1YoT: Cairns and the Daintree Rainforest

In our last post, we mentioned that the next stop on our itinerary was arguably the most spectacular destination on earth: the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef was a major splurge destination on our trip. Both Inna and I love nature and Inna loves diving, so this place was always high on our list. That combined with the fact the reef is dying (50% is bleached, while only 7% remains unaffected by rising water temperatures) meant we had to visit it on this trip.

And we are glad we did. For even though the reef was dying, it was still spectacular, so spectacular that we are dedicating an entire post to it. But before we can get to that post, we have to get to the reef itself. We accessed the reef from the coastal city of Cairns, and this post will cover our stay there.

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This is Cairns, a relatively small coastal city in northern Queensland, one of the most northern cities in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef actually extends about a third of the length of Australia, but Cairns is the largest city in the area and it has lots of tourist infrastructure, making it the reef’s main access point.

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The Coral Sea, part of the Pacific Ocean, as viewed from Cairns. Can you see the reef out there?

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Cairns itself is a beautiful city. Our favorite part (other than its proximity to nearby destinations): this coastal lagoon-like pool.

Cairns was particularly beautiful at night.

The Great Barrier Reef isn’t the only destination Cairns is close to, the city is also an hour’s drive south of the Daintree Rainforest, part of Daintree National Park. We took Captain Cook Highway to get there; this was our third drive along the Pacific coast

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Here is one of the beaches on Captain Cook Highway. This picture shows Daintree’s biggest claim to fame: the rainforest grows all the way to the coast!

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Entering Daintree required crossing the Daintree River on this old-fashioned car ferry. We’re not sure why they do it this way and don’t build a bridge.

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Our first view from inside Daintree National Park. Daintree’s other claim to fame is its age, it is ~110 million years old, making it one of the oldest forests on earth (for comparison sake, the Amazon Rainforest, the largest rainforest on earth, is ~55 million years old). Daintree is so old that it formed when most of Australia was rainforest, but Australia turned arid over the years, and Daintree is now one of only a few rainforests that remain.

With a rainforest bordering the coast, a coast that is lined with white sand beaches, you’d expect the swimming here to be spectacular. Unfortunately, deadly jellyfish and crocodiles kept us from finding out.

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Here is Cape Tribulation, the most famous beach in Daintree. This beach was so beautiful, and the water so warm, all we wanted was to go for a swim.

Brain coral and a dead crab and lobster, all evidence of the nearby Great Barrier Reef.

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Cape Tribulation as viewed from a lookout at the end of a short hike.

After Cape Tribulation, we went to the Dubuji Boardwalk, where we walked in the forest, amongst birds and bugs and trees. It was a wonderful experience, just nature and us.

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Australia is famous for giant and deadly spiders. This was the largest one we encountered on our visit; we have no idea how deadly he was.

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Next to Dubuji Boardwalk is Myall Beach, another spectacular white sand beach between the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.

All of Daintree’s beaches were covered in little ball-shaped sand clumps, created by crabs as they buried themselves in the sand. We saw a couple crabs do this, but unfortunately they did it so fast we couldn’t get a picture of it.

Next up: Mason’s Swimming Hole. We couldn’t swim in the ocean but it was safe to swim here! This place was awesome, a refreshing, warm, and clean lagoon right in the middle of Daintree National Park.

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For our final stop in Daintree, we went to the Daintree Ice Cream Company. Daintree is famous for its ice cream, made locally with fruit grown in the rainforest. The ice cream here was delicious, and very unique.

Mangosteen, Marang, Durian, Abiu? I’d never head of any of these!

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Another fruit I’d never heard of was jackfruit. These fruit, the largest in the world, can grow as large as 80 pounds! They are also super sweet and delicious, although not when dried; dried jackfruit is one of the worst foods I’ve ever eaten.

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Three more jackfruit. Insert your own joke here.

At this point we’d reached the end of our Daintree visit. But you know what we hadn’t seen? A crocodile. We drove up and down the rivers looking for one, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Finally, after leaving Daintree, we stopped by Mossman Gorge, a huge swimming hole that reminded us of Lynn Canyon in Vancouver. We arrived after sundown, after the crowds had left. There was no one here but us.

With this, we reach the end of our visit to Daintree, and also our visit to Cairns and Australia’s northern coast. Except of course for the Great Barrier Reef! To read about the reef, head to our next post (coming soon)!

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