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Big Trip Blog Bigtripblog is a multimedia travel experience capturing the adventures of Kevin and Valerie during their one year trip around the world.

Three Days in the Daintree

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 4 July 2007 | Views [4336] | Comments [2]

Dark shadows cast over a rainforest palm frond.

Dark shadows cast over a rainforest palm frond.

Kevin: When we were sitting around in Port Macquarie several weeks ago, trying desperately to put together something vaguely resembling a plan, we thought we struck gold. Daintree National Park, a double dose of World Heritage natural sites (Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef) enticed us from very near to the top of Australia. Far North Queensland sounded exotic, remote, and full of wild things. In short, it was everything we were looking for. Without much thought given to expense, distance, etc., we set out, enjoying ourselves along the way but always heading towards the main goal, "the Daintree."

And why wouldn't that be the prize at the end of the long run up the East coast? It's a magical place. The oldest rainforest in the world, home to the majority of Australia's biodiversity, including some really cool animals. Kangaroos that live in trees, anyone? And then there's the endangered cassowary, second largest bird in the world (behind the emu), flightless, as tall as a man, armored head, wildly colorful, with a sharp talon that is capable of disemboweling you. Those guys, combined with the multitude of insects, snakes, exotic plants, etc. that you would find in a place almost at the end of Australia and you can see why we were so excited about it.

The Daintree is in the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics, and runs right into the also listed Great Barrier Reef. There are several high-end eco lodges and caravan sites in and around the park, but we opted to stay at the more rustic (read: cheap) Noah Beach camping grounds, operating by the QPWS (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services). You can book all of their campsites online or over the phone, and they cost just $4.50 per night per person. We booked three nights, hoping to get lots of time in for rainforest walks and other wildlife-spotting opportunities. A run-in with a cassowary was probably at the top of our list of things we were hoping for in the park.

We set out from Townsville early in the day, planning on making it past Cairns and into the national park in one go. It was a little ambitious, but nothing our long travel days hadn't prepared us for. The drive up there was stunning. Once outside of Townsville, the landscape quickly became more and more tropical, then opened up into large sugar cane plantations backed by thickly forested mountains.

At some points the Captain Cook Highway, as it's called, runs right along the sea, giving the passenger panoramic views of pristine waters in impossible shades of blue and the occasional glimpse of a dark shadow off the coast indicating coral reef. All of this is made more dramatic by imposing mountains to the left. It is a beautiful part of the country.

The sun set before we found our camp site, but not without treating us to a gorgeous light show along the coast as we made our way toward Cape Tribulation. By the time we actually made it to Noah Beach, it was totally dark, so we had to wait to really explore the place until the next day.

The Noah Beach campsite is in a fantastic location. The sites themselves are under a thick canopy of rainforest. Walk a few yards toward the sea, however, and it opens up onto a long and sandy secluded beach. Supposedly there are esturarine crocodiles in the vicinity, so you have to be careful wherever any of the park's many streams empty into the sea!

We set off for Cape Tribulation, hoping to find some information about bushwalking and great places to see some wildlife. That was when we realized that the Daintree wasn't the wild outpost we had thought it might be. There are dozens of private companies operating in the park, from cafes, hostels and expensive lodges to tour companies offering fishing, boating, canopy "surfing" on zip lines, a skytrain through the rainforest, guided walks during the day and night, etc. As it turns out, the majority of visitors to the park come on a one or two day tour from Cairns, bundling several activities together.

There were only a few trails through the park that we could find. A few short boardwalks led through different types of rainforest and mangroves, and there was a 3.5k hike up to the top of Mt. Sorrow. We did that, as well as the boardwalks, but got the feeling that the best way to experience the park was on an organized tour of some kind. That wasn't within our budget, so we were a little disappointed.

I also think it wasn't the right time of year to see the Daintree at its most spectacular. As it's a rainforest, the Wet season (currently the Dry) would see the most amount of activity. It's a shame because it's most accessible (and comfortable) during the drier winter months. We never did see a cassowary or a tree kangaroo. We did, however, see some huge and amazing plants, have a challenging climb up to a beautiful viewpoint, and get a glimpse into Australia's most biologically diverse region. Next time, though, we might just book a tour.

Tags: ambassador van, the great outdoors




On our trip north in May, we didn't see any cassowaries at Cape Tribulation either, however we were lucky to see cassowaries in the wild at The Sanctuary, Bingil Bay, Mission Beach and crossing the road in front of our car at Mourilyan Harbour, south of Innisfail. We were also told there was one at Etty Bay nearby. For your next trip. Another highlight was having a group of five emus cross the Bruce Highway, in front of our car, and go under a barbed wire fence. Fortunately, ours was the only vehicle on the highway at the time.

  Marion Jul 8, 2007 7:28 AM


I can't believe you saw cassowaries at Mission Beach! We were planning on going there, but decided to head into the Outback a little early instead. Doh! We'll have to remember that. And we haven't seen any emus crossing the road either, but we'll keep our eyes peeled. That would certainly liven things up a little.

  BigTripBlog Jul 9, 2007 10:09 AM

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