Queensland holds 39% of Australia’s exceptional natural treasure – the majestic rainforests. Home to vast biodiversity, hundreds of endemic flora and fauna species, and jaw-dropping views, the rainforests are a sight you can’t afford to miss.
There are five climatic types of rainforest, and Queensland has them all! You can walk through the wet tropics, subtropical, dry, warm, and cool temperate forests. Your Big Lap is the perfect time to get closer to get back in touch with the wild nature. Take some of the walks and learn more about how you can do your part in keeping them safe.
There are three major rainforests in Queensland with several national parks inside them. Almost 70% of the forests reside in the northern part of Queensland. The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth, located on the northeast coast. Nearby you can find World Heritage-listed Kuranda Rainforest. The Gondwana Rainforest is set further in the Gold Coast hinterlands. Due to their large territory, there are several access spots.
The Daintree Rainforest
The 180-million-year-old Daintree Rainforest got the name after Richard Daintree, an Australian photographer, and geologist. It sits between Cairns and Cooktown in the north of Queensland. Spread out across 1,200 square kilometres, it’s the largest rainforest in Queensland. The area covers the Daintree Region, State Forest, and privately owned land that the state is still buying back in a conservation project.
It’s also the oldest tropical rainforest still thriving in the world. Down the coastline north of the Daintree River, the tropical forest spreads to the sea’s edge. The Daintree Region thrives on tourism, but it has kept its wilderness and authenticity.
Daintree has a lot to offer. It’s surrounded by pristine beaches, scenic mountains, waterfalls, and dense forests. It’s rated as the best biologically diverse rainforest. Daintree is home to 65% of Australia’s butterfly and bat species. An impressive 30% of reptiles and frogs also live here! Bird lovers can find 18% of bird species that feed on 12,000 different insect species.
There are ancient plants known as “Green Dinosaurs”. You can find around 150 different types of trees on one hectare alone – this speaks volumes about the diversity! All these make the area so special and unique, isolating it from the other rainforest areas worldwide.
Where To Stay
The Daintree Region covers Daintree, Cape Tribulation, Mossman, Cow Bay, Port Douglas, and Bloomfield. It’s 100km northwest of Cairns if you prefer to visit it for a day only.
The Daintree National Park is formed of two sections – Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation.
There are several free camps on the edge of the forest and ecolodges inside for a one-of-a-kind experience.
Best Time To Visit
The perfect time to visit the Daintree Rainforest is from May to September. The cold and dry months are more pleasant for exploring, and there’s less rainfall.
Things To See And Do
Daintree National Park
Take a daily excursion from Cairns or Port Douglas, but it will only give you a glimpse of the genuine treasure this place offers. You need a few days to take in all Daintree has to show. The admission tickets cost $30 for adults and provide access for three consecutive days.
You can take some easy or challenging hikes, explore it on your own or join a tour. Get all the necessary info at the information centre if you decide to wander alone. The well-structured boardwalks help for more accessible walking and orientation in the forest.
Climb the 23-metre tall canopy tower in the Daintree Discovery Centre for a unique view of the rainforest from above.
This is a must-visit part of the Daintree Rainforest, with impressive and easy bushwalking and breathtaking sights. Start at the visitor center, where a shuttle will take you deeper into the rainforest for exploring.
The Daintree Rainforest has a large number of year-round flowing waterfalls. The Tranquility Falls are a fantastic sight, but they’re on private property, so you need to purchase a $10 entry ticket. If you’re in for a challenge, the Alexandra Bay waterfalls are a 2-hour hike each way along a stony creek. But you’ll be rewarded with a swim in the rock pool under the waterfalls. Bloomfield waterfall is a must stop when driving from Cairns to Cooktown via Daintree before entering Wujal Wujal township.
The uniqueness of the Daintree Rainforest is proved once again with its pristine beaches. Some of the best beaches are Cape Tribulation, Cow Bay, Wonga, Myall, and Thornton beach.
Daintree has trails with varying difficulty to suit all fitness levels. Mount Sorrow Ridge Trail is a tad challenging and takes around an hour and a half, but the view from the top is worth it.
Marrdja Botanical Walk, Jindalba, and Dubuji Boardwalks are light level walks. The Kuku Yalangji Cultural Heritage Beach Walk is excellent if you want to know more about the people who populated the region.
Once known as the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves, Gondwana is the most extensive area of the world’s subtropical rainforest. It rests on 366,500 hectares from Newcastle to Brisbane and is over 180 million years old. The southeast Queensland rainforest is a World Heritage Site with fifty separate reserves. It mounts the Queensland and New South Wales borders.
Because in the beginning fossils covered it, the rainforest got the name after Gondwanaland, the supercontinent that existed from the Neoproterozoic and fell apart during the Jurassic.
Due to the vast size, there are different southeast Queensland points where you can access the Gondwana Rainforest and explore the unique endangered plants, animals, ancient landscapes, and eroded craters of extinct shield volcanoes.
Where To Stay
Springbrook, Mount Barney, and Main Range National Park are the perfect bases for exploring the Gondwana Rainforest. They all provide free camps, forest retreats, and conventional stays.
Best Time To Visit
The cooler, drier months are ideal for getting the most of the Gondwana Rainforest, no matter which part you decide to visit. Gondwana combines warm temperate, cool temperate, subtropical, and dry rainforests.
Things To See And Do
Springbrook National Park is a huge haven for nature lovers. It offers stunning views, beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes, amazing massive ancient trees, and many birds and wildlife. The Apple Tree Park within is a must-do!
Mount Barney National Park is the best place to hike, get a taste of adventure scrambling across rocks, explore and camp in the rainforest. On a bad day, it can be foggy and misty.
Main Range National Park offers a serene and scenic atmosphere with birds singing all around. The ultimate park for relaxation, walking and hiking amidst the rainforest.
The Gondwana Rainforest offers the most exciting walks and hikes from every rainforest mentioned on the list. There are walks of 300m all the way up to 54km in length. If you’re up for a challenge go for the longest, the Great Gold Coast Hinterland Walk. You get the chance to walk along the rim of an ancient volcano!
Some of the lightest but still fabulous walks are the Twin Falls circuit, Natural Bridge circuit, and Warringa Pool track.
Gondwana combines cool and subtropical rainforest, thus providing an abundance of waterfalls, and after a tiring hike, you can take a swim in some of them. Purling Brooke Falls, Twin Falls, Goomoolahra, and Queen Mary Falls are well worth visiting.
The Kuranda Rainforest is relatively small, spread on 110 square kilometres and more than 10,000 old. It’s settled on the eastern edge of Atherton Tablelands. The forest got the name after Kuran, a Yindinji word referring to the acorn-leafed plant. It represents a corridor between the Daintree Rainforest in the north and Atherton Tablelands in the south. Parts of Kuranda and the national parks are part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Kuranda is located 25 kilometres away from Cairns, so it makes an excellent day trip destination. You can take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or Kuranda Scenic Railway to reach it.
Endemic frog species, koalas, kangaroos, dingoes, Tasmanian Devils, snakes, and freshwater crocodiles live inside the rainforest and the wildlife parks. When it comes to trees, Kuranda is home to thousands of plant species. It’s one of the most diverse plant areas on Earth. There are more than a thousand species of trees reported from the Far North Queensland tropical rainforest.
Where To Stay
The Kuranda Village is the centre of the Kuranda Rainforest. It’s known as the colorful village in the forest. It’s very accomodating, has plenty of markets with picturesque stalls and a relaxed atmosphere.
You can stay in the lodges in the forest, the bed and breakfasts in the village, or some of the free camps a little further.
Best Time To Visit
Plan your visit from February to December when the temperature is pleasantly warm, and the rainfall is bearable. For lower prices of flights and fewer crowds, opt to visit in March and April.
Things To See And Do
The majestic Kuranda National Park is easy to explore on foot; the tracks through the park are very well marked, easy to follow, and can be achieved by anyone with reasonable fitness. If you’re feeling lazy, you can take the cableway for a different kind of experience. It glides over the tree-tops and provides great views of the forest below. There are two stops at the Red and Blue peak stations. From there, you can take the short walkways to experience the rainforest firsthand.
Baron Gorge National Park embraces cliffs, trails, and rivers to tell its glory. For ultimate relaxation visit Lake Placid inside the park, it is an easily accessible area on the Baron River.
Sanctuaries, ZOOs And Gardens
Kuranda is home of the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the Koala Gardens, Birdworld, and BatReach. These places all offer unique sights of wonderful species, and the special places designed for their comfortable living in the forest. Feed the birds, cuddle koalas or admire the beauty of over 1,500 different butterflies!
Kuranda Scenic Railway
This popular railway goes from Cairns to Kuranda. It is a spectacular journey providing breathtaking views of the World Heritage Listed rainforest, steep valleys, and jaw-dropping waterfalls within the Barron Gorge National Park.
Glacier Rock and Wrights Lookout require some hiking to be reached but will reward you with some fantastic views. Both lookouts are perfect if you want to get out and about and experience some great scenes and enjoy a good workout.
The dramatic, 260 meters tall Barron Falls roar over the cliff during the wet season. You can access the fall via the walking track leading to the observing platform or admire it from above via the sky rail or train.