Australia’s ancient rainforests are one of the most fascinating parts of the country. Home to unique wildlife, picture-perfect swimming holes and excellent hiking trails, these rainforests are the ideal way to take a step back in time, find your inner calm and explore nature like it was intended. While there are heaps to explore around Australia from the scenic Minnamurra Rainforest in NSW’s Budderoo National Park to the rugged beauty of the Otway Ranges in Victoria, there’s one spot worth planning a trip up north for. Located in far-north Queensland, is the heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, home to towering ancient trees, magnificent waterfalls, gorges and white sand beaches.
At the ripe age of 180 million years, it’s also considered the oldest rainforest in the world — a whole 10 million years older than the Amazon Rainforest. It’s so spectacular and lush that it was also the inspiration for James Cameron’s Avatar.
Part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Daintree is home to a diverse species of plants and animals. About 65% of Australia’s bat and butterfly species, 920 species of trees and 130 species of reptiles reside in the Daintree Rainforest including over 100 crustaceans and the prehistoric-looking Saltwater Crocodile, and most of them can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It is also home to the “idiot fruit” or Idiospermum Australiense, one of the world’s most primitive flowering plants and a species endemic to Australia.
Perhaps the most fascinating of them is the Southern Cassowary, Australia’s heaviest bird and apparently the world’s most dangerous too.
Only around 4,000 of these flightless birds remain in Australia and because of their elusive nature, it’s not often you can spot one in the wild. At over 4 feet tall, the curious creature is also considered to be one of the closest living relatives of dinosaurs today.
Equally interesting are the tree species in this ancient part of the world. According to the official Queensland website, there are more tree species in one hectare of the rainforest than in all of the United Kingdom. Over 920 species of trees can be found here.
Things to see in the Daintree Rainforest
If you’re not a big fan of reptiles, the sheer volume of natural wonders to explore in this part of the country is staggering too. We’re talking spectacular mountains, sandy beaches, gorges, rivers and a number of waterfalls. Among these, Mossman Gorge is a popular spot to visit with amazing walks and views on the way. Visitors can also look forward to a genuine Indigenous experience through the guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk, led by the local Indigenous community.
Cape Tribulation is where the world’s oldest rainforest meets with the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, so a visit is non-negotiable. The beach here is known for its white sands and clear waters. A personal favourite spot within walking distance of Cape Tribulation is Mason’s Swimming Hole, a pristine swimming hole with friendly fish and aquamarine waters. The secluded Cassowary Falls is a great place to swim too and Alexandra Falls and Bloomfield Waterfall hidden deep within the Wet Tropics, are also excellent.
If you’re visiting Daintree, you’ll want to spend a few days to experience it all its fullness. Luckily, there are a number of campgrounds, luxury treehouses and rainforest cabins to choose from if you’re looking for accommodation. Take your pick here.
How to get to Daintree Rainforest
There are a number of ways to get to Daintree Rainforest depending on where you’re travelling from. There are daily flights from all major cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The closest airport to the Daintree is Cairns International Airport and the flight from Sydney to Cairns would take around 3 hours. Driving from the Cairns’ city centre to the rainforest is easy and straightforward and would only take around 2 hours.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could also drive to Daintree, the total time to drive from Sydney would be around 31 hours, nearly 35 hours from Melbourne and 24 hours from Brisbane.
Read more on the Daintree Rainforest website and start planning your trip to this beautiful part of the country.