Destination Daintree

Some interesting facts about the Daintree from the time of the first Europeans


Captain James Cook named Cape Tribulation because 'here began all our troubles'. His barque, Endeavour, struck the Great Barrier Reef and they limped in to Cooktown to make repairs. Local folklore suggested that Captainn Cook also named Mt Sorrow, and that he even climbed it to find a way out through the reef. We now know that this outstanding sight was named after 1850, and that Cook climbed several hills around the Cooktown region to the north of Cape Tribulation.

George Dalrymple 'discovered' the Daintree River and named it after a former Queensland Government geologist, Richard Daintree, who was then Queensland's Agent-General in London. Oddly, Richard Daintree never visited this area but his geological surveys helped open up many coal and gold mines in later years.

The discovery of gold changed everything for the rainforest Aboriginal people, violent clashes with European settlers often resulted in fatalities.

The first permanent settlers in the Daintree Village area were the Stewart brothers.

Daintree Village was established on the Daintree River, which was the only way of access until 1933 when the road to Mossman was completed. Supplies and mail arrived once a week from Port Douglas and produce and passengers left on the return journey.

Daintree Village was first a base for the red cedar timber industry and in the old logging days the logs were floated down river and loaded onto small coasters at Daintree Heads. Later European and Chinese settlers on both sides of the Daintree River tried many crops – sugar-cane, coffee and other crops but floods, disease and marketing proved major stumbling-blocks.

The two half-time schools at Cow Bay and Daintree Village closed due to the resignation of the teacher who, each week, had to row 16 miles between the schools, 4 of them in the open sea along the coast.

A cyclone razed Port Douglas and surrounding countryside, two people were killed.

Daintree State School opened in Daintree Village with 10 pupils. A butter factory and sawmill were built, both running on the same steam boiler – the caravan park now occupies the site. The Village had a store, post office, drapery, butcher, baker, cafe, blacksmith and sawmill office.

Barratts Creek Bridge opened – before that it was a 6-8 hour horse-ride from Daintree Village to Mossman and the creek could only be crossed at low tide.

The Mason family were the first white settlers of Cape Tribulation. Walter Mason reported that more than 300 Aborigines lived along this coast in small family units.

Completion of the road from Mossman to Daintree Village.

There were six settlers and their children at Cape Tribulation. A parcel of meat arrived weekly on the Cairns-Cooktown boat.

During World War 2 a Japanese aircraft dropped 8 bombs in the region, one landing along Bamboo Creek Road, near Miallo and the Whyanbeel Valley. There is a stone memorial with a plaque stating:-

"At 3.30 am on 31st July 1942 a Japanese aircraft dropped eight bombs in this Shire, one landing 50 metres directly behind this point. Carmel Zullo, aged 2 1/2 years was asleep in the home of her parents when the bomb exploded nearby. Shrapnel pierced the iron walls of the house, one fragment grazing Carmel's skull.”

She was the only civilian casualty inflicted by the enemy on the Eastern Australian mainland throughout World War 2.

A steel punt was used as a ferry to cart timber trucks from the timber mill north of the Daintree River to the south side.

The Douglas Shire Council built an outboard-driven ferry to service residents north of the Daintree River – this was eventually replaced by a new privately-owned ferry.

The Daintree Ferry to Cape Tribulation Road was opened by Andrew Mason.

Electricity was turned on in Daintree Village. Daintree National Park was declared by the Queensland State Government.

Local farmers and the community wanted to open a cattle track from Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield. A Dutch-born Cape Tribulation local called Rykers refused permission for it to go through his property so a track was constructed from Bloomfield to a spot just north of Cape Tribulation.

Cattle had to walk along the Cape Tribulation beach then up a steep hill to join the Track. Both cattle and vehicles traversed this “Pioneer's Track” and it became a hiking trail for experience-seekers and nature-lovers, helping promote the area's wilderness values.

The Nicholas family established a tea plantation (now called Daintree Tea) at Diwan, from seed from the Nerada plantation at Innisfail.

The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed onto the World Heritage List for its unique natural properties and enormous scientific and environmental importance.

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Storekeeper Beryl Wruck was taken by a crocodile at Barratt's Creek near Daintree Village

Daintree National Park received World Heritage listing by UNESCO in recognition of its universal natural values and is now part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) 

The last section of road from Mossman to Daintree Village was fully sealed

The Queensland State Government offered residents north of the Daintree River (who still do not have mains power) a subsidy to install solar power. 1500 mm (almost 5 feet) of rain fell in 36 hours – the current in the Daintree River was so strong the ferry cables broke, cutting off access for a week.

The last section of the road from the Daintree Ferry to Cape Tribulation was sealed.

The Daintree thrives on tourism with hundreds of national and international visitors arriving every year. Descendants of the original settlers still live here, many operating thriving, environmentally-sustainable beef cattle, tropical fruit and sugar-cane farms and plantations.