If you’re looking for a cool change in the rainforest that both you and the kids will enjoy, along with a unique cultural experience, look no further than Mossman Gorge in Daintree National Park (Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land) (CYPAL).
Here you’ll discover rainforest walkways and tracks suitable for both little legs and older legs as well as strollers, and a more challenging track for legs that like to be stretched! You’ll find beautiful river scenery that will refresh and revive even the tiredest of kids (or parents). There is also a very special opportunity to see the rainforest through the eyes of the local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people.
All this adds up to a holiday experience that simply must be added to your bucket list! Here's how to make the most of your visit.
Meet at the Mossman Gorge Centre
Arrive at this busy and impressive centre (with ample parking for cars and campervans), which is the gateway to the park. Your first priority is to fuel up for the fun ahead—tea and damper in the Mayi café is a must! Then buy your tickets and hop aboard one of the frequent (every 15 minutes) electric shuttle buses that will take you into the gorge.
The centre also has an impressive gift shop and Aboriginal art gallery so plan to spend some time here too, either before or after your park visit.
Reach for the canopy
From the shuttle bus, muster your troops and set out on the short Baral Marrjanga track, an elevated walkway that transports you directly into the cool of the rainforest and brings you to the river’s edge. From high above the forest floor look up at crows nest ferns perched in the canopy and see colourful butterflies flitting about. Try to catch a glimpse of the bright blue Ulysses butterfly that lives in the Daintree rainforest.
At the river lookout, the kids will be entranced watching the water tumbling and gushing past huge boulders that look as though they’ve been scattered randomly down the gorge.
Fun fact: Much of this water comes not from rain but from cloud-stripping, when leaves collect water from clouds as they pass over the forest on the mountain above!
Stride (or sidle) across the bridge
If you’re game, cross the suspension bridge across Rex Creek. Walk with ‘jelly-legs’ (bent knees) to help keep your balance as the bridge sways beneath you. Don’t be tempted to bounce or jump though! Pause in the middle and watch the clear waters cascading over rocks below—see if the kids can spot fish and turtles in the quieter pools.
Ramble through the rainforest
Back on firm land, decide if you’re up for a long-ish ramble along the Rainforest circuit track. This winding track is strewn with tree roots and rocks so make sure you have your hiking boots handy. When you’re all geared up, follow the 2.4km track to immerse yourselves deep in lush rainforest. Marvel at the huge twisting buttresses that anchor tall trees into shallow soils and peer through the filtered green light beneath the canopy—what animals could be hiding here?
Choose a boulder and sit awhile, close your eyes and let the rainforest envelope you. Listen, can you hear cicadas? Forest birds? What else?
Rest by the river
On your way back, return via the smooth-surfaced Lower river track. If you’ve packed lunch or snacks, now is the time to find your perfect picnic spot in the shade, with views of cool waters and tumbled boulders. Sharp-eyed kids might spot one of the Boyd’s forest dragons that cling, immobile, to the sides of tree trunks along the river’s edge. Despite (or perhaps because of) their bright colours and unusual textures, they have the perfect camouflage!
A word of caution: Centre staff advise about daily conditions of the river and whether it is safe to swim. While the river looks inviting, especially on a hot day, looks can be deceptive. Strong currents run below the calm surface, submerged objects can entrap swimmers, and conditions can change rapidly. Even if other people are swimming, don’t assume it’s safe—always heed the advice of the centre staff!
Connect with Yalanji culture
Deepen your Mossman Gorge experience by booking into a Dreamtime Gorge Walk. From your Yalanji guide learn first-hand about the local Kuku Yalanji people, and how they lived in this rainforest as you explore the rainforest tracks. Take part in a smoking ceremony and learn about Dreamtime stories. The kids will be enthralled to find out which plants can heal, which ones are poisonous, and how to make bush soap! They can try their hand at making ochre paint and learn how paint markings indicate different family groups. Tours depart several times each day and take about 1.5 hours.
Make Mossman a must-do!
As an easy day trip from Cairns or half day visit from Port Douglas, we’re sure we’ve convinced you to put Mossman Gorge on your holiday bucket list! Even better, make the gorge the first stop in your Daintree adventure!
Check out the tours and other offerings at the Mossman Gorge Centre.