The Great Barrier Reef is a mandatory destination for the global explorer that ranks along with the Grand Canyon, Machu Pichu, Petra, and the Great Wall of China. As amazing as the Great Barrier Reef may be, the far northeastern reaches of Australia are blessed with more than one natural wonder. The Tropical North Queensland region is also home to the Daintree, the oldest rainforest in the world. This pristine prehistoric natural fantasyland is in fact James Cameron’s inspiration behind the movie Avatar. The forest appears as a fictional landscape of unspoiled dense jungles, gushing 400-foot high waterfalls, and an unbelievable biodiversity unlike any in the world. The ultimate way to indulge in the beauty of this region is to take the Great Barrier Reef Drive along the coast from Cairns to Cape Tribulation.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, World Heritage Listed sites, and is the most ecologically diverse system in the world. This 500,000 year old marine spectacle is home to the Earth’s greatest concentration of life, including 1500 species of fish, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 50 species of birds and 3,500 species of mollusks, starfish and sea urchin. The Great Barrier Reef is actually 2900 separate coral reef systems which include 600 beautiful coral sand islands. To put it in perspective, the 1400 mile long chain is the size of the United Kingdom or half the size of Texas.

As incredible as the Great Barrier Reef may be, the Tropical North Queensland region is far from a one trick pony.  Along the coastline is the Wet Tropics rainforest region which dates back over 165 million years, making it the oldest rainforest in the world. The Wet Tropics is 3500 square miles in size and is made up of a number of National Parks with its most iconic being the Daintree.

Sir David Attenborough remarked on the Daintree Rainforest as “the most extraordinary place on Earth”. As shared, James Cameron was so enthralled with its beauty that it became his real life place of fantasy and the inspiration behind his epic film Avatar. The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest is home to an incredible collection of wildlife, flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the world such as its most exotic inhabitant the Southern Cassowary. The majestic birds are among the tallest in the world with their dark black feathers and blue colored neck and a casque atop their head that resembles a horn or a helmet. Sadly, they are endangered and a critical part of the rainforest ecosystem, but can still be found in the wild throughout the Daintree.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive offers a series of fascinating experiences to explore from Cairns to Cape Tribulation. The picturesque coastal road goes through quaint villages and towns, and weaves along a coastline filled with gorgeous views of the cerulean coves, long stretches of deserted beaches and verdant green mountains. Along the way, visitors will want to stop at the many viewing points to snap a few pictures or just sit and take in the natural beauty before them

The Mossman River Gorge is an area filled with beautiful rainforest rivers and pristine jungles.  Back Country Bliss Adventures takes small groups on a River Drift Snorkeling adventure through the crystal clear waters of the Mossman River. The adventure ranges from thrilling rafting through fast paced rapids to tranquil stretches of  slowly drifting where you can expect to see turtles and river fish or simply look up at the canopy of trees and listening to the sounds of the river and forest birds.

The journey’s end is the sleepy crossroads village of Cape Tribulation known for its cinematic cove and wide stretches of beach the curve for miles around the bay.

Back in Cairns, explorers will enjoy the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which is a 4.5 mile cable ride high above the rainforest with several stops before terminating in the quaint tourist village of Kuranda.  The birds eye views are stunning including the view of the Baron Gorge with a spectacular waterfall that cascades 850 feet down to its precipitous end below.

One of Cairns the top reef tour companies is Quick Silver where divers descend 30 feet deep alongside colorful coral walls and formations of the continental shelf while coming face to face with a varied marine life including colorful parrot fish, massive clams, and sea turtles.

The Great Barrier Reef Drive is a road trip of a lifetime offering an endless cache of unforgettable moments. The Great Barrier Reef and the oldest rainforest in the world are filled with fascinating experiences that will be cherished long after the suitcase is unpacked back home.