Daintree, Cairns, Townsville & Magnetic Island – East Coast of Australia Road Trip

I started my Australian East Coast road trip in Northern Queensland and I was going to work my way town.  For this road trip, I will be doing grouped posts so they’re easy to follow and every post is helpful, rather than a lot of shorter, more time-consuming posts. In week 1, we got a lot done. In this post, I will share my experiences and tips from Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, Cairns, Townsville and Magnetic Island.

We flew into Cairns and went straight to collect our camper for the road trip from Spaceships Rentals. We had checked in for collection in advance so it was such an easy process. We got our Beta van and we were on the road in no time.

First stop, Cape Tribulation in Daintree Rainforest. This was about a 3 hour drive but it was such a scenic drive. It was not what I had imagine Australia to look like. Just open roads surrounded by rainforest. We crossed the ferry, which cost $28 return, and made our way even further into Daintree Rainforest. There are so many gorgeous resorts hidden along the way if you’re not camping and want to check in. We stayed in PK’s Jungle Village and stayed in our camper. It was just on the beach and there were wild crocodiles in the water. It was cool to have stayed in the rainforest for a night but I am not sure if it is a great place to stay if your in a room there.

Cape Tribulation, Daintree

In the Daintree and Cape Tribulation area, there is so much to do. You can go on walks or horserides through the rainforest or along the nearby beaches, there are zip-line and canopy tours and wild crocodile tours. Check them all out here. We went on our croc tour with a company called Solar Whisper. They were so friendly and informative and we saw lots of crocs in the wild. The boat is solar powered too which is a bonus!

Meet Nate, the 4 foot croc

On the way to and from Daintree, we stopped in Ellis Beach, Palm Cove and Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas for Picnics and just to take in the views for a bit. The beaches are so gorgeous along this coast.

Pit stop on 4 Mile Beach, Port Douglas

Next stop, Cairns. Here we based ourselves in Gecko Hostel. The location is a 20 minute walk to the Marina and across the road from Cairns Central Shopping Center. Dreamtime Hostel next door or Gilligan’s would be other good options. In Cairns, we did our Great Barrier Reef Tour. I was so excited about this. It was a great day out but was devastating to see how bleached the coral has become! So much of the reef has died!  However, I am still glad I did it. We booked with a company called Reef Daytripper. This boat can only have 20 people which was nice, especially for the snorkeling. Some boats carry 200-300 people so you can only imagine that many people trying to snorkel together. We did one dive and one hour of snorkeling in 2 different sites in the GBR. we saw a lot of fish, some stingrays and even a leopard shark. Other recommended companies are Tusa, Passions of Paradise and Poseidon. For non swimmers, a trip to Green Island may be better.

After Cairns, we headed to Townsville. We headed here so that we could visit Magnetic Island. Townsville is a Marina Town but in recent years it has struggled financially and is not as lively and developed as it once was. I would recommend just heading straight to Magnetic Island if possible. We got a ferry with a company called Fantasea across for $28 each and left the car in Townsville for the day. You can bring your car too. There is so much to do in Magnetic Island – I loved it there!

You can get a daily bus pass for $7.20 which will take you to all of the main spots on the island or you can rent a convertible 4 x 4, like a barbie car, to get around for the day. The first place we went to was the Forts Walk. Here you get to see some wild koalas. It is around 1.5-2 hours round trip and not too strenuous. We saw the amazing views from the forts and as we were leaving we spotted a wild koala.

Next  was Horseshoe Bay. Here you can do a lot of watersports – Paddle boarding, kayak, jet-skis or even rent a boat. There are lots of nice little cafes, shops and picnic areas too. We went on a Sunday and the local markets were on and there was live music. It was so nice and we stopped there for lunch. Near here is Florence Bay, where you can wade in the water and see bat fish and some times even grey tip reef sharks.

After lunch, we got the bus to Arcadia. This in next to Geoffrey Bay, where the Wallabies are. We went into the newsagent here to get wallaby feed and made the short walk to Geoffrey Bay to find the wallabies. It took some time but eventually they came out and they ate the feed from our hands. Later in the day is a better time to try and find them.

Last but not least, if you go to the Cockle Bay area of Picnic bay, you can see the wreck of SS Adelaide underwater. At low tide you can walk out to it. There is a lot to see underwater on the island and you can do the snorkel trail around different parts of the island.  You could spend days on Magnetic Island. There are lots of activities and things to see and it is a lovely place to just chill out on a beach for a while too.

Top tips:

  • If you’re planning a road trip, check out Spaceships Rentals. They even have an app you can download to help you find campsites etc as you travel around.
  • If you’re in a camper, a lot of hostels will let you pay to stay on their grounds and use their shower and cooking facilities.
  • The Daintree/Cape Tribulation Ferry can be busy so try to avoid crossing at peak times
  • The Reject Shop is a great place to buy shampoos, towels, tupperware etc at a cheaper price if you’re on a budget.
  • If you’re not driving, sometimes renting a car for a day and going to places like Daintree can be cheaper than a bus tour
  • Check out the Magnetic Island App if you’re planning a trip there.
  • In case you don’t have an iTrip, radio Stations along the way that helped with the long drives are – 102.7 (cape Tribulation) 103.5 (Cairns), 102.3 (Townsville), 106.8 (Townsville)

Hope all this helps!

Happy Travels,

Top Tip Traveller 🙂

Sunsets in Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest

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