How to plan your visit to Mossman Gorge, Queensland
One of my favourite day trips staying in Port Douglas (even if the Globetrotters didn’t agree – you’ll soon see why!!) was visiting Mossman Gorge, in the southernmost part of the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park.
Just past the small town of Mossman, it is one of the most stunning natural beauty spots to visit in Australia, and the oldest continuously living rainforest in the world.
This post is part of our series Discover Australia – learn more about our favourite parts of Tropical North Queensland and beyond as we explore our home country of Australia with kids.
How to Get to Mossman Gorge
Cairns to Mossman Gorge
If you are staying in the heart of Cairns, it will take you around 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to the Mossman Gorge Centre following Captain Cook Highway.
Also known as the Great Barrier Reef Drive, the road from Cairns is rather long and winding. You will pass by some utterly stunning ocean views and plentiful smaller stops can be made along the way to make a full day of it. As you head further north, past Port Douglas, ocean views give way to the spectacular green cane fields.
If its harvesting season (around July to November) you will see plenty of small trains carting their loads of cane off the sugar mills for some added entertainment.
Port Douglas to Mossman Gorge
From Port Douglas, the journey is around 20 minutes by car. There’s also a shuttle service from Port Douglas in Macrossan Street to Mossman Gorge departing 9am and 12pm daily. The shuttle departs back to Port Douglas from Mossman Gorge Centre at 12.45pm and 2.45pm.
Mossman Gorge Centre
All cars need to park in the large car park at the Mossman Gorge Centre. It’s well worth scheduling in some time here as well as the Gorge itself to explore around the displays and shop. At the fairly new Indigenous Ecotourism Centre, you will find art displays created by the local Kuku Yalanji artists.
If you want to buy authentic Aboriginal artwork in Australia, this is the place. There’s plenty on offer in the gift shop as well as a decent cuppa, toilets and refreshment services for before and after your trip into the Daintree National Park itself.
The Mossman Gorge Centre is open from 8am to 6pm daily.
Shuttle service to the Gorge
A shuttle bus service operates between the centre and the heart of the Mossman Gorge. A return ticket costs $9.80AUD per adult, $4.85AUD for children, under 4’s free. Family tickets can also be purchased for $24.20 (correct as at Summer 2019).
The shuttle operates daily between 8.00am and 5:40pm, departing every 15 minutes. It’ll drop you at the start of the first walking trail.
(Note you are thoroughly recommended not to attempt to walk to the Gorge for the sake of saving a few bucks on the shuttle. The road is narrow, windy and dangerous, shuttle buses may not see you and it is crossing the private land of the Kuku Yalanji people)
Mossman Gorge Walk
There are several walking tracks you can take around Mossman Gorge with different surfaces and degrees of difficulty. Everyone starts with the Baral Marrjanga, an easy boardwalk through the rainforest canopy. This walk takes you through to the first large swimming hole and can be completed in 10 minutes.
This first section is flat enough for wheelchair and stroller users. For any sort of bushwalking trip like this though I recommend you use a sling instead of a stroller (especially for getting on/off the shuttle bus). If you plan to walk on any of the more advanced paths you may prefer a more structured hiking backpack.
While you may be tempted to jump straight in at this swimming hole, I would suggest you come back to it later for a refreshing dip at the end (especially if you’ve been good campers up early in the day!)
The walking trail then takes you slightly uphill and over a dramatic and very instagrammable Rex Creek suspension bridge – an amazing engineering feat in the heart of the protected rainforest, the story of how it was built as impressive as the bridge itself.
Most small legs should be able to walk a little bit beyond the bridge another 80 metres to the next lookout Manjal Dimbi. From here, the track then divides for the rainforest circuit. My kids weren’t in an energetic exploring mood that day so I jumped at the chance complete this stunning bushwalk on my own (I call that a parenting win!)
I suspect the path would have been beyond their current capabilities (read moaning factor) at many points, but still, energetic outdoor-loving kids could complete this walk. Allow 45 minutes to an hour.
See more tips here how to encourage young kids to be great hikers
You will find some additional swimming spots along the way. If you’re lucky, a lot of tourists have already stopped at the first large watering hole and you may get one of these secluded spots to yourself for a swim. It was a day I felt utterly at one and blessed with the natural beauty of my home country. Meanwhile…
Mossman Gorge Swimming
Now back to the first swimming hole and why the Globetrotters didn’t love it (and cue mum rolling her eyes). The water in August was, well, freezing!
While I was blissfully off on my solo rainforest walk, our littlest one slipped on the rocks and fell into the icy water, being quickly pulled in by the undercurrent.
He was promptly rescued by quick-acting Dad, but everyone was most upset with their aborted swim by the time I got back from my utterly blissful forest walk. Remember there are no lifeguards on duty and plenty of dangers to swimming in natural water holes. Be vigilant at all times, especially of undercurrents and submerged floating objects.
Make sure you familiarise yourself with all the Gorge’s safety warnings and if the signs say it’s too dangerous to swim, DON’T. People have been injured and died in Mossman Gorge not heeding these warnings.
The other main precaution for kids to look out for are stinging trees. We luckily didn’t encounter any but remind kids to stay on the paths. Never pick anything or take anything from the rainforest or they may well learn about it the hard way.
Guided Dreamtime Walk
An optional extra to enhance your Mossman Gorge experience is to undertake the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk to learn about Dreamtime legends of the Kuku Yalanji people.
The tour includes a bush tea and damper as well as partaking in a smoking ceremony and you will learn about traditional bush tucker and plant use.
The groups are kept deliberately small and intimate (max 15 guests so do pre-book, there are only 5 tour time slots a day) and they will give you free time to explore the Gorge as well.
Note you do NOT need to purchase a separate National Park shuttle ticket if you purchase a Dreamtime Walk ticket, it’s all included (more on how to purchase below).
If you are travelling with kids, note that although ticket pricing is set for kids from 5 years old (4 and under free), the organised tours we researched set a minimum age of 8 years old for this walking tour.
We decided our kids were simply too young to fully appreciate this experience yet, but certainly something we will do on a repeat visit.
Mossman Gorge Tours
If you do not have your own car, you can organise tours to take you from your accommodation or a designated meeting spot in Cairns. Why not try:
- Daintree Walkabout Tour with Mossman Gorge Walk (transfers from Cairns)
- Mossman Gorge Tour combined with Low Isles Cruise to Great Barrier Reef (transfers from Cairns)
If you are self-driving you can still pick up a spot on the Dreamtime Walk directly with Mossman Gorge Visitor Centre without an organised tour group. Book early in peak times as groups are small.
What to pack for a Mossman Gorge Walking Tour
- If you think taking a dip will be on the cards, of course, pack your swimmers and towels. There are no changing rooms at the Gorge so take care of this at the Mossman Gorge Centre before you board the shuttle.
- For kids, consider waterproof reef shoes with a non-slip sole.
- Comfortable walking shoes – we did see a lot of thongs (ok, flip flop) wearers, but if the ground is even a little bit slimy, I wouldn’t recommend this. A fully enclosed sandal or trainer is best, though you shouldn’t need a full hiking boot.
- Comfortable cotton clothing (think outdoorsy, not luxury resort wear).
- Take snacks, but take EVERYTHING away you came with, there are no bins.
- All the obvious for an Aussie day outside – sunscreen (look for eco-friendly sunscreens like Feel Good Inc), sunhat, sunglasses, insect repellent and drinking water.
Mossman Gorge Accommodation
You may like to stay closer to Mossman Gorge, perhaps as your gateway before heading further into the Daintree Rainforest and north to Cape Tribulation.
When to visit Mossman Gorge
Mossman Gorge in the Daintree is situated in one of Australia’s wettest climates. Most of the rain falls during the wet season December to April, but temperatures remain on average 27 to 33 degrees Celcius with a high degree of humidity, as high as 80%. Whilst not ideal climate-wise, it can be the best time of year to see the gorge in full flow and the unique flora and fauna tat thrive in the west season.
When it is cooler, drier and less humid – May to November – conditions are better for walking with average temperatures more like 25 degrees Celcius. The flip side is the potentially freezing water and higher visitor numbers in the dry season, especially if you coincide with Australian school holidays in July.
Have you visited Mossman Gorge with kids? We’d love to hear your tips for family travellers on how to make the most of a visit to Tropical North Queensland
Stay tuned for our next post in this Australian series where we take a deep dive into things to do with the kids in and very near to Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland.
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Further day trip ideas from Port Douglas include Taking the Skyrail or Scenic Train to Kuranda or kids will love Wildlife Life Habitat Port Douglas
Disclosures: This post is in no way sponsored, we paid for all the activities mentioned and all opinions are our own. Details are correct as at Summer 2018-19. This page does contain affiliate links to third-party suppliers. If you purchase anything through these links it may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for being a loyal reader of our blog – our full terms and conditions of use can be found here.
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