In my opinion, a trip to Cairns and Port Douglas just isn’t complete without taking the Cairns to Cape Tribulation Drive. Following the scenic Captain Cook Highway, this drive takes you to the incredible coastal road and crosses the Daintree River north to where the rainforest meets the reef.
The Cairns to Cape Tribulation Drive Route
The Cairns to Cape Tribulation Drive is approximately 140 kilometres. In total, expect about 3 hours of driving time. Note, you will need to take a ferry to cross the Daintree River as no land crossing bridge exists.
Although it’s a three-hour drive, there are plenty of places where you’ll want to stop and explore. In regards to a driving itinerary, it’s definitely possible to take the scenic drive and explore the highlights in a single day. However, many choose to stop over in Port Douglas in order to get the most out of the incredible Cairns to Cape Tribulation Drive.
Cairns to Cape Tribulation Map
Cairns to Cape Tribulation Tours
If you don’t have your own car, then you can still explore this incredible journey. Luckily, there are plenty of Cairns to Cape Tribulation tours, ranging from $180 to $280. Price will vary depending on what they offer. My advise is to book one which is flexible so that you can explore all the epic places along the coast.
Highlights on the Cairns to Cape Tribulation Drive
Below I’ve listed some of the highlights of the Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive. If you’re on a tight time-frame, make sure you at least make a couple of stops to make the most of this incredible part of the world.
Thala Resort Palm Tree Road
From Cairns, one of the first highlights for me was the Thala Resort. Although I didn’t stay here, I wanted to check out the famous symmetrical palm tree plantation. It’s not a big detour, and you’ll probably spot the plantation from the main road.
It’s not as spectacular from the ground, but if you have a drone, then you can snap some pretty awesome photos.
Epic Coastal Road
Only about half an hour north of Cairns, you’ll get your first glimpses of one of the best coastal roads in the world. The Captain Cook Highway winds around the tropical beaches and up the cliffsides of the Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll see plenty of signs pointing to a dual parking bay for Rex Lookout. This is one of the best views on the entire Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive.
There’s a large grassy clearing where you can stop for your first break and take in the view.
Rex Lookout Hang Gliding
If you’re doing the Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive on a weekend or on a public holiday, then chances are there’ll be hang gliders launching off the Rex Lookout. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the famous hang gliding dog!
Next up on this epic coastal drive is Port Douglas. Famous for its beautiful waterfront and it’s very own 4 Mile Beach. With this in mind, it’s definitely a place you’ll want to make a stop.
To make the most of the journey, stop in Port Douglas for a coffee break or lunch. Alternatively, stay the night in order to make the most of all of the coastal walks, beaches and nearby attractions
If you’re going to stay at Port Douglas and want to experience the Great Barrier Reef Islands, then I’d suggest taking a day trip to the Low Isles.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: SNORKELING AND EXPLORING THE TROPICAL LOW ISLES, PORT DOUGLAS
Daintree National Park
A short distance from Port Douglas is the Daintree National Park. This part of the World Heritage Wet Tropics Area is considered the world’s most ancient rainforest.
There are plenty of things to do here. Some highlights include:
- Checking out local life at the Daintree Village
- Taking a popular Crocodile Spotting Tour on the Daintree River
- Exploring the nearby walks and hikes.
Only a short 20-minute drive from Port Douglas is the famous Mossman Gorge. This is one of the best places to visit if you want to experience a walk through the Daintree Rainforest.
You can leave your car at the Mossman Gorge Visitor’s Center and embark on a 45-minute rainforest circuit. Highlights include huge rainforest fig-trees, spotting unique rainforest birds and animals and swimming in the fresh (crocodile-free) rainforest creeks.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST: Daintree Hike: Mossman Gorge Walk – Rainforest Circuit
Cairns to Cape Tribulation Ferry
Just a little north of Port Douglas, nearby to the Daintree Village you will get to the famous ferry crossing. Here is the only way to continue north, as no bridges exist to cross the huge river. However, it’s not too expensive, and they even offer flexible return tickets if you intend on coming back to Cairns or vice versa.
Cape Tribulation Ferry Timetable
The Cape Tribulation Ferry over the Daintree River operates from 5 AM to midnight. Moreover, it’s only a short 10 minute crossing to get your car or motorbike over the river.
Additionally, for an up-to-date full timetable, check out the official link.
Daintree River Ferry Costs 2019
The Daintree River Ferry costs $17 for a one-way car ticket. However, ff you want a return ticket, it’s $30. Furthermore, keep in mind that the return tickets are flexible, and you can use it another day if you plan on staying in Cape Tribulation.
For a full list of updated ferry prices, you can find them on this website.
Shortly after the ferry, the road continues about 50 minutes towards Cape Tribulation.
Cape Tribulation is a famous Australian landmark and North Queensland attraction because it’s where the rainforest officially meets the reef. Here, there’s a few short walks and viewpoints to check out.
It’s one of the rawest coastlines in Australia and certainly a highlight for those taking the scenic coastal road from Cairns to Cape Tribulation.
MORE PHOTOS OF THE CAIRNS TO CAPE TRIBULATION DRIVE
Need some more inspiration for your Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive and road trip? Check out some photos of the best spots on the road below.
If you found the guide useful, drop a comment in the section below. Otherwise, scroll down for some more epic adventures in North Queensland, including trips to the Great Barrier Reef Islands and the Best Waterfalls in Cairns.