A worthy day trip to explore out of Cairns and get a taste of the Daintree Rainforest is a jaunt to the Mossman Gorge. It’s a part of the Daintree National Park and provides a taste of this stunning ecosystem. The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest system on the planet, and its growth spans across northern Queensland, following the Daintree River to the sea.
I went here with my friends Beth and Katie after we got our rental car for our journey down the east coast of Australia. It was a great little start to get used to driving on the other side of the road, and a fun way to get a glimpse into rural Queensland and the tropics of this zone of the world.
Getting to Mossman Gorge
The Mossman Gorge park is just over an hours drive from Cairns City and isn’t far from other favorite spots in Queensland like Port Douglas and attractions like the Millaa-Millaa waterfalls and Cape Tribulation. It’s a beautiful drive that winds along the sea past lots of empty beaches and lets you escape from the busier tourist traps that are all around Cairns.
After parking, you pay a small entrance fee to get into the park and jump on a shuttle to get to the trailhead. The hiking is easy – everything is paved or marked on the path and it will lead you in a loop, winding through the trees. You can’t really get lost unless you wander off the path.
The river that winds through the park is the Mossman River, and it cascades over giant rocks and opens into natural pools where you can jump in for a swim. With the oppressive heat and humidity often faced by visitors to Queensland, a cold swim can be the perfect shock to the system. If you plan on swimming, however, check with the park rangers/staff beforehand. Sometimes it’s unsafe due to flash floods or other changes in conditions to the water.
On the walk, you can often see some exotic wild birds. While I don’t recall exactly all the birds we saw, I did manage to capture this shot of a turkey. Not the most EXCITING bird I’ve ever seen in the wild, but still fun to get a glimpse of wildlife. You might even see the rare Cassowary birds running around here, or a bright purple kingfisher.
There are also several suspension bridges and an observation deck for taking photos. It’s really a striking backdrop – the thick expanse of trees and foliage, the river, and the shady lighting makes for a great photoshoot opportunity.
Tips for Visiting Mossman Gorge
When you arrive at the Mossman Gorge, you’ll enter and pay the entrance fee in a building where there are public restrooms. Go to the bathroom before you head out on the trail because there aren’t any once you’re out. You don’t want to have to cut your walk short, and I sure as heck don’t want to go to the bathroom in the woods in Australia – way too many spiders and other creepy things!
Pack a swimsuit and towel if you’re planning to jump into the river for a swim. Even though a lot of the walk is shaded, it’s also a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen and sunglasses.
While I fell in love with every place I went to while in Australia, Queensland was super special for all the natural beauty and adventure it provides. From the rainforest to the Great Barrier Reef, it holds a lot of the amazing sights and experiences that everyone wants to have when they make their way down under. I’d highly recommend spending at least a few weeks in this region if you have the time during an Australian adventure.