Daintree and Cape Tribulation

There’s a scene in my novel Happy Ever After where Kate and Neil attend a Daintree Rainforest Benefit concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. It’s December 1985 and I was there at that concert. I was also at the Hiroshima Day march featured in the book, but that’s a completely different story for a whole other day.

My point is, visiting the Daintree Rainforest has been on my bucket list ever since, so it was an absolute must to add to our Cairns itinerary last month.

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is part of what’s known as the Wet Tropics of Queensland and is a World Heritage Site. It’s the oldest continually surviving rainforest on earth and has the highest concentration of primitive flowering plant families in the world – there are plants and animals here that aren’t found anywhere else.

As well as being environmentally important, it’s also culturally significant – with the rainforest providing both food and medicine for the indigenous people who had lived here for many thousands of years before we set foot in the area.

One of the best places to learn about the rainforest – if, like us, you have limited time – is the Daintree Discovery Centre.

Here you can walk across the top of the rainforest and check out all the different layers from the forest floor to the canopy and above.

We took a self-guided audio tour but I ended up switching it off so I could concentrate on the sounds of the forest – the birds, the rustling of the leaves.

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation was for many years as far as you could go. Between here and Cooktown there was a track but no road as such. It really was the end of the road. As an aside, it’s when you’re up here that the sheer size of this state becomes obvious. We’re 1600kms from home yet there is still 1000kms to get to the tip of Cape York. It blows my mind.

Anyways, this little factoid is one of the reasons Cape Tribulation is important.

Back in the early 80s the local council and, indeed, the Queensland government wanted to turn the Bloomfield track between Cape Tribulation and Cooktown into a proper road. The problem was that the proposed road ran straight through the middle of a newly declared national park.

The agenda was obviously one of development potential – although the supporters of the road didn’t actually use those words. Instead, they spoke about how a road would benefit tourism and help the people of Cooktown have access to Cairns (during the wet Cooktown was pretty well isolated). They also used the fears of the time stating that a road would make the area easier to police and help control the drug and smuggling problem in the region, deter illegal immigrants and serve as a defence against invaders from the north. They also argued that the land was mostly scrub and therefore rubbish and that there was plenty more rainforest in the mountains if people were worried about that. Yes, I know.

This was, however, 1983 and environmental protesters were active in the Tasmanian wilderness, so why not here too? The protesters had science on their side and rather than dealing in fear, their opposition was based on the unique importance of the forest from both an environmental and a cultural viewpoint.

Protesters blockaded the area at a place now known as Blockade Creek just out of Cape Tribulation – in an attempt to stop the bulldozers from coming through – and the Daintree Blockade was national news. Not to be swayed, however, the developers began construction from the Bloomfield end instead. The road was forced through, and the council (and Queensland government) claimed victory against the “greenies”.

That wasn’t the end of the story though. Once the road was pushed through the workmen left on their traditional Christmas break – and the wet season arrived. Heavy rain and landslides damaged and washed away the newly built road in parts, with run-off flushing into the Great Barrier Reef.

Access wasn’t possible until the dry the following year when, despite protests, the road was finally finished. Hilariously though, immediately following the opening ceremony, an unseasonal deluge of rain hit and the motorcade of politicians, developers and local supporters got bogged.

An eventual outcome of this saga was the galvanisation of the environmental movements and the eventual listing of the area as a World Heritage site – but there was plenty of High Court action in the interim.

Anyways, the road today is still little more than a track in some places and almost impassable in the wet in others – perhaps some places are meant to be difficult to get to.

Thornton Beach

Okay, so this isn’t a beach for swimming in at this time of the year – the signs say it all. Stingers (the really nasty deadly kind) and crocs. Yeah, nah, I’m not tempted into the water. It is, however absolutely drop-dead flipping stunning.

This little beach, located halfway between Daintree and Cape Trib – is an absolute gem in a paradise-found sort of way.

We stopped and had some lunch at the little cafe here.

Ice cream

There are two ice cream makers here – Daintree Ice Cream Co and Floravilla. We stopped at the former, but they only had a couple of flavours on hand, and bought ice cream at the latter.

I had the black sapote. Part of the Persimmon family, black sapote is also known as chocolate pudding fruit – and it really does taste like chocolate.

Alexandra Range Lookout

No day trip to Cape Trib is complete without a stop here. Just. Look. At. That. View.

Getting there

Located about 115kms north of Cairns, getting here is part of the adventure – and involves a car ferry to get across the Daintree River.

Just before you get to the ferry are the jetties where the crocodile watching tours go from – which should tell you all you really need to know about the Daintree River. The ferry runs from 6am to midnight daily and you’ll need to factor in waiting times – especially during peak season. It costs around $30 for a car return.

On the road to Cape Tribulation

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

14 thoughts

  1. Oh, Jo…you make me want to travel again. World Heritage sites are always magical places to visit. Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing.

  2. So many wonderful photos Jo – and I can almost feel the humidity from here! WA has much drier heat than QLD and I’m always grateful for it after my Feb visit to Brisbane! I was impressed with all the photos you took of signs – I think I could count on one hand how many sign photos I’ve ever taken – I’m obviously in need of some photography “in the moment” lessons!

  3. Gorgeous, stunning, amazing through and through.That list of ice cream flavours, oh my! I’m reading Happily Ever After and will definitely pay attention to this scene. #lovin’lifelinky

  4. Beautiful photos Jo and love the history lesson – thank you! Isn’t the Daintree beautiful? I haven’t been there since the early 90’s and I really want to go back. Did you go on the river train? Now that was an experience. Very up close and personal with the crocs and so interesting talking to the local guy who was host and the locals where we had morning tea. I love the little cafes tucked in amongst the rainforest. It’s a special place up there. Hope you got your daughter all settled up in HB and all is well there! xo

  5. What a magical place it is! Your shots and tour captured so much. In 2003 we had a FNQ holiday and stayed at Port Douglas. I did a full day tour on a small bus to the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. It took us to places I may never have seen without a guide. We had a lunch prepared by the guide while we could venture into the water of a small area…rocks everywhere and fish too…I could not believe I was where I was. Also walked on the beach at the cape and walked back to the bus more smartly when a goanna appeared. Not my fave at all. That icecream looked amazing! Denyse

  6. What beautiful photos. Makes me miss the lush green that isn’t found in our desert home. Have never heard of a black persimmon. Interesting that it tastes like chocolate. What a wide variety of ice cream flavors! And your lunch looks so good, from that quaint little beachside cafe. I enjoyed eating fried fish sold by vendors on the beaches of Panama when we lived there.

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