Cooktown to Cape Tribulation 2½hrs (105km) to Cairns 2½hrs (141km)
You can drive to Cairns via Cape Tribulation on the coast road in less than 4 hrs but there is a lot to see along the way so allow yourself a full day. Turn left shortly after the Black Mountain for Helenvale. The famous Lions Den Hotel is on the right.
The road passes through Rossville, which in its heyday was a tin-mining centre, and then through the Cedar Bay National Park with Mt Finlay on the left and Mt Finnegan on the right. The road is quite narrow with concrete strips so you may have to pull over to pass vehicles coming the other way. This a beautiful section of rainforest with many small creeks, tree ferns and giant ferns. You emerge into cattle grazing farmland. If the weather is clear you should see the granite pillar of Mt Pieter Botte (or Ngalba-bulal) in the distance. It is behind Mt Sorrow at Cape Tribulation and can't be seen there.
You have a 10km run to Ayton on the north side of the Bloomfield River. If you have time to explore, take a left about 2km before you get to Ayton and drive down to the beach at Weary Bay. At the beach turn right onto the track running south along the bay. It ends at the mouth of the Bloomfield River with great views all round. Ayton is named after Great Ayton in Yorkshire, England. It was the boyhood home of James Cook. The Cook family home, a stone cottage dating from 1755, was carefully dismantled in 1934 and re-erected in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens.
Go through Ayton following the road on to Wujal Wujal, the Aboriginal community, and continue on past the Bloomfield River bridge for about 2km until you can go no further. The falls are a short walk (300m) on from the car park. The falls and river are fed by the Roaring Meg which ia an apt name as the river becomes a raging torrent in the wet season. Look up as you are walking to the falls. You will see debris caught in the trees which will give you an idea how high the river can rise during monsoon rain.
The Bloomfield bridge was completed in 2014 after several years of trying a concrete causeway. Before that it was always a dicey crossing and only possible at low tide. Many came to grief there, including myself on two occasions.
The road is not sealed between the Bloomfiled and Cape Tribulation. You will be driving up some very steep hills. Use your 4 wheel drive (even when the road is dry) because it will give you better grip and on the steeper sections remain in low gear and climb up steadily. I find that 2nd gear in high ratio works best for the steep bits. It's about 30km to Cape Tribulation and will take 1 hour or less.
Pull into the carpark on the left and walk through the forest to Cape Trib beach.
There is a cafe (Turtle Rock) on the right 1.5km from the beach carpark and another (Mason's) a further 1km on with a fine view of Mt Sorrow. Mt Sorrow was named by Capt Cook, along with Cape Tribulation, Mt Misery and Weary Bay. The names give an idea of the desperate strife they were in.
The next section runs along beside Noah Beach. Take the turn in to the Noah Beach camping area to access the beach. 6km from Mason's Cafe you cross Oliver Creek. The Maardja boardwalk is on the left just after the creek. Take a break and stretch your legs. It's a great walk through the lowland forest. Lots of palms such as the beautiful Fan Palm (Licuala ramsayi), the fiercely hooked Lawyer Cane (a climbing palm - Calamus australis) and an amazing arching Strangler Fig. The boardwalk ends at the mangroves along Noah Creek.
Australia has more than half the world's mangrove species. Mangrove is a generic term for trees that can live in the high salt intertidal zone. They may have aerial roots, buttress roots and knobby or peg-like pneumatophores which help the roots to breathe. Mangroves are able to remove salt through their roots or leaves or both. Mangrove communities support other salt tolerant plants including orchids and ferns. Mangroves are the breeding nurseries for many fish and crustaceans and the habitat for many birds. They also protect coastlines against erosion and over time can actually build up the land with the sediment that they trap.
The Strangler Fig on the Maardja boardwalk is self-supporting now that the trunk of the original supporting tree has rotted away. Strangler figs usually germinate high up in the fork of a tree and drop enveloping roots all the way to the ground. A fig can grow a canopy so dense that all light to the host tree is cut off and it dies.
Another 5km brings you to Thornton Beach. A huge beach at low tide with Struck Island offshore and Alexandra Bay running past the mouth of Cooper Creek to Bailey Point.
The last leg of the Daintree National Park takes you over the Alexandra range and down to the Daintree River ferry. At the top of the range pull into the lookout for the view of the Daintree River mouth and Snapper Island.
Depending upon the time of day, the drive to Cairns from the Daintree ferry takes about 1½ hours (106km).