Cairns to Cape Tribulation Road Trip – Explore Tropical Australia

Cairns to Cape Tribulation Road Trip
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Cairns region is the home to the iconic Wet Tropics World Heritage Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. This friendly Queensland metropolis is the base point of starting travel to the nearby unique places like Cape Tribulation.

The Cairns to Cape Tribulation road trip is a dream of many travellers. Often they look for a perfect itinerary to cover all the beautiful places along the way on this route.

Cairns to Cape Tribulation road distance is only 139.5 KM. So through non-stop driving your car, you will reach the destination in 2 hours and 35 minutes. But on the way to Cape Tribulation, 32 cities or attractions are available that you shouldn’t miss visiting

Therefore we are making a complete itinerary of 3 days so you can enjoy all the beauties on your trip. So, keep reading this self-drive itinerary till the end to learn all the details.

Cairns to Cape Tribulation Road Trip: Itinerary, Places, Distance & Attractions  

Bus Distance2 Hours 45 Minutes 
Drive/Car Distance2 Hours 35 Minutes 
Stops 32 (Cities / Attractions)

Cairns to Cape Tribulation distance is 139.5 KM following the Captain Cook Highway/State Route 44 and Cape Tribulation road. The approximate driving time on this route is 2 hours and 35 minutes.

On the other hand, following National Route 1, the road distance is 201.2 KM. And the driving time is 3 hours and 25 minutes. At the same time, the direct drive distance between these two ends is 379 KM or 236 miles.

However, you can reach Cape Tribulation in only 3 hours. But we are making an itinerary of 3 days. On your trip, we include all the must-visit spots where you should take a break to enjoy its beauty. If you have more time, you can make the plan for 3-5 days.

Creating an itinerary for more days means you can explore more beautiful places along this route from both ends.

Start your journey from Cairns on day 1. Then take a break at every attractive visiting place on this route. The first place to visit from Cairns is Palm Cove.

You can also read: Cairns to Broome Road Trip

Cairns to Palm Cove

Palm trees at Palm Cove Beach Queensland 2020 03
Palm trees at Palm Cove Beach, Queensland, 2020, 03.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

On your way to Cairns and Cape Tribulation trip, the first stop at which you should break your journey is Palm Cove. Along the National Route 1 and Captain Cook Highway 44, Cairns to Palm Cove distance is 25.4 KM.

Approximately you will require 25 minutes to reach your destination. Palm Cove is close to the city and a suburb of Cairns. By visiting here, you will get the real beach town feel. It is a beautiful place. And you can easily spend many hours doing different things here. 

You can enjoy your time by walking near the beach. Or, with a beautiful beach view, you can eat your breakfast. Also, a few Boutique stores are available here from where you can shop. 

Things To Do In Palm Cove

  • Walk along the beach
  • Take breakfast
  • Swimming
  • Rainforest walk to Clifton Beach
  • Boutique shopping

Accommodations/Restaurants In Palm Cove

  • The Reef House
  • Espresso & Co.
  • Hotel Paradise

Palm Cove to Ellis Beach

Ellis Beach Far North Queensland Australia panoramio
Ellis Beach, Far North Queensland, Australia – panoramio.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

After leaving Palm Cove, another destination next to it is Ellis Beach. To cross this path, you need to drive only for 3 minutes. Following the Captain Cook Highway/State Route 44, the Palm Cove and Ellis Beach distances are only 3.7 KM.

Ellis Beach is another stunning place to visit. And it has a golden sand beach 5KM. This is an absolutely stunning beach in the entire Cairns region. Even if you have limited time on your trip, visiting this beach on your way to Cape Tribulation is highly recommended.

Things to do in Ellis Beach

  • Enjoy the sunrise
  • Walk on the golden sand beach

Accommodations In Ellis Beach

  • Ellis Beachfront Bungalows

Ellis Beach to The Gatz Balancing Rocks

The Gatz balancing Rocks have been destroyed north of Cairns, south of Port Douglas in FNQ | The Cairns Post

Move along the Captain Cook Highway / State Route 44, and within 6 minutes, there is another destination named the Gatz Balancing Rocks. The distance between Ellis Beach and Balancing Rocks is 6.7 KM.

On the highway between Cairns and Cape Tribulation, don’t forget to check out the crazy collections of this destination. Both kids and adults can enjoy this beautiful place. On your road trip, we recommend you stop at this place and take some perfect pictures.

Things to do in The Gatz Balancing Rocks

  • Enjoy the piles of rocks
  • Take unique pictures with rocks

The Gatz Balancing Rocks to Wangetti Beach

Wangetti Beach 353500
Wangetti Beach 353500.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Another place you must visit on your road trip to admire this beautiful destination is Wangetti Beach. It is a fairly remote beach. Drive nearly 6 minutes from the Gatz Balancing Rocks to reach Wangetti Beach. The total destination between these two ends is only 6.6 km.

This beach runs from Slip Cliff Point for only 4 KM to Red Cliff Point. Wangetti beach is practically untouched but stunning and has been eroded naturally. The available facilities at this beach are few. And you have to park your car at the end point of the beach. We recommend you, look out at this beach’s Northern end to enjoy the best views.

Things To Do In Wangetti Beach

  • Enjoy the straight coastline views
  • Take a walk along the sand
  • Explore and enjoy the pebble stones

Wangetti Beach to Rex Lookout

Rex Lookout 2015 02
Rex Lookout, 2015 (02).JPG – Wikimedia Commons

On day 2, wake up early in the morning, and take your breakfast. Then start driving again to visit the other places on your trip. On the Drive of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the great places to break your journey is this Rex Lookout. It is the best place to grab the breathtaking photo opportunity.

Rex Lookout is located on the Captain Cook Highway, Wangetti, Queensland. This destination provides Trinity Bay’s perfect, pristine viewpoint. Whether you are a sand or sun fan, it is definitely worth stopping to see this viewpoint. 

For the hang gliders, this is a popular spot to jump from. Moreover, for weekend travellers, it’s a busy meeting point.

Things To Do In Rex Lookout

  • From different views, enjoy the Great Barrier Reef
  • Explore the Trinity Bay pristine viewpoint
  • Drive along the coastal line
  • Enjoy the incredibly blue water and mountains
  • Catch a hang glider and float down to the beach

Rex Lookout to Mowbray River Footbridge

Melton Mowbray River and Footbridge
Melton Mowbray River and Footbridge.JPG – Wikimedia Commons

After enjoying time and taking pictures at the Rex Lookout, now drive for another destination Mowbray River Footbridge. The Rex Lookout to Mowbray River Foot Bridge distance is only 15 KM. To cross this distance, you must drive for 14 minutes along the Captain Cook Highway/State Route 44.

Along the Cairns to the Cape Tribulation trip, you must visit the Mowbray River Footbridge to enjoy some wildlife. Visit during the low tide, and you will see the crocodile resting on the river’s banks. Sometimes you can also see the crocodile swimming under the bridge.

However, one recommendation is don’t approach the crocodiles because it’s risky. And for your safety, stick tightly to the footbridge.

There are so many accommodations available in Port Douglas. So after enjoying your days in different visiting attractions, stay at a hotel at night. And then, the next day, start your journey again to your final destination Cape Tribulation.

Mowbray River Footbridge to Mount Alexandra Lookout

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Mount Alexandra Lookout | A very nice lookout on our way to … | Flickr

After crossing the ferry now, to reach the Cape Tribulation, you must drive continuously for another 50 minutes. As you start climbing the road by moving soon, you will reach Mount Alexandra Lookout. You will see a big sign for the Alexandra Lookout on the road. 

The Alexandra Lookout offers the Daintree River’s incredible view. Plenty of parking facilities are available for your quick stop for a few hours. Mount Alexandra Lookout is a beautiful stop. And for a few minutes, you can break your journey here.

Mount Alexandra Lookout to Daintree Discovery Center

Daintree Discovery Centre Cairns NorthQLD 210823 20455 scaled 1
Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre | Tours & Information | Things To Do In Cairns

One of the diverse and fascinating ecosystems on earth is the Daintree rainforest. From the Mount Alexandra Lookout stops, drive for 4 minutes only along the Cape Tribulation road to reach the Daintree Discovery Center. The distance between these two destinations is 2.2 KM.

The Daintree Discovery Center is the unique place from where the forest starts. For the last 30 years, the Daintree Discovery Center has been operating gracefully. 

It allows the users to enjoy the most exciting and unique Daintree experience by enabling them to view this forest. People of all ages from every perspective will enjoy viewing this rainforest.

Daintree Discovery Center to Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation Beach 01 11372200715
Cape Tribulation Beach-01 (11372200715).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Finally, on day 3, drive for another 34 minutes to cross the 25.6 KM along the Cape Tribulation road. And you will eventually reach your destination. Cap Tribulation is the meeting place of several World Heritage sites. The listed sites are the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.

Once you reach Cape Tribulation Beach for the first time, you will find no words to describe the beauty of this beach. The Grand Daintree Rainforest has been a stand for 180 million years. While walking on the beach, your footprint will remain on the white sand. And you will have an incredible moment to cherish with the blue water of the sea.

Only the waves on the shores and the tree rustling will interrupt the calm and quiet moment. We highly recommend you take a walk along the deserted and remote beach. Finding the beach is easy, and plenty of parking options exist here.

Top Attractions In Cape Tribulation

  • Daintree National Park
  • Cape Tribulation Beach
  • Daintree Rainforest – Cooper Creek Wilderness
  • Marrdja Botanical Walk
  • Dubai Boardwalk
  • Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm
  • Myall Beach
  • Thornton Beach
  • Ocean Safari

Accommodation In Cape Tribulation

  • Safari Lodge
  • Daintree Wilderness Lodge
  • Heritage Lodge in the Daintree
  • Cape Trib Beach House
  • Rainforest Hideaway

Restaurants In Cape Tribulation

  • Wheat Restaurant
  • Turtle Rock Café
  • Tides Bar & Restaurant
  • The Cassowary Restaurant


Can you drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation?

Yes! A great drive route allows you to drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation. Cairns to Cape Tribulation’s entire driving route is 139.5 KM.

Why is Cape Tribulation so special?

For the Pristine beaches, Cape Tribulation is so special. This beach connects the reef to the rainforest. Moreover, in the entire world, two World Heritage Sites are situated side by side only in Cape Tribulation.

Can you drive to Cape Tribulation in 2WD?

Yes! You can drive to Cape Tribulation with your 2WD. To explore the most significant part of Cape Tribulation, it’s not necessary to have a 4WD.

Final Words

And that is the end of our Cairns to Cape Tribulation road trip itinerary. We planned a 3 days tour in Cape Tribulation so that you can hit all the major visiting spots on the way.

Hopefully, on the Cairns to Cape Tribulation drive, you will experience the most scenic driving route in Australia. The recommendation is to plan for an organized trip following our comprehensive guide. And you must explore the advantage of the best highlights.

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Hi, I'm Md Abid Hasan. The owner & content editor of is a travel blog that covers road trips, day trips, and destinations guide.

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