Ten million years older than the Amazon, Daintree is the most ancient rainforest in the world. And if being 180 million years old wasn’t awesome enough, it grows along some of Australia’s finest beaches. Rainforest plus reef? Count us in! Now the question was how to to get there from Cairns. Bus, tour, rental car, or find some adventurous friends?


Our Road Trip Crew

Meet Cam and Marije, two Dutch students wrapping up their semester in Australia, looking to take one last road trip before they sold their 1994 Toyota Camry. This is the beauty of backpacking…we were randomly paired with them in a hostel, became friends overnight, and were on a epic journey together the next day.


First Stop: Port Douglas

Our plan was to drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, and stretch this 140-kilometer drive into a three-day trip, stopping for hikes, swims, and pit stops wherever we pleased. First up, the cute beach town of Port Douglas!


The beaches on the way to Cape Trib were lovely and surprisingly quiet. We had miles of coast to ourselves (maybe due to the deadly jellyfish warnings) and strolled the white sand, climbed palm tree-covered mountains, ate fallen coconuts, and caught some waves with an abandoned skim-board.


Car Camping & Haircuts

Thankfully Marije and Cam were equipped with a tent, stove, and everything we needed to car camp. This was our home, faithful steed, and Mike’s barbershop for the day in Cape Tribulation.


Dubjui Boardwalk

Right near Myall Beach there’s a fantastic 45-minute walk along the Dubjui Boardwalk. These planks take you through three different habitats: rainforest, freshwater swamp, and mangroves. Check that magical canopy of fan palms!


You usually see mangroves from a boat, just getting a glimpse at their salty leaves and web of roots. At the end of the Dubjui Boardwalk, was a lovely mangrove beach…just watch for crabs and don’t trip!


An Unbelievably Diverse Ecosystem

It’s hard to wrap your head around one of the most complex tropical rainforest ecosystems, especially when some its greatest accolades are in the tiny things like bugs (12,000 species live in Daintree) or in endangered species like the Cassowary—a rarely seen but deadly flightless bird. While the forest didn’t seem overtly exotic, being in the presence of an environment that has hardly changed since the days of the Gondwanaland supercontinent is definitely humbling.


Swimming hole behind Mason’s Store

We got a tip from a local about a great swimming hole. Box jellyfish and crocodile-free, this spot on the river had a rope swing that entertained us for hours.


A Slightly Haunted Hotel

Darkness was fast approaching so we turned to the trusty old (aka. outdated) guidebook for lodging options. Koala Beach Resort was the only choice in Cape Kimberley but it sounded great so we followed a long road through the forest to this camp…which was apparently abandoned. Hmmm. We parked in front of a chained-off entrance, not quite sure what to do. Then a scrawny guy appeared through the trees. “Hey mates, we aren’t open…been closed goin on a few years now.” We started chatting about other nearby sleeping options but he really couldn’t come up with anywhere else so he said, “Okay, you can stay here…if you want.” At first we felt super grateful but as we walked through what looked like Camp Apocalypse, being led by Backwoods Bobby to a dilapidated cabin, we felt we were staring in a cliché horror film. The groundskeeper was a little nutty, but nice enough to help us start a fire and not kill us. We chatted until we couldn’t stay up any longer and slept in a tight formation for protection from zombie boy scouts.

This was Koala Beach Resort by day. It looked like it was glorious in in its heyday, with cabanas, swimming pools, game rooms, and a great beach, but supposedly they had to close due to a cranky neighbor.


Mossman Gorge

At the southern end of Daintree National Park is Mossman Gorge, a beautiful swath of forest and home to the aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people. We hiked along the river with its massive boulders and lush surrounds, and contemplated swimming in the fast waters but were smart enough to leave it to the locals.


Awesome road trip accomplished! I suppose it was a leap of faith hopping in a ’94 Camry with two strangers and motoring into the far reaches of Queensland…but like most things in travel, the unexpected is the half the fun.


14 thoughts on “Road Trip to the World’s Oldest Rainforest

  • April 5, 2015 at 5:37 am

    Hi Mike and Anne,

    How neat is that!

    I’d not have guessed it’d be in Australia; add that to the list of awesome things in that land, so amazing.

    Beach Plus Jungle = Home run for me. I’d have to go too.

    The spider image rocks, as does every one.

    One question; why is the cassowery lethal?

    Thanks for the share guys!

    Tweeting from Bali.


    • April 5, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Beach and ancient raiforest…Homerun indeed! The cassowary is the top three largest flightless birds by weight and height and they just very unpredictable so if you catch it by surprise, they have been known to attack. Watch out! We are so glad you enjoyed the post!

  • April 5, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Wow, looks awesome! I’d love to visit there someday. I absolutely love rainforests. 🙂

    • April 5, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Well if you love rainforests, Piritta, my goodness you need to go to Daintree! Happy travels!

  • April 5, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    One of the more intriguing and entertaining stops on your world junket! As always, great photographic coverage.

  • April 5, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Such a neat adventure — we had a similar circumstance in Georgia (the country), where we met a couple through couchsurfing who were planning a 5 day camping trek into the mountains, and we were more than game, esp since they had a 4×4 necessary to make it over waterfalls and cliffside roads. It turned out to be the highlight of our month long trip around that country 🙂

  • April 5, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    The photo with the “Keep Out” sign was hilarious. Was there anywhere in particular you were prohibited from entering?

    • April 6, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Lol. Love that you caught that. We hiked Kilimutu volcano in Indonesia when it was “officially closed” due to its fierce activity. This was probably a bad idea but all the locals said it was cool until we got chased down by a ranger who then slipped and started to slide into the crater! No joke. He was fine, we smoothed it over but we felt terrible!

  • April 6, 2015 at 7:07 am

    fantastic part of the world! thanks for sharing!

  • June 19, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Hi Mike and Anne! A frustrated environmentalist here. I kept looking for blogs that highlight rainforests and so far I loved yours! Showing stunning photos of the rainforests is also a way to save the ecosystem by making the people see the beauty in it. It’s also been my childhood dream to go to Daintree and you took me there, for free, 0 budget, lol. Thank you and keep inspiring! <3

    • January 15, 2021 at 1:26 am

      Wow Mary…thank you for these amazing words. We are also a pair of frustrated environmentalists…often wondering if we are doing enough (note: we aren’t)…but your words are a bit of solace that we are at least doing something. And glad we could bring you to Daintree with us!


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