The stretch of coast from Port Douglas to Daintree is a beautiful part of Tropical North Queensland. It is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the ancient Daintree Rainforest and the colourful underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef.
Our road trip itinerary will help you plan to perfect getaway along the Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, exploring both by land and water!
This itinerary is designed to take four days, but there’s so much to see and do that you could easily extend it for a week or more!
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Port Douglas to Daintree: Day 1
Great Barrier Reef Drive
Our itinerary focuses on the road trip from Port Douglas to Daintree, however we started our journey in Cairns, about an hour south of Port Douglas.
We hired a vehicle from JUCY as they were a great affordable option and allowed us the flexibility of stopping along the route to take in the views. Trust me – you’re going to want to be able to stop at every view point! The drive from Cairns or Port Douglas to Daintree is pretty straightforward, but absolutely stunning.
If, like us, you’re coming from Cairns and lucky enough to pass Yule Point at low tide you’ll be treated to a hell of a view.
From Port Douglas to Daintree, you’ll eventually take the ferry across the Daintree River so keep your eyes open for crocs, hopefully, you’ll be luckier than me and get to see one!
Drive carefully on the way up to Cape Tribulation, where you’ll spend the night. Keep a look out for cassowary, we were lucky enough to see one with a baby but they moved too quickly for me to get a decent photo.
Cape Trib Beach House
We stayed the night at Cape Trib Beach House, which, as the name suggests, is located right on the beach. The accommodation is somewhat basic but clean and the staff were fantastic. The beach is stunning, although you can’t swim due to crocs.
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Port Douglas to Daintree: Day 2
Sunrise on Cape Tribulation Beach
Get up out of bed and watch the sunrise on Cape Tribulation Beach, seriously I’m not a morning person but the sunrises were gorgeous here. Take a stroll in either direction along the beach, it’s pretty both ways!
I spent the morning horse riding along the beach and I was lucky enough to be the only person in the group (Adam just came along to take photos!). I would highly recommend the morning ride as it’s cooler and also a great way to start the day! The ride takes you through the Daintree rainforest to Myall beach where you can even take the horses into the water.
If you’re feeling like a swim then Emmagen Creek is the place to go. It’s one of the few places in the Daintree area that offers safe swimming holes (due to all the crocs – seriously there are signs everywhere about crocs and we never got to see one, I was very disappointed!). It’s worth walking up along the creek for a bit as a bus load of tourists arrived at the closest swimming hole to the road minutes after we did!
Cape Trib Beach Lookout
Ok, so disclaimer: we never actually made it to the lookout, we somehow ended up on the other side of the headland (after taking directions from a local for the best spot to watch the sunset) looking out towards Myall beach.
However, the view was still pretty epic and you can apparently see turtles just off the shore there (so we were told, but I didn’t see any of those either, they must’ve been busy playing with the crocs that I also didn’t see!). This was a pretty nice spot for sunset, but to be honest this part of the country is all about sunrises as the coastline faces east.
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Port Douglas to Daintree: Day 3
Sunrise on Cape Trib beach
If you were too lazy to get your butt out of bed yesterday for sunrise then do it today… I promise it’ll be worth it. Plus it makes breakfast all that more rewarding!
I honestly kind of expected a dinosaur to jump out from behind a tree on this boardwalk. It’s soooo pretty though, it takes you through the rainforest and mangroves to Myall beach. It says it’ll take an hour, but it probably took us a lot longer as we got distracted taking photos along the way.
This looped walkway takes you once again through the rainforest, but passes Oliver Creek where you can watch for crocs… you guessed it though, I didn’t see any.
We made our way back to Port Douglas in time for lunch and to check into our accommodation. There are so many options for hostels, hotels and b&bs in Port Douglas, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You’ll find plenty of options in different prices ranges on Booking.com.
It was also time for a quick lunch! Lotus Leaf does amazing Asian salads! Or there’s a host of other restaurants to grab lunch.
Ok, so it was pretty awesome to be out on the sea again, I LOVE boats. The sail we did with Tropical Journeys was also great because it’s BYO – you can bring any drinks you want, they provide the coolers and glasses. Downside – you’re back before sunset which feels like a bit of an anti-climax.
In my opinion, it’s still totally worth doing, it’s a really pretty sail and the staff were great. And if you’re quick enough you can make it to Rex Smeal Park in time to watch the sun go down behind the mountains.
Honestly, after such a full-on couple of days (and with more on the itinerary for tomorrow) I was pretty ready to grab a take away and crash… However, I then came across Capannina. They do the BEST ice cream, seriously I’m obsessed with ice cream and this stuff is AMAZING. Plus I ate a salad at lunch, so totally guilt-free 😉
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Port Douglas to Daintree: Day 4
Sunrise on Four Mile Beach
Yep, I dragged myself out of bed for another sunrise. Totally worth it though! As the name suggests, the beach stretches out for 4 miles. And even better, you can actually swim here! Just make sure to stay within the nets during stinger season (Nov-May).
No trip to this part of the country is complete without exploring the Great Barrier Reef, it was a huge one on my travel bucket list! We did a half day snorkel trip to Low Isles and it was wonderful to get into the water and explore this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We immediately found a turtle cruising along the beach. The visibility wasn’t particularly good on the reef, but there were plenty of turtles popping their heads up in the shallow water near the beach.
The island itself is also gorgeous and you can walk around it or keep a look out for the ospreys nesting there. I felt like a half day trip here was plenty, maybe if the visibility had been better then I’d have been happier to spend longer snorkelling.
Silky Oaks Lodge
We stopped by Silky Oaks Lodge for lunch. If you fancy something a bit more high end I really couldn’t recommend this place enough. The food was outstanding and they had a good selection of beers on the menu… win-win. The grounds are also stunning, I can imagine it would be a perfect place to stay.
So we were supposed to do the Ngadiku Dreamtime Gorge Walk, but I’m an idiot. I’d thought it started at 3:30pm, and casually enjoyed lunch safe in the knowledge that we had plenty of time to get there. Nope. It started at 3pm and we arrived half hour too late.
However, they were kind enough to still let us jump on the shuttle and head off unguided to explore. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the Daintree. I just love being fully immersed in the rainforest.
It’s like stepping back in time. We stayed right up until the last minute, and ran to get back just in time for the last shuttle (otherwise it’s about a 45 minute walk back to the visitor centre).
Final Thoughts on this Port Douglas to Daintree Road Trip
Our 4 day road trip from Port Douglas to Daintree was very busy but we loved every minute of it. It’s not every day you get to explore a 180 million year old rainforest or go snorkeling with sea turtles.
While you can take many different tours to Port Douglas and Daintree, I’d highly recommend considering a self-drive option to really be able to take in all the sights. If you do prefer an organised tour, you can find some great options here: Port Douglas and Daintree tours.
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. As always, I love hearing from you. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts or if there’s something you think I’ve missed.
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