World's Oldest Tropical Rainforest

The Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforest is located on the coastal fringe between Townsville and Cooktown, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The Wet Tropics rainforest dates back approximately 130 million years, making it the oldest in the world!

This living museum is home to some of the world’s first kangaroos, flowering plants and ancient song birds.

It’s a natural wonder unlike anywhere else in the world and was listed as the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in 1988. Australia’s Tropical Rainforests cover approximately 900,000 square hectares and are internationally recognised as being one of the most ecologically fascinating natural areas in the world, as one of few remaining truly pristine tropical rainforest places on the planet. These forests contain an amazing array and diversity of flora and fauna.

Ancient rainforests of Gondwana
Barron Gorge National Park. Living remnants of the ancient rainforests of Gondwana.

Stretching for over 500 kilometres along Tropical North Queensland’s coastline, these rainforests are the oldest continually surviving rainforests on earth and once covered the entire Australian continent.  Read more

Over millions of years, as the climate and geography changed, the Australian rainforests receded to a small band between the coast and the Great Dividing Range, and stretching from Cooktown in the north to Townsville in the south.

Today these rainforests represent less than one-thousandth of the country’s total land mass.

Despite their relatively small size, the rainforests are home to an amazing diversity of life and provide a living record of the ecological and evolutionary processes which have shaped Australia’s plants and animals for over 415 million years.

Tropical Rainforest Facts

To be classified as a tropical rainforest, the area must receive at least 1.3 metres of rain per annum. The mean average rainfall in Australia’s Tropical Rainforests varies between 1.2 metres and 3 metres per annum; 60% of which falls in the summer months, December to March. To learn more about the forest, our friendly and knowledgeable Skyrail Environmental Rangers share many rainforest facts on their Guided Tours at our Red Peak Station. Guests can also visit the CSIRO Rainforest Interpretation Centre at our Barron Falls Station to see the interpretive and interactive displays and take home a souvenir brochure including many interesting rainforest facts.  Read more

Did you know? Approximately 2,260 different plant species are found in Australia’s Tropical Rainforests and include:

  • 65% of Australia’s ferns
  • 21% of the country’s cycads
  • 30% of its orchid species

Did you know? The rainforests are also home to a diverse range of Australian animals including:

  • 36% of Australia's mammals
  • 30% of its marsupials including tree kangaroos and possums
  • 60% of its butterflies
  • 50% of its bird species
  • 29% of its frog species
  • 23% of its reptile species
  • 41% of its freshwater fish
  • 58% of the country’s bat species.

Protected within the World Heritage area are over 348 rare or threatened plants and 678 are found nowhere else in the world. The World Heritage Wet Tropics rainforest contains 16 of the world’s 28 families of primitive flowering plants.

Some of the trees found here are more than 2,000 years old. The tallest trees in the forest reach up to 60 metres.

These rainforests of Tropical North Queensland are home to one of the world’s largest flightless birds, the Southern Cassowary, and to Australia’s most primitive kangaroo, the Musky Rat Kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus).

Wet Tropics Evolutionary Timeline

Rainforest Nature Diary

Skyrail's Nature Diary is published monthly and contains observations by Skyrail Rangers on the seasonal flora and fauna as well as facts and figures about the various plants and animals found within the cableway precinct. Read the Nature Diary