It takes just 90 minutes to drive from Cairns city to the heart of the world’s oldest rainforest. It’s Australia’s largest area of continuous rainforest, running right down to the sea between Mossman Gorge and the Bloomfield River.
It’s the Daintree, long and still one of the main reasons people visit far north Queensland. But when you do the drive from Cairns, the first road sign you’ll see with the word “Daintree” on it is just before you get there – as you approach the Daintree River car ferry.
It’s a wonderful journey and the rainforest is breath-taking. But visitor numbers have dropped and some local businesses have closed since the global financial crisis. The people who run tourism related concerns in the Daintree are a determined lot, who have long lived with the waxing and waning visitor arrival numbers. That may be a fact of life in the industry, but there are concerns the Daintree has lost some of its lustre, that it needs to be much better promoted as a destination, and that barriers to tourism should be reduced.
One of the pioneers of tourism in the region believes the price of the short ferry trip across the river is a significant barrier. It’s the only way in from the south by road – it will cost you $23 for a return trip, and while you might spend some time waiting to get aboard, the crossing lasts barely two minutes.
Ron Birkett is the director of the Daintree Discovery Centre – and he’s offered to pay the ferry fare for visitors to his Centre during the usually quiet FNQ wet season. Ron has made the offer to drum up some business, but also to make a point about a fee he believes deters visitors and adds to the already significant cost of living and running a business in the Daintree, where people have to generate their own power and provide their own water and sewerage systems.
LISTEN to my interview with Ron Birkett
Ron first came to the Daintree in the 1980s, having seen TV news coverage of the blockades staged there by people opposed to the Queensland Government push to build a road through the rainforest. More about the blockades here
And you can take an online audio-visual tour of the Daintree Discovery Centre here