Updated: May 4, 2020
Tourism in far north Queensland is alive and well in the bigger centres, but what about the smaller working towns nearby ?. Recently we discovered that Mossman is one such town that offers an array of activities, yet has a peaceful and played back lifestyle. Located just 15 mins north of Port Douglas, Mossman is a working mans town where sugar cane is the main industry. The cane farms run from the roads all the way towards the ocean and all the way to the base of the mountains to the west and often you’ll see the cane trains operating day and night carting cane to the local mill. If your lucky too you’ll see the trains pass right through the heart of town on their own little narrow gauge line, and they have right of way when the cane season is operating.
Mossman dates back to the late 1870’s when explorer George Dalrymple discovered the area and within a few years a settlement had grown. Loggers found that red Cedar trees were growing in the hinterland and by 1874 several areas had already been logged extensively. It wasn’t long before the first super cane farms were planted and the town had its first mill before 1900. Over the next few years the town flourished with dozens of cane growers, a multiple of churches, schools and much more. The town has had its share of bad luck with cyclone destructions and even in WW11 a Japanese bomber dropped a bomb on the town.
These days Mossman is a flourishing town that has a world heritage listed rainforest right on its doorstep just 4km to the west. The world renown Daintree River Nation Park attracts thousands of visitors to its doors every year. The Mossman Gorge eco tourism centre is a mega for tourist so expect it to be busy but that’s what you get with world class rainforest that is some of the oldest continuously growing left on our planet. To explore the gorge you need to pay a small fee and a shuttle bus will transport you to the heart of the walking trails for your adventure. There are several trails that take you deep into the wild forest along designated tracks, others allow you to swim in the crystal clear water and then there’s the Indigenous walk and talk tour with some Kuku Yalanji locals. Experts say that there are nearly 30,000 species of plants and animals living in this amazing forest and they hope to preserve this bio-diverse system for years to come.
It’s easy too forget that your in crocodile country up here when you see beautiful palm tree lined beaches, stunning coves along the coast and the ruggered terrain of the mountains that reach down to the ocean. But Mossman has some of the best croc river boat cruises that you will find in Nth Qld. Ten minutes further north at Daintree village are where the boat tours depart for a fantastic ride up and down the river spotting these mammoth prehistoric monsters. The tour guides are all switched on with local knowledge on where the crocs hide, tree life, local history and any other questions you have. On our tour we spotted 5 crocs, 1 Alpha male and 4 females, the tour guide said the crocs are in the river all year round.
Around Mossman itself there are stunning beaches and coves where the beaches are covered in the purest of white sand, little villages with boutique coffee shops that overlook the flat ocean that Nth Qld is known for. Heritage buildings line the busy street that include Banks that resemble temples built back in the 1920’s, an array of churches that are heritage listed - some having a Spanish influence others a more traditional build. Of course every hard working town needs an iconic drinking hole and Mossman is not exception with the Exchange hotel sitting proudly in the heart of town. The original hotel was built in 1896 but destroyed in the 1934 cyclone it was soon rebuilt the following year, grander then ever. With huge verandahs, elegant stairways, a ballroom, accommodation rooms with art deco styling it is now fully restored.
Mossman hasn’t got the hustle and bustle of nearby Port Douglas where the rich and famous seem to gather but its got all the top notch facilities you’ll ever need. We found that there were plenty of beaches around Mossman that weren’t jammed with tourist such as Newell, Wonga and Cooya Beaches with long stretches of sand with stunning views of mountains up and down the coast. A quirky little fact is that the highway between Cairns and Mossman, named the Captain Cook Highway is the shortest highway in Australia with a length of just 75km where it winds its way along the Coral Sea there are many unpopulated beaches. Where else can such a special place claim World Heritage Mountains meet the Great Barrier Reef for everybody to enjoy.