Review: Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD explores the majesty of a World Heritage-listed landscape

The vast Queensland Wet Tropics stretch all the way from Townsville up to Cooktown, encompassing rugged mountains and lush rainforest. The Daintree is arguably the most famous piece of this natural wonder, and you'll head deep into the heart of the region on this 4WD tour. Review: Vanessa O’Hanlon

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

5 stars

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD with Billy Tea Safaris

This Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD offers an eco-accredited experience in a custom-built 4WD vehicle. Your guide will have an extensive knowledge of the flora, fauna and history of the region, along with Indigenous culture and heritage. Duration: 8 hours (approx.)

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef sits on a cusp with the Daintree rainforest — a verdant landscape that is over one hundred million years old.

Tropical North Queensland is the only place on earth where two natural World Heritage-listed sites like this sit side by side. I could hire a car and weave my own way into the unknown, but I figure it’s best to explore this rugged jewel with a company that has a real understanding of the landscape. I’m joining Advanced Eco-Accredited Billy Tea Safaris on their Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and 4WD Bloomfield Track Day Tour. At just under 12 hours in duration, it’s going to be a long day — but I’m happy to report that it was worth every minute!

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD: Daintree Rainforest. Image: Bigstock

Right on 7am, tour guide Matthew arrives to pick me up from my Cairns hotel. From the moment I board the custom-built high clearance 4WD vehicle (designed to seat a maximum of sixteen people), I am laughing non-stop. Matthew’s dry sense of humour and vocabulary to rival Crocodile Dundee are two of the many highlights of this tour.

As we wind our way long the azure coastal waters, heading north past Port Douglas towards the first stop on this Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD, Matthew reminds us of the dangers of swimming in this part of Australia and the very real risk of crocodile attack. On that cheery note we board the MV Matilda for a cruise down the crocodile-infested Daintree River, and it doesn’t take long to find ‘Lizzy’ — a 3.5 metre female crocodile!

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

Her scaly body is in full view as she basks on the warm, muddy riverbank. She is guarding her young, which are swimming nearby. Female crocodiles are very protective of their offspring until the juveniles are around two or three months old. Lizzy has one eye fixed on us and glaringly sharp teeth, and I’m suddenly very thankful for the protection of the boat.

We meet up with Matthew on the other side of the river and drive on to the Alexandra Range Lookout (or Walu-Wugirriga — meaning ‘lookabout’) for a photo opportunity.

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

Our next stop is a chance to experience the true beauty of the Daintree Rainforest. The Jindalba Boardwalk meanders through the spellbinding forest and cross a small creek. Filtered light beams down through the towering canopy of palms and ferns, radiating off a spider-web that looks to be about half the size of me.

Lunch is at Lync-Haven, where an animal refuge houses injured mammals, birds and reptiles. A very cute wallaby eats carrot out of my hand. I work up the nerve to pat a python’s leathery skin. Meanwhile, multi-skilled Matthew cooks up a true-blue Aussie barbeque of steak and snags.

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD: Jindalba Boardwalk. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

Next on our itinerary is a bumping, steep ride along the iconic 4WD Bloomfield Track. Built in the early 1980s, the Bloomfield Track became the focus of one of Australia’s most controversial environmental protests. Today it is one of only two connections to Cooktown.

About 6 kilometres down the track is the Emmagen Creek crossing. Its 20-degree temperature is a deterrent to crocodiles who prefer warmer water, so there’s no time like the present for a plunge. I dive into the refreshing, crystal clear water.

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD. Image: Vanessa O’Hanlon

Matthew is already preparing the next treat — a platter of exotic tropical fruits and traditional damper. With swivelling hips and contorting lips, he transforms into Elvis as he swings the billy around and around, brewing a bush cuppa. Taking mine to the edge of the river, I savour a quiet moment and the beauty of the Australian bush.

However, the day is not over. We’re soon stepping foot onto a stunning secluded beach where the rainforest literally meets the ocean. A brief history lesson from Matthew takes us back to 1770 when Captain Cook’s ship became stuck on a reef here — hence the name ‘Cape Tribulation’. I could stay here for a week, but all too soon it’s time to move on. There’s one final sweet surprise in store for us — a stop at the Daintree Ice Cream Company for an ice cream made from fresh local ingredients.

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD

Daintree tour from Cairns by 4WD: Cape Tribulation

As we head back towards Cairns, I reflect on what a wonderful journey it’s been. This tour has given me a broader appreciation of just how special this part of Australia is — where a world-renowned rainforest morphs into an equally famous reef.

Vanessa travelled as a guest of Billy Tea Safaris.

Additional images: Bigstock


Vanessa O'Hanlon

About the writer

Vanessa O’Hanlon is an Australian television news presenter with the Nine Network and an avid traveller. Her travels began with a flight to Egypt, a visit to the pyramids and a camel ride, and she knew there was no turning back. Since then, Vanessa’s backpack has seen a thing or two — from exploring relatively untouched Bhutan to braving the cold on the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro.

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