Travel & Expat Blog


The Best Hikes and Walks In Port Douglas

Waterfalls, mossy rainforests and some epic reef & coastal views. Here are my top 6 hikes and walks in Port Douglas for leisurely strollers and adventure seekers!

And into the forest I go, To lose my mind and find my soul.
John Muir

When the Great Dividing Range and the world’s oldest rainforest and is on your doorstep, it’ll be rude not to take advantage of it. Whilst the rugged bushland around Port Douglas is endless and mostly inaccessible to your average hiker, there’s a good handful of ancient aboriginal trails, century-old colonial tracks & modern routes to keep you out of trouble.

Offering waterfalls, mossy rainforests, jaw-dropping scenery, swimming holes and beach strolls, there’s something for everyone. Adventure seekers may even find the hike of their life deep in the Daintree!

The Sailor and I have loved exploring the local trails since moving back last year and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Here are my top six walks in Port Douglas. πŸ€™πŸ»

The Devil's Thumb hiking trail near Port Douglas in North Queensland // Travel Mermaid

Map of All The Hikes & Walks in Port Douglas

Here’s an easy map of the trailheads in Port Douglas with all six hikes and walks marked in brown. I’ve carefully plotted them at the start of each track so you can open it up in Google Maps and use it for driving directions. (More details about how to get to each one are also written in this article.)

I’ve not included hikes that pass the Daintree ferry crossing as they’re further away, but you can check out my favourite ones in this post.

Aside from one walk in the centre of Port Douglas, you’ll need a car to access the others as there’s no public transport. If you don’t have your own wheels are are going solo without a guide, here’s a few options:

  • Taxi: Whilst Uber is technically here, there’s usually very few cars available. Port Douglas has a few local taxi’s available like 131 008, though trips out of town can get quite expensive.
  • Car Hire: I always start the search with Vroom Vroom Vroom to compare cars & prices, and to earn points with Velocity or Qantas upon booking. Then I arrange insurance through Rental Cover who offer comprehensive protection at a great rate.

The Devil's Thumb hiking trail near Port Douglas in North Queensland // Travel Mermaid

Hikes & Walks in Port Douglas

1. Four Mile Beach & Flagstaff Hill (5.5k one way/2hrs/easy)

Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas from the top of Flagstaff Hill, Queensland // Travel Mermaid

This leisurely walk is the most popular in Port Douglas as it’s the only route actually in town (the others you need to drive to) and it offers a bit of everything, from the beach to the bush & banging views.

You can start at any time of day, although it’s best at dawn or dusk in the wet season as it’s cooler and means you can catch a sunrise along Four Mile, or a sunset at Rex Smeal Park.

Rex Smeal Park in Port Douglas, Queensland // Travel Mermaid

We live at the southern end of Four Mile so often skip the beach walk and just cycle to Flagstaff Hill to complete this 1.5k track. That way we can enjoy a sunset and grab dinner in town without having to walk 4k home! But each to their own. There is a shuttle and taxi service in Port if you need to get back to your resort.

Here’s the route in action:

To start the hike, simply enter the beach from wherever you’re staying, or head to the southern end of Four Mile Beach (where the car park and kitesurfing spot is) if you want to cover the entire stretch. Take your thongs off and enjoy the soft sand stroking your toes as you trot towards the rocky headland.

Fun Fact: Although named ‘Four Mile’, the beach is actually 4 kilometres! It was named after the distance from Port Douglas township to Craiglie (formerly known as Four Mile camp) which was the first settlement in the area.

Aerial view of Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, Australia // Travel Mermaid

If you’re taking this hike really leisurely, then once you reach the end of the beach you can stop for a coffee, beer or lunch at Hi Tide restaurant across the road.

Otherwise, step onto the pathway and meander right to the start of the Flagstaff Hill track. As you reach the top of the stairs there’s some saucy views of the palm-fringed beach, Coral Sea and neighbouring ranges.

A viewing platform along the Flagstaff Hill walking trail in Port Douglas, Australia // Travel Mermaid

Continue round and you’ll come to this viewing platform ☝🏼 and a map of the track. Then you’ll slowly start your ascent up the gravel track which is a relatively easy climb, even for novice walkers. We normally do it in our thongs but you may be more comfy in trainers. There’s a few viewpoints along the way, notably of Low Isles & Snapper Island in the distance.

Soon you’ll approach another set of stairs to on your left, taking you up to Flagstaff Hill and the best views of the beach- it’s a small sweaty climb, but well worth it. I can’t believe it took me 18 months to find it!

Fun Fact: The flagstaff was erected in 1880 to signal the arrival of ships and incoming cyclones, which is how the hill got its name.

Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas from the top of Flagstaff Hill, Queensland // Travel Mermaid

Retrace your steps and continue along the main path, lapping up the ocean & island views. There’s not much in the way of wildlife apart from butterflies and orange footed scrubfowls (they’re the sheepish birds that make the funny sounding call in the morning), but it feels like you’re immersed in nature.

The Flagstaff Hill walking trail in Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

The Flagstaff Hill walking trail in Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Soon enough you’ll reach the small “summit” before descending more steeply to the end. After passing some pretty flowers and the impressive Curtain Fig Tree you’ll emerge onto Rex Smeal Park, one of the best sunset spots in town.

Rex Smeal Park in Port Douglas, Queensland // Travel Mermaid

If you packed a stubby you can sit and watch the boats sail by. Or if you’re here between 10am to 1pm, take a detour to the quaint Port Douglas Museum around the corner for a peek and continue up to Flagstaff Hill Lighthouse.

Related Read: Best Port Douglas Restaurants You Need To Know About

2. Bump Track (4, 7 or 12k return/1.5, 2.5hrs or 4-5hrs/moderate-hard)

Bump Track is a bit of an institution in Port Douglas and it’s popular with locals, yet rarely gets busy. Theres a few route options you can take which I’ve marked on the map…

We usually just come to stretch our legs and take the quicker 4k return route from Mowbray Valley to the viewpoint (approx. 1h20) where there’s a bench with a nice view of the valley & Coral Sea. But it’s certainly not a cop out route as it’s the steepest section of the entire track, so those not used to hardcore hills may be feeling it on the way up! It’s a great workout though.

Big Mowbray Falls along the Bump Track, Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

The other option is continuing beyond the bench and taking the 12k return walk to Big Mowbray Falls (approx. 4-5hrs).

However it’s much easier to get to the falls from the other end of Bump Track which starts on Black Mountain Road. From there, it’s only a 7km return walk to Big Mowbray Falls (about 2.5 hours) and you don’t have to tackle that mammoth hill from the Mowbray end.

Did you know?… This significant trail lead to the creation of Port Douglas. Aussie bushman Christie Palmerston blazed this path in 1877 to connect Port Dougie – or Island Point as it was called- to the Hodgkinson goldfields on the Atherton Tablelands (now the Mareeba Shire).

The track was made wide enough to fit wagons and became the only supply route from the gold & tin mines, but its steep gradient made it tricky. It was later disused when the Cairns-Mareeba railway was established in 1893, with Cairns beating Port Douglas to the punch as the alighting point.

The paddock along the Bump Track in Port Douglas, Queensland // Travel Mermaid

To get to Mowbray from Port Douglas, take a left onto the Cook Highway and after 5k take a right onto Trezise Road (or Mowbray River Road just before it) where you’ll slowly lose phone reception. In 2k you’ll join onto Mowbray River Road just in front of two saucy Queenslander houses. πŸ‘‡πŸΌ

A sunset behind the ranges near Lakeside Retreat in Mowbray, Port Douglas Shire // Travel Mermaid

You’ll then cross Spring Creek and a few jazzy letter boxes. Continue ahead for about another 1k until you come to a fork- chuck this left onto Connolly Road and park just in front of Connolly Bridge πŸ‘‡πŸΌ.

Walk over the bridge and onto the road where you’ll pass a house on your right, and the start of the track is signed on the left just after the paddock. πŸ‘‡πŸΌ

The start of the Bump Track walking trail in Port Douglas, North Queensland // Travel Mermaid

This track crosses the country of the Djabugay and Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people. It’s pretty much uphill all the way for just over 2k until you reach the viewpoint. The steepest sections are called Slaty Pinch (after a 150m elevation) and then The Bump (after a 300+m elevation). Believe me, you’ll know when you reach them. πŸ˜‰

We haven’t seen too much wildlife here but spotted an echidna once, plus a couple of roos nearby.

An echidna on the Bump Track hike in Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

A steep hill along the Bump Track hiking trail in Port Douglas, Australia // Travel Mermaid

There’s some information points on the way up where you can have a read and take a small rest. Here you can imagine the horse and bullock teams slogging those heavy wagons uphill in the 1900’s… you’ve got it easy in comparison, although it may not feel that way now!

Just before the chair rest at about 1.5k in, you’ll see a glimmer of life beyond the trees to your right and should see Mowbray Falls in the distance. I’ve seen a few people give up just beyond this point, don’t. You’ll arrive at your hiker’s reward in another 500m where you can sit and gawp at the views:

The Landing and viewpoint along the Bump Track walking trail in Port Douglas, Australia // Travel Mermaid

For those continuing onward to the Falls, you’ll be pleased to know it’s not as steep. Trot uphill for another 2k where you’ll cross Robbins Creek. πŸ‘‡πŸΌ

Robins Creek along the Bump Track hiking trail, Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Then after a further 500m you’ll see a narrower path on your right that leads to Big Mowbray Falls which should have a few logs in front of it. From here it’s about 2k to the falls which can get a bit steep in places, allow about 50 minutes. We came here recently at the end of the wet season and it was pretty impressive to view from above. There’s a shallow stream to cool off before the falls if you need a quick refresher.

Big Mowbray Falls along the Bump Track, Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Big Mowbray Falls along the Bump Track, Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Once you’re done and back on the main trail, it’s either a short 1.5k and relatively flat hike along the path to Black Mountain Road (if you’re lucky enough to have a car waiting for you there) or you’ll complete the return 4.5k walk back to Mowbray.

But like I said, if you’re planning on going to the falls then it’s much easier to do the return hike from Black Mountain Road! It takes about 40 minutes to drive there from Port Douglas but it’s a really scenic route.

A sunset near Julatten in Far North Queensland // Travel Mermaid

3. Spring Creek (4k return/2-4hrs/ moderate)

Spring Creek Falls hike near Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Also tucked away in the Mowbray Valley (I love this area), Spring Creek is a hidden gem around the corner from the Bump Track. As it’s not an official trail, only the locals really know about it and it’s an awesome place to cool off during the summer months. There are multiple opportunities to take a dip in the creek or rock pools before reaching the impressive 75m waterfall at the end.

Unlike Crystal Cascades near Cairns, there’s no paved pathway or clear undulated path so for most of it you’ll be rock hopping and creating your own route upstream. It’s a really tranquil area though so you can take it slow and enjoy geeking over the wildlife and fauna around. We saw a number of birds, butterflies, fish and crayfish in the rock pools.

It took us three separate attempts to reach the end as it took a while to work out the right route down. So come prepared, give yourself plenty of time and be sure to check out my full Spring Creek hiking guide!

Black Rock Falls at Spring Creek in Mowbray // Travel Mermaid

4. Hartley’s Creek (8k return/3hrs return/moderate)

Blazed during it’s former logging days, Hartley’s Creek is one of the easier longer walks near Port Douglas that doesn’t require much hard graft and leads to a waterfall grand finale. It tends to get busier with Cairns locals and is regularly enjoyed by hikers, bikers, couples & families.

After a predominantly uphill 1.9k trek (with some downhill) along a well-worn footpath, you’ll arrive to a rocky gorge named ‘Flat Rock’, which is often the end point for families attempting this hike with young children. For those continuing to Hartley’s Creek Falls, it’s another 1.4k.

Tip: The track will be quieter during the week, as well as earlier and later in the day. Wear mozzie repellent and sunscreen as the track is partially exposed.

Hartley's Creek Falls near Port Douglas in North Queensland // Travel Mermaid

To get here from Port Douglas, drive along the Cook Highway to Wangetti. Just after Hartley’s Creek take the first right towards Hartley’s Creek Retreat and park just before it on the grass. This holiday stay is where the old Hartley’s Croc Adventures used to be housed until it moved 500m down the road.

Caution: The creek you just passed on the highway is not for swimming as there may be crocs present…not that you would!

Hartley's Creek walking trail near Port Douglas in North Queensland, Australia // Travel Mermaid

Hartley's Creek walking trail near Port Douglas in North Queensland, Australia // Travel Mermaid

Take the clear path on the left of the retreat and continue past the white gate.

As this track is in the Macalister Range National Park, it has a slightly different terrain and micro-climate to the rest of Port Douglas & The Daintree. You may find that it’s a bit drier and less humid with a savannah woodland, which makes a change!

After about half hour or so you’ll reach Flat Rock which is signed. You can stop here to refresh, take a dip or pitch up with a picnic. If staying, try crossing the creek at the narrow section and continue upstream where you’ll come to a few small pools and a mini-fall. Have fun exploring the area and see if you can spot turtles lurking in the water.

Otherwise, turn left and jog on. πŸ€™πŸ»

Flat rock along Hartley's Creek walking trail near Port Douglas in North Queensland, Australia // Travel Mermaid

In another half hour you’ll spur down towards the rocks that lead to Hartley’s Falls. Once there, take a left and continue on for 200m until you reach it.

If you’re here in the wet season then the waterfall should be pumping- enjoy your hiker’s reward and feel free to take a dip! No bathers? Too bad, but if there’s no-one else there…go wild!

Hartley's Creek Falls near Port Douglas in North Queensland // Travel Mermaid

5. Mossman Gorge (4k loop/1.5-2hrs/easy)

Mossman Gorge near Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

Set within the Daintree National Park- aka the oldest continuously surviving rainforest in the world, the Mossman Gorge portion of this majestic World Heritage Site feels almost spiritual.

The Baral Marrjanga Track is accessible via the Mossman Gorge Centre, run by the region’s traditional owners, the Kuku Yalanji people. It’s a really pleasant, no-dramas walk through a very mossy rainforest (although interestingly, that’s not how the area got it’s name!) passing an impressive catalogue of trees via a relatively flat dirt path.

To get here, head right out of Port Dougie on the Cook Highway and in about 15-minutes you’ll reach Mossman High Street. Just after Woolies, take a left onto Johnston Road and continue on to Mossman Gorge Road, then follow the signs to the Centre where you’ll park up.

At the gift shop, buy your return shuttle bus ticket which takes you to the start of the track ($11.80 per adults). There’s an Aboriginal settlement before the Gorge so it’s advised to prevent you walking through it, and because the road is tight.

Alternatively, you’ll get the shuttle bus for free by taking a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk lead by local Kuku Yalanji people. They’ll take you along private tracks telling you stories & legends from their culture, as well as showing you traditions- check here for more details.

Rock Pool at Mossman Gorge near Port Douglas // Travel Mermaid

After taking the shuttle bus to the start of the track there’s a map showing you the route. You’ll start on an elevated walkway that runs parallel with the river and soon there’ll be a path leading down to it… feel free to take a refreshing dip! Otherwise there’s plenty of other opportunities along the track.

Then walk over the Rex suspension bridge and you’ll come to a dirt track which is the start of the 2k circuit.

Enjoy this leisurely path and keep your eyes peeled for a Boyd’s Forest Dragon and other endemic wildlife.

6. Devil’s Thumb (10.6k return/ 8-9hrs/Extremely Difficult)

View of North Queensland from the Coral Fern Patch along the Manjal Jimalji trail, Queensland // Travel Mermaid

Not for the faint hearted! The Devil’s Thumb is, by far, the hardest hike I’ve ever done, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

This devilishly steep trail will put you through your paces as you slog it uphill for 4-5 hours before reaching the summit. Expect a remote and isolated track offering breathtaking views of the Far North Queensland coast, but you’ll need to earn it first! I was severely cursing on the way back down and vowed never to do it again, yet somehow I’m planning my return visit.

For more trail details and tips, head to my detailed guide.

You’ll definitely need a warm spa-bath or jacuzzi after this hike! Check out my favourite Port Douglas hotels & resorts in this article.

View from the coral fern patch along the Devils Thumb hiking trail in Tropical North Queensland, Australia // Travel Mermaid

We recently climbed Queensland’s highest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere! Turns out there are [much] harder mountains nearby. πŸ˜†

If you’re an experienced bushwalker or have hiked something like The Devil’s Thumb before and want a challenge, check it out.

* * *

Wowza! I hope you liked my article on top hikes and walks in Port Douglas. There’s definitely something for everyone around here, including a few trails that’ll put you through your paces!

Some have definitely been the most challenging I’ve experienced but I love how they’ve pushed us beyond our boundaries. We’re better hikers for sure.

Helpful Hiking Books

Torpedo Bay walking track near Lake Tinaroo in the Atherton Tablelands, Australia // Travel Mermaid

If you’re after more hikes nearby, check out my other post on cool walking tracks in the Atherton Tablelands ☝🏼. There’s trails that lead through old mining fields and around crater lakes, ones that finish-up in chocolate-box villages or where you can meet endangered rock wallabies!

There’s a tonne of spots in the region though so if you’re staying a while and fancy a comprehensive list of tracks then you may wish to buy a hiking book. Here’s a couple of goodies I’d recommend:

Best-Walks-around-Cairns-&-the-Tablelands-by-National-Geographic ] Travel Mermaid 02

This hiking guide has recently been published so it’s up to date and includes 45 walks from Cairns to the Port Douglas and Cooktown. Track descriptions are detailed and helpful, particularly for those harder to navigate. It’s been a great companion!

Check it out on Amazon

Walks, Tracks and Trails of Queensland's Tropics by Derrick Stone // Travel Mermaid

This book is also pretty good if you’re after hikes and walks throughout Queensland’s tropics, from Cooktown to Port Douglas and all the way down to Rockhampton. It lists more than 150 routes ranging from shorter boardwalk strolls in the Daintree to epic 6-day hiking trips on tropical islands.

Buy this book on Amazon

Tips For The Trip

β—‡ The longer hikes are best completed during the dry season (May to September) as it’ll be cooler and less wet.

β—‡ If you’re attempting the shorter walks and hikes around Port Douglas during the wet season, then it’s best to set out early or later in the afternoon as it’ll be scorching and humid – welcome to life in the tropics!

β—‡Β  Bring a litre of water per person for every 2-hours of walking so you’re not left high and dry. Metal flasks work best as it’ll keep your cold water chilled.

berries on a tree along the Devil's Thumb hiking trail, Australia // Travel Mermaid

β—‡ For most tracks on the list, take a cap and apply sunscreen & insect repellent (preferably jungle strength on the more remote tracks- DEET is nature’s cologne πŸ˜‰).

β—‡ Like anywhere else in Straya, snakes could be about. If you see one just slowly back off and let it continue on its way.

β—‡ Once home, check yourself for tropics-loving paralysis ticks. Having one on you for too long can lead to flu like symptoms, rashes, partial face paralysis or in worst case scenario, lead to anaphylactic shock. Jungle strength insect repellant with DEET or Picaridin should help prevent their latching.

Craving more Port Douglas juice? Then check out a 3-years-in-the-making list of my favourite things to do here!
Keeping it real: No activities or stays were comped on this trip and all views are my own – I pay my way so that I get the same authentic experience you do. In this article, I’ve included some useful links so you can easily book activities and stays, and a few of these are affiliates, of no cost to you. πŸ€™πŸ»


  • Rachel Aked Pickles

    Hiya these all look great, but can I just check – when you state a route distance as β€œ12km return” do you mean it’s 12km to the summit and then 12km back – or 12km distance covered in total, for the entire out and back route please.

    • A

      Hi Rachel! Sorry for the late reply. A 12km return is 12km in total, out and back.

  • Fantastic article and advice – thanks!!

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