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Daintree National Park

© Tourism and Events Queensland

Daintree National Park

Tick off an iconic World Heritage area when you visit the Daintree, where rugged rainforest-clad slopes sweep down to meet long sandy beaches lapped by the Coral Sea.

Sit and watch clear water rushing through tumbled granite boulders on the Lower River track.
Sit and watch clear water rushing through tumbled granite boulders on the Lower River track. Maxime Coquard © Queensland Government
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Park Daintree
Traditional Owner Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger
Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area

Immerse yourself in the lush tropical rainforest of the famed Daintree, home to primitive plants and exciting wildlife, such as cassowaries and tree kangaroos.

The Daintree is an icon of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and is also the meeting place of two World Heritage areas. Here, the rainforest of the Wet Tropics meets the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Escape the coastal heat at Mossman Gorge, where waters have carved a scenic valley. Visit the Mossman Gorge Centre, then wander through rainforest beside the tumbling waters of the Mossman River. Challenge yourself on the swing bridge on the Rex Creek Bridge track. Delve deeper into rainforest culture on a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk with a local Aboriginal guide.

Follow the scenic Cape Tribulation Road north of the Daintree River and call into the Walu Wugirriga (Mount Alexandra) lookout for breathtaking views over the Daintree River mouth and nearby islands.

Choose from several walking tracks that start from pleasant day-use areas. Unwind as you explore tropical rainforest in one of Australia's last extensive stands of lowland rainforest. Discover primitive plants, fascinating wildlife and mangrove-fringed creeks. Emerge from the forest onto long sandy beaches, with scenic backdrops of steep rainforest-clad slopes. This is what makes Daintree special!

Keep discovering

Top things to see and do

Noah Beach camping area is nestled in coastal lowland forest behind Noah Beach.

Daintree's camping areas

See Daintree's camping area.

Rex Creek Bridge is suspended high above the cascading Rex Creek.

Daintree's journeys

See Daintree's walks.

Stop in at the Mossman Gorge Centre to plan your route around the gorge.

Daintree's attractions

See Daintree's day-use areas, lookouts, beaches and centre.

Getting there and getting around

Daintree National Park is between 80km and 150km north of Cairns. The park has two sections, Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation.

Mossman Gorge

  • From Cairns drive 80km north along the Captain Cook Highway then just before Mossman town centre, turn left into Johnston Road and continue for 2km to the Mossman Gorge Centre near the entrance to the Mossman Gorge section of the park.
  • Electric shuttle buses operate daily from the centre (every 15mins from 8am–6pm) transporting visitors on a 2km journey into the park.
  • Private vehicles are not permitted in the park from 8am to 6pm daily, but can access the park before 8am and after 6pm. You can walk or cycle to the park at any time.

Cape Tribulation

  • From Cairns, drive 104km north along the Captain Cook Highway to the entrance to the Cape Tribulation section of the park at the Daintree River crossing.
  • The Daintree ferry operates 6.00am–midnight every day with a reduced service on Christmas Day and occasional breaks in service for mechanical repairs or during flooding.

North of Cape Tribulation

  • Beyond Cape Tribulation, the unsealed Cape Tribulation–Bloomfield road continues to the park's northern boundary and onto Bloomfield. This road is suitable for 4WDs only.
  • Read 4WD with care for important information on 4WD safety and minimal impact driving.

Road conditions

Mossman Gorge

Caravans and large campervans are not recommended on the narrow park access road beyond the Mossman Gorge Centre.

Cape Tribulation

  • Beyond the Daintree River ferry crossing, the Cape Tribulation road is narrow and winding. Drivers should keep left and watch for wildlife, particularly cassowaries.
  • Conventional 2WD vehicle access is possible as far as Cape Tribulation, although high clearance is useful and caravans are not recommended.
  • North of Cape Tribulation the unsealed road to Bloomfield is suitable only for 4WD vehicles due to steep grades and creek crossings. The road may be closed after heavy rain.

See traffic and travel information for road and travel conditions.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Wheelchair access

  • In the Cape Tribulation section, three of the four short boardwalks, Marrja boardwalk, Dubuji boardwalk and Kulki boardwalk, are wheelchair accessible. At the fourth boardwalk, Jindalba boardwalk, wheelchair access to the creek is available from the exit end only, near the disabled access parking bays.
  • At Mossman Gorge,  the shuttle bus, picnic area, toilets and the rainforest boardwalk Baral Marrjanga track, which leads from the car park to the Mossman River lookout, are all wheelchair accessible.

Camping

Camp in the Cape Tribulation section of the park in coastal lowland forest adjacent to lovely Noah Beach.

Other accommodation

Guided tours and talks

  • The Indigenous community at Mossman Gorge offers guided Ngadiku Dreamtime Walks from the Mossman Gorge Centre.

Walking

Walking is the best way to explore this iconic park. Select from a variety of walks ranging from easy boardwalks and circuit tracks to longer mountain hikes.

Map of walking tracks

Picnicking

Enjoy a picnic beside the scenic Mossman River or take your pick of several lovely picnic spots in coastal rainforest settings in the Cape Tribulation section of the park.

Map of picnic tables/facilities

Viewing wildlife

Most of the world's 19 primitive plant families are found in the Daintree area and several very rare plants can be seen in Cape Tribulation. The park is also home to many near threatened and endangered animals including, Bennett's tree-kangaroos, Daintree River ringtail possums and southern cassowaries. Some birds migrate to the area from New Guinea in summer to breed. These include buff-breasted paradise-kingfishers, with their very long tails, and pied imperial-pigeons, which arrive in large flocks. During the winter months, migrating humpback whales are often seen from the beaches.

Read more about the park's diverse wildlife.

Four-wheel driving and scenic driving

Start at Mossman Gorge Centre and take one of Australia's most scenic drives into the heart of the iconic Daintree, exploring rainforest, mangroves and golden beaches along 33km from the Daintree River ferry crossing to Cape Tribulation, where the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area meets the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Swimming

Swimming at Mossman Gorge at any time can be dangerous. People have died here and others have been seriously injured.

  • Water conditions are unpredictable.
  • Water levels can rise rapidly and without warning.
  • Strong currents, deep water and submerged boulders make this river dangerous to enter.
  • Do not jump or dive into the river.
  • To stay safe, do not swim.
  • Check advice on river conditions at the Mossman Gorge Centre before entering the park.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Fishing

Wet a line in any of the tidal creeks in Cape Tribulation, except Cooper Creek where fishing is prohibited. You can't fish in Mossman Gorge.

Boating

Join a commercial croc spotting or bird watching boat tour on the Daintree River, or, if you have your own boat, explore the Daintree River.

Other things to do

To find out more about Eastern Kuku Yalanji culture, contact Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime at Mossman on (07) 4098 2595, Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours at Cooya Beach on (07) 4098 3437, or Walker Family Tours at Wujal Wujal on (07) 4060 8069.

When to visit

Opening hours

Daintree National Park is open 24hrs a day but there are some limitations on when you can access the park.

  • In the Mossman Gorge section, private vehicles are not permitted to access the park from 8am to 6pm daily. During these times, shuttle buses operate between the Mossman Gorge Centre and the park. You can walk or cycle to the park at any time at no cost; and you can drive your private vehicle to the park before 8am and after 6pm.
  • In the Daintree section, access is limited by the Daintree River ferry, which operates from 6am to midnight every day with a reduced service on Christmas Day and occasional breaks in service for mechanical repairs or during flooding.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Climate and weather

The Daintree region has one of the wettest climates in Australia. During the wet season, from December to April, there are heavy and frequent downpours. Some areas receive more than 6m of rainfall annually. Maximum temperatures through the wet season range from 27–33°C, with humidity often exceeding 80 per cent. The cooler, drier months from May to September are the best time to visit. The weather is pleasantly warm with reduced humidity. Maximum temperatures average 26°C.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.

Bus fees

  • In Mossman Gorge, a fee may apply for the shuttle bus that provides access into the park from 8am to 6pm daily from the Mossman Gorge Centre.
  • The shuttle bus service is free for local residents including school groups from the Mossman, Daintree and Port Douglas area.
  • Commercial operators charge fees for guided tours and walks.
  • Visitors can walk or cycle into Mossman Gorge at any time at no cost.

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.

Wi-Fi

You can connect to our free QLDPARKS-WiFi at the Mossman Gorge Centre.

Tourism information

Brochure

Download this brochure and take it with you:

Information provided in this guide is correct at the time of printing. Check park alerts for the latest details.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Be prepared

  • Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
  • Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.

  • Tell a responsible person where you are going and when you expect to return. Remember to contact them on your safe return. Have a contingency plan in place if you fail to contact them by the agreed time. If you change your plans, inform them.

Camping

  • Avoid creating new camp sites; secure your food supplies and rubbish from goannas and bring your camera and binoculars for viewing wildlife.
  • Beware bites and stings.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Drinking water

  • We recommend bringing your own drinking water; tap water is provided only at Noah Beach camping area.
  • Treat all water before use.

Open fires

  • Open fires are not allowed.

Rubbish

  • Rubbish bins are provided at Mossman Gorge Centre.
  • Bins are not provided elsewhere. Please bring rubbish bags, and take all recyclables and rubbish with you when you leave.

Walking

  • Be prepared for weather changes, particularly if walking on the Mount Sorrow ridge trail.
  • Wear suitable footwear for walking in Mossman Gorge as track surfaces can be uneven.
  • Do not leave cars unattended overnight as they could be vandalised.
  • Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly..
  • Avoid stinging trees that are found occasionally alongside walking tracks in Mossman Gorge and can cause a sting that is extremely painful.
  • Beware bites and stings.
  • Be cass-o-wary!

Driving

  • River levels can rise rapidly after heavy rain and leave you stranded. There is no mobile phone reception and no help close at hand. Check weather reports, water and river height information before heading to the park.
  • See the Bureau of Meteorology for weather conditions and forecasts.Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions..
  • Road conditions can deteriorate quickly to become slippery, boggy or even too dusty. Take vehicle spares in case of flat tyres or breakdowns.
  • Please slow down when driving through cassowary habitat and watch out for cassowaries and their chicks at the roadside.Be cass-o-wary!
  • Please drive slowly and with particular care when passing the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal community.
  • Read 4WD with care for important information on 4WD safety and minimal impact driving.
  • See traffic and travel information for road and travel conditions.

Boating and fishing

Around water

Swimming at Mossman Gorge at any time can be dangerous. People have died here and others have been seriously injured.

  • Water conditions are unpredictable.
  • Water levels can rise rapidly and without warning.
  • Strong currents, deep water and submerged boulders make this river dangerous to enter.
  • Do not jump or dive into the river.
  • To stay safe, do not swim.
  • Never jump or dive into a creek or waterhole as it can be shallow and have submerged hazards.
  • Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.
  • Beware marine stingers.

Natural environment

World Heritage

Daintree National Park is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450km between Cooktown and Townsville. Consisting of nearly 900,000ha, vegetation is primarily tropical rainforest, but also includes open eucalypt forest, wetlands and mangrove forests. The WTWHA meets all four natural criteria for World Heritage listing. These criteria recognise the area's exceptional natural beauty and the importance of its biological diversity and evolutionary history, including habitats for numerous threatened species. The WTWHA also has cultural significance for Aboriginal people who have traditional links with the area and its surrounds.

QPWS works in partnership with the Wet Tropics Management Authority to help protect, conserve, present, rehabilitate and transmit to future generations the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

An ancient landscape

The landscape of Daintree National Park began to form about 400 million years ago when Australia was still part of the great super-continent, Gondwana. Ancient rivers carried sediments to the coast, which was then situated more than 100km west of its present position.

Eventually, the movement of the earth's crust lifted these marine deposits, raising a vast area of metamorphic and granite rock far above the sea levels of today. Subsequent erosion of the softer metamorphic rock has exposed the harder underlying granite and resulted in the mountainous, coastal ranges we see today.

For over 200 million years successive climate changes have resulted in the contraction and expansion of rainforest throughout much of Australia. During the drier ice-ages, many plants and animals did not adapt to the new conditions and were driven to extinction. Within Daintree National Park and the surrounding area, cloudy, wet mountaintops and deep, moist valleys provided refuges from these climatic fluctuations for many forms of life. Those that survived have evolved into the plants and animals in the park today, many of which have changed very little from their ice-age ancestors.

Primitive plants

Most of the world's 19 primitive plant families are found in Daintree National Park and the surrounding area. Sheltering in tiny refuges during the drier ice ages were several species of plants, including a primitive she-oak Gymnostoma australianum. This pine-like tree is the only remaining species in the Gymnostoma group of plants in Australia and is now restricted to very isolated pockets north of the Daintree River. The genus was once widespread throughout Gondwana, and its relatives are still found in parts of the Pacific region and south-east Asia.

The endangered Noahdendron nicholasii is confined to a small area on the banks of a few narrow creeks. This understorey tree was first discovered in 1981 and has not been found anywhere else in the world. This plant produces a beautiful pink flower spike made up of numerous strongly scented blossoms.

Deep in the lowland rainforest near Cape Tribulation is the unique Idiospermum australiense. An isolated stand of this ancient tree was re-discovered in 1972 and has since been found in only a few other areas in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It is a true relict and the only member of the Idiospermaceae family (the word Idiospermum is a reference to its strange fruit, which has four or even five cotyledons—the primary leaves of seedlings—where most plants have only one or two). Many of these ancient plants provide an insight into the evolution of flowering plants, which began about 120 million years ago.

Animals

Daintree National Park is home to a large number of endemic animals—those found nowhere else in the world. They are comprised of a unique mixture of ancient species evolved from Gondwanan ancestors and more recent arrivals from Asia.

Mammals

Of the five ringtail possum species found in North Queensland rainforests, the Daintree River ringtail possum Pseudochirulus cinereus is almost wholly restricted to the Daintree catchment. In the park this species is found only in upland rainforest on Thornton Peak and the upper reaches of the Daintree and Mossman rivers.

Once considered a light-coloured form of the Herbert River ringtail possum, commonly found throughout the Atherton Tableland, it was described as a distinct species in 1989. Striped possums Dactylopsila trivirgata are quite common throughout the park, particularly in the coastal lowlands north of the Daintree River, although to see one while spotlighting requires a mixture of luck and know-how.

Although many mammals living in the park are nocturnal and therefore difficult to observe, you may be lucky to see a few creatures by day. The musky rat-kangaroo Hypsiprymnodon moschatus is often active during the day and may be glimpsed foraging on the forest floor. This small creature looks similar to a bandicoot, but has dark, chocolate brown fur. It is the most primitive member of the kangaroo family and is believed to have remained relatively unchanged over the last 20 million years.

Bennett's tree-kangaroo Dendrolagus bennettianus is found only in the lowland and upland rainforests north of the Daintree River. Like all kangaroos and wallabies, tree-kangaroos have evolved from possums. Deserting its life on the ground, this secretive animal has reverted to an arboreal existence, feeding and sleeping among the treetops, although it will often descend to the forest floor in search of fallen fruits or to move between isolated trees.

South of the Daintree River the more widespread Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo Dendrolagus lumholtzi can be found in rainforest, usually at an altitude above 500m.

The spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus gracilis is an endangered species found in the park. This cat-sized marsupial is one of Australia's few purely carnivorous animals. Their range covers both upland and lowland rainforests and the tall eucalypt forests found on the western slopes of the Windsor and Carbine tablelands. They have occasionally been observed along the coast from the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation.

The giant white-tailed rat Uromys caudimaculatus is one of Australia's largest rodents, with a body length up to 380mm. Often regarded as a mischievous pest, it will boldly raid homes and campsites, chewing its way into tents, food containers and even electrical wiring. This nocturnal creature is an efficient tree climber—it can easily climb to the top of a coconut tree to feast on the large nuts. With incredible persistence, it is able to chew a neat round hole through the tough husk and hard shell to eat the soft flesh inside.

Birds

Hundreds of bird species have been recorded in Daintree National Park.

At dusk and dawn, swirls of Australian swiftlets Aerodramuas terraeregina catch insects emerging above the forest canopy.

Azure kingfishers Ceyx azurea often dart into shallow pools from branches overhanging the water's edge to feed on fish and small crustaceans.

The magnificent buff-breasted paradise-kingfisher Tanysiptera sylvia travels from New Guinea during the warmer months to breed in North Queensland. It is easily recognised by its beautiful blue back and wings, orange underside and very long white tail.

Another bird that returns from New Guinea to breed each year is the pied imperial-pigeon Ducula bicolor. These black and white pigeons arrive in large numbers around August to enjoy an abundance of fruits found in the lowland rainforest.

Throughout the year, the ground-dwelling orange-footed scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt is commonly seen scratching for food on the forest floor. They can sometimes be seen building one of their enormous nests—huge compost mounds of leaf litter, sticks and dirt in which their eggs are incubated.

One of the park's most fascinating birds is the large, flightless southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius johnsonii. At 2m tall, these birds are extremely important to the health of the rainforest. They are the only animal capable of eating the largest rainforest fruits and dispersing their seeds over vast distances. Sadly, these magnificent creatures are threatened by habitat loss, speeding motorists and dog attacks.

Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Culture and history

Eastern Kuku Yalanji country

The Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people are the Traditional Owners of this area. Their country extends from near Cooktown. For the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people many natural features of the landscape have spiritual significance including Wundu (Thornton Peak), Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi), Wurrmbu (The Bluff) and Kulki (Cape Tribulation).

A rich array of plants and animals provided reliable food for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people as they travelled seasonally throughout the area. The coastal lowlands were particularly productive and could sustain a relatively large population. Understanding the weather cycles and the combination of vegetation types allows the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people to find a variety of food throughout the year—when jilngan (mat grass) is in flower, it is time to collect jarruka (orange-footed scrubfowl) eggs and when jun jun (blue ginger) is fruiting, it is time to catch diwan (Australian brush-turkey). Many tree-dwelling animals were also hunted including murral (tree-kangaroos), yawa (possums) and kambi (flying foxes).

European settlement

The headland was given its European name by Lieutenant James Cook after his ship, Endeavour, was holed on a reef in the area in 1770. Cook wrote:

I named… the north point Cape Tribulation because here began all our troubles.

Gold miners, explorers, timber-cutters and farmers have all made their mark on the area. In 1873 George Elphinstone Dalrymple led the first exploration deep into the Daintree River valley, naming the river after Richard Daintree, a prominent geologist and friend.

Dalrymple wrote:

The river valley is here surrounded by a panorama of great beauty… a perfect picture of rich tropical country…

During the voyage Dalrymple noted extensive areas of land suitable for agriculture but more importantly, he found huge stands of red cedar. Soon after, hordes of timber-getters arrived with the prospect of growing rich from 'red gold'. At the time, these much-prized trees had almost disappeared from most southern forests and within 10 years the Daintree suffered the same fate. Many settlers left disheartened, but others stayed, determined to make a living by raising cattle or growing crops such as rice, vegetables, coffee, maize and sugar. Although crops grew well on the river flats, life was made very hard by flooding, pests, disease and the difficulty of getting to market.

In the 1880s, farming expanded along the coastal belt and extensive areas of lowland rainforest were cleared. Settlements were established throughout the area and the resident population began to grow

Following World War II the timber industry regained momentum. Extensive tracts of virgin hardwood forests were logged and by 1955, the Cape Tribulation road was being extended north to allow recovery of felled timber. By 1963, it was completed through to Cape Tribulation. A private ferry operated on the Daintree River from 1956.

In 1981, several thousand hectares of lowland rainforest and pasture land were subdivided in the Bailey Creek area. In that same year 17,000ha of the last remaining tropical lowland rainforest were protected with the declaration of Cape Tribulation National Park, which was later amalgamated into Daintree National Park.

During this time a proposal was developed to extend the coastal road north from Cape Tribulation. Although the construction of the road was a controversial issue, it was completed by 1984, providing a direct link to Cooktown.In 1988, Daintree National Park was recognised internationally as a significant natural area with its listing as a Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Last updated: 25 February 2019
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