The Daintree Rainforest is one of those truly magical places. Immerse yourself in the forest and you’ll be smitten for sure. For starters, the Daintree is home to some of the most humungous trees in the world. (Kauri Pine, Spur Mahogany and Red Tulip Oak please take a collective bow), many of whom make it on to the National Register of Big Trees. Tree huggers contain yourself pleeeease. The rainforest itself has celebrated over 135 million birthdays – that’s an awful lot of candles to blow out!
But let’s not forget the nearby town of Port Douglas, a popular departure point for forays into the forest. Simply known as ‘Port’ by locals, there are a gazillion reasons to hang around, wind down and soak up the casual holiday vibe. Fancy a movie under the stars? Or a romantic dinner in the forest? Maybe a ride along the beach or an art workshop with an Indigenous artist? We’ve listed 15 ideas to get you started as you wind your way north from Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef Drive.
1. Join in the Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival
Not everyone thinks a fun day out involves a gut-busting 74km ultra marathon through mountainous terrain and rainforest, finishing with a beach trot along Four Mile Beach. For some trail runners this sounds like a perfect day out. If that’s a little overwhelming, shorter distances range from 2.5km through to a 42.2 km adventure marathon. Or you could go for a casual jog before breakfast and dream about future athletic greatness! Or not.
If the thought of lacing up your joggers sends you in to a sweat, stake a place on the beach and cheer on the runners in the Tropical Journeys Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival as they cross the line on 6 November 2016.
2. Create your own Aboriginal artwork
Join an Art Workshop at Janbal Gallery and learn about the stories told through Aboriginal paintings under the guidance of renowned artist Brian ‘Binna’ Swindley. Binna shares stories about his culture, art history and painting techniques, helping visitors to understand the symbolism inherent in Aboriginal art. A hands on workshop, take home your own piece of art or pick up authentic Indigenous artwork, jewellery, artefacts or a souvenir.
3. Lets do Lunch amongst the tree tops
Open-sided Osprey’s Restaurant sits high amongst the treetops overlooking the Coral Sea. If you can drag your eyes away from the view, feast your senses upon an ever-changing menu inspired by delectable treasures from the food bowl of Queensland. Think, thick juicy prawns served in a freshly-cracked coconut with mango dipping sauce. If you haven’t time for lunch or dinner, pop in for High Tea and linger over cake and watch the colours change upon the Coral Sea.
Keep an eye out for the birds and wildlife that roam free while you’re there including #AppletheWallaby – she’s famous!
4. Take a Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge
The Dreamtime Gorge Walk through Kuku Yalanji country (15 mins from Port Douglas) starts with a traditional smoking ceremony to cleanse visitors and warn bad spirits to stay away. Escorted by an Indigenous Guide you’ll learn about bush tucker, traditional medicine, making bush soap and ochre painting as well visiting a sacred ceremony site. The walk takes place in ancient rainforest that the Kuku Yalanji people have called home for eons, finishing up with bush tea and damper.
5. Unleash your inner Tarzan (or Jane!)
Ramp up the adrenelin by strapping yourself into a harness tethered to a taut cable and surf the rainforest canopy. Tarzan would have truly been King of the Jungle had he had such equipment at his disposal Zip-lining is surely the most aerial fun you can have without having to jump out of a plane! Fly through the forest canopy with Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours at Cape Tribulation for a rainforest view you’re unlikely to forget.
If that sounds a little too crazy, take it down a notch with a guided Jungle Adventure Night Tour. You’ll likely see critters you didn’t even know existed.
6. Hook a Barramundi
There’s something really fishy going on at Hook-a-Barra! Which is just the way they like it. With barramundi being the poster child for fishing folk in these parts, the slippery little blighters hog the limelight at Daintree Saltwater Barramundi Fish Farm.
Pop by to drop a line in for action-packed catch and release sport fishing or fly fishing (instructions are provided if you’ve got no clue). If you’re more inclined towards hunger rather than hunting, pick up a fillet from a fishmonger who makes regular red carpet appearances at the Sydney Fine Food Show.
7. Dine in the rainforest
Transport yourself into a magical world where curling flames from oversized candleabras dripping waxy stalactites dance upon forest leaves. Overhead the forest canopy is ablaze with subtle colours creating a frame for starry night skies above a forest ballroom.
Few venues create such a dramatic dining occasion as Flames of the Forest do. Two lavishly spectacular dining options vary between an Aboriginal Cultural or a Rainforest Dining Experience. If you only treat yourself to one special evening while in Tropical North Queensland, make it this one! The food, the setting and the service are exceptional – a night to remember!
8. Ride a bike on the beach
Four Mile Beach is famously included in a couple of endurance sporting events like the RRR Mountain Bike Challenge and the Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival. But you don’t need to be a hard core biker to experience the thrill of riding along Four Mile Beach.
The firm sand of Four Mile Beach is rideable at any time but it’s particularly thrilling at low tide. Naturally, riders should give way to sandcastle builders, sunbathers and the odd Frisbee-chasing canine. Refuel at the Port Douglas Surf Lifesaving Club for a casual beachside lunch or beverage. Beer always tastes better after a little exertion, don’t you think? Not that we’re suggesting you should drink and ride!
Hire a bike from Port Douglas Bike Hire for a quick beach fling or for a couple of free-wheeling days -either way you can’t go wrong.
9. The wind is free – so is sailing!
Hop onboard a yacht and spend the afternoon sailing the Coral Sea. For free! OK there might be a small payment involved in the form of a beer or two for the Skipper once you get back to the Port Douglas Yacht Club. Put your name on the board and join the crew each Wednesday afternoon for a few hours of relaxed sailing. In theory it’s racing but no-one really takes it seriously – it’s way more about socialising!
Once the sails are packed away retreat to the Yacht Club for dinner and drinks. Sailors can be a thirsty mob so don’t be surprised if you find yourself still sharing a beer and a yarn on the waters edge when the barman calls stumps.
10. SUP in a fresh water stream
Who would have thought it was a good idea to jump on a paddle board deep within the rainforest a gazillion miles away from the salt-soaked Great Barrier Reef? The mob at Windswell Kite Surfing & Stand Up Paddle did. Their SUP’ing tour in the gin-clear waters of the Mossman River is one of their most popular adventures. SUP’pers (totally made that up) bring your boardies or bikinis and get ready for a relaxing float down the gentle river current, all the while accompanied by a knowledgeable guide pointing out underwater critters that live in the planet’s most ancient rainforest.
11. Take an ocean safari
World heritage reef and rainforest collide on the Daintree coast near Cape Tribulation in a kaleidoscopic collusion of colour. Board a swift RIB (rigid inflatable boat) for an intimate Ocean Safari exploring stunning coastline and reef systems.
Guided by expert, passionate crew, expect to come face to face with marine superstars like turtles, dugongs, perhaps even whales if you’re lucky enough! With an emphasis on fun while preserving and protecting this pristine environment, memories of an Ocean Safari adventure will linger long after the tan marks have faded. Yep, it’s pretty special!
12. Movie stars under the stars
The aptly named Moonlight Cinema runs from June to October showing latest releases as well as cult classics. Stake your claim on a piece of manicured grass at QT Port Douglas, stock up on popcorn and chill out beneath starry moonlit skies with your besty. Or you could arrive early and enjoy dinner at quirky Bazaar. You’ll probably not find a more chilled out cinema in the country. Stay overnight at QT and ask about their ‘Gold Grass’ experience.