Sunday, August 18, 2013

Northern Queensland travels - Cairns to the Daintree, via Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge

It is difficult to grasp that 2 months have passed since we returned from our northern Australia holiday. Or rather, it is easy to grasp that 2 months have passed, but hard to understand why I haven't finished writing up my travel posts!

This is the second to last post that will relate to this trip, and it picks up where my two Cairns posts left off. After we left Cairns, we drove 1.5 hours up the coast to the Daintree region, a drive that is as scenic as it is winding.

Look out point mid-way between Cairns and Port Douglas

Port Douglas is about an hour from Cairns, and that hour is spent twisting and turning around steep, narrow, cliff-side roads. I had experienced the road on my conference trip to Port Douglas, and told Mr Bite in advance that he would be driving. He actually likes driving on twisting steep roads, but even he was slightly daunted when we passed the signs warning that this was a high crash area. 

Fortunately, our camper van proved its capabilities and we arrived in Port Douglas in time for lunch. That was really all we wanted from the town, which is a resort-style location with luxury accommodation, expensive boutique shops, a number of upmarket restaurants. It also has a famous expanse of beach, and is a good spot for tours to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree forest. 

Port Douglas' 4 mile beach, in mist

We photographed the beach and then walked along the main street in search of a lunch option that wouldn't send us bankrupt or require a level of fanciness we weren't up to meeting. The place we settled on, Under Wraps, not only satisfied those criteria but delivered a lunch that was one of my best for the trip.

Under Wraps is also well reviewed on Trip Advisor and is effectively a very good version of a sandwich and salad bar. They offer a variety of fillings for different types of wrap bread, regular bread and rolls, as well as fresh salads, juices, smoothies and a nice selection of hot drinks.

Under Wraps outside seating

Mr Bite ordered a sundried tomato wrap with tuna mornay filling ("tuna salad, rocket, green onions, celery and tasty cheese"), while I chose the salad of the day, a fortuitously timed vegetarian Vietnamese salad.


With bean sprouts, cabbage, peppers, carrot, peanuts and a gorgeous soy-sweet chilli-lime dressing, I wanted to climb into the bowl. This was definitely the best Asian salad I have had for a while. My chai tea was also well done and I left extremely satisfied.

The Port Douglas Brumby's bakery also deserves note for its generosity, as when we stopped by for afternoon tea provisions, they kindly gave Mr Bite two lamingtons for the price of his requested one. The owner declared the first lamington a "bit small", despite it appearing reasonably robust to us.

Well fed and catered, we left Port Douglas for Mossman Gorge, 20 minutes further north. Mossman Gorge is effectively the entrance point to the Daintree National Park, and it was a great introduction to the scenery we had waiting for us.

Mossman Gorge carpark

The Mossman Gorge visitor centre is set a few kilometres from the gorge itself, and is in the land of the Kuku Yalanji indigenous people. The land between the visitor centre and the gorge / national park is owned by the Kuku Yalanji and is a dry Aboriginal community. You can't drive through the area, so there are shuttle buses from the visitor centre to the gorge, or you can walk after leaving your car at the centre's car park.

You may remember that in the Northern Territory, I was saddened to see indigenous Australians on the streets and generally looking disadvantaged and unhappy. At Mossman, I found what I had hoped to see in more areas. All of the staff at the eco-friendly visitor centre were Aboriginal, and they also ran (appropriately) the guided tours available in the area. Because you couldn't drive directly to the gorge itself, the traffic into the national park was minimised and the local people were still able to enjoy the land.

Mossman Gorge visitor centre (picture taken from one of the shuttle buses to the gorge itself)

Once you arrived at the national park, a short walk took you to the gorge itself. Most people use the elevated walkways through the forest, but there is also a ground-level riverside path that we took on the return journey. It is a little longer (and a lot muddier!) but worth doing.


The gorge itself is not dramatic - there are no great rapids or high waterfalls. However, it is very scenic and was incredibly peaceful in spite of the other tourists around.


I could soak up views like that forever.

From Mossman, we drove further north again until we reached the Daintree River. There is no bridge across, so a ferry shuttles back and forth between 6am and midnight.

Daintree River and car ferry

We crossed just as dusk was starting to hover (I think it was about 5pm), and it was exciting to reach the other side and the heart of the Daintree forest. I shall leave our adventures there for my next post, but suffice to say it is an incredibly beautiful region.


Under Wraps is located at 22 Macrossan Street, Port Douglas, and is open for breakfast, snacks and lunch.

Mossman Gorge is 77km north of Cairns, 20km north of Port Douglas, and 2km from the town of Mossman. The visitor's centre is open daily from 8am to 6pm and shuttle buses to the gorge cost $6 per adult return.

Are you a forest sort of person, or do you prefer coastal scenery? I'm definitely the former myself.

25 comments:

  1. I love the Mossman Gorge Visitor's Centre. Doesn't it give you hope! I had a wonderful time when I was there last December xx

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    1. It does indeed give you hope. It was just so fantastically done!

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  2. looks like a beautiful place to visit!

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  3. I was last up there when I was 12 I think, which is now an extremely long time ago but I remember how wonderfully peaceful Mossman Gorge was. Mum describes it as one of the few places she has had a "religious" experience. Looks like it was an amazing trip all round.

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    1. I can understand your Mum's comment. I don't quite get to religious experiences but I do feel incredibly tranquil and peaceful :-)

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  4. Some beautiful photos there!! I grew up near the beach so I am a but partial to it but I do love the forest too.

    That Vietnamese salad looked great :)

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    1. Queensland seems to provide beaches and forests so it's certainly good at catering to all. And the salad was excellent!

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  5. so green and beautiful - and the vietnamese salad sounds great - I suspect I would have mixed feelings about port douglas if I could get a decent salad but it sounds like a piece of the city in the midst of the tropical forests. And I would be very nervous driving a campervan around bendy roads - kudos to Mr Bite

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    1. Kudos to Mr Bite indeed - thank goodness he was happy to do it! And like you, Port Douglas isn't really my kind of place, especially as this was the only cafe that really took our fancy. It is handy having a 'last stop' resources option before heading further north, but it's just such a posh place!

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  6. I love it up there. I live on the Sunshine Coast only because we don't have crocodiles and it's not so hot - oh and we have good stores. Otherwise I'd be up there now. :)

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    1. The lack of crocodiles is definitely a winning feature! Also fewer mosquitoes...we had heaps of them once we got into the Daintree proper.

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  7. Wow that pic of the coast is amazing :) I must go to Australia someday, I want to experience this beauty personally!

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  8. As with your other Australia travel posts, this just makes me more committed to the fact that I have to travel out there sometime! So beautiful! Also "high crash" area? That would be terrifying, yikes. And I thought our drive through northern Ontario was bad...there was nothing like that! Well at least you made it in one piece and got to have yummy food.

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    1. Most of Australia's roads are pretty 'easy' driving so this is definitely a rare driving experience. As you say, fortunately it was all fine and it is a scenic drive if you can relax enough to enjoy the views!

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  9. So so tropical!!!!! I am craving a trip away so much right now!

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  10. I totally forgot about the winding drive from Cairns to PD. It actually reminded me of a much shorter version of the Great Ocean Road drive in Victoria which I have driven in shocking weather and was terrified the whole time. I'm glad Mr B got you there and back safely! Great to see that you found some nice food in Port Douglas, your Vietnamese salad looks lovely.

    Love Mossman Gorge - it is such a peaceful beautiful place! Port Douglas was a quick supermarket stop for us before hitting the Daintree, we didn't even check out the beach. I find it difficult to choose between coast and forest which is probably why I adore the Daintree so much as it provides both.

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    1. The Daintree really is an 'everything for everyone' kind of place. I struggle to imagine anyone not being awed by it. You've also reminded me that I am yet to do the Great Ocean Road, which I am looking forward to when the opportunity eventually arises. I'll try to do it in good weather though, after your experience!

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  11. Wonderful pictures, looks like an amazing place.

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    1. Thanks Natalie, it really was :-)

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  12. Did you guys rent the camper? If so, how did it go? I love road trips. I feel so free on them.

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    1. We did! From Britz, one way from Darwin to Cairns. It was great! We had the smallest model and found it to be perfect for what we wanted.

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  13. Can you please give information about the prices?

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