Far North Queensland is removed from the southern states of Australia by more than distance.
The Daintree Rainforest region is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site, the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, and notable for the diversity of its vegetation. Off-shore lies the Great Barrier Reef. The region offers wilderness, solitude, and a sense of remoteness unavailable in more populous parts.
Cape Tribulation is located 139 kilometres north of Cairns. While the drive could be completed in around 3 hours, it is better to savour at least some of the offerings on the way. The chosen vehicle for this trip was a campervan hired in Cairns, and eventually returned in Brisbane 4,000 kilometres later.
The road between Cairns and Port Douglas is claimed to be one of Australia’s most scenic: it hugs the Coral Sea, meandering, and rising and falling with the terrain as the hills plunge into the sea.
Port Douglas is a popular destination, too popular perhaps for some, but it retains vestiges of its old frontier port ambiance, a raffish past, amidst the cafes, restaurants, pubs, and upmarket clothing and tourist shops. With a permanent population of about 1300, which quadruples in holiday season, the town has a broad beach, a scenic location and port area with extensive offerings of reef trips, diving and snorkelling, yacht cruises, and other marine adventures.
One end of the main shopping street, Macrossan Street, reveals the town’s palm lined beach, while the other terminates at a town park, fronting the estuary and port.
Mossman is the next major settlement north of Port Douglas, a farming town located in a sea of sugar cane farms, backed by forested mountains, and close to beautiful Mossman Gorge. Saturday morning is market time.
The Daintree River crossing, by ferry, marks a transition to the very far north. Things get wilder.
The camping ground at Cape Tribulation highlights an interesting feature of camping grounds and caravan parks in Queensland. In winter, many residents from the southern states and southern Queensland head north for the weather. Some camp grounds and caravan parks south of the Daintree are dominated by older travellers and rows of their very large caravans and matching sized tow vehicles. At times they almost resemble a retirement home where the residents occupy mobile homes/caravans instead of units or rooms.
As a contrast, the camp ground at Cape Tribulation attracts a different clientele. Adventurers in 4 wheel drives who are heading to or returning from Cape York (‘the Tip’) join a significant number of youngish overseas travellers, both backpackers and young couples and families, and Aussies of varying ages, who are all seeking elements of the rainforest, reef and wilderness experience. Most are keen to sight a cassowary, crocodile, and turtle.
Walk opportunities abound: on the beaches, into the rain forest, and beside the intertidal zone.
A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is a highlight of a north Queensland visit.
The soft coral surrounding this giant clam was dancing to and fro with the wave motion, like spaghetti cooking in a pot.
Cape Tribulation Recommendations
Reef trip from Cape Tribulation.
There is only one reef trip publicly available from Cape Tribulation. Professional and personable staff cater for snorkelling only with a small number of passengers (maximum 25) . At $134 the half day trip is much cheaper than those in Port Douglas.
Cape Tribulation Camping
A really nice campground right on the beach with plenty of bush and rainforest. Friendly and helpful staff. $40 per night for a powered site. Good facilities, including camp kitchens, which are a good place for informal chats with other campers, and a pub with modestly priced drinks and wood fired oven pizzas.