A local’s guide to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
When she’s not swinging from the treetops, Sheena Walshaw (who runs Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours), loves sharing the secrets of her rainforest hometown where there’s plenty of interesting local produce, adventure activities and an addictive laid-back vibe on offer.
There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked breakfast with local produce and just-laid eggs, so it’s hard to beat the sumptuous spreads at some of our local B&Bs. Digby’s banana pancakes with black sapote sauce are legendary at Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm B&B, and in Daintree Village at Red Mill House, Trish and Andrew lay on a famous feast with their full cooked breakfast plus homemade jams, yoghurt and breads.
If you’ve only got time for a day trip, then Breakfast with the Birds at Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas on your way north will set you up for the day.
At Daintree Village, Croc Eye Café (eds note: business now closed) is the locals’ favourite. Just north of Cow Bay you can hang with Boris the croc (who turned out to be a girl!) while you have a coffee at Lync Haven, and in Cape Tribulation, Boardwalk Café (eds note: business has changed name to The Turtle Rock Cafe) is great for people watching.
Whet Café, Bar & Restaurant in Cape Trib will make your taste buds sing. It’s a great spot for a relaxed lunch or stylish dinner, with a menu that’s perfect for our tropical climate (even those drenching wet days when you need a bit of comfort in the form of a sticky date pudding)! The tuna nicoise is to die for and the steak is an absolute winner.
If you’re up for a culinary adventure, you’ll also find some unusual dishes at our local cafes. The crocodile spare ribs with Asian lime and green ant glaze at Croc Eye Café (eds note: business now closed) are a revelation and Masons Café has an Aussie food tasting plate with mini croc, emu and kangaroo burgers.
When I think Daintree nightlife I’m thinking frogs, snakes and dragons rather than clubs and partying! So my recommendation is The Sandbar at Cape Trib Camping which has charm, character and a fantastic laid-back vibe. They serve delicious wood-fired pizzas, and attract the most interesting travellers and locals with many a great tale to tell over a few drinks.
Best activity for under $50
You’re spoilt for choice for great value activities so here are the must-dos: Take a cruise on the Daintree River or on Cooper Creek – not only will you be looking out for the fearsome saltwater crocodiles that inhabit the region’s waterways, but you’ll get to see amazing birdlife and explore the magnificent mangrove ecosystems.
Foodies will love Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm’s Fruit Tasting Tour with a weird and wonderful menu of delights like Grumichama, Ice Cream Bean, Salak and the Miracle Fruit.
And of course you’ve got to get into our amazing forest: by day check out the Daintree Discovery Centre and by night take a guided Night Walk – it’s like taking a time machine back millions of years.
Favourite way to spend a Sunday
To work up an appetite for breakfast, I love to kayak up to Cape Trib Beach House for brunch, then take a leisurely paddle back, maybe throwing in a line to see if I can catch anything on the way home. No day is complete without a visit to the beach, so the afternoon might see me playing Finska on the sand with friends before dinner and curling up on a bean bag at Whet Café, Bar Restaurant’s groovy 27-seat cinema.
Don’t go home without some of the locally-produced goodies. Daintree Estates Chocolate is the only chocolate produced in Australia from Australian cocoa, and it’s grown right here in the Daintree and blended with sugar from the Mossman sugar mill. It’s so good, even the Belgians can’t get enough of it!
As you drive north to Cape Trib, you’ll also see the distinctive rows of the Daintree Tea plantation, with a roadside stall and displays where you can pick up this delicious brew. Pesticide free and unblended, it’s a perfect little gift and a great way to bring a bit of the Daintree into your everyday life.
And of course in our tropical climate, every day is an ice-cream day! Both the Daintree Ice Cream Company and Floravilla Biodynamic Ice Cream Factory create fabulous flavours with local ingredients to keep you cool on your travels.
Jungle Surfing is a fantastic and fun way to see the Daintree from a whole new perspective as you fly between tree platforms high up in the canopy. Combine that with a half-day reef trip on Ocean Safari out to pristine Mackay Cay or join Paddle Trek Kayak Adventures around Cape Tribulation and I guarantee you’ll feel the magic seeping into your skin.
Secret only a local would know
The Strangler Fig by the side of the road just south of Emmagen Creek marks the start of the path to the deserted Emmagen Beach where you can play out your Survivor fantasies.
If money is no object…
See it all from the sky with a helicopter flight over the canopy and out to the reef. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful and the ‘bragability’ factor is massive! Then follow it up with the signature Walbul-Walbul (butterfly) spa treatment at Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa.