7 days 6 nights

Cairns to Cooktown
1 week road trip

Cairns to Cooktown 1-week road trip — guide & itinerary

Start in:Cairns
Finish in:Cooktown
Duration:7 days – 6 nights
About Trip
Cairns to Cooktown road trip
Cairns • One week bucket list road trip

The route follows Captain Cook Highway from slick, modern Cairns through a thread of photo moment beaches to Port Douglas. Port Douglas, a tropical town with the vibe of beach, reef and forest. Port Douglas is the gateway to the Daintree domain. From Port Douglas the road trip’s identity pivots with an introduction to a rainforest canopy interspersed with rolling farmland. The road then curves around the coast and the Coral Sea beaches.The reef and forest meet on the coast with mountain ridges, steep escapements and fertile narrow valleys bringing the ancient forest to the sea. A classic 4WD journey from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown completes this iconic well known Australian road trip.

Where rainforest meets the sea, Cape Tribulation

Day 1
From Cairns to Port Douglas

You are on your way. An afternoon to explore Port Douglas, the instagramable Four Mile beach and the village atmosphere of its main street.

Cairns to Port Douglas route: 1 hour, 68km

Waterfront lagoon, Cairns

Cairns, Australia

Where is Cairns
Cairns exploration

Arrive in Cairns and chill out on a tropical beach or explore Cairns’s laid personality. The city’s landmark is the Esplanade, which fringes the shoreline for 2 km and provides a place for locals and visitors to walk, cycle, lounge by the lagoon and generally enjoy the sun. As the focal point of the city, the Esplanade is always alive with various musical and cultural events and is also home to many fine restaurants and bars.

Just back from the Esplanade is City Place, a modern European-styled piazza where there are plenty of shopping and eating opportunities and many of the city’s cultural and entertainment attractions. Dotted around this area, particularly along Wharf Street, you will also find a number of Cairns’ older and historical buildings with their characteristic Queenslander wide verandas and porches.


Verandahs Boutique Hotel @visitportdouglasdaintree

Recommended is a central location to allow easy access to the village main street with its numerous cafes and eateries. Verandahs Boutique Hotel fits the bill with its apartments for self-catering and space to relax and soak up the Port Douglas vibe.

An excellent value for your budget is the Big 4 Port Douglas Glengarry Holiday Park Big 4 Port Douglas Glengarry Holiday Park camping grounds.

Day 2
From Port Douglas to Mossman Gorge
Guided walking tours

Start the day with an Aboriginal walking tour of Cooya Beach. The beach is the traditional fishing grounds of the Kuku Yalanji people and home to Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours. Join one of the Kubirri Warra brothers on their beach, mudflat and mangrove walk. Brothers, Linc and Brandon Walker follow the traditions of their ancestors by educating visitors about their traditional country on the far north east coast of Australia. Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours: Tours Port Douglas is an immersion tour where you will be challenged to forage in your bare feet.

Mossman Gorge

Day 3
Depart Port Douglas
55km sealed road

Departing for Port Douglas on the Captain Cook Highway, you will pass sugar cane plantations, regenerating rainforest, rural settlements and cross the boundary of the Daintree National Park.  

Road trip: Depart Port Douglas for Daintree Village

55km sealed road Captain Cook Highway, Mossman Daintree Road

Jindalba boardwalk



Daintree Village, for a touch of luxury select Daintree Ecolodge – Rainforest Retreat Queensland, Australia as a tropical paradise deserves spa treatment. Outdoor dining, secluded rock pools and tropical organic food makes for a memorable stay. The banyans are located in their own tropical rainforest setting adding to the magic of the lodge.

Day 4
on foot
Daintree Village
Daintree forest exploration

Daintree forest exploration starts with a Daintree River cruise with a guided forest walk in the afternoon. There are opportunities to swim in freshwater rock pools and potter among the shops and galleries of Daintree Village, you are encouraged to find those board shorts, purchase a tropical T shirt and get into the Queesland tropical spirit. Relax it’s a Daintree Village exploration day.

Explore the village with it’s 19th century original store fronts. Channel your inner explorer and embark on a crocodile, bird and wildlife spotting cruise before retreating to your resort rainforest lodge or camping grounds for a restorative nap. Then the early evening for beach walks, perhaps spa treatment and a chance to indulge in some fishing from the beach.

Daintree Village

Day 5
Road trip to Cooktown
Daintree Village to Cape Tribulation, then to Cooktown

Road trip: Daintree Village to Cape Tribulation, then (Bloomfield 4WD track) to Cooktown
Sealed road to Cape Tribulation: 1 hour, 50km unsealed road

Bloomfield River fishing, Ayton @tropicalnorthqueensland

Detour Stay

Mungumby Lodge @Mungumby

For visitors who need more time in the rainforest Nearby is Mungumby Lodge – A boutique accommodation in a private wilderness retreat setting and offers fantastic rainforest walks from the lodge. From the Lodge you explore Shipton Flat and Home Rule Falls. Guides could be organised in conjunction with your extended stay at Mungumby Lodge. As Cook Shire tourism describes, “turn off to the left at Rossville and take the pretty drive to Home Rule, the home of the annual Wallaby Creek Festival.


Sovereign Resort Hotel, Cooktown @Booking

There is really only one place to stay in Cooktown. The historic four-star Sovereign Resort Hotel. Where to Stay in Cooktown is the historic Sovereign Hotel. The hotel is a heritage listed building and you can get your explorer vibe going with dinner on the wide, upstairs veranda overlooking the town.

Day 6
Cooktown exploration

You are now 350 kms north of Cairns. This is a day to explore Cooktown, a town of less than 3,000 residents yet a geographical marker in the history of Australia. You are standing in an area where the interaction of European and Aboriginal culture was a major turning point. The place is named after Captain Cook. Cooktown is well known for its annual reenactment of Cook’s ship Endeavour and its arrival in the estuary of Endeavour River.

Botanic Garden View, Cooktown

Day 7
Back to Cairns
Departing from Cooktown

When you’re ready to depart Cooktown it is approximately four hours on the inland route to Cairns. 

375 km

Cooktown main street

Travel pack information

Emmagen Creek – Cooktown

Travel pack information


The journey is worth it


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