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Drive alongside the Great Barrier Reef

Stopping to enjoy the sights along the Great Barrier Reef Drive has become easier with the installation of more than 143 road signs featuring images of swaying palm trees to help drivers find their way.

Hugging the coastline between Tropical North Queensland’s two World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef Drive is one of Australia’s most picturesque coastal roads where rainforest-clad mountains descend to long stretches of deserted beaches. The road leaves the Coral Sea to weave in and out of tropical rainforests and sugar cane fields.

Starting in Cairns city where visitors can arrive at the international airport, the drive culminates at Cape Tribulation, where two World Heritage areas sit side by side – the Wet Tropics rainforests of Daintree National Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

With a driving time of two hours and 40 minutes, the one-way 140km drive can be experienced in a day. However, a five-day itinerary allows visitors to more fully explore the beaches, villages, rainforest, unique wildlife and Indigenous culture of Tropical North Queensland, as well as the colourful corals and marine life of the reef.

Day one of a north-bound, five-day itinerary takes visitors from Cairns to Port Douglas, with abundant beaches and awe-inspiring coastal views along the way. Stop off at Palm Cove or Ellis Beach and enjoy a walk on the beach, swim or seaside café.

On day two relax in the chic, seaside town of Port Douglas, where you can experience resorts, incredible dining, bars, boutique shopping, the marina and the glorious expanse of Four Mile Beach.

As Port Douglas is the closest mainland port to the reef, day three of the itinerary is ideal to board a luxury catamaran or high-powered jet boat to discover the islands, sand cays, coral gardens and vibrant marine life of the Great Barrier Reef. Dive or snorkel the Outer Barrier Reef, or explore the sheltered lagoon of idyllic Low Isles.

Day four of the drive takes you deeper into the rainforest to Mossman Gorge, just north of Port Douglas where you can explore the jungle walks and swimming holes, which the Indigenous Kuku Yalanji people call home.

Further on is the Daintree River, where you can embark on a crocodile, bird and wildlife spotting cruise, or visit the scenic and peaceful Daintree Village. The Daintree area is filled with unique wildlife, including cassowaries, crocodiles, kangaroos, platypus and more than 430 bird species.

On day five, cross the Daintree River by ferry and explore the beautiful rainforests and beaches around Cape Tribulation, where the reef meets the rainforest. Stepping straight on to the beach from the rainforest is a very special experience at Cape Tribulation.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive can also be done in a day, either north from Cairns or south from Cape Tribulation. Key experiences on a day-long drive include the seaside cafes and restaurants of Palm Cove, the Rex and Alexandra Lookouts with spectacular views of the Coral Sea and islands, the Indigenous culture and beautiful rainforest of Mossman Gorge, Four-Mile Beach at Port Douglas, and the beaches and rainforests around Cape Tribulation. Visitors can also enjoy a half or full-day trip to the reef or islands from Port Douglas.

Accommodation is available at several places along the drive, from secluded rainforest retreats near Mossman, Daintree Village or Cape Tribulation, to the resorts and boutique apartments of Port Douglas and Palm Cove.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive initiative was led by Tourism Port Douglas Daintree in collaboration with Tourism and Events Queensland, Tourism Tropical North Queensland, the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the Wet Tropics Management Authority.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive itineraries are available at Tourism Port Douglas & Daintree’s website:

28 August 2019