East Coast Australia Road Trip – Exploring Cairns, Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park, Kuranda, Mossman Gorge & Port Douglas (Part I)

From the Great Barrier Reef, to Uluru/Ayers Rock, to pristine sandy beaches and vibrant cities such as Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne just to name a few, Australia has always been somewhere that has really intrigued me. I think it’s the different way of life and being on the other side of the world.

Over the next eight weeks we’ll be gallivanting over 2,000 miles down the East Coast from Cairns in Queensland to Melbourne in New South Wales and you can follow us every step of the way in this eight part series.

(To read my previous blog posts from the incredible six weeks we spent travelling the North and South Island of New Zealand, click here).

Day One – Frustrating flight disruption

*RANT INCOMING*. Our time in Australia didn’t get off to the best of starts. What should have been a routine flight from Christchurch to Cairns via Sydney ended up turning into a nightmare.

It all started when our 06:00 AM flight was delayed due to an engineering fault. By the time we landed, we had a little over an hour to collect our luggage, as well as go through border control and biodiversity checks.

We might have just made our connecting flight if it hadn’t have took 40 minutes for our baggage to come off the conveyor belt.

It turns out, my rucksack had been labelled as a ‘heavy good’ and had been checked by security in New Zealand. We’ve still no idea why…

Because my rucksack had already been inspected, the authorities thought it was necessary to search it again. I promise I wasn’t carrying any illegal substances or anything else that I shouldn’t have had on me!

By the time we got to the Qantas check-in desk, they said we had now missed our flight and there was nothing more they could do.

I kicked up a fuss but it was never going to get me anywhere. The best they could do was to rebook us onto the next direct flight in five hours time and give us a £15 food voucher.

We’d barely slept and were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to pick up our Cruisin‘ camper van. (Thankfully, we were able to out of hours).

After what felt like two days, we went to board the flight. However, an error came up on the system when we went to scan our boarding passes. They had only issued us with flights for tomorrow… luckily there were spare seats.

Eventually we landed in Cairns at 17:30 PM, but I was concerned if our luggage would have made it.

I keep an Apple AirTag in my rucksack and it was showing still to be at Sydney airport, but the Find My iPhone app hadn’t updated and eventually we were reunited with our bags.

By the time our heads hit the pillow, we’d been awake for 22 hours.

Day Two – Meeting up with a friend of a friend in Cairns

After a much-needed lie in, we sauntered along the Cairns Esplanade and the Marlin Marina before meeting up with Jonny for a pint in an Irish bar.

I’d only ever met him a handful of times before, but I knew he was in the area and more importantly that he had been working and travelling in Australia for the past four years.

We caught up and then picked his brains on his top tips for travelling down the East Coast of Australia. There’s no one better to talk to than someone who has done it themselves.

Day Three – Kuranda National Park – Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Scenic Railway

A visit to the mountainous village of Kuranda is definitely worth the time if you’re staying near Cairns or Port Douglas. The best way of getting here is either the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway from Smithfield or the Scenic Railway from Cairns.

We decided to pay $59/£35 for a one-way ticket on the cable car and then return back to Cairns by taking in the views from the train costing $50/£30 p/p.

In my opinion, the 45-minute trip on the Skyrail was excellent value for money because you stop off at the Red Peak Boardwalk and Barron Falls in Atherton Tablelands on the way.

We opted to mooch around the locally made art and handicrafts markets and then go to the Koala Gardens but a visit to Birdworld or Butterfly Sanctuary would also be worthwhile.

Koalas are indigenous to Australia and are extremely popular with tourists like us! We paid $38/£22 for an entry ticket, which also included a ‘Couple photo’ of us cuddling a koala.

These furry animals remind me of sloths. They sleep for 20 hours a day and can only ‘work’ for 30 minutes at a time. If I could be an animal, I’d like to be one of the two.

There were also kangaroos, wallabies and wombats roaming freely which you could hand feed, as well as viewing enclosures for crocodiles, frogs, lizards, possums, quokkas, snakes and turtles.

We only got to spend around a minute with Ivy – the eight-year-old koala, but at least we can now say we’ve held one.

The two hour journey from Kuranda’s 100-year old Railway Station back to Cairns was beautiful. The train passes by the Barron Gorge, mountains and ravines as well as under 37 bridges and through 15 hand-dug tunnels.

Day Four – Port Douglas

Today, we travelled an hour up the East Coast to Port Douglas – the start of the 87-mile ‘Great Barrier Reef Drive‘. It would have been a spectacular journey with good weather, but unfortunately it was a dismal day.

Because of this, we decided to optimise the weather to our advantage by planning our Australia Road Trip in more detail.

Day Five – Mossman Gorge and Crocodile River Cruise

This morning we made our way to Mossman Gorge in the 1,200+ km Daintree Rainforest – the oldest in the world – estimated to be over 180 million years old. The shuttle bus from the car park cost $13/£8 p/p or you can walk 2.5 miles instead.

We opted for the lazy option and then hiked the 1.9 mile Track Loop through dense lowland rainforest and high treetops.  

Mossman Gorge also has a couple of popular swimming holes, which we had intended on taking a plunge into, but unfortunately we were pushed for time as we had to get over to Daintree Village for the Crocodile River Cruise at 13:30 PM.

We got there just in the nick of time and got to see six saltwater crocodiles in total, two of which were scrapping with each other for territory – (see footage below). Our first crocodile spotting experience didn’t disappoint!

Day Six – Cape Tribulation – Daintree National Park

The decision to travel further North to Cape Tribulation – a coastal area within Daintree National Park was one we pondered for sometime because we’re both terrible with creepy crawlies – especially spiders. So far we’ve not seen a Huntsman or Tarantula. Touch wood that continues!

I liked the idea at the time of pushing myself to the limit by going on a guided night walk with Jungle Escapes costing $50/£29 p/p, Em was far more apprehensive but agreed on coming. However, we decided against the idea when the guide emailed us back saying:

The spiders are your average household huntsmans […] There will be a lot of different species and you will be in close proximity. None of our spiders are aggressive to humans or dangerously venomous.”

That was more than enough to put us both off. We’d be no good on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

Funnily enough, we stopped at the Daintree Discovery Centre on our way to ‘Cape Trib‘ where you could view spiders behind glass, but I couldn’t even bring myself to do that. They give us both the heebie-jeebies! I feel itchy now just typing about them.

Moving on swiftly, the views from Mount Alexandra Lookout were absolutely out of this world. On a clear day like we had you could see Port Douglas, the coastal lowlands and the Great Barrier Reef in the distance.

Afterwards, we walked along the Dubuji and Marrdja Boardwalks through more dense lowland rainforest, passing by mangrove creeks, swamps and even a beach.

We then stopped off at the Daintree Ice Cream Company where they grow all of the fruit locally.

I was boring and got a traditional vanilla tub whereas Em tried their signature cup consisting of coconut, passionfruit, yellow sapote, and wattleseed. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the acquired taste to enjoy the last two unusual flavours.

Day Seven – Drive back to Cairns

Today, we left the UNESCO World Heritage Wet Tropics of Queensland region behind us and headed back down the coast to Cairns.

In my next blog, we’ll tick another thing off our bucket lists as we go diving and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. In what I’m sure will be another unforgettable experience, we’ll also be spending a night on the world’s largest coral reef system!

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with our adventure, you can either enter your email at the bottom of this article to receive instant notifications every time I post a new blog; click the Follow ‘Al’ Around The World link, or drop me a follow on Twitter at @AlecW95 or on Instagram at @AlecW95 or @alatw95.

Alternatively, you can follow Emily on her travelling TikTok account at @emstraveladventure where she’ll be posting daily travel videos.

Thanks for reading, until the next time…


One thought on “East Coast Australia Road Trip – Exploring Cairns, Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park, Kuranda, Mossman Gorge & Port Douglas (Part I)

  1. Hi Alec the kurunda railway is great and the skyrail cable car over the worlds oldest rainforest for the Great Barrier Reef try Airlie Beach just down the road from cairns also the Whitsunday Islands ENJOY

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