Despite being a reasonably big city (the fourteenth biggest in Australia, according to a googling session Chris and I had whilst debating how large the city really was), the CBD of Cairns itself doesn’t have a lot to offer. The main streets are full of your usual clothing shops, backpacker travel agencies and souvenir retailers, but the main attraction in town is the Esplanade and the reef. However, there is an abundance of sights to see in the surrounding area. Despite having less than a week in Cairns, Chris and I decided to capitalise on this by trying our luck with a campervan!
After collecting our little van we were straight on the road due north out of the city. It is a beautiful, picturesque drive, winding along the coastline. There seemed to a beach literally every 100m, the most notable of which is Ellis beach. We intended to stop there, but due to a failure of navigation we stopped one beach to early. It was nevertheless spectacular, and we walk along to the end and were able to view Ellis beach around the corner.
Eventually the road headed inland after the turn off the Port Douglas, and we found ourselves in the green hills that were always in the distance around Cairns. It is worth hiring a car just to drive around this area!
Our next stop was Mossman Gorge, another tourist hotspot. We weren’t really sure what to expect (i.e. we had not done a lot of research for this road trip!), but there was a great information centre with super helpful staff. The gorge itself is a 2km walk up the road, but the sun was beating down so we opted for the park shuttle bus. This set us back about $10 each for a return trip, but the bus was frequent and was certainly a lot nicer than walking along a hot bitumen road!
You can swim at the gorge, but the information centre staff advise against it due to fast currents. We were happy to spend our time hiking instead.
From the swimming hole there is a loop taking you into the Daintree Rainforest. It was only a few kilometres long, but Chris and I spend ages taking in the scenery and the insanity that is this rainforest. It was like nothing we had ever seen, with giant fig trees (of the strangler variety I believe?), ferns growing on top of other trees, and vines that had us considering trying out our best Tarzan impressions.
How is this natural?!
The walk itself was relatively flat, and we didn’t encounter many other hikers – it seemed most people stopped at the swimming hole.
My little old camera (and my mediocre photography skills) could not do justice to the magnificence of the forest!
After driving through more lush green hills and sugar cane plantations, we hit the Daintree River, which can only be crossed by ferry. We luckily didn’t have to wait long, and it was around $25 for a return ticket with a car.
The drive from the river crossing to Cape Tribulation took a lot longer than we anticipated, despite the short distance, due to the speed limit not getting higher than 60km an hour! Not that we were complaining, as the road took us even deeper into the Daintree Rainforest.
We arrived at Cape Tribulation with no idea whether we could just park our van anywhere, but we were sent along to Cape Trib Camping by a local shop owner. It turned out to be the most perfect little camping area, a stones throw away from the beach. There was also a little cafe/bar, which served cheap drinks and woodfired pizza. We opted for cheese and dip on the beach, though headed to the bar after for a couple of drinks. It is also worth noting there is no phone reception in the area, but the campsites had paid wifi.
The real test of our campervan was how we would go sleeping! Our fold out bed was comfortable, but the rain during the night meant we had to close up the van. It was hot, to say the least! But comfort isn’t the main point of the campervan, right?