Australia is a land of truly diverse environments. Travel to the centre, and experience red sands and rugged rock gorges. Travel south, and brave single-digit temperatures in dense forests. Or head north, and experience tropical wilderness at the edge of the world’s largest coral reef system. That’s where you’ll find the Daintree rainforest, 180 million years old and easily one of the most breathtaking places you’ll ever visit.

The Daintree rainforest is over 1,200 square kilometres, making it the largest in Australia. For that reason, it’s impossible to see it all – but there are plenty of accessible parts that reveal its incredible beauty. 

Firstly, you’ll want a car. The Daintree is an easy day trip from Cairns or Port Douglas, and while you can jump on tours that will take you into the rainforest, you’ll have more freedom if you hire a vehicle yourself.

Below, find our must-visit Daintree experiences.

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge’s pristine waters are something you have to see for yourself. Image: Getty

Just an hour and a half north of Cairns, you’ll find Mossman Gorge Centre, an ecotourism experience that will see you walking through dense rainforest, swimming in clear freshwater streams and learning about the Aboriginal significance of the area.

A Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk is crucial if you want to truly understand the significance of the Daintree. Led by local Indigenous guides, you’ll visit areas of Mossman Gorge that are restricted to the general public while being taught the cultural significance of plants, places and the ecosystem.  

After the tour, take a self-guided walk and, conditions permitting, swim in the Mossman River at the swimming hole, which has a small sandy beach for easy access. Just take extreme caution – water conditions can change very quickly and unexpectedly.

 Silky Oaks Lodge

Lounging in the infinity pool, or lazing the day away in a private hammock? Take your pick. Image: Silky Oaks Lodge.

The most luxurious accommodation you’ll find in the Daintree region, Silky Oaks Lodge reopened at the end of 2021 with a multi-million dollar renovation, from the Baillie Lodges team, who also own Longitude 131 and Lord Howe Island’s Capella Lodge.

The property features forty luxury treehouses with views of the Mossman River and rainforest surrounds, an open air restaurant and award-winning spa that draws inspiration from the pure waters of the rainforest. We’d forgive you for spending all your time at Silky Oaks, taking long naps in your treehouse hammock and sipping cocktails by the fire pit.

Solar Whisper Wildlife Cruises

Going on a wildlife cruise along the Daintree River is a fantastic way to get a deeper understanding of how the rainforest ecosystem works. It’s also how you’ll spot saltwater crocodiles, if you’re fascinated by the dinosaur-like reptiles. 

Solar Whisper Cruises is the only zero-emissions tour group on the Daintree River, using solar powered boats to cruise the river in almost complete silence. This means less interference with wildlife, and also a greater chance of seeing it. Guides will interpret surrounds and spot creatures you wouldn’t notice, like baby crocodiles sunning themselves on low-hanging mangrove branches. 

Daintree Discovery Centre

Experience the rainforest from up high and down below. Image: Getty

Cross the Daintree River by car ferry and the first turnoff you’ll approach is for the Daintree Discovery Centre, an excellent gateway to the region. Entry will allow you to walk among the treetops, giving new perspective to the oldest rainforest in the world. 

Cassowaries are regularly spotted here, and the informative audio guides (which come in eight languages) provide a wealth of information about fauna and flora native to the area, so when you venture further into the wilderness, you will better appreciate the diversity of the region. 

From there, try some of the easy boardwalks along the road to Cape Tribulation. Our picks? The Madja Boardwalk, a 1.2km circuit through mangrove swamps and lowland rainforest, and Dubuji Boardwalk, which meanders down to Myall Beach. 

Daintree Ice Cream Company

You wouldn’t think the Daintree and ice cream would be so heavily associated, but there are not one, but two famous ice cream companies that call the area home. 

Our pick is the Daintree Ice Cream Company, because after you indulge in their exotic fruit ice cream (definitely buy the Signature Cup, which features four scoops of daily specials based on seasonal fruits in the area), you can wander through their beautiful orchards and examine the weird and wonderful fruits of the area.

Mason’s Store

This secret swimming spot is perfect for cooling off at the end of an adventurous day. Image: Getty

This lovely little cafe might not look like much when you first pull in, but this Cape Tribulation mainstay is renowned for its private freshwater swimming hole. Visitors can enter free of charge if they eat or drink at the cafe, and if you’re visiting out of hours, just drop a few dollars into the honesty box before taking a plunge.

There aren’t many swimming spots in the Daintree due to crocodiles, but this one is crocodile-free, and a welcome cool-off on hot Daintree days. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some turtles along the water’s edge.