140 km one way
Car or Camper
Cairns to Cape Tribulation
Grab your togs and your sunnies and get ready to head north on one of Tropical North Queensland’s most iconic drives: the Great Barrier Reef Drive.
Stretching north from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, this drive hugs the coast on one of Australia’s most incredible scenic routes before winding its way into the legendary Daintree Rainforest. The grand finale? Cape Tribulation – the place where the rainforest meets the reef.
Cairns to Palm Cove
As you make way north from Cairns, there’s plenty of local beaches to check out. Detour to Machans Beach or Holloways Beach for brekkie at Mayhem at Machans or Two Blocks Cafe. Yorkey’s Knob offers a bit of golf, whilst Trinity Beach is where the locals head for some much-needed beach time.
Pull into Palm Cove, a true-blue beach paradise and relax on the patrolled beach. If you’re feeling peckish, Palm Cove has heaps of beach-front restaurants ranging from fish n chips to gourmet degustation.
Stay: Rest your head to the sound of waves at Alamanda Palm Cove, whose on-site restaurant Nu Nu offers one of the best feeds in Palm Cove.
Palm Cove to Port Douglas
Start your day with a sunrise on the beach and then hit the road bound for Port Douglas. The winding road from Palm Cove to Port Douglas is dotted with beaches, some that you may just have all to yourself. Ellis Beach is popular with locals and Ellis Beach Bar n’ Grill offers a good breakfast and lunch.
Continue north to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure’s to get up close to huge salties, feed ‘roos and to learn more about some of Australia’s most iconic species. Nearby Rex Lookout is worth pulling over for featuring panoramic view over the coastline and mountains.
About ten minutes north of the lookout you’ll find Thala Beach Nature Reserve. Follow the palm-tree lined drive to Osprey’s Restaurant and indulge in dinner and sundowners amongst the treetops.
Hit the hay in one of the deluxe bungalows or continue to Port Douglas for a huge array of accommodation options.
When it comes to days to spend in Port Douglas, there’s no hard rule, although we recommend dedicating at least one day to explore this barefoot beach town. If it’s a Sunday, make your way to Anzac Park for the markets, or browse the range of boutiques on Macrossan Street. Finish off the hard yakka of shopping with a brunch at one of the many cafes.
If the Great Barrier Reef is calling, you’re in luck: tours from Port Douglas can race to the outer reef in as little as 20 minutes. Low Isles is just a stone’s throw from the shore and is a great place to snorkel from the beach.
Or if you fancy donning your togs without hopping out on a boat, Four Mile Beach is patrolled and has a stinger net during summer.
Once you’ve had your fill of sunshine, restaurant-hop your way down Macrossan Street. Sink your teeth into a famous pie from Mocka’s Pies, or opt for award-winning fine dining at Watergate. Wash down dinner with a coldie at Hemingway’s Brewery on the marina or sip on a cocktail in an art-filled lounge bar at Jimmy Rum’s Mixing Lounge.
Stay: The Sheraton Grand Mirage is the ultimate high-end resort with two hectares of lagoon pools, a swim up bar and an 18 hole golf course.
Port Douglas to Daintree Village
Check out of your resort and hit the road for Mossman Gorge, 20mins drive north. Park your wheels at the Mossman Gorge Centre and hop aboard a shuttle to Mossman Gorge. Wander through the rainforest at your own pace, or join a guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk with a Kuku Yalanji guide for an enhanced experience. Connect with culture as you discover culturally significant sites, stories and legends.
Learn more about Indigenous culture with a visit to Janbal Gallery in Mossman, which is 100% Aboriginal owned and operated. Book an art workshop with owner and artist Brian “Binna” Swindley, and learn traditional Indigenous painting techniques.
Stay: Stay in a rainforest state of mind and drive 51km north to Daintree Ecolodge. Rest up on an eco-friendly banyan surrounded by lush rainforest canopy.
Daintree Village to Diwan
Going to the Daintree and not searching for crocs is basically like going to Paris without seeing Notre Dame. Make way to Solar Whisper Daintree River Cruise and hop onto a zero emission boat to search for salties.
Get back behind the wheel and cross the Daintree River on the Daintree River Ferry and find yourself smack bang in the oldest rainforest in the world. Head along the long and winding road (blasting the Beatles optional) north and keep your eyes peeled for signs for places that might tickle your fancy. Stop at Mount Alexandra Lookout for a bewdy of a view, then walk among the rainforest canopy at Daintree Discovery Centre.
Stay: Break up your cape escape and rest up at Heritage Lodge. Stay in rainforest cabins and enjoy a natural bath in the vibrant blue Cooper Creek that runs alongside the property.
Diwan to Cape Tribulation
A big day calls for a big brekkie, so eat up at On the Turbs, Heritage Lodge’s on-site restaurant. Make sure you pack your thongs- today calls for some serious beach hopping! First stop is Thornton Beach, which offers views of the rocky Struck Island.
Dust the sand from your toes and step back in time with a rainforest walk on the Madja Boardwalk, which features pre-historic plants and traces the evolutionary journey of Daintree flora.
Finish off your arvo by sinking your toes into some famous sand at Myall Beach, where two the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest meet. If you still find yourself craving salty air, wander along the Kulki Boardwalk a little further north for stellar views across Cape Tribulation Beach.
Optional Detour – Great Barrier Reef & Mackay Cay
Cape Trib is a place famed for having the reef just off its shore, so it should come as no surprise that pristine reef is just a 25min boat ride away. Head out to sea with Ocean Safari and snorkel off the stunning Mackay Cay.