The World-Heritage Rainforest Just Outside Cairns

Cairns is often lauded for its coastal treasures, and when you first visit its glorious beaches it’s easy to see why. But venture inland and you’ll uncover an ancient world of untouched terrain and rainforests that have survived countless laps around the sun.

Dark and cool, these world-heritage listed rainforests have nurtured countless species of plants and animals since before the dawn of time.

From Queensland’s highest peak to the homeland of the giant cassowary, these are 5 of the best rainforest hikes near Cairns.

Barron Falls

Barron Falls

Starting off with a nice easy route, Barron Falls has one of the most equally beautiful and accessible rainforest hikes near Cairns. Just a 20 minute drive and a short walk leaves you before the natural splendour of the falls. Known as Din Din in Aboriginal dialect, this is where the river descends from the Atherton Tablelands.

Delving a bit deeper into the surrounding Barron Falls National Park, simply follow signage towards Stoney Creek, weaving through large boulders to get onto the Douglas Track.

This beautiful trail will take you through 7-8km (one way) of towering eucalyptus forests, dotted with a few ancient mango trees, and past the remnants of the Kuranda railway construction camps.

Mountain Peaks

This trail won’t just take you to the highest peak in Queensland, it will also introduce you to a beloved relic of the region, Josephine Falls.

The Mount Bartle Frere trek starts at the idyllic falls and continues up for about 6-8 hours to reach the summit of the state. This means you need to be prepared to camp at the top or otherwise start your day really early. Either way, it’s worth it for the breathtaking views at the top.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try the Goldfield Trail. It covers 19km through the Wooroonooran National Park, traversing the creeks and lower canopy in the low saddle connecting Bartle Frere and Bellenden Kur, the two highest peaks in Queensland.

Fitzroy Island

This is truly where the forest meets the sea.

Just a 45-minute boat ride from Cairns, Fitzroy Island is a hiker’s paradise, with rainforest trails leading you to beaches, boulders and the island’s summit.

The 3.6km summit track gives you views of the beaches, the reef and rainforest surrounds. Along the way, you can veer off and check out the lighthouse. Once you’re done with all the hard steps, try out the Nudey Beach trail and the Secret Garden walk.

Make the most of these numerous peaks and trails by staying overnight on the island. Then you can really take your time chasing down where every winding track leads.

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge | rainforest hikes Cairns

Mossman Gorge is one of the most accessible features of Daintree National Park. Here, the limpid waters of the Mossman River rush over mossy granite boulders in the quiet and cool of the rainforest’s lower canopy.

Drive 77 km north of Cairns and you’ll arrive at the Mossman Gorge Centre, where you can find out all about the history of the area and the significance of the gorge to local Indigenous culture. From here, catch a quick shuttle bus to the Mossman Gorge carpark and then a 10 minute boardwalk through the lush rainforests to get to the beauteous Mossman Gorge.

If heights don’t faze you, definitely check out the Rex Creek suspension bridge circuit – just a 2.4km completely surrounded by the lush rainforest.

If you’re lucky you might even catch sight of forest dragon or a cassowary. These big birds have a reputation for being adversarial so make sure to appreciate them from a distance.

Cape Tribulation

cape tribulation

Photo by @mikeysemegen

Cape Tribulation is about two hours north of Cairns, so break up the drive with a stop at the Daintree Discovery Centre and find out more about the world’s oldest rainforest.

Out here nature is the boss and it deserves our respect, none more than Mount Sorrow. It may sound morose, but we can assure you that the views and terrain are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

The hike to the top takes about five hours return, which means you need to be up for a bit of sweat. Jumping over fallen trees, scrambling up boulders and steep inclines make for an exciting ascent.

Note: Water, long pants and sleeves are a must because the weather changes quick on the mountain and you don’t want to be caught out.

Curtain Fig National Park

Curtain Fig National Park | rainforest hikes Cairns

Photo by @qldparks

Five hundred years ago a small mammal or bird dropped the seed of a fig tree in the crown of a tree. Thanks to that little critter we have Curtain Fig National Park.

The park’s namesake is a heritage-listed fig tree, standing at 50 metres high and with a trunk circumference of 39 metres. An interwoven nexus of aerial roots forms the legendary curtain around the tree.

While you’re here, keep an eye out for the Lumholtz tree kangaroo. These beautiful creatures look something like a possum crossed with a kangaroo, and are only found in the forests of the Atherton Tablelands.

All these rainforest hikes near Cairns within an hours’ drive away.