From wandering through the top of the rainforest canopy, to venturing to thundering waterfalls, these rainforest boardwalks are short on distance but big on experience.
Choosing to visit Australia’s most famous foliage, the Wet Tropics, is easy. Choosing when to go can be harder, with seasons playing a distinct role in how you experience the landscape.
Regardless of when you visit, expect to find a rainforest that’s perfectly seasoned by nature. If you’re wanting to explore it without getting your boots too wet, take one of these rainforest boardwalks which are short on distance but big on rainforest experience.
Barron Falls Lookout Track
For those chasing waterfalls, there’s one fall that rules them all in Tropical North Queensland, Barron Falls (Din Din). What’s usually a trickle rolling over granite in winter, transforms to a thunderous waterfall in Summer. It’s powerful enough that you can expect to feel its spray from the lookout hundreds of metres away. Find the Barron Falls Lookout Track via the rainforest village of Kuranda – and top and tail your waterfall walk with a daytrip to the Kuranda Village Markets and a journey on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or the Kuranda Scenic Railway. For more waterfalls to chase near Cairns, let your fingers do the walking over to this guide.
Cairns Botanic Gardens
You don’t have to leave Cairns’ to have a rainforest encounter, the Cairns Botanic Gardens delivers big when it comes to tropical plants. Located ten minutes north of Cairns CBD, the gardens are well known as having some of the best displays of tropical plants in Australia, which is no surprise considering this garden shares the same humid growing conditions as the Wet Tropics rainforest. Unlike the Wet Tropics national parks which favour Aussie-natives, you’ll also see a showcase of tropical plants from Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa.
Daintree Discovery Centre
In the spirit of travelling consciously and leaving the natural environment as pristine as you found it, the Daintree Discovery Centre connects visitors with the most famous precinct of the Wet Tropics rainforest through elevated walkways, meaning that you won’t leave a leaf unturned. The experience takes you from the forest floor to 23m above it via a Canopy Tower for the opportunity to see the rainforest from the top down. Take a self-guided tour to find out more about the world’s oldest rainforest, including its connections to the oldest living culture on earth.
Get amongst the rainforest action from Daintree and Cape Tribulation by taking one of the four Daintree National Park boardwalks – Dubuki, Kulki, Jindalba, Madja walks. The most popular walk, Madja Botanical Walk promises a 45-minute leisurely stroll through the dense lowland rainforest. You’ll be grateful to have interpretive signage along the way to compliment the scenery since the Daintree is home to most of the world’s 19 primitive plant families. Be sure to stop and listen to the sounds of the forest, if you listen closely at low tide, you’ll even hear some of the forest’s smallest residents, crustaceans, calling to each other from its muddy banks.
Mamu Tropical Skywalk
Head south on a day trip from Cairns to Mamu Tropical Skywalk, which literally takes rainforest discovery to new heights. Follow this elevated boardwalk which runs for 350m through the canopy and over one of the largest-remaining continuous stands of complex vine forest on basalt soils in the Wet Tropics. The star attraction of this boardwalk is the 37m tall observation tower which overlooks the rainforest and out towards the surrounding cloud-kissed mountain ranges. Aside from the elevated boardwalk experience, there’s another 1200m or so of walking tracks to explore this pristine landscape.
Curtain & Cathedral Fig Trees
It’s easy to see how the Wet Tropics rainforest became the muse for James Cameron’s Avatar, especially when you stand in awe of its giant strangler figs up close. Two of the best examples can be found in the Atherton Tablelands in the form of the Curtain Fig Tree and Cathedral Fig Tree, both of which date back 500 years and are accessible via short boardwalks which circumnavigate their gigantic aerial roots.
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
You might know Skyrail Rainforest Cableway best for its aerial experience of the rainforest, but did you know there are two stations along the way which connect you with the world-famous forest at ground level? Break up your gondola journey at Barron Falls and Red Peak Stations, where Skyrail Rangers will interpret the 300 million years of history that can be learnt from this rainforest. Stand on a glass platform over a rainforest-fringed gorge at The Edge lookout and marvel at uninterrupted views of Barron Falls.
The Atherton Tablelands’ crater lakes are remarkable in themselves, and that’s before you see the foliage on their banks. At Lake Barrine, take the short 10 minute walk to the twin Bull Kauri Pines, which are over 1000 years old, 50m tall and have a 2.7m trunk. If you’re keen to push on a little further, there’s also a 5km track around the lake. Either way, reward your efforts with a Devonshire Tea at the Lake Barrine Teahouse, which has views over the inky blue lake which was formed over 17,000 years ago when a volcanic eruption left this very crater behind as a souvenir.
Connect with culture at Mossman Gorge, taking either a self-guided stroll or joining an Indigenous guide for a Dreamtime Walk through the rainforest. Lead by the local Indigenous people, you’ll hear Ngadiku (stories), as told from the people who know the area best, the Kuku Yalanji people. Alternatively, under the power of your own two feet, the popular Rainforest Circuit track leads you to water holes that are safe for swimming. For those travelling with little ones, the Baral Marrjanga walk is just 270m and packs into 5-10 minutes of walking time views of the Mossman River and mountain ranges.
Licuala State Forest
If you find yourself in Mission Beach, swap your morning beach walk for one in the rainforest exploring Licuala State Forest. There are several walks to choose from, but the 1.2km Licuala Fan Palm Walk is ideal for a slow holiday pace. See how this walk earned its name and view Licuala Fan Palms, which are native to the area. If travelling with little ones you might like to take the children’s walk, which follows cassowary footprints towards a nest full of eggs.
Devil's Pool Walk Babinda Boulders
From the popular swimming hole of Babinda Boulders, take the short 1.3km return walk to see the swirling waters of the Devil’s Pool. According to local Indigenous legend, the pool is also haunted by the spirit of Oolana who, after being torn away from her lover Dyga, threw herself into the waters in anguish, where she now lures young men to their untimely deaths in the aptly named Devil’s Pool. If the 20 memorials of men are anything to go by, it’s wise to keep to the path, not only to preserve the environment, but so as not to test the accuracy of this Indigenous legend.
The glassy emerald water might be eerily enticing as it thunders over silver-granite boulders at the Devil’s Pool, but swimming here is incredibly dangerous due to currents. Stick to the safe swimming holes located near the car park to cool off in, those not haunted by the Dreamtime story of Oolana and Dyga. Make a day out of your Babinda Boulders trip with this guide.
The Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk
Looking for a boardwalk through a different tropical ecosystem? The Jack Barnes Bicentennial Mangrove Boardwalk has two different walks, both of which meander through different zones of mangrove forest and include variety of mangrove species, from saltmarsh margins to tall mangrove forest. Search for various bird species and peer into the wetlands for fish nurseries.
The boardwalk has been recently refurbished and reopened in August 2022 and is managed in partnership with Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation. It is located en-route to Cairns Airport on the right hand side of Airport Avenue.