Although the Daintree Rainforest and Kuranda area are both located in Tropical North Queensland, they both offer a different experience of the region. So do you pick the Daintree or Kuranda for a tropical getaway? Kuranda is a great place to enjoy more commercial activities, a bit of souvenir shopping, visits to the butterfly house, and some short walks. The Daintree, on the other hand, offers a more natural experience of Australia’s protected rainforest. The Daintree is a great place to enjoy wildlife tours or to relax at a rainforest lodge and spa with inclusive packages to maximize your experience.
Intro to the Daintree
When including the rainforest surrounding the national park, the Daintree represents Australia’s largest continuous stretch of rainforest. The Daintree National Park itself is located about 100 km (62 mi) north of Cairns and covers around 56,500 ha of Australian rainforest. Unlike some rainforests, which throughout history have repeatedly been cleared by natural events and regrown, the Daintree rainforest is thought to have existed continuously for the last 110 million years.
A fantastic destination for birders, the park contains and supports over 430 different species. Some of the favorites includes a bird which is probably the largest and most colorful in existence, the southern cassowary, at close to 2 meters high. Other favorites include the wompoo fruit dove, different kingfishers, honeyeaters, bee-eaters, Victoria’s riflebirds, double-eyed fig parrots, and more.
Some of the favorite mammals living in the Daintree include tree kangaroos, swamp wallabies, platypus, bandicoots, and echidnas. The various rainforest reptiles visitors love to see include Boyd’s forest dragon, often seen on rainforest trees, eastern water dragons, and the elegant amethystine pythons. The frogs are also a favorite find and you’re likely to see different tree frogs throughout the rainforest, often clinging to the rainforest’s leaves.
In addition to the incredible biodiversity, the Daintree scenery itself is worth the visit. You will find deep gorges, beautiful streams and waterfalls, and lush dense rainforest. In addition to the Daintree itself, the Daintree region makes a great starting point to explore Australia’s Great Barrier Reef which can be combined on tours to various lodges. We will mention our recommendation for a lodge to maximize your visit further down the page.
The Daintree River then runs through the rainforest and brings nutrients to its incredible diversity of life. The river sustains many animals and plants, such as the ones mentioned above, but also other very important species. One of these is a tree called Gymnostoma australianum, a primitive tree and the only example of this entire group of plants in Australia. This is now limited to a small fragment of rainforest north of the Daintree River. This tree was once widespread across the supercontinent of Gondwana before the continents separated.
The main interest for tourists on the Daintree River are the saltwater crocodiles and there are many tours each day to catch sight of these fearsome and ancient predator. An animal that requires respect and appropriate caution, saltwater crocodiles were once severely threatened from hunting but are now protected and make a fantastic sighting on registered Daintree cruises. Because of the danger to the ill informed, it’s important to be ‘croc-wise in croc country’, such as not getting close to the riverbank and staying within the confines of tour boats.
Intro to Kuranda
Kuranda is a village and tourist hot spot in Australia’s rainforest where you can enjoy visits to see the impressive Barron Falls. Enjoy different restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and different activities. This is a great place to enjoy arts and crafts shopping in Kuranda’s markets. Activities you can enjoy include visiting the butterfly house, enjoying Kuranda’s scenic railway, riding the cable car system over the rainforest, and exploring the Barron River on boat trips.
A fantastic experience to travel above Australia’s World Heritage listed rainforest, the skyrail stretches for 7.5 km through the McAlister Range and Barron Gorge National Park. Beginning in Smithfield, just a little north of Cairns city center, the cable car system takes you over the rainforest to the Kuranda station in comfortable six-person gondola cabins. Enjoy travelling above the rainforest’s canopy to see the rainforest from a new perspective, stopping at stations enroute to get down into the wilderness and take short boardwalks on the forest floor. Enjoy both guided walks with a ranger to learn about the rainforest or signposted self-guided short walks. For information on booking the Kuranda Skyrail, please visit Skyrail.com.au.
Kuranda Scenic Railway
Travel between Cairns and Kuranda on a fascinating journey through the rainforest to enjoy fantastic views of deep ravines, dense rainforest, and beautiful waterfalls. The experience lasts around 1 hour and 45 minutes and passes rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and into the Barron Gorge before ending in the village of Kuranda. The return journey from Kuranda Station to Cairns then runs in the afternoon allowing plenty of time to explore the village. For an alternative way to get back, you can choose the Kuranda Skyrail above. For more information, you can visit the Kuranda Scenic Railway website.
The Daintree Silky Oaks Luxury Resort & Spa
The Silky Oaks Lodge is a luxury rainforest resort and spa and is the premier lodge in the Daintree rainforest to maximize your experience of the Daintree region. Enjoy a very comfortable lodge with your choice of different suites spread throughout the rainforest providing fantastic views. In addition to the luxury suites, gourmet restaurant, and very relaxing spa, you can enjoy fantastic guided tours and package experiences to fully enjoy the Daintree region and even the Great Barrier Reef.
Your naturalist guide will show you fantastic wildlife in the Daintree and teach a little about the rainforest. Enjoy some of the best wildlife hot spots and the best scenery then return for fantastic food and a massage at the Silky Oaks Lodge & Spa. The restaurant itself overlooks the rainforest and Mossman river with open sides to keep you connected to this wonderful environment. In addition to being the restaurant of the lodge itself, it is also regarded as one of north Queensland’s premier dining experiences.