When it comes to the four wheel drive carry all, it burst out of the cool and dark forest after rocking down the rotted jungle track emerging into the bright coastal sunlight.
Just 10 miles offshore, we left one of the great natural wonders of the world which is the Daintree rain forest and faced another one in the Great Barrier Reef. The only place where two wonders are located side by side is in one of the least developed regions along Australia’s tropical northeast coast, northern Queensland.
In this place is where one of the oldest rain forests in the world is. For the reef, it stretches north and south along 1,250 miles of shore and swings closest to land in this part of the northern coast. Available in the rainforest and reef is easy visitor access.
By using a submersible glass sided craft, watching from an underwater observatory, or by diving, you can see 1,200 species of tropical reef fish or the 350 types of spectacularly colorful living coral that make up the reef.
Serving as the jumping off point was Cairns, it is the gateway to Australia’s Marlin Coast, a small tropical city of 85,000 that is as beautiful as a British colonial outpost. We were able to ride the 100 year old Cairns Kuranda Railway during our out of town trip as it twisted 21 miles up and through rain forests, mountains, and gorges to the village of Kuranda.
Prior to our 90 minute drive north along the Marlin Coast and inland toward the rain forest, we went back to Cairns.
From the nearby rain forest comes about 13 of the 19 families of ancient plant life still found on Earth. Several even date back to 130 million years. Four wheel drive vehicles will help you pass by the old rutted dirt tracks that line the forest as these were built for logging. A more leisurely look at the rain forest is possible through pull offs, one that opens on to an hour’s easy stroll along a well marked trail.
Trips into the rain forest that are environmentally sensitive are offered by a tour service and it starts at Silky Oaks and includes a boat ride down the Daintree River.
It was a short drive from Silky Oaks to the old gold rush village of Port Douglas, one of the major gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. Scuba divers had charter boats to use, there were sailboats for skimmers, and ferrying groups of people to permanent platforms atop the reef is a fleet of twin hulled jet catamarans.
See the beauty of the coral reef and its multicolored fish without getting wet by taking a 30minute trip alongside the coral using one of two glass-sided semi submersibles. Together with trained marine biologists, snorkeling can be done.
An open air coffee shop is frequented by locals in the local hotel where we stayed in and the swimming pool area has private grottoes, one behind a waterfall. You can find beautiful stretches of palm fringed white sand curving along the ocean from the famous Four Mile Beach outside downtown Port Douglas.
What Port Douglas is away from sea is a jump off point that gives a different view of the northern Queensland environment. Becoming a prime cattle raising area during the past century was a tableland high above the coast and in existence today are some of the original homesteads on the old cattle ranches.
You have Wetherby which is the site of a 1870s homestead and still a working cattle station. With the family proprietors opening it for tourists, they can see the real Australia.
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