Cairns was a brilliant starting point when it came to exploring the Daintree Rainforest area of Australia, and with just one day we managed to see a lot. We set off bright and early from our hotel, heading straight to the Captain Cook Highway and making our first stop at the gorgeous Rex Lookout. There is a takeoff point for the gliding club there and in addition to taking in the stunning views we got to watch a glider set up his equipment.
We found a little shop next where we stopped and purchased a CD with an audio tour for our Bloomfield Track drive later in the day. I am very sad to report that we ended up leaving this great CD inside of our rental car! Breakfast was found at a little spot called Mango Jam in the cute town of Port Douglas. There were a lot of very nice stores nearby, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop in. Our Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge was scheduled for the morning, and we ended up being right on time for it. Our tour guide, Rodney, had Aboriginal ancestry and he was very enthusiastic about teaching us the stories and legends of the rainforest. We shared our tour with a family of six from Minnesota. It was so sweet to see the three older boys looking out for their little sister!
The Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk began with a traditional smoking ceremony, where we all made a circle around a little fire. Then we journeyed into the beautiful rainforest, learning all about the different flora and fauna. Rodney even demonstrated how to make body paint out of leaves and berries, and the kids in our group were willing models. He warned us about very dangerous plants like the stinging bush, which can inflict symptoms in people months after exposure. The highlight of the walk for me was this absolutely stunning spot that you can see below where we got to relax for a few moments watching the water from the rocks. The water there is so clean and crisp that Rodney invited us to have a taste and fill our bottles.
After the walk, we circled back to the spot where we’d had the smoking ceremony to find a delicious bush tea and damper snack waiting, and we really enjoyed chatting with the kids and their parents as we ate. They told us all about the world tour they were embarking on and all the fantastic places they had already seen on four different continents. We were certainly getting ideas for our future family adventures! Upon arriving back at the Mossman Gorge Centre, we were able to have a quick look around and explore some fantastic artwork and a few exhibits about Aboriginal culture before moving on.
Even after the delicious tea and damper snack we were hungry for lunch, so we stopped at the Daintree Tea House. It is so hidden in the lush greenery that we drove right past it at first! We sat out on an enclosed patio space that was positively enveloped by rainforest and the surroundings made it one of the most unique lunches I’d ever had. The food was decent but the atmosphere was the true standout. My husband’s meal arrived with the craziest assortment of tropical fruits I had ever seen!
We had to take a car ferry across the river to reach the rest of the rainforest drive, and our first stop on the other side of the water was for ice cream at Floravilla’s. The variety of flavors here is extremely impressive. The board is filled from top to bottom with recognizable favorites (like vanilla) and unique finds (like a coconut, banana, and ginger combo). My husband chose black sapote & chocolate liqueur while I had pumpkin & cinnamon. Absolutely delicious, easily some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. We made a second ice cream stop later on at the Daintree Ice Cream Company, but weren’t quite as impressed. Here there are four flavors and they give you one scoop of each in the same cup- no exceptions. The flavors were just a little too exotic for my boring palate! Plus it was difficult to have them all in the same cup after realizing how much we loved one flavor and disliked another.
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of our rainforest drive was seeing a huge cassowary cross the road right in front of our car! We had been learning about them thanks to the great CD commentary we were listening to, but it definitely caught us by surprise to actually see one so up close. The photos aren’t great by any means but I’m still glad I was able to get the camera out in time. Apparently these birds are fairly elusive and actually endangered. A few internet sources site them as the third largest remaining bird in the world, behind only the ostrich and emu.
Very soon after our cassowary sighting, we arrived at Emogen Creek, which is where the Bloomfield Track becomes 4WD only. Brad, an awesome staff member at the Cairns Night Zoo that we had visited the night before, had told us that there was a little trail off the road near Emogen Creek that led to a great swimming spot. We followed his suggestion and very much enjoyed the ten minute dip we took there, chatting with two other travelers who had stumbled across the spot. After drying off and getting back into the car we put our little 4WD rental to its first test, driving through a giant rocky puddle!
The Bloomfield Track was great fun to drive on. Narrow and steep and boggy but totally lush and gorgeous. We went quite a ways, not turning around until we reached the town of Wujal Wujal. We made much better time than we had expected to, so we didn’t think twice about two stops on the way back, first at Daintree Beach to dip our toes in the sand and surf and also practice throwing boomerangs (we failed so miserably that we nearly lost one in the water and another in the woods!) and second at the boardwalk for an easy meandering stroll through the rainforest.
We had been so excited to have all this extra time to explore that we completely forgot about the fact that the ferry may have a closing time- so as the darkness rolled in so did the panic, luckily it was unwarranted as the ferry runs until midnight. Once on the other side of the river we made it an almost straight shot back to our Cairns hotel, stopping only once at the Rex Lookout, where we had begun the day so many hours ago. Looking over the water in the darkness meant so many stars were visible and Orion was waiting for us to find him. A perfect way to close out a perfect day!