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How Big Is The Rainforest In Cairns?

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Gabby Boucher
Updated Wed 24 May 2023

Cairns is famous for being the Australian city where two World Heritage Sites meet: the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Most people around the world know all about the world's largest coral reef system, thanks in part to Finding Nemo! But very few travelers know about the Daintree Rainforest, another natural wonder that lies right outside the city of Cairns

How big is the rainforest in Cairns? What is the Daintree Rainforest like? Why is it so special? Let's dive into some fun facts about the enchanting Daintree Rainforest, and outline some ways that travelers can experience the magic of the Daintree for themselves!

Daintree Rainforest

How Big Is The Rainforest In Cairns?

So how big is the rainforest in Cairns? The Daintree Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in Australia, measuring approximately 1,200 square kilometres. This massive expanse of wilderness stretches from the Daintree River all the way up to Cooktown, and continues west to the Great Dividing Range. 

The Daintree Rainforest is also part of the greater Wet Tropics of Queensland, which is a World Heritage Area. Encompassing about 8,940 square kilometres, this protected rainforest area includes the Daintree, the Atherton Tablelands, and numerous other national parks, forests, waterfalls, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and more. Covering wilderness from Townsville up to Cape Tribulation, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is one of the oldest and most pure rainforest areas in the world. 

Rainforest Coastline

How Old Is The Daintree Rainforest?

In addition to being Australia's largest tropical rainforest, the Daintree is also the world's oldest rainforest! At around 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest is the most ancient rainforest on Planet Earth. Despite this mind-blowing fact, the Daintree is still relatively unknown in many parts of the world. Other rainforests, like the Amazon, are much more famous. That means you can explore the world's oldest rainforest in Australia without many other tourists!

Daintree Lookout

Daintree Rainforest Animals and Plants

There is a wide range of mysterious and unique Daintree Rainforest animals and plants that thrive in this wild corner of Queensland. Due to its protected status as a World Heritage Area, and its lack of many crowds, the flora and fauna can thrive here. You can find many classic tropical creatures here, including mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and insects. From massive snakes, to glow-in-the-dark funghi, to crazy spiders, to colorful birds, and more, there is always something special to see in the Daintree.

Among the rainforest's most notable animals is the cassowary. This giant, ostrich-like bird  is one of Australia's most fascinating creatures. With vibrant colors and a horn on its head, the Daintree is one of the best places to spot the elusive cassowary in the wild. Tree kangaroos, crocodiles, bats, tree frogs, and possums, are some of the other Daintree Rainforest animals you can see. In addition to the animals, you can see a huge variety of wild plants, including trees as tall as skyscrapers and ferns or palms as large as cars. 


How To Explore The Daintree Rainforest

At just 100km north of Cairns, it's very easy to plan a trip to the Daintree Rainforest. There is so much to do in Cairns, but set aside 1-3 days for exploring the Daintree while you're there. You can rent a car and drive to the rainforest yourself if you wish, or you can book a guided tour. Both options are great! Going on your own allows you flexibility and freedom. But joining a guided tour gives you that extra boost of knowledge and local insight. Learn about the history, culture, and landscape from your local guide, and just sit back and relax as you don't have to worry about any planning during a guided tour. 

Whether you are joining a tour or going on your own, you are sure to have a blast in the Daintree. You can hop on a day trip if you're short on time. But if you can, try to spend at least one night in the rainforest. The small jungle township of Cape Tribulation has some nice lodges, hostels, and eco-retreats where you can spend the night. With more time, you won't need to rush and you can really slow down and soak in the rich natural beauty of the area. 

Jeep Driving

Things To Do In The Daintree Rainforest

There are cool things to do in the Daintree Rainforest for all types of travelers. Ambitious hikers can trek up Mount Sorrow for stunning views of the area. Or for a more relaxed rainforest walk, head to the Dubuji Boardwalk. Go zip-lining or exotic fruit tasting. Treat yourself to homemade ice cream from the Daintree Ice Cream Company, or hop on a crocodile cruise on the Daintree River. 

Stroll on deserted beaches, camp under the stars, and listen to the sounds of nature. Look for wildlife, explore the mangroves, or visit scenic lookouts. Whatever you choose to do, the Daintree Rainforest is a magical place. Phone service is limited and the commercialism of the modern world is nowhere to be found. Enjoy unplugging, slowing down, and immersing yourself in the world's most ancient tropical rainforest!

Rainforest scenery

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