Cape Tribulation – Where Rainforest meets Reef

Cape Tribulation – where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef

Cape Tribulation is where two UNESCO world heritage sites met. The world’s oldest rainforest – the Daintree Rainforest tumbles right down the crescent shaped golden beach to met the Great Barrier Reef; the world’s largest coral reef system with thousands of marine species. At low tide small rocks and atolls were just visible underneath the shallow waters that lapped at the shore. 

This area is full of history, diverse and unique flora and fauna. The name Cape Tribulation originates from when Lieutenant James Cook’s ship ran into Endeavour Reef just north east of Cape Tribulation as he was trying to find a way through, what he described as ‘the insane labyrinth’. He wrote: “I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles.”

Cape Tribulation was as far as we could go without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. After the small, atmospheric village of Cape Tribulation lies the hazardous track up to Cooktown and then onto Cape York at the very top of Australia. Cape Tribulation to Cape York is apparently one of Australia’s best 4WD adventures but for now I had to stick to the sealed highways.

Sugar canes fields give way to the Daintree Rainforest and then lead on to Cape Trib

Cape Tribulation road winds through under the cover of the Daintree Rainforest past cassowary warning signs. I was really disappointed not to see a cassowary in the wild but am told they are flightless birds, as tall as a adult human with a blue and purple head and red wattles.

Someone had some fun with the Cassowary warning signs

Cassowaries are only found in the Daintree Rainforest and Mission Beach area in North Queensland and in Papua New Guineau and can be aggressive and dangerous. The male cassowary looks after the eggs and rears the young and they are important in the eco system as they spread seeds that other animals can’t digest.

The Daintree is the world’s oldest rainforest and home to many diverse and unique species of flora and fauna

The Daintree is the world’s oldest rainforest and a guided walk through this ancient, world heritage listed rainforest showed off the biodiversity and many interesting and unique plants, just some of the 3000 plus plant species.

The trees stood firm on impressive winding buttresses while other trees wrapped themselves around them. 

These large buttresses help to keep the tree stable and get all the nutrients it needs from the rainforest floor

The flora and fauna changed quickly from tropical rainforest to mangrove forests and swamps, eucalyptus woodlands, palm oil trees and back to rainforest again.

Mangroves and swamps are also part of the bio diversity of the rainforest

Huge fan palms and king ferns provided shade and shelter as the famous and strikingly beautiful blue Ulysses butterfly flitted through the canopy as I looked up searching for tree kangaroos and the guide explained interesting facts about the different plants including the ‘wait a while’ plant that can literally dig its hook like thorns into you and a stinging tree that has big leaves covered in thousands of microscopic pricks that can cause incredible pain and itching just from touching it.

Huge fan palms provide shade

Adding to the adventure the Daintree Rainforest is only accessible by crossing the Daintree river on an old fashioned cable ferry but by taking a boat along the river I saw 3 massive crocodiles lazying in the water by the side of the river near the undergrowth.

Crocodiles lazing in the Daintree River

The crocodiles were about 3 meters long and lay placidly in the water with their scaly backs just jutting out as they tried to soak up some of the winter sun and wait for a tourist to fall in for dinner!

The only way to get across to the Daintree Rainforest is to cross the crocodile infested Daintree River

Once safely across the Daintree river the countryside changed to sugar cane and cattle fields and small farming communities of typical, wooden Queenslander country homes. Waving fields of sugar cane surround us and narrow cane train tracks criss crossed the road until we reached Mossman Gorge.

The smoothed boulders and rushing clear waters of Mossman Gorge

Still part of the Daintree Rainforest, Mossman Gorge is culturally important to the Kuku Yalangi indigenous people who have a special relationship with the rainforest.

Walking across the boardwalks through the hundreds of shades of green that made up the rainforest and the clean, crisp smell until we were overlooking rushing water as it tumbled over granite boulders smoothed and rounded by time. Between two large, smooth and rounded grey rocks the water ran an emerald green colour inviting and refreshingly cold to swim in.  

The cool green waters of Mossman Gorge make for a refreshing swimming

The road now twisted beautifully along the curves of the rocky coast. Each turn offering a new stunning vista of a deserted golden beach and sparkling azure seas until reaching Port Douglas. 

The upmarket resort town of Port Douglas is a great alternative to Cairns as a base for exploring the Great Barrier Reef and Tropical North Queensland. Unlike the backpacker hub of Cairns Port Douglas is quieter, classier and more refined and the town’s 4 mile long stretch of golden sand beach and palm trees for as far as you can see.

Port Douglas
Port Douglas’s beautiful 4 mile beach

Another hour along the scenic coastal route takes you back to the buzzing, dive centric city of Cairns with it’s manmade lagoon and active esplanade focal point, our base for exploring the amazing underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns lagoon
The lagoon on the esplanade at Cairns – gateway to the Great Barrier Reef
  • Flora of the Daintree Rainforest (
  • Photo Series – Up In The Daintree (
  • Daintree rainforest delights – Cairns, Australia (

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