Exploring Queensland’s Exotic Cassowary Coast in a Rooftop Tent
Nestled along Queensland’s rainforest-fringed Cassowary Coast, the mesmerizing beauty of the southern cassowary takes center stage. With its electric-blue feathered neck and vibrant raspberry-hued wattle, this endangered bird captivates all who encounter it. As I settled into Etty Bay Caravan Park, just south of Cairns, the region lived up to its name, offering a glimpse into the wild wonders of this remote stretch of coast.
Though initially wary of trading my trusty Subaru Forester for a campervan, I discovered a perfect compromise: a rooftop tent. With a smooth pop-up motion, this budget-friendly alternative transformed my vehicle into a comfortable bed, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the stunning surroundings. It was an ideal choice for those seeking a lightweight and agile option. Plus, renting a rooftop tent alongside a car-hire package left ample room for baggage storage.
As I drifted off to sleep with the sounds of the Pacific Ocean and salty breeze filling the canvas, I eagerly anticipated my journey north along the coast. While there were a few tempting side trips that required a 4WD, the compact versatility of my rooftop tent provided me with the freedom to explore backroads and squeeze into tight pitches effortlessly. The routine became second nature, allowing me to pack down the tent in under 10 minutes.
One destination that piqued my interest was Cape Tribulation, a remote headland with a fascinating history. Lieutenant James Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, had struck a reef here in 1770. I relished the opportunity to delve into the heart of the ancient Daintree rainforest, where rare Australian wildlife thrived, from duck-billed platypuses to echidnas and tree kangaroos.
To reach Cape Tribulation, a car ferry across the crocodile-infested Daintree River was the only option. This journey transported me into a dense tangle of fan palms and giant butterflies, replacing fields of golden sugarcane with an infinite palette of green shades. Upon arrival, I followed the road as it wound its way through the lush greenery, eventually reaching the Mount Alexandra Lookout. From this vantage point, I marveled at sweeping views that encompassed the rainforest canopy and extended to the deep blues of the Great Barrier Reef. The air itself felt alive, as if the rainforest were pulsating with energy.
While many visitors opt for a fast-paced day trip from Port Douglas or Cairns, my rooftop tent allowed me to fully embrace the tranquil pace of exploration. I leisurely ventured off the beaten path, stopping at serene rainforest trails and palm-fringed beaches. I kept a watchful eye for saltwater crocodiles in the turquoise creeks and waterholes, indulging in refreshing swims. The forest enveloped me, washing away the frenetic rhythms of everyday life, and inviting me to relax and breathe deeply.
At Safari Lodge, a campsite hidden amidst the jungle-covered landscape of Cape Tribulation, nature’s symphony welcomed me. The chorus of frogs crescendoed against the backdrop of cicadas’ timeless drone. As twilight settled in, I embarked on the task of setting up my tent, cautiously observing the shadows beneath my car. A mysterious shape emerged, and for a moment, I wondered if it was a bandicoot. Suddenly, a screech echoed from the rainforest canopy. Could it be a fruit bat? After my awe-inspiring encounter with the cassowary, I was prepared for any surprise the forest had in store.
For adventurers looking to explore this extraordinary region, I recommend flying from London to Cairns via Singapore with Singapore Airlines. To experience the convenience of a rooftop tent, consider renting from Britz, where 4WDs equipped with tents start from A$286 (£147).
Discover the wonders of Queensland’s Cassowary Coast for yourself, immersing in the rich rainforest and embracing the serenity of this captivating corner of Australia. This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
(Note: This article was published in the November 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK). Subscribe to the magazine here, available in select countries only.)