Are you planning your first visit to Cape Tribulation? We’ve put together this list of the best things to do in Cape Tribulation to help you create a truly memorable itinerary. No matter your budget level or travel style, there’s an abundance of experiences for everyone to enjoy in Cape Trib.
A trip to Tropical North Queensland wouldn’t be complete without the crowning jewel that is Cape Tribulation. Stretching along the coastline from the Daintree River to Bloomfield River, Cape Tribulation makes up a 17,000-hectare section of the Daintree National Park.
Cape Tribulation is Kuku Yalanji country – The Kukuk Yalangi people are the traditional owners of the rainforests in the lush north of Queensland.
Crossing the Daintree River into Cape Tribulation is like going back in time with its undeveloped wet jungles and weathered coastlines. Look out for “living dinosaurs” such as the cassowaries and saltwater crocodiles that call the area home.
What is so special about Cape Tribulation?
Why is Cape Tribulation worth visiting?
Experience two World Heritage Sites in one trip. Cape Tribulation sits where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, contrasting equally impressive landscapes. Where else can you wander through the world’s most biologically diverse rainforest and snorkel the most extensive coral reef system on the same day?
Approximately 400 years ago, the terrain of the Daintree National Park began forming underwater. The landscapes of Kuku Yalanji (Cape Tribulation) have spiritual significance for the traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people. They lived off the land by foraging vegetation as well as hunting diwan (Australian brush turkey), murral (tree-kangaroos), yawa (possums) and kambi (flying foxes) depending on the season.
Are there crocodiles in Cape Tribulation?
Welcome to croc country! Saltwater (estuarine) crocodiles live on the beaches of Cape Tribulation and within the muddy waters of the Daintree River. Commonly referred to as “salties”, these awe-inspiring predators can surprisingly thrive in fresh waterways.
It’s estimated there are 70 saltwater crocodiles populating the Daintree River, with males growing up to 5 metres long and females growing up to 3.5 meters long. While visiting crocodile territory, it’s essential to stay croc wise by following the signs, staying at least five meters from the water’s edge, and being extra cautious around night, dusk and dawn.
Can you swim at Cape Tribulation?
The beaches are not only inhabited by saltwater crocodiles but also marine stingers, such as box jellyfish and Irukandji. So, it’s best to appreciate the calm waves while standing with two feet on the mainland.
If you are looking for a safer place to cool off, two spots considered croc-free are Emmagen Creek and Mason’s swimming hole. There have been reports of crocodiles spotted in the lower end of Emmagen Creek so make sure to head upstream to the deeper pools.
What can you do in Cape Tribulation for free?
The Cape is a natural wonderland with plenty of zero-cost outdoor activities. We’ve included our tips on Things to do in Cape Tribulation for free below.
15 best things to do in Cape Tribulation
Great Barrier Reef Drive (Free)
The journey to Cape Tribulation is an unforgettable adventure in itself. The end-to-end 139.6km drive from Cairns takes approximately 3.5 hours direct. However, you’ll want to take your time stopping at the many incredible attractions along the way.
Below are our recommended highlights and you can see a larger list on this map of The Great Barrier Reef Drive. Extend your trip even further with overnight stays at Mossman Gorge or the Daintree Village.
Walu Wugirriga / Mount Alexandra Lookout (Free)
After you cross the Daintree River into the dense World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest, it’s only 5km to the first stunning stop of Walu Wugirriga (Mount Alexandra Lookout). From this vantage point, you can see where the Daintree River connects to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as Snapper Island and Low Isles.
Walks to do at Cape Tribulation (Free)
Immerse yourself in the Wet Tropics with a rainforest walk in the world’s oldest rainforest. There are four easy trails of 1.2km or less, all of which have wheelchair access.
- Kulki boardwalk (600m return)
- Dubuji boardwalk (1.2km circuit)
- Marrdja boardwalk (1.2km circuit)
- Jindalba boardwalk (650m return) and circuit track (3km)
- Mt Sorrow ridge trail (7km return – for experienced bushwalkers only).
If you’re feeling energetic, the Jindalba boardwalk extends to a 3km circuit track. The Mt Sorrow ridge trail is best left to the experienced hikers as this can take up to seven hours. Try to do at least two of these walks to experience this world heritage rainforest.
Picnic lunch on the beach or in the jungle (Free)
Kulki, Dujubi, Jindalba and Thorton Beach all have day-use areas with picnic tables and public toilets. Pack a picnic lunch or grab a takeaway meal from a nearby restaurant to enjoy outdoor dining at its most natural.
Explore the different beaches (Free)
The four beaches in Cape Tribulation from south to north are Cow Bay, Thornton Beach, Noah Beach, and Myall Beach. Travelling up the coast takes you further away from civilisation, with Cow Bay being more touristic and Myall Beach feeling utterly remote. Each has its own unique vibe and landscape to appreciate.
Sunset and Sunrise on the beach (Free)
During our two-night trip, we watched both sunset and sunrise on Myall Beach in Cape Tribulation, and then sunset from the banks of the Daintree River in Daintree Village. Any of the beaches in Cape Tribulation should provide a great viewpoint for sunrise, depending on where your accommodation is.
If you get a chance to spend a night on the Daintree River, it’s well worth it for the serene sunset.
Mason’s Swimming Hole (By donation)
The general rule of thumb in Cape Tribulation is to stay out of the water. Saltwater crocodiles aren’t confined to the seas, travelling and living upstream in fresh creeks and rivers.
The only two places considered safe to swim are Emmagen Creek and Mason’s Swimming Hole.
Mason’s Cafe is a general store, restaurant, and chartered tour operator smack in the middle of Cape Tribulation. Easy-to-spot as you drive along Cape Tribulation Rd, it has ample parking out the front. To the side, there is a small trail and sign for the swimming hole. The owners ask that you leave a gold coin donation in the honesty box.
Great Barrier Reef tour
Definitely something to tick off your bucket list is the experience of snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef alongside sea turtles, giant clams, eagle rays, starfish, and schools of tropical fish with Ocean Safari. Jump aboard their exhilarating fast boat with 700hp engines for their half-day eco-tour to snorkel at two different reef sites.
Horseriding on the beach
Explore Cape Tribulation with a new four-legged friend. Cape Trib Horse Rides is the only horseriding tour company in the area, offering two-hour horseback experiences along the beach and through the rainforest.
This activity is suitable for beginners or those with no previous riding experience and a great place to try it for the first time.
Daintree Discovery Centre
For an interactive and educational experience, head to the Daintree Discovery Centre. Admission will provide an audio guide to listen to as you walk from the forest floor to the canopy via the 23m high Canopy Tower and 125m long Aerial Walkway Rainforest Skywalk.
Walkabout Cultural Adventures by local Aboriginal guides
Learn about Kuku Yalanji country (Cape Tribulation), cultural history, natural medicine, and bush tucker from the traditional owners.
Walkabout Cultural Adventures is Aboriginal owned and operated with half-day and full-day tours in Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.
Fly through the treetops of the Daintree Rainforest with a Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour. This family-friendly, two-hour adventure includes six zip lines, five tree platforms, and the world’s first interactive cable lift called the Human Hamster Wheel.
River and reef sport fishing
Anglers will be pleased to know that fishing is permitted in all tidal creeks in Cape Tribulation (except Cooper Creek). The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMA) provides information on zoning, responsible reef practices, and legal marine requirements for recreational fishing. Forgot your gear or want to get out on the water? Book a Daintree River Fishing tour or personalised charter including rods, tackle and bait.
Tropical fruit orchard tour and tasting
Choose from two distinct experiences for indulging your senses with exotic fruits. Cape Tribe Farm provides fresh fruit tasting and 1.5-hour guided orchard tours. You can also spend the night on the farm in one of their bungalows and dine on a delicious tropical breakfast.
Whereas, the Daintree Ice Cream Co. serve their fruit chilled and creamy with the option of taking a self-guided walk through their orchard.
Crocodile and wildlife tours
There are a number of wildlife tours operating in Cape Tribulation and the Daintree River, all with high ratings. We chose the Crocodile Express cruise as we were camping at Daintree Village on our second night which is one of their departure points. Crocodile Express also departs from the Lower Daintree, close to the Daintree ferry crossing. By purchasing one of the Crocodile Express tours, you take any of their wildlife offerings for free for up to 30 days afterwards.
The best time of year to see crocodiles in the wild in Cape Tribulation is the dry season (April to October), however, you could potentially see them at any time of the year. They will often come up onto the river bank or beach to warm themselves in the sun during low tides. From our campsite at Daintree Riverview, we could see a female sunning herself across the river from us.
Where to eat at Cape Tribulation
Whether you want to pick up supplies, buy a bottle of wine, or take a dip in the swimming hole, you’re likely to end up at Mason’s Cafe during your trip to Cape Tribulation. If you feeling adventurous, why not try game meat burgers such as emu, crocodile and kangaroo. If that’s not your taste, there are vegan and vegetarian options such as Jakfruit burgers.
For another unique dining experience, Whet focuses on local produce in an outdoor setting surrounded by rainforest gardens. The owners pride themselves on being self-sustainable, off-grid and recycling or reusing as much as possible. You can even purchase the Mt. Sorrow sauces, made and bottled in Cape Tribulation, to take home.
Fancy a coffee with a sea view? That’s exactly what you’ll get at Thornton’s Cafe, a homely restaurant with a robust menu in an incredible location. Open for dine-in meals and beer on tap from Thursday to Monday. Takeaway is available daily from 10:30 am for freshly-baked sourdough and 4:30-7:00 pm for locally-caught fish with chips.
Julaymba Restaurant at Daintree Ecolodge is the spot for a meal to remember however they are currently only offering dining to guests so call to check before you visit.
Where to stay in Cape Tribulation
Camping or campervanning
- Noah Beach Camping: The only national park camping area in Cape Tribulation. Suitable for camp trailer and tent camping. Basic facilities with toilets and tap water.
- Cape Trib Camping: Beachfront powered and unpowered sites. Facilities include camp kitchens, hot showers, coin-operated washing machines, and campfire pits. There is an onsite cafe/bar which serves woodfire pizzas (check availability with staff when booking).
Cabins, bungalows, and cottages
- Daintree Riverview has budget rooms which offer private facilities and a large shared space with kitchen facilities. There is a swimming pool and lush green views.
- Safari Lodge (from $94): The Safari Lodge consists of King rooms with private bathrooms and eco huts with shared facilities. There are also dorm rooms if you are travelling on a budge. The property has a swimming pool and the Turtle Rock Cafe and Bar for dining. The Lodge is a 10 minute walk from Myall Beach.
- Cape Trib Beach House (from $145 per night): Choose from comfortable family cabins or romantic cottages for two on this seven-acre rainforest property. Cape Trib Beach House has the only absolute beachfront accommodation (without an obstructed view) in Cape Tribulation.
Wildwood – Set in a tropical fruit orchid and with over 800 trees these one-bedroom chalets are a little over 1km from Myall Beach. There is a creek on the property and it backs right onto the rainforest where you can enjoy an hour-long walk. There is a communal kitchen and firepits to enjoy. If you don’t feel like cooking it’s only 800m to Whet (mentioned above).
Daintree Ecolodge – If you are visiting Cape Trib as part of a special occasion trip this is the place to stay. Think honeymoon, anniversary or birthday treat. If you want luxury this is the best choice in the area. Thing freestanding bathtub on the balcony, onsite spa and beautiful treehouse-style villas.
How to get to Cape Tribulation
The closest airport to Cape Tribulation is Cairns which takes direct flights from multiple destinations around Australia including Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Darwin.
The Cape is 140km north of Cairns, it’s a scenic 139.6km drive up the coast which can be done by 2WD. You don’t need a 4WD unless venturing further north to Bloomfield or beyond. There are many car rental agencies in Cairns that will be happy to help.
Once reaching the Daintree River, a ferry operates from 5 am to midnight daily with tickets bought onsite. The cars are loaded onto the ferry and transported across frequently.
Our Cape Tribulation Attractions Map
We have saved all the places mentioned in this article on this Google map; save it to your phone for your visit.
How many days do you need in Cape Tribulation?
We would recommend a minimum of 3-5 days in Cape Tribulation to experience all there is to offer without feeling rushed. But even 2 nights is great if that’s all you have.
Check out these articles for more ideas on exploring North Queensland.
- Things to do after your Cairns Barrier Reef Experience
- Cairns or Port Douglas: Choosing a base in North Queensland
- How to plan your Great Barrier Reef Holiday
About the Author: Chantell Collins is a Pinterest Advertising Consultant, eco enthusiast, and occasional Travel Writer. Her work has been featured in Skyscanner, Yahoo, MSN, and many more. After living abroad for almost ten years, she’s renewing her affection for Australia through slow travel.