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The Great Barrier Reef Drive

One of Australia's most spectacular coastal drives, it runs for 140 km. from Cairns along the Coral Sea up to Cape Tribulation in the Daintree rain forest.


daintree coast accommodation at cape tribulation
Off grid eco accommodation in the Daintree

great scenery along the Great Barrier Reef Drive
Cruising along the Great Barrier Reef Drive between Cairns and Cape Tribulation


The Great Barrier Reef Drive is a sensational coastal drive along deserted beaches and blue seas between Cairns and Cape Tribulation, incorporating no less than two World Heritage Areas, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Daintree Rainforest.

‘The Great Barrier Reef Drive is amongst the best coastal drives in Australia, up there with the Great Ocean Road and other famous drives.
Starting from Cairns, you are treated to magnificent views of the Coral Sea as soon as you leave the nortnern beaches of Cairns
This is a bit unfortunate for the driver who has to keep their eyes on the road, our advice is to stop often at the various view points and take turns driving.
There are plenty of lookouts along the way, the most popular one at the Rex Lookout where you can also try hang gliding to make the coastl views even more spectacular.

great barrier reef drrive
From the Smithfield roundabout simply follow the brown coconut signs

The Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is about 140 km. in length and in driving time without stops takes about 2.5 hours. Of course you will be stopping frequently so the adventure can quickly take up a day, or even several days to a week!
Our recommendation is to take your time exploring the sights along the way, and to spend a couple of nights at the end of the drive, Cape Tribulation as that truly is the crown on this majestic drive.
Cape Tribulation has some great accommodation where you can stay right inside the world's oldest rain forest, and Rainforest Hideaway is probably your best choice for some memorable accommodation to stay while you explore the area on some of the local tours or by yourself.

After passing beautiful Ellis Beach which is basically the end of Cairns you start a World Heritage section without any development. All you will see is deserted remote beaches and beautiful views. The Rex Lookout is a must-do stop along this drive.

Rex Lookoout, a popular stop along the Great Barrier Reef Drive
One of the views along the Great Barrier Reef Drive,
looking south from Rex Lookout over Wangetti Beach

About 70km. from Cairns you will see the turn off to Port Douglas, a popular resort town with long sweeping Four Mile Beach and varioius tourist attractions such as day tours to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wildlife Habitat.

A little bit further up the road you come to the sugar cane town of Mossman, mostly known for the Mossman Gorge, a river runs through the rain forest with scenic spots to swim in the river, and guided walks can teach you some of the indigenous culture of this area.

After leaving Mossman the real adventure begins, it is another 65 km. or 1.5 hours (driving time only) the the grand finale of the Great Barrier Reef Drive; Cape Tribulation.

Soon after Mossman there are several more beautiful beaches, such as Newell Beach and Wonga Beach.

Then you will come to a T intersectin on the highway where you will see the sign to turn right to the Daintree ferry where you cross the river to do the final 36 km. to Cape Tribulation.

Alexandra Lookout on the Great Barrier Reef Drive
One of the many vistas along the Great Barrier Reef Drive;
the mouth of the Daintree river seen from the Alexandra Lookout

Once you have crossed the Daintree river and you drive off the ferry you immediately find youself in a different world, the dense rain forest on the sides of the road gives a definite Jurassic Park feel to the drive.
There are less of the sweeping sea views along this final stretch, but the ancient rain forest more than makes up for this, stop at some of the National Park board walks to fully appreciate the spectacular beauty of the oldest rain forest on the planet, estimated to be around 120 million years old.

You will also pass quite a few pristine untouched deserted beaches along the Daintree coast here, and then reach your final destination of the Great Barrier Reef Drive; Cape Tribulation.

This small rain forest settlement in the rain forest by the beach has everything you need for a few days of exploring and experiences; Bed and Breakfast accommodation, real jungle accommodation in the Daintree Jungle Treehouse, shops, bars, restaurants, hiking trails, and local tours such as jungle surfing and snorkel tours to the Great Barrier Reef.