Visiting the Daintree Rainforest was one of my goals on our trip to Australia. I briefly considered scheduling a bus tour and then decided we should spend a night or two in the rainforest. So after researching lodging, we rented a car in Cairns, drove up to Port Douglas, turned off on the Mossman-Daintree Road, and finally ended up on the Cape Tribulation road. (Cue ominous sound effects.)
Driving on the left wasn’t that difficult as long as we paid attention. As you would expect, we were mystified by the rules of roundabouts, and the roads began to wind more abruptly toward the end of our journey, when we were driving in the dark. Our arms got a workout.
In Mossman, we had really good fish and chips for lunch and drove to nearby
Mossman Gorge in Daintree National Park, where we spent the afternoon hiking through the rainforest, marveling at fig trees whose massive “buttress” roots were as big as my last kitchen and dining room, flat vines twining tree trunks, a break in the dense vegetation showing a mountain topped with clouds. The relative scarcity of birds disappointed me. Todd saw a large black brush-turkey, and I saw a honeyeater, but I was hoping for many more.
Our hike took longer than we planned, so we arrived at Epiphyte Bed and Breakfast, northeast of Daintree Village, after dark. We were welcomed by Matt Wilson, who owns and built the B&B; Chiara, a woman from Italy who is working there for a while; and Julien, a guitarist who is able to support himself by performing one or two nights a week. We shared a late dinner of sushi made by Chiara.
Matt was full of suggestions for our two days, and the next day we visited Daintree Discovery Center, which had an overwhelming amount of information about the rainforest, and took a delightful river tour at dusk. Our guide, Dan Irby, is from Oklahoma and knows what to show people on the river: birds, crocodiles, mangroves, and millions of flying foxes.
Once back at the B&B, we met more guests over another relaxed dinner that involved red wine and roasted garlic, and Matt told me the story of building Epiphyte. At first he could only afford floors, pillars, and a roof, so his family used sheets to create makeshift rooms. The first walls enclosed the kitchen at one end and a bathroom at the other. When I asked him if he missed the openness, he said yes, that it was lovely.
The B&B, which sits on 8 acres in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest, is fully off the grid. Behind our room was a large water tank, and electricity is provided via solar panels.
There’s nothing rustic about Epiphyte, though; it is an elegant space.
I loved everything about it: the focus on the environment, the lush setting, the welcome, and the breakfasts. And I am always amazed by people who build their own houses; I dream of doing the same, but I doubt it will ever happen.
The next day we had to return to Cairns. We wished we could have spent more time relaxing in the Daintree, but instead we packed our bags and headed to Cow Bay Beach (again, on Matt’s recommendation). Then we drove back to Cairns via the Coffee Works.
Luckily, we will visit several tropical countries on this trip. We may not have stayed as long as we liked at Epiphyte, but I think we will get our fill of rainforest, starting mid-October in Kalimantan.
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