Town on the edge of North Queensland's famous tropical rainforest.
Daintree is a small settlement located near a bend on the Daintree River beneath the rainforest mountains of the McDowell Ranges. This tiny township only has about five streets and comprises a general store, a fibreglass 'Big Barramundi', a couple of restaurants, a caravan park, a school, a number of river and rainforest tour operators, some bed and breakfast destinations, a post office and the timber museum. While it has an active tourism industry it has managed to avoid much of the overdevelopment of the area with many coach tours from Port Douglas and Cairns heading towards Cape Tribulation rather than diverting and visiting the town.
Daintree is located 1,814 km north of Brisbane, 110 km north of Cairns and 55 km north-east from Port Douglas.^ TOP
Origin of Name
Daintree was named after Richard Daintree (1832-1878), an Englishman who, as the Queensland government geologist between 1868-1870, carried out a geological survey of North Queensland. He was also the Queensland Agent-General to London from 1872-1876.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Daintree Timber Museum, Gallery and Shoppe
Located in Stewart Street, the Timber Museum contains a woodworking shop which produces beautiful pieces of wooden furniture - bowls, vases and burls - from the local timbers including mango, monkey pod, red cedar, camphor laurel, red sirus and jacaranda. The museum has an exhibition of carpenter's and cabinet-maker's tools and techniques. The Gallery is open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm seven days a week, tel: (07) 4098 6224. For more information check out http://www.daintreetimbergallery.com/ which has examples of the timber work done in the gallery.
Daintree River Cruises
The Daintree River is a wonderland for birdwatchers and nature-lovers. Since 1987 Daintree River Cruise Centre (check out http://www.daintreerivercruisecentre.com.au or tel: (07) 4098 6115) has been operated an eco cruise with expert guides who can point out the rich fauna and flora along the banks and in the river. As they proudly point out: "As you cruise the tidal convergence zone, where warm seawater and cool freshwater meet, you will have the opportunity to see Estuarine Crocodiles, endemic birds to the region, frogs, pythons, tree snakes, butterflies and insects, some of these are rare and only found in this area. Also many different species of Mangroves there are 31 species in this single estuary which makes it perhaps the most species-rich mangrove estuary in the world, this is also the tidal convergence zone where mangroves merge with the World Heritage Rainforest of the Daintree Region."
There are other cruises available throughout the day and the evening. Interestingly the Daintree is home to 30 of Australia's 38 species of mangroves.
The Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre
Located 10 km north of the Daintree River at the corner of Cape Tribulation Road and Tulip Oak Road, Cow Bay, the Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre is a clever way to experience the richness of the rainforest within a controlled environment. There are boardwalk tours, a 23 metre high Canopy Tower with five different viewing levels so you can experience life above the forest floor, an aerial walkway above the rainforest floor, and a display centre which includes displays on the Ulysses Butterfly, the Giant Green Tree Frog, the Stink-horn fungi and the Stinging Tree. There is also a reptile display, a climate change exhibition and verandas where the rainforest birds can be observed.
There are also walks in the rainforests, which contain cassowaries, Bennett's tree kangaroo, the musk rat kangaroo, the striped possum, frogs, butterflies, ancient ferns, orchids and exotic rhododendrons. The centre is surrounded by the oldest intact tropical lowland rainforest in the world. Check out http://www.daintree-rec.com.au/ or tel: (07) 4098 9171^ TOP
Other Attractions in the Area
Driving from Daintree to Cooktown
Travelling from the south, the road from Daintree to Cape Tribulation crosses the Daintree River by punt and is sealed to Cape Tribulation. If there are problems they are largely due to the amount of large traffic (basically tour buses from Cairns and Port Douglas) which uses the road to travel to the lookout and give their passengers a brief experience of travelling through the world famous Daintree Rainforest.
From Cape Tribulation to Cooktown the road, which was built by the local council (ably encouraged by Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen) in 1983 despite passionate protests from environmentalists, is challenging and, in the minds of many, a road that should never have been constructed. It is an ugly dirt-red gash across the face of the rainforest which is characterised by unbelievable gradients, narrowness, bulldust, cavernous potholes in the dry season and quagmires of mud in the wet. It is for 4WD vehicles only.
Of course the road travels through incredibly beautiful country. If you are determined to make the journey make sure you visit the Wujal Wujal Falls (a thirty minute walk from the track); pause and inspect the Wujal Wujal Arts & Cultural Centre which is open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and has interesting examples of local Aboriginal art; and marvel at the strange Black Mountain, a mountain of black granite boulders which looks as though it has been placed beside the road by some giant. It is known as Kalkajaka (‘place of the spear’) and is an important meeting place for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people. Visitors are advised not to venture onto the boulder field.
The real challenges of the route are:
(a) the Bloomfield River (see the photos) is tidal and cannot be crossed in safety at high tide or when there has been rain. Every driver needs to determine, with care, when low tide is occurring and aim to get to the river as close to that time as possible.
(2) the road becomes impossible during the wet season because the bulldust turns to mud and there are washouts and collapses.
The road has, sadly, developed into a challenge for 4WD drivers. There is even a downloadable brochure - http://tourism.racq.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/56721/Cape-Tribulation-to-Cooktown.pdf - titled Bring Back the Queensland Road Trip. There is also a lot of good advice at http://douglas.qld.gov.au/road-conditions/bloomfield-road-cape-tribulation-to-cooktown/ which is the local shire's website.
It is not cheap. Room prices, per person, range (in 2014) from $368-$568 per night. However the setting is glorious and if you want to experience what it is like to live in a rainforest on the edge of the Coral Sea, and eat and be treated to five star service, then Bloomfield is about as good as it gets.
Bloomfleld Lodge is located on the coast some 120 kilometres south of Cooktown and deep in the Daintree Rainforest. The only access is by water and, if you are alert, you can see the local crocodiles lazing in the mud on the banks of the Bloomfield River as the boat takes visitors from the local airstrip across the estuary to the Bloomfield jetty.
The tides are so large, and the mouth of the Bloomfield River so shallow, that the boat carrying visitors nudges towards the lodge until it runs aground some distance from the shore at which point a tractor is backed into the water and hooked onto the boat.
A short walk up the hill and you are in a rainforest paradise. There’s a freshwater pool with deck chairs; a huge, open-air al fresco dining area; and on narrow bush tracks and across a swinging bridge are cabins with overhead fans, elegant mosquito nets and wooden-shuttered windows that gaze out through the canopy across the appropriately named Weary Bay.
Restricted to only 36 visitors, Bloomfield Lodge is a unique destination where the emphasis is on relaxation and rainforest experiences. It is possible to hire a boat and go out to the Great Barrier Reef for either snorkelling or big game fishing but the emphasis is on the lodge’s two main, and free, activities. There is a guided rainforest walk lasting two to two-and-a-half hour which does nothing more than make its way up the narrow valley behind the lodge, reach the top of the hill and then descend down the other side. Led by a well-informed guide it includes sightings of rare orchids, exotic lichens and the possibility of seeing the magnificent Ulysses butterfly.
The Bloomfield River cruise, also lasting two to two-and-a-half hours, heads up the Bloomfield River to the causeway at the local Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal. Most trips include sightings of saltwater crocodiles which glide through the river’s muddy waters searching for places on the banks where they can laze and bask in the sun.
* For thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans the Daintree Rainforest was home to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aborigines of which the Wujal Wujal were a subgroup.
* In June, 1770 Captain James Cook passed the mouth of the Daintree River before crashing into the Great Barrier Reef near Cape Tribulation.
* The Daintree River was discovered by Europeans until a century later when the explorer, George Elphinstone Dalrymple, sailed up the river in 1873.
* By the late 1870s and early 1880s timber cutters had moved into the area and were cutting down the cedar trees in the rainforest. There were large stands of cedar near the river and the loggers transported the timber by constructing rafts of logs and floating them down the river.
* They were followed by dairy farmers and a butter factory was built in 1924.
* Today the town is primarily a tourist centre with cafes, river cruises, souvenir shops, and accommodation venues near the river.^ TOP
While Daintree does not have its own Visitor Information Centre both the centre at Port Douglas and at Cairns has extensive information on the area and the activities. Check out Port Douglas Tourist Information Centre, Shop 48, Mirina Mirage, tel: (07) 4099 4588 and Cairns Visitor Centre, 11 Leafwing Close, tel: (07) 4036 3341.^ TOP
The Daintree Local Tourism Network website - http://www.daintreerainforest.com/ - has useful information on most of the activities in the local area. The Daintree Information site - www.daintreeinfo.com - is focussed heavily on accommodation and activities in the area. There is also an official site - http://www.visitportdouglasdaintree.com.au.^ TOP