The Great Barrier Reef Drive – Cairns to Cape Tribulation

Cairns Esplanade Waterfront

The start of the Great Barrier Reef Drive – Cairns Esplanade Waterfront

The Great Barrier Reef Drive – Cairns to Cape Tribulation


One of the most beautiful drives in all of Australia from Cairns to Cape Tribulation has just been named the Great Barrier Reef Drive!


It understandable the state tourism bodies have recently re-named it so. It really is one of the most scenic drives in all Australia.


In this article we show you the highlights of what to see and how to find the very best parts of The Great Barrier Reef Drive, read on to get all the details.


It takes about 2.5 hours to drive non-stop, but you can easily spend a full day driving up and back and stopping at all the sights and attractions along the way.


The Great Barrier Reef Drive – from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is a breathtaking journey on the edge of large cliffs that fall away to The Great Barrier Reef.


Enjoy views of tropical rainforest covered mountains to the left from the Great Dividing Range, this drive offers spectacular views of the coastline, mountains and wide open skies.



What Can you Experience on The Great Barrier Reef Drive?


As you drive North from Cairns you will pass Cairns best beaches, like Trinity Beach and Palm Cove. Beautiful white sandy beaches that stretch right along the coastline.


I always recommend to stop in and have morning tea or a coffee at either of these 2 beaches. You will find a bunch of small cafes, restaurants and fish & chip shops. Lots of local people fish from the main Jetty at Palm Cove.


Breathtaking Views of The Great Barrier Reef!


Next along your journey you will arrive at the first major turn of the Great Barrier Reef Drive, just a little bit further North from Palm Cove. You will see breathtaking views of the entire coastline from Cairns to Cape Tribulation.


The first beach you pass is Ellis Beach. There is a small surf life-saving club, restaurant and bar here. There is also the Ellis Beach Campgrounds with beach style camping and cabins.


View Australian Wildlife along the way!


As you continue North along the Drive, take your time and soak up the salty sea breeze and tropical calm seas.


Taking your time the next main attraction you will arrive at Hartley Creek Crocodile Park. If you have time stop in for an hour or 2 you will see large saltwater crocodiles, koalas and array of native Australian animals.


Next continue North along the Great Barrier Reef Drive you will arrive at REX lookout!


Paragliding The REX Lookout - The Great Barrier Reef Drive

Paragliding The REX Lookout – The Great Barrier Reef Drive


Park your car in the car park and walk over to the lookout! Here you experience one of the best views on the entire East Coast of Australia. Vast sandy beach coastlines with tropical rainforest overhanging.


The view stretches as far as your eyes can see. Look out East to the Great Barrier Reef and see the aqua blue waters of the largest reef system in the World!


If you are visiting Cairns during the month of June and July, you may be lucky to spot humpback whales and dolphins. These months are typically the most active time you can spot these amazing sea creatures.


Another great tip if the wind is coming from a nice Easterly direction allot of local Cairns & Port Douglas hang gliding and paragliding pilots will be launching and flying from the Rex lookout.


They can also take you up for a tandem glide so just ask them while you are there.


Visit Beautiful Port Douglas


Port Douglas Waterfront

Port Douglas Waterfront


Next on the Great Barrier Reef Drive is Port Douglas, a beautiful tropical coastal town located beside four-mile beach.


Port Douglas is also another great place to take a day boat and visit The Great Barrier Reef, try snorkeling, diving or relaxing on Low Isles or visit the Outer Barrier Reef on a Port Douglas Reef Tour.


Spend an hour or two in Port Douglas visiting the beautiful shops, art galleries and photo studios. If you are lucky enough to be there on Sunday the have an excellent market only on Sunday mornings around 7:00am until 2:00pm.


After Port Douglas continue North about 15 minutes drive and you arrive at the beautiful Mossman George. A large freshwater George and Canyon with boardwalks and thick tropical rainforest.


The Daintree River is notorious for large Salt Water crocodiles, so definitely do not swim here stay back from the bank and enjoy the view from a distance.


Continue your journey on the Great Barrier Reef Drive, roughly 45 minutes further North past Mossman George you will arrive at the famous Daintree River.


The Daintree River

The Daintree River


The Daintree River is notorious for large Salt Water crocodiles, so definitely do not swim here stay back from the bank and enjoy the view from a distance.


A highlight of visiting the Daintree River is to do a Daintree River crocodile cruises. There is a great company that has been operating up there for nearly 20 years called Bruce Belchers.


After spending an hour or so looking for wild saltwater crocodiles, you can take your car on the car vehicle ferry to get you across the river to the Northern side of the Daintree river.


Here the road turns to dirt, but not to worry, it is a flat graded road and all conventional motor cars can drive along this without a problem


15 minutes further North past the Daintree River crossing you will arrive at the Daintree Discovery Centre.


Make a stop here and speak with the local friendly information staff. They can help you with local maps of the walking trails to the swimming holes and beach walks.


Another 45 minutes drive North past the Daintree Discovery Centre and you are in the heart of Cape Tribulation National Park, one of the Worlds oldest living rainforests!


Cape Tribulation Beach

Cape Tribulation Beach


Stop at Cape Tribulation beach and go for a walk in this pristine rainforest covered beach environment.


You can choose to spend the night at one of the many guest houses, backpackers and boutique hotels tucked away in the rainforest.


Or you can make the long journey all the way back down to Cairns. Either way you will have experienced one of the most scenic drives in all of Australia, The Great Barrier Reef Drive – Cairns to Cape Tribulation!



Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll is the Manager of Cairns Tour Advice & Booking Centre. An adventure travel enthusiast, travel blogger, avid scuba diver and founder of based in Cairns, Australia. Connect with Clint on Twitter.

Visit The Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

Visit the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns with a full day cruise, snorkeling equipment, glass bottom boat, semi-submarine, underwater observatory, hot and cold buffet lunch, morning & afternoon tea.

Clint Carroll

Clint Carroll - Chief Travel writer and Scuba Diving enthusiast at Cairns Tour Info. Follow him on Twitter.

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