you won’t be waiting long. There is however no other way to get over, so sit back, enjoy the very short  ferry trip and keep an eye out for those crocs.

My next little tip to you, which you don’t have to follow, is that I suggest driving to the furthest point of Cape Tribulation and working your way back down to the ferry, stopping at each point of interest along the way. I only say this because once you have come to the end of your day, you won’t be faced with a lengthy drive home. But please,  this is purely my opinion and you are free to explore however you like, but this is the way I explain it in this blog post. First stop…

EMMAGEN CREEK (Swimming Hole) 

The creek I call the end of the road (unless you have a 4WD). You’ll know once you’re there because you have to drive through it to get any further. Which if you want to continue on, you’ll find yourself on the Bloomfield 4WD track and on your way to Cooktown. I don’t trust my car on this track!

Allow yourself 1hr from the ferry to reach Emmagen Creek. Park your car to the side of the road and walk about 400 meters upstream, through the rainforest until you reach the deeper pools. Feel the magic! One swimming hole even has a rope swing! Go wild, go crazy, jump in, take it all in and don’t worry no crocs here!img_6114CAPE TRIBULATION BEACH AND LOOKOUT 

So you’re feeling refreshed from the natural magic of the rainforest pools. Time to get back in your car and explore a little more. They day is young! Drive just 15 minutes down the road until you reach Cape Tribulation beach.

Now, this beach is pretty spectacular. White sandy beach, lined with tropical rainforest palms on one side and The Great Barrier Reef the other. The only place in the world that you can stand in between two world heritage sites. Bucket list moment right there! You have the option to walk along the beach and feel the sand in between your toes or take the 20 minute steep climb up to the lookout point which will give you the iconic shot you may have already seen on Google images.

You do not however have the option to swim in the sea. As inviting as it looks with the blue ocean calling your name and begging you to cool off from the heat of the sun (my personal hell), it is way too risky with the crocodiles and jellyfish right now. When I explain the danger to guests, they don’t always take me seriously. They don’t understand or believe why they would be in the sea. Don’t ask me why, they just are. From what I do know, crocs in the Daintree travel in the sea to move from creek to creek and I’m sure if they see you and are feeling peckish, nothing will stop them. Please be croc safe!img_6309-1JUNGLE SURFING 

The next destination. I think it’s about time to see the Rainforest a little differently. Have you ever wanted to feel like Tarzan or Jane? 2 minutes down the road from Cape Tribulation Beach, look no further than Jungle Surfing – another experience for your bucket list. It is awesome! Why would you want to just see the rainforest from the floor when you can do it swinging, zipping and surfing through the trees. Right side up, upside down, even in a giant hamster wheel! I won’t say anymore, you need to experience it for yourself. It’ll cost you $105 per person – SO WORTH IT – I already want to do it again. Check out their website and if you are a fan of wildlife, I would recommend their jungle night walk for $45 per person. The night is when nature comes alive!!WHET CAFE / TURTLE ROCK CAFE / MASONS CAFE 

By now, your tummy has probably started to rumble. Thank goodness you didn’t eat before surfing the trees! The Jungle Adventures Centre is based in what I call the hub of Cape Tribulation, where you will find a few options for a delicious bite to eat. Turtle Rock Cafe, Whet Cafe and Masons Cafe – all good choices and difficult to pick a favourite! But I say, Masons Cafe does have a swimming hole behind it, so if you fancy a refreshing dip after lunch head here!


Am I right in thinking everybody has a second stomach for dessert? You’ll be needing a third stomach here because Cape Tribulation is home to too not just one, but two VERY delicious ice cream companies! The first one you’ll come across on your way back down is the Daintree Ice Cream Company.

My personal favourite. Turn right off the main road and you’ll find yourself driving down a lane, among the most incredible looking trees that are growing all kinds of tropical fruit. This fruit is used in their unique ice cream flavours. Each day there are four different flavours, of which you will try every one in their four flavour “sample” cup. And might I add, it is a generous portion. For my entire life I have stuck to the safety of chocolate, never ever branching out my ice cream pallet until I had no choice with the Daintree Ice Cream Company and I thank them for this!


Remember I said you would need a third stomach? Well, just a few minutes up the road from Daintree Ice Cream Company you’ll find Floravilla.

You might be thinking, “not another ice cream company” but the two couldn’t be more different. You could spend hours just tasting the menu at Floravilla. With over 26 different flavours to choose from, you will have a tough time making a decision. From original flavours such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry to the most unique and intriguing flavours like paw paw and lime, Guinness, sweet potato and ginger and they even have a Daintree Rainforest flavour?! I mean, come on, are you not desperate to know what the rainforest tastes like?

What I like about Floravilla, is that you can either sit and enjoy your ice cream amongst the gardens and have a browse of the art gallery or you can take it away and enjoy it at the beach. I suggest pick your flavour and head 5 minutes down the road to Cow Bay beach. You’ll soon see why.COW BAY BEACH

One of my favourite spots. At Cow Bay, you’ll find what I explain as a grown up adult swing set. We spent almost an hour here swinging back and forth like big kids. I don’t know about you but moments when you can be silly, have fun and act like monkeys are the best moments in life and make for incredible memories of a place. Go check them out. It is great spot for the ‘gram’ and an awesome place to fly a drone. The scenery is pretty spectacular. DAINTREE DISCOVERY CENTRE

It is time to walk off that ice cream! 10 minutes from Cow Bay is the Daintree Discovery Centre. A paid centre that will give you access to all levels of the rainforest, from the floor, right up to the highest point of the canopy. Their 23m high tower will give you an entirely different perspective of the rainforest. It is a self-guided experience whereby you will be given an audio headset which can be translated in many different languages. It is a fantastic place if you want to learn more and check out the rainforest from all different heights, but if you are happy to just walk among the rainforest floor, then the free boardwalks available to you are just as impressive.

JINDALBA BOARDWALK meaning “Foot of the Mountain”

This boardwalk would be my personal recommendation out of the three boardwalks. 100 meters or so down the road from the Discovery Centre you will find the Jindalba Boardwalk. The most tropical walk of the rainforest with beautiful flora and fauna everywhere you look. The walk is fringed with King Ferns, ancient plants dating back 235 million years ago. That’s before the dinosaurs! Can you believe that?! It amazes me!

This boardwalk, if you are lucky, is a good place to spot the infamous cassowary bird aka T-REX. Currently, there is one floating about with his baby. Don’t mistake him for her – the mumma has long since run off with another man! If you are lucky enough to see one, please don’t try to approach them, feed them, cuddle them, ride them or chase them. If you respect them, they will respect you.

There is a high chance you’ll see an array of wildlife including tropical birds, dragon lizards, green tree frogs and maybe even a snake a two. We spotted a red belly black! Despite being venomous, it was quite exciting to see. Snakes by the way are deaf, they cannot hear you, so feel free to scream as much as you like around them, they won’t care. If you want to avoid a snake encounter, tread with a heavy foot. They will feel the vibrations and keep their distance from you.

The inner track at Jindalba boardwalk will take you approx 30-40 minutes. If you want a little more of a challenge, then there is an outer 3km track that you should allow 2 – 3 hours. The two other boardwalks you should know about are; Marrdja and Dububji boardwalk. Both of these are around 30 – 40 minutes. If you choose just one, choose Jindalba. img_5984MOUNT ALEXANDRA LOOKOUT

The final stop before the catching the ferry home. You don’t need long here. Park your car and walk over to the lookout point. From here, you’ll see the reef, the rainforest and the entrance to the Daintree River. The moment I first visited this view point, it felt like I had just entered Jurassic World. It took my breath away and I have no doubt that it will leave you speechless too.

So there you have my self-drive guide to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. Allow a whole day to explore, it really is incredible. I feel ridiculously lucky to have experienced living in one of the oldest rainforests in the world. I have learnt so much about the community, the wildlife, the history and the nature of this place. I will be forever in awe.

From living in the outback to now the rainforest. I wonder where we might settle down next? I’m thinking somewhere cold and with snow…lots and lots of snow.

See you soon

Steph aka Miss Health and Safety