Mossman Gorge

Beaches, views and a gorgeous gorge

With the winter weather making for some beautiful North Queensland days, a couple of staff members decided to travel north from Cairns for a day tour to Mossman Gorge. We made a day of it, and met at Palm Cove, about 27 kilometres north of Cairns, for breakfast.A scenic drive along the esplanade revealed some great choices for breakfast, and we settled on Vivo. Our table gave us a great view right out to the beachfront, and the perfectly calm day with barely a cloud in the sky was just stunning. Breakfast looked and tasted great. Between us we choose the Sausage Omelette, Eggs Benedict, Grilled Breakfast, fresh juice and quite a few coffees to get us kick-started. The food was fabulous and the view stunning.

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Getting to Mossman

Ready to head off on the next stage of our journey, we got back on the road at about 9:30am, for the drive north to Mossman. The road north is a well known scenic route, following the coastline towards Port Douglas, and beyond to Mossman.

Along the way we stopped at the Rex Lookout for a beautiful look south over Ellis Beach to Double Island and the northern beaches of the Cairns region. From this lookout, you can often watch paragliders, and microlight gliders taking advantage of the up draughts for a great ride.

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Want to find out more about Cairns? Including our favourite tours, latest specials, travel information and plenty more. See our Cairns Things to Do Travel Guide.

Mossman Gorge

Back in the car, and we headed on, passing some amazing views of beaches, tidal flats, and mangrove systems. It would be great to live somewhere like Oak Beach or even just holiday at a resort like Thala Beach Lodge. The relative seclusion coupled with the stunning location would be paradise. The road heads away from the coast a little after we pass Thala, and we cross the Mowbray River before passing though the outskirts of Port Douglas, and continuing on to Mossman. Hmm, we might have to come back to Port Douglas this afternoon!Mossman is about 15 minutes further on, and is still a sugar cane town, if the cane fields on the way in didn’t give it away. The most famous attraction for travellers is the Mossman Gorge which is in the southernmost part of the World Heritage listed Daintree National Park. A couple of minutes to the west of town, the gorge is accessed through the Mossman Gorge Centre.

The visitor centre is a new facility operated by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Corporation and funded by the Indigenous Land Council. A world-class Eco-tourism interpretive facility, the centre employs and trains the local Kuku-Yulanji people in all areas of Eco-tourism and hospitality. The centre controls visitor access to the gorge with shuttle transfers to the starting point of  the walking tracks and swimming holes.

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Mossman Gorge Visitors Centre

After checking in for our 1.5 hour Dreamtime Gorge Guided Walk, we proceed to the bus departure point to find our indigenous guide, Harold. Our walk begins at 11:00am, with a ‘Welcome To Country’ smoking ceremony, before the nine people on our tour head off behind our intrepid guide.

We learn a bit about Harold on our walk. He’s a tribal elder, raised by his grandparents from just a few months of age. They taught him the culture of his people, as well as everything about rainforest, coastal and inland environments of his people. His speaks 6 tribal languages, and was specifically trained as a ‘medicine man’, acts as a tracker when people are lost in the rainforest, and is the Senior Tour Guide at the Mossman Gorge Centre, training other and passing on his knowledge. Harold’s understanding of the rainforest is astounding, from what tree bark (kerosene tree) or nuts (candle nuts) burn well, through what fruit is poisonous, onto what vines will cut through flesh to the bone if you are not paying attention to where you are going, and how to clean mend and repair the wound.

We can’t list everything, but these are a few things we learned;

  • by partly breaking a young sapling tree in two places to form an ‘s’ bend the tree heals and continues growing leaving a marker or ‘arrow tree’ which points up and down a trail as a sign-post for others.
  • fruit or nuts which weep a milky sap are poisonous to eat unless treated in a specific way which can vary from soaking in water, or roasting on a fire.
  • the sap from a particular plant can act as ‘super-glue’ joining two margins of a wound together to stop bleeding and infection.
  • crushing the leaves of the ‘soap bush’ and rubbing them together in your hands with a bit of water will form a soapy lather that can be used as a soap or shampoo. The same plants’ bark is good for treating sore muscles. The bark even smells like Deep Heat or Dencorub! See the VIDEO
  • the wait-a-while, or lawyer vine can store water inside its bamboo-like vines. The large vines can run clean water like a tap when cut open.
  • there are plants used to treat skin cancer, jellyfish stings, snake bite, migraine, insect bites, warts, sores, etc.
  • brush against the Stinging Tree and the tiny hairs embed in your skin and inflict a painful sting. The sting has been known to last for months, and even years. You don’t want to know where the guy that died was stung! Ouch!

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In summer, there is time for a swim at ‘the Beach’, a secluded swimming hole on Rex Creek, which joins the Mossman River just upstream of the main gorge. Too cold for us locals at this time of year though. Maybe in summer I’d be tempted.

Our walk concludes back at the Bush Camp for some Damper, Bush Honey and Rosella Jam (No, not the lorikeet!) to go with our cup of tea. Yum!

We were lucky enough on the day we were there to get a special performance by one of the performers/guides who works the longer 2.5hr walk. He was all painted up ready to perform and had a chat to us while he waited for his tour group and we had our cuppa. For a beginner, he plays a pretty mean didgeridoo!

We headed back to the visitor centre after our tour, but the cost of the tour gives you all day access to the shuttle buses, so you can move between the centre and the gorge, where you can take advantage of the self-guided walking tracks including the Suspension bridge across Rex Creek, as well as take a break for a well earned swim at the swimming hole; when it’s not too cold, of course.

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Port Douglas

On our way home, we stopped at Port Douglas for a well earned lunch at The Tin Shed, run by The Port Douglas and District Combined Clubs Inc, this is more than just your average garden shed. There is a bar, gaming room, and family style restaurant with a magnificent deck overlooking the inlet of Port Douglas. A nice cold beer each, plus a satisfying lunch was just what we needed. I can personally recommend the Barramundi, which just melted in the mouth, and with bar prices for the beer, it’s pretty good value too! The Tin Shed is open daily for lunch and dinner, and breakfast on Sundays.Before heading home, we decided on drive up to the lookout above Port Douglas and overlooking Four Mile Beach. We have been so lucky that it’s such a beautiful day. The view is stunning

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Heading Home

We headed back down from the lookout for a short drive through town (we will have to come back to do some shopping another day!) and along the beachfront before we head back towards Cairns.Just south of Port Douglas is the Mowbray River, and we stopped just alongside the bridge because we spotted a few of the locals sunning themselves on the riverbank. Yep, there were 2 crocodiles taking in the afternoon’s rays. We were told that just a little earlier there was third croc as well. It’s a valid reminder that you must take notice of signage in this part of the country. There are many places that are safe to swim, and many that are not. This just makes places like Mossman Gorge which are safe, that much more precious.

We got back on the road, and were back at our starting point at around 3.45pm. We had a great day. It was informative and interesting, totally relaxing, and the scenery was gorgeous. Why don’t you visit Mossman Gorge when you are next in Tropical North Queensland? If you don’t have a car, you can easily join a day tour that includes time at Mossman Gorge.

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