The Great Barrier Reef Drive #GBRdrive
2 h 38 min
The Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is along spectacular coastline hugging two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. From Cairns you head north across the Barron River to the Cairns Northern Beaches including Trinity Beach, Palm Cove and Ellis Beach. The drive then winds along the edge of the Coral Sea past unspoiled tropical beaches to Port Douglas, the ideal place to cruise to the Great Barrier Reef.
Intimate, relaxed Port Douglas is the gateway to the Daintree, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. To the north is beautiful Mossman Gorge where you can discover the culture of the Kuku Yalanji people before driving through sugar cane fields to the township of Daintree. Take a crocodile spotting tour, fish for barramundi or marvel at the incredible birdlife.
Cross the Daintree River on the cable ferry for a leisurely drive through ancient rainforest, pausing at lookouts for a glimpse of the Coral Sea as you wind your way past pretty beaches to Cape Tribulation where the rainforest meets the reef. Turn your journey into a 4WD rainforest adventure, follow a food trail, or learn more about the Aboriginal people of the rainforest.
Palm Cove and Port Douglas are cosmopolitan beachside villages linked by a spectacular section of the Great Barrier Reef Drive. With its long sandy beach lapped by the Coral Sea and a backdrop of rainforest-clad mountains, Palm Cove has the perfect setting for an intimate getaway. Everything is within walking distance in this friendly village where restaurants, shops and resorts overlook the beach.
Driving north you pass through pretty Ellis Beach before the road hugs the coastline as it winds between the dual World Heritage areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest. Stop at a deserted beach along the way and linger at the Rex Lookout where an incredible 180-degree view of the Coral Sea and its coastline begs a photograph.
The road leaves the blue of the ocean for the green of sugar cane fields just before the palm-lined entrance to Port Douglas. Known as the place where A-list celebrities escape, this tropical village has an incredible array of restaurants, great boutique shopping and the iconic Four Mile Beach. It is the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef and only a short drive to the Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation.
The short drive from Port Douglas to Daintree Village offers the opportunity to learn about the Aboriginal people who have called the Wet Tropics rainforest home for thousands of years. The Port Douglas and Daintree region is the traditional country of the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people who continue to have ongoing connections with the area and offer tours where you can experience their culture.
Mossman Gorge is the southern section of the Daintree National Park where steep mountains, thick with rainforest send the Mossman River tumbling over the Gorge’s massive granite boulders creating cool, clear freshwater swimming holes. Take a picnic and discover the rainforest on one of the free walks around the Gorge or join a local Indigenous guide on their traditional land to learn how their ancestors trapped fish and safely prepared poisonous foods to eat.
In Mossman you can visit an Indigenous gallery where the resident artist will show you how to paint your own burnie bean. Experience traditional hunting at the coastal village of Cooya Beach where an Indigenous guide can show you how to hunt mud crab with a spear or relax with an Indigenous spa treatment at Daintree Village.
1 h 15 min
The quaint township of Daintree Village is perched on the southern side of the Daintree River and is famous for the resident saltwater crocodiles that live on its banks. The village has a number of crocodile, bird and wildlife spotting cruises that depart regularly where you can attempt to find Scarface, Fat Albert or Gummy. If eating croc is more to your liking, try a croc burger or croc san choy bow at one of the cafes.
Venture over the river on the cable ferry and explore the Daintree region encompassing Cape Kimberley, Cow Bay, Cooper Creek, Thornton Beach, Noah Valley and Cape Tribulation, where the bitumen road ends. Journey through the world’s oldest surviving tropical rainforest to see an endangered cassowary, be dwarfed by an ancient king fern or swim in a clear freshwater creek.
Stepping straight on to the beach from the rainforest is a very special experience at Cape Tribulation where the dual World Heritage areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest meet. Spot turtles and dugongs as you kayak over the coastal reef, join a night tour to spotlight nocturnal animals or fly through the rainforest canopy on a flying fox.