1Ifbeginning the journey in Cairns, start with a fourhour drive north along State Route 81 to reach Cooktown. Once there, explore the mangrove-lined curves of the Endeavour River and spot saltwater crocodiles lurking by the water’s edge on a two-hour dinghy tour (from £40 per person; fishingcooktown.com). Grab a fresh seafood lunch such as a ‘peel-your-own bucket of prawns’ at 1770 Restaurant on the waterfront (from £12; 3/7 Webber Esplanade), then head over to Cooktown Botanic Gardens to wander among the native plants and discover the exquisite floral illustrations of botanist Vera Scarth-Johnson (entry free; Finch Bay Road).
2It’saround a 20-mile drive south to Rossville, and the legendary Lion’s Den Hotel. Stay for a glass of the favoured local beers: Great Northern or Castlemaine XXXX (from £3.50; lionsdenhotel.net). Continue to Bloomfield, where locals from the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Community run tours to the thundering Bloomfield Falls (from £15; adventurenorthaustralia.com). The Bloomfield Track stretches from here to Cape Tribulation, winding through the ancient Daintree Rainforest. Stop overnight at the Ferntree Rainforest Lodge (below left), a collection of cosy wood cabins set deep in the forest (from £85; ferntreerainforest lodge.com.au).
3Geta bird’s-eye-view of the Daintree, setting off from Port Douglas on the southern tip of the rainforest and seeing where the world’s oldest rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef (from £245; gbrhelicopters.com. au). Then head to the Silky Oaks Lodge (above right). Located deep in the rainforest near Mossman, this luxury eco-lodge has self-contained tree-house cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows and broad balconies complete with hammocks. You could explore the nearby walking tracks, or simply lie back and relax to the sounds of local birdlife and the Mossman River flowing by (from £310; silkyoakslodge.com.au).
4Foran introduction to the forest culture of the Kuku Yalanji Indigenous group, head to Mossman Gorge, which runs upstream from Silky Oaks Lodge (walks from £40; mossmangorge.com.au). It’s then a 10-minute drive east to Cooya Beach for a spearfishing adventure. Juan Walker tells the story of his country and demonstrates the traditional hunting methods of his ancestors, followed by a campfire lunch of crabs and seafood (from £100; walkaboutadventures.com.au).
5Anhour’s drive south is the small mountain village of Kuranda, the start of a historic railway (above) that winds through forested hills via tracks carved out by early European settlers. Enjoy views towards the coast and the waterfalls of the Barron Gorge National Park on the two-hour journey to Cairns (from £30; ksr.com. au), the gateway city to the Great Barrier Reef.