From Palm Cove, it is a 55km drive via the stunningly picturesque Captain Cook Highway to Mossman Gorge, which is about two kilometres from the sugarcane-farming town of Mossman. Mossman Gorge is a must-see item on any Palm Cove/Cairns/Port Douglas holiday itinerary.
Located in the southern part of the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park, Mossman Gorge is within the oldest, continuously surviving rainforest on earth. Estimated to be around 180 million years old – the Daintree is the thought to be the last remaining example of warm, moist rainforest that existed on the Gondwana supercontinent.
The rainforest covers 1,200sqkm between Mossman Gorge and the Bloomfield River to the north and just one hectare of the forest can contain over 30,000 species of plants and animals. The Kuku Yalanji people are the Indigenous inhabitants of the land. Their history dates back 50,000 years to the earliest human occupation of Australia.
In the late 1990s, when we holidayed in Port Douglas, we made several visits to Mossman Gorge. Back then, visitors drove right into park on unsealed roads, and parked quite close to the Gorge itself, then walked on rough paths through the forest to the Mossman River. However, with tourist numbers increasing, the high amount of traffic using those roads endangered the rainforest.
Nowadays, visitors park at the Mossman Gorge Centre, just over 2 kms from the Gorge itself, and can either walk or take an eco-friendly, low emission shuttle bus which runs every 15 minutes ($8.50 per adult for a daily ticket) between the Mossman Gorge Centre and the heart of the Gorge.
The Mossman Gorge Centre was funded and constructed by The Indigenous Land Corporation which is a Commonwealth statutory authority which assists Indigenous Australians with land acquisition and land management. The Mossman Gorge Centre contains an information desk, art gallery, retail shop and cafe. There are also Ngadiku Dreamtime walking tours available, conducted by the local Indigenous people, which incorporate traditional legends and stories.
Inside the Gorge park there is a large circular walking track, which takes you initially on an elevated boardwalk, and then on a dirt track past various lookout points and over the Rex Creek suspension bridge. There are a number of crystal-clear waterholes which entice people to take a dip in the water cascading over the granite boulders.
The day we visited, a sign in the Mossman Gorge Centre advised against swimming due to the volume of water and the current strength, but it didn’t seem to have totally dissuaded everyone. We found a stunning, quiet waterhole where the appeal was just too much, and shoes were removed to have a paddle in the clear waters.
The only disappointing thing about our visit there was seeing all the 20-something travellers taking the opportunity to find a picturesque spot alongside one of the pool to light up a fag. I know it’s a public open-space, but I found the smell of their smoke in such a pristine environment quite offensive. Worse still were the countless cigarette butts we found wedged between rocks.
For goodness sake, take your litter away with you.