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Daintree National Park

daintree national park
The dense rainforest of the Daintree National park meets the reefs and beaches of the Great Barrier Reef

The Daintree National Park of 73 500 hectares and is located in Far North Queensland, about a 100 km northwest of Cairns.
It was founded in 1981 and is part of the 900 000 hectare Wet Tropics World Heritage Area which stretches all the way from Townsville up past Cape Tribulation to Cooktown.
In 1988 the Daintree National Park as part of the Wet Tropics was granted listing on the World Heritage Listing by UNESCO.
The park owes its name from the Daintree River which was named after British geologist Richard Daintree who worked in Queensland for a few years in the 1800's.
The park consists of several sections of dense ancient rainforest, long sandy beaches and rocky headlands, with a settled agricultural area between them which includes the towns of Mossman and Daintree Village.

map showing location of daintree national park

Daintree National Park is valued so much because of its exceptional biodiversity, it contains significant areas of habitat for rare species of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on this planet.
Although the Daintree Rainforest covers only 0.1% of Australia, its fauna is so diverse that 30% of Australia's frog, marsupial and reptile species, 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species and 20% of Australia's bird species are found in the Daintree Rainforest.
Tree species, once thought to be long extinct, have only relatively recently been discovered here.
With more than 430 types of birds, Daintree is a birdwatchers paradise.
Three main rivers run through the park; the Daintree River, Bloomfield River and Mossman River.
Fishing is permitted in all tidal creeks in the Cape Tribulation section of Daintree National Park except Cooper Creek. No boats are allowed in here except for one crocodile spotting tour.
Fishing is prohibited in all non-tidal creeks in Daintree National Park.
Domestic animals are not permitted in the Daintree National Park, although the unfortunate situation exists that they are allowed on private property within the park, and some irresponsible residents let their dogs run free.
Most of the national park is quite inacccessible and covered by dense impenetrable tropical rainforest, some in the lowlands and some on steep inaccessible mountain ranges, about the only access for the more serious hiker is the Mount Sorrow trail.
According to the scientists the Daintree Rainforest has existed continuously and virtually unchanged for at least 120 million years, making it the oldest existing rainforest in the world.
The cassowary that still walks around in this forest today is related to the ostrich of Africa, the extinct moa of New Zealand, and the rhea of South America. SInce cassowaries do not fly this means they have been walking around in this forest since the time that all these continents were still connected to eachother, many millions of years!
The persistence of this rainforest that survived climate changes and several ice ages is amazing, there were probably times where it retreated and survived in sheltered valleys and then spread out again.


The cassowary is one of the unique animals that live here

The Daintree National Park consists of two main sections:

Mossman Gorge section:

The Great Dividing Range is close to the coast in this region. This section of the park covers 56,500 ha of mostly inaccessible rainforests and mountain woodlands.The popular Mossman Gorge is located in the southern part of the park and is about the only easy access to this section, the local Kuku Yalanji Aborigines do guided walks here.

Cape Tribulation section:

The town of Cape Tribulation also lies in the park. Originally the cape belonged to Cape Tribulation National Park from 1981 but was amalgamated into Daintree National Park in 1983. This section covers 17,000 ha along a narrow coastal strip and contains Australia's last extensive stands of lowland rainforest.
This is the most accessible area of the park.
If you want to really see 'The Daintree' then you need to cross the Daintree river and travel up to Cape Tribulation, doing the boardwalks along the way and even better do a guided walk to learn about this amazing eco-system and find some accommodation in Cape Tribulation to experience a sleep over inside this ancient jungle with all its mysterious sounds.

map of daintree national park
Map showing the sections of the Daintree National Park

The Daintree National Park's traditional owners are the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, and this was formally legalized in 2007 by the signing of various land use agreements.
Their country extends from near Cooktown, south to Mossman and west to the Palmer River.
Many of the natural features of the landscape hold spiritual significance for them, such as the bouncing stones at Thornton Beach, once a popular tourist stop but now closed off at the request of traditional owners.
The rocks here have a very high density and when thrown on other rocks bounce to unbelievable heights.

Due to northern Australia's hot and wet weather, the dry season, which runs roughly from May through November, is the best time to visit the Daintree National Park, although any time of year can have its attractions. Nothing wrong with visiting a rainforest when it rains, it looks spectacular!
The Daintree region has one of the wettest climates in Australia. During the wet season, from December to April, there are heavy and frequent downpours. Some areas receive more than six metres of rainfall per year, and in 2010 Cape Tribulation received eight metres!! Maximum temperatures through the wet season range from 27 to 33 degrees, with humidity often exceeding 80 per cent. The cooler, drier months from May to September are the most comfortable time to visit. The weather is pleasantly warm with reduced humidity. Maximum temperatures average 26 degrees.

Many daytours from Cairns and Port Douglas can take you up here and give you a quick overview of the place.
Choose your daytour with care, to really see 'The Daintree' you should go all the way up to Cape Tribulation.
Even though techically you have been in the Daintree National Park if you only visit Mossman Gorge, or you have been in the Daintree region by visiting Daintree Village, you would miss out on a lot of spectacular scenery!
When you have crossed the Daintree river you will feel like you are in a different world as you drive through the green tunnel of the Daintree rainforest, there is spectacular fauna and flora on the boardwalks along the way, and pristine beaches to enjoy.
We only recommend daytours to the Daintree for people who have run out of time and have to fly home soon, you will appreciate the Daintree much more if you spend at least one night but preferably more up at Cape Tribulation in some accommodation inside the rainforest to realy get a feel of it. And even better to some of the local tours to learn more about it, such as the guided day or nightwalks, experienced and knowledgable guides take visitors deep into the heart of the rainforest where you can come face to face with a cassowary or other wildlife and cool off and swim in a crystal clear stream or rock pool.

 

Mossman Gorge section

mossman gorge section of the daintree national park
Granite boulders, crystal clear water and rainforest in Mossman Gorge

The very scenic Mossman Gorge section of the Daintree National Park only has a small easily accessible section in the southern part, here you will find crystal clear running water over huge granite boulders in the Mossman river that runs through the rainforest. A great place to cool down with a swim in summer time, but be aware, it can flow very fast after heavy rains and there are regular reports of tourists that had to be rescued, and people have drowned here too, so heed the warnings.
There are some facilities such as toilets and a picnic area where brush turkeys scavenge for leftovers and the local Kuku Yalanji Aborigines are in the process of establishing a visitor centre at the entrance to the gorge and offer guided rainforest walks where you can learn about Aboriginal culture and bush foods.

There are two rainforest walks leading from the carpark and both tracks connect up to each other.
The one on the right leads to the river, and is slightly longer.
The track on the left leads more directly through the jungle. After both tracks join up they lead past several small detours down to the Mossman River with views. One short track leads to a nice sand beach. The track then heads to a small suspension bridge built by the Australian army. Past the bridge, there is a much longer circuit walk that takes about an hour at a reasonable place. There are several viewing platforms to enjoy the river views.
You may be lucky to spot some animals such as the Boyd's Forest Dragons, the brilliant blue Ulysses butterflies, or turtles and jungle perch in the river.
The Mossman Gorge is best experienced first thing in the morning, while the birds are calling, and before too many people arrive. Tour groups begin to arrive as early as 8.30am. It is busiest on hot summer afternoons, especially on weekends when all the locals have time off and come to cool down too.
More info on Mossman Gorge and tours available here...

 

Cape Tribulation section

the cape tribulation section of the daintree national park
Spectacular scenery at Cape Tribulation, the highlight of the Daintree National Park

The Cape Tribulation section of the Daintree National Park (about 17 000 hectares) stretches in a narrow, intermittent strip from the Daintree River in the south to the Bloomfield River in the north and has the most access points, a bigger choice in walks, stunning beaches, the chance of seeing a cassowary in the wild, and the road is sealed all the way to Cape Tribulation.
To get there you need to cross the Daintree river on the ferry, which is easy as it runs continuously up and down from six in the morning till midnight, return fare for a car is $21.-
When you drive off the ferry at the north side you feel like you have entered a different world, and the road is just a green tunnel through the rainforest a lot of the way. To enjoy the scenic drive more you can pull over after the ferry crossing and let the other traffic get away so you are not caught up in a convoy. Keep your speed down as wildlife such as cassowaries can cross the road unexpectedly.
There is a series of boardwalks along the way to Cape Tribulation, where you can enjoy the ancient rainforest and also learn about it by reading the signage provided.

Your first stop about 5 kilometres north of the Daintree river will probably be the Alexandra Lookout, also signposted with its Aboriginal name Walu Wugirrigafrom where you can enjoy stunning views over Snapper Island, the mouth of the Daintree river, and on clear days Port Douglas and Low Isles.

Driving down from the Alexandra Range you will find on your right the Jindalba boardwalk which runs for 650 metres return (45 minutes). This boardwalk offers the chance to explore tropical lowland rainforest. Quiet walkers may be lucky enough to see a tree-kangaroo or a cassowary. There is a large, quiet picnic area with toilets and tables. Wheelchair access to the creek is available from the exit end only, near the parking bays for people with disabilities.

You can turn right at Cow Bay to visit the beach, although there are other beaches further up the road that you can reach with less of a detour.

Thornton Beach makes a nice stop, right on this pristine beach there is a cafe here where you can have something to eat or drink, and crocodile spotting tours operate 300 metres south of here on Cooper Creek, a very protected eco-system with an amazing variety of mangroves and large crocodiles.

Next boardwalk along the way is Marrja boardwalk - 1.2 kilometre loop (45 minutes) Visitors can walk in comfort on this boardwalk among a great variety of rainforest plants. Enjoy the mangrove communities without getting muddy feet.

Noah Beach campground is the next National Park facility you come across; eight kilometres south of Cape Tribulation and it has 15 campsites that have to be pre-booked by phone or online. It does not cater for caravans or larger campervans. There are toilets but no showers. Bring rubbish bags as there are no bins provided. Take rubbish (including food scraps) with you when you leave. See Daintree camping page for more info.

Dubuji boardwalk at Cape Tribulation is another great walk - 1.2 kilometre loop (45 minutes) This boardwalk, through lowland rainforest swamps and mangroves, has signs explaining the survival strategies used by rainforest plants and animals. The site is close to Myall Beach and has large grassed areas with free gas barbecues, picnic shelters and toilets.

Kulki boardwalk, also signposted as Cape Tribulation, just north of the Cape Tribulation township - 600 metres return (10 minutes) Kulki day-use area at Cape Tribulation offers a boardwalk leading from the picnic area to a viewing platform overlooking the ocean and Cape Tribulation Beach. A short walk from the Kulki carpark through the forest over the saddle behind the cape takes you to the north end of beautiful Myall Beach. Toilets and picnic tables are provided.

©The State of Queensland
(Department of Environment and Resource Management)

Mount Sorrow ridge trail - 7 kilometres return (6-7 hours) Grade: Difficult (above-average fitness required) The start of this marked trail is on the Bloomfield Track, 150 metres north of the turn-off to the Kulki day-use area. This is a steep and difficult trail and walkers need to be fit, self-reliant, being able to cope with leeches, and well-prepared. There is no water along the trail and weather conditions can change rapidly. Walkers have been lost in this area so it is very important to keep to the trail and never walk alone. Tell someone at your accommodation house of your intentions and estimated time of return. More info on the Mount Sorrow Trail...

Now you have reached the Bloomfield Track, which is as far as normal cars are supposed to go. With care you can still go as far as Emmagen Creek (8 km. of unsealed road to get here) without a four wheel drive, but do not attempt to cross this one in a normal car.
If you have gone here then you can park at the creek and explore upstream where you will find beautiful swimming holes to cool down. Just before the creek there is a large strangler fig tree by a bend in the road, if you walk around the tree and follow the track you will end up on beautiful and remote Emmagen Beach.

You are now at the norther end of the Daintree National Park, you will need a four wheel drive vehicle to explore further up the Bloomfield Track or book on a four wheel drive safari.

 

Accommodation in the Daintree National Park

accommodation in the daintree
Rainforest Hideaway, one of the accommodation places in the middle of the Daintree rainforest

The only way to stay technically IN the National Park is to camp at Noah Beach campground, but there are also more comfortable accommodation places on pockets of private land within the National Park, which has exactly the same rainforest, (A lot of the Daintree rainforest actually sits on privately owned land, protected by strict local council and state laws).

Privately owned land has existed in the Daintree region for at least a century, and when the National Park was declared in 1981 no land was taken from landowners but the National Park was simply fitted in around the privately owned portions. This allows you to sleep right inside this ancient jungle and experience the night time sounds. One such place is Rainforest Hideaway but there are more rainforest accommodation options available.

The map on the right shows you in a light colour the privately owned land at Cape Tribulation and the surrounding Daintree National Park in a darker colour.
Click the map for a larger version which is easier to read.

map showing cape tribulation and daintree national park

 

Tours in the Daintree National Park

creek crossing on the bloomfield track in the daintree
Mason's Tours crossing a creek on the Bloomfield Track

Although you could just drive up and down to Cape Tribulation in a day and say you have seen the Daintree this would be only scratching the surface. There is a wide range of local tours available, most of them based on the Daintree river and up in Cape Tribuation, to let you experience this amazing place better and learn about it.
There are guided day walk and night walks, sea kayaking tours, crocodile spotting tours, birdwatching tours, jungle surfing (flying fox lines through the tree tops), fourwheel drive tours up the Bloomfield Track, and ofcourse snorkel trips to the adjoining Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Click here for more info on all the tours in the Daintree...

 

Tours to the Daintree National Park

daintree day tour crossing  the daintree river
On your Daintree day tour you will cross the Daintree river on this cable ferry

There are all sorts of tours available from Cairns and Port Douglas. Some of the day tours only go as far as Mossman Gorge, but other day tours go further to Daintree Village and across the Daintree river and do daytours to Cape Tribulation with a cruise on the Daintree river, a stop at the Alexandra Lookout, some boardwalks in the Daintree north of the river, the Daintree Icecream Company etc.
More on tours to the Daintree...

There are also overnight tours which do all the stops along the way and give you one or more nights accommodation at Cape Tribulation. Thes tours are run by companies such as Cape Trib Connections, Tropics Explorer, and Jungle Tours , they do package deals where you get your return transfer and one or two nights in a backpackers hostel all in one deal.
Tropical Horizons does the same thing but less targeted at backpackers and with more choice of accommodation.You get picked up in Cairns or Port Douglas, and the usual stops include Mossman Gorge,

 

Safety in the Daintree National Park

crocodile in the daintree national park
One of the large crododiles that can be found in the Daintree National Park

Please be safe when visiting this park, you're a long way from the doctors here. But with a few sensible precautions you are probably safer here than in the city with all its traffic, muggers and freaks.

* Take care with cassowaries. Do not approach them for photos. Attacks by these big birds can cause serious injury or death. Most importantly never feed cassowaries.
* Dangerous stinging jellyfish ('stingers') may be present in the sea and tidal creeks. They occur more frequently in the warmer months.
* Do not touch stinging trees, not even to try. They grow metres high, have large, heart-shaped leaves with a rough hairy surface, serrated edges and often occur along rainforest edges. Touching any part of the plant leaf results in a very painful sting. If you do get stung and symptoms are severe, seek medical advice.
* On extended walks ensure you have suffiecient drinking water and protect yourself from the sun. Wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing. Be prepared for weather changes, rain can hit any time of year, especially on the the Mount Sorrow trail.
* Never swim in rivers and creeks near the ocean, mangroves are favourite crocodile territory. Swim in the crystal clear creeks up from the road crossings.
* Never provoke, or harass crocodiles, even small ones. That's how Stupid Stefaan was bitten at Cape Tribulation.
* Keep away from any crocodile slide marks. Crocodiles may still be close by.
* Be more aware of crocodiles at night and during their breeding season, September to April.
* Never feed crocodiles - it is illegal and dangerous.
* Never prepare food, wash dishes or pursue any other activities near the water's edge or adjacent sloping banks.
* Never clean fish or discard fish scraps or bait near the water's edge or at boat ramps.
*While you are waiting for the ferry do not let your kids walk to the water's edge, crocodiles can swim under water without a ripple on the surface and burst out with enough speed and power to take a horse.

Don't let the above precautions get you too worried, since National Parks has started placing crocodile warning signs at the entry points to the beach people have started believing that crocodiles will drag you off the beach in broad daylight.
This is definitely not the case, and it is not even in a crocodile's normal behaviour to attack people in the sea.
There is a very comprehensive listing of crocodile attacks in Australia, and this shows you that crocodile attacks mainly occur at night, and/or in places where no sensible person would swim (see above warnings) and often people had been drinking as well.

 

The Daintree National Park from the air:


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