Starting our drive from Cairns, the unofficial capital of northern Queensland, we drive north to Bloomfield Falls.
Cairns is the unofficial capital of northern Queensland and is where we started our drive north to Bloomfield Falls. To drive straight through would take about three hours, but there is a lot to see on the way, so allow longer. The best time to visit is during the dry, from April to November.
Not long ago, Cairns was a laid-back tropical town, but it is now one of the country's top destinations and a base for many surrounding attractions.
The 92km drive to Port Douglas includes 26 kilometres of narrow, winding road, dotted with beautiful coves and beaches. There are car parks at little beaches along the way, and Rex Lookout is a good place to stop for some good photographs.
Port Douglas is spread along a long, low spit of land between the Coral Sea and Packers Creek. Developers realised its tourism potential in the mid-1980s and resorts, a golf course, heliport, marina, shopping complex and hovercraft services came into being. The town has managed to retain some of its original charm and there is still cheap accommodation to be had.
The 16km drive to Mossman is inland along the Captain Cook Highway. The town is the centre of Queensland's northernmost sugarcane growing area it also grows wonderful tropical fruit but the working town prides itself in not getting too carried away by the tourism going on around it.
Just five kilometres from the town is Mossman Gorge, popular with day-trippers wanting to walk through the shady rainforest and swim in crystal-clear water. There is a suspension bridge across the river to a 2.4 km circuit trail through the rainforest, and there are picnic facilities and toilets.
Along the 46 kilometres to the village of Daintree, you pass canefields and beautiful secluded beaches and will see the world's longest railway line, which links the canefields.
Daintree, on the banks of the Daintree River, was established as a logging town because of its prized red cedar. Now it is a little artists' town with lots of arts and crafts, river cruises and some very good b&bs.
This is where the road ends, and to drive the next 16kms to Cow Bay you first have to take the cable car ferry across the Daintree River. On the crossing you will see crocodiles, pythons and wonderfully coloured birds, as well as lush rainforest. Once across, you should pause at the Alexandra Ranges Lookout to get your bearings, before descending into Cow Bay.
Located between the river and Cape Tribulation, Cow Bay is a small community which was named after the gentle dugong, otherwise known as the sea cow. The environmental centre is an excellent introduction to the rainforest with a 23m canopy tower, twin theatres, touch-screen displays, a boardwalk and a shop.
There is a wide range of activities, including guided rainforest night tours, horse-riding, river wildlife cruises and Great Barrier Reef snorkelling and diving. Cow Bay and Thornton's Beach are wonderful to explore, and a special treat is ice-cream made from tropical fruit including the very unusual chocolate pudding fruit.
Cape Tribulation is 29.5 kilometres further on and is where Captain Cook's ship Endeavour ran aground onto a hidden reef hence the name he bestowed upon it.
It offers long, pristine beaches with backdrops of rugged, forest-covered mountains. It is one of the few places in Australia where tropical rainforest meets the sea. Most of the region is national park with a smattering of places to stay, general stores and camping grounds. Activities are plentiful: rainforest walks, waterfalls and swimming holes, reef trips, mangrove and crocodile tours, ocean kayaking and horse-trekking. The Dubuji visitors' area has a picnic area, free gas barbecues, a 1.2 km rainforest boardwalk and a track to Myall Beach.
The controversial Bloomfield Track starts at Cape Tribulation. It carves its way through mountains and rainforest for 80 kilometres before linking up with the inland route, 28 kilometres south of Cooktown. It travels through the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal community and leads to the Bloomfield Falls, a most challenging track, particularly in late summer.
The track was made in 1983 after vigorous opposition from conservationists. It offers spectacular scenery, although dense jungle encloses much of it.
The Coconut Beach Rainforest Resort is in the most perfect position, between two World Heritage areas the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park. It is in one of the world's oldest rainforests 110 million years and covers 100 hectares of rainforest fringing the beautiful sands of Coconut Beach.
The resort gives a unique environmental experience, and just standing on the balcony gives the feeling of being in the trees. At night you hear just the rustling of the leaves, and by daylight, native birds are in full voice.
Development is on a small scale and everything is sympathetic to its environment. The timber buildings are scattered throughout the trees, nestled on the hillside and connected by meandering pathways.