Waterfalls, mossy rainforests and some epic reef & coastal views. Here are my top 6 hikes and walks in Port Douglas for leisurely strollers or 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 unaccessible to your average hiker, thousands of years-old aboriginal trails and more recent colonial tracks have been blazed here.
Offering waterfalls, mossy rainforests, jaw-dropping scenery, swimming holes, beach strolls, challenging treks and easy walks- there’s something for everyone. Adventure seekers may even find the hike of their life deep in the Daintree!
Since moving back last year the Sailor and I have been exploring the local trails and found a great bunch of walks in and around Port Douglas. Here are my top six to choose from and I hope you enjoy exploring this incredible region as much as we have.
But before we get to the nitty gritty, here’s a few tips, tricks & hacks before you set off. 🤙🏻
Apart from one walk in Port Douglas township, the others are a short drive away. As there’s no public transport here, if you’re not going with a guide then you’ll need to pre-order a local taxi (if Port Douglas bound) or hire a car.
If you need to hire a car you can compare prices & cars using Vroom Vroom Vroom to earn points with Velocity or Qantas. Or if you’re Cairns based, we’ve had a good experience renting from Cruising Car Rental.
◇ The longer hikes are best completed during the dry season (May to September) as it’ll be cooler and less wet.
◇ If you’re attempting the shorter hikes during the wet season, then it’s best to set out early or later in the afternoon as it’ll be scorching – welcome to life in the tropics!
◇ 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.
◇ 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 😉).
◇ Like anywhere else in Australia, snakes may be present. Generally they keep to themselves and slither away before you have a chance to approach them, but if you see one just slowly back off and let it continue on its way. I’ve been on plenty of hikes here and not seen one yet and chances are you won’t too, but there’s always a possibility.
Here’s an easy map of the trails 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 past the Daintree ferry crossing as those trails belong to the Daintree and deserve their own post, so check back later for that goody!
This leisurely walk is the most popular in Port Douglas as it’s the only route actually in the township (the others you need to drive to) and offers a bit of everything- from beach to bush & banging views.
You can start at any time of day, although it’s best at dawn or dusk as it’s cooler and means you can catch a sunrise along Four Mile Beach or a sunset at Rex Smeal Park. If catching a sunrise, do this route in reverse.
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 taxi service in Port if you need to get back to your resort.
To start the hike, head to the southern end of Four Mile Beach if you wish to cover the entire stretch (where the car park is) or simply enter the beach from wherever you’re staying. Take your thongs off and enjoy the soft white sand stroking your toes as you trot towards the rocky headland.
You can cycle this bit instead, although riding on the sand is a lot harder than it looks!
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.
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!
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.
Soon enough you’ll reach the “summit” (there’s one steepish climb beforehand) and then you’ll descent more vertically 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.
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 .
Bump Track is a bit of an institution in Port Douglas and it’s popular with locals, yet rarely gets busy. Most folks come here to hike with a few bikers occasionally traversing through, and apparently horses use it too but I’ve never seen them!
We usually just come to stretch our legs and take the quicker 4k return route, ending up at a bench with a nice viewpoint of Mowbray Valley & the Coral Sea, which takes about 40 minutes one way. But it’s not a cop out route by any stretch of the imagination- this is the steepest section of the entire track as it’s ALL uphill, so those not used to steep ascents may be severely cursing on the way up!
For the fit and energetic party, you can take the longer 12k return walk to Mowbray Falls which takes about 4-5 hours, not including stopping time. We haven’t conquered it yet but it’s on the cards. Alternatively if you can manage a two car shuffle to avoid a return walk, then it should only take 3 hours to the Falls and then you can finish up on Black Mountain Road.
The track was made wide enough to fit wagons and became the only supply route from the gold & tin mines, but it’s 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.
To get here 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). In 2k you’ll join onto Mowbray River Road just in front of two saucy Queenslander houses. 👇🏼
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 👇🏼.
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. 👇🏼
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. 😉
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:
For those continuing onward to the Falls, trot uphill for another 2k where you’ll cross Robbins Creek. Then after a further 500m you’ll see a narrow path on your right that leads to Mowbray Falls which should be marked in ribbon. It’s about a 4k return walk to the falls from here, allow 1.5hours.
Once you’re done, it’s either a 1.6k hike along the main path up to Black Mountain Road (if you’re lucky enough to have a car waiting for you there) or you’ll complete the return walk back to Mowbray.
Tucked away in the Mowbray Valley, Spring Creek is hidden around the corner from the Bump Track and comes without the steep uphill hike. However this is another of those Port Douglas walks that demands you to work for your reward… nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?
The first half of Spring Creek is as a relatively flat trot next to the tranquil creek bed where you’ll create your own path, weaving between a slightly undulated path and over small rocks.
The second half requires more legwork and occasional bum-sliding to get over slightly bigger rocks before reaching a couple of mini-falls and croc-free swimming holes (those with hardy 6-year olds should be able to get about 3/4 of the way through!).
The last leg will is where an element of courage is needed to climb over steeper rocks and boulders using your hands and feet until you reach the grand finale- the impressive 75m cascade, Black Rock Falls.
To find the track, take the same route in as the Bump Track and turn right onto Trezise Road from Cook Highway. But instead of continuing straight, chuck a left onto Spring Creek Falls just before the bridge. Then go straight, over the creek and after about 2k you’ll come to a dirt track on your left before Gray’s Creek Terrace. 👇🏼 This is not an official trail so it’s not signed.
There’s a fair amount of parking space at the end of the dirt track next to the creek for 4WDs, although we don’t have one so parked up just on the left here, ensuring we don’t block the driveway to the house. However if we had to, I’m sure we could make it down if we drove slowly! There’s a couple of big potholes but if you navigate carefully you should be fine.
Once you reach the 4WD parking area, you’ll arrive beside Spring Creek. You’ll need to cross over so you’re walking upstream on the left hand side to start with. You can either cross from here, or continue along the path for a bit longer until you see a good spot.
We found it easier going where there’s a fallen tree in the middle island after about 30m. 👇🏼 You can, of course, just take your shoes off if and walk through too!
Continue walking upstream, making your own track as you go. Occasionally you’ll need to weave in between walking over the rocks and the slightly undulated path between the trees, depending on accessibility.
After about a quarter of the way in, you’ll pass a flat rock on your right. Keep going straight for about another 300m until you see pink ribbon marked on the tree, signalling where you should cross the creek again. Crossing now is better than later as the left side will become inaccessible soon, and the right side of the creek is easier to walk from this point.
The rocks will then start to get a bit bigger from here, requiring more legwork, concentration and bum shuffling to get over them. Soon you’ll come to the first mini fall and pool 👇🏼; there’s about 3 of these before the main fall.
After you’ll reach another small cascade. This is a good stopping (and swimming) point for those with younger kids as continuing will require some climbing skills.
If pressing on, only go beyond this point if the big rock/boulder next to the fall is dry to prevent injury. Try climbing up on the right hand side of it (close to the cascade) as it’ll be less steep and easier to get over, using the natural footholds as you go.
Then you’ll reach another cascade and dipping pool 👇🏼. This is as far as we’ve been before running out of daylight! But I’ve read that pressing on for just a bit further will get you to the impressive Black Rock Falls. If you get there, take a dip and enjoy!
Blazed during it’s former logging days, Hartley’s Creek is one of the better 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.
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.
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. 🤙🏻
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 there’s no-one else is there…go wild!
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 flat dirt path.
To get here, head right out of Port Dougie on the Cook Highway and in about 15minutes 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 required to prevent you walking through it.
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 or to pre-book.
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.
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 you’re eyes peeled for a Boyd’s Forest Dragon and other endemic wildlife!
Not for the faint hearted! This epically 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.
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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!
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, or ones that finish-up in chocolate-box villages and where you can meet endangered rock wallabies! Or, if you’re staying in a region for a while then you may wish to buy a hiking book for a comprehensive list of trails throughout Cairns and the Far North. Here’s a couple of goodies I’d recommend: This hiking guide has recently been published so it’s up to date and includes 45 walks from Cairns to the Daintree and Cooktown. Track descriptions are detailed and helpful, particularly for those harder to navigate. It’s been a great companion! This book also looks pretty good if you’re after hikes spanning from Cooktown to Rockhampton* (in between Townsville and Brisbane). It lists more than 150 routes ranging from shorter boardwalk strolls in the Daintree to epic 6-day hiking trips on tropical islands. Disclosure: In this article I’ve included some useful links of which some are affiliates- at no cost to you- to help keep this website running. 🤙🏻
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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, or ones that finish-up in chocolate-box villages and where you can meet endangered rock wallabies!
Or, if you’re staying in a region for a while then you may wish to buy a hiking book for a comprehensive list of trails throughout Cairns and the Far North. Here’s a couple of goodies I’d recommend:
This hiking guide has recently been published so it’s up to date and includes 45 walks from Cairns to the Daintree and Cooktown. Track descriptions are detailed and helpful, particularly for those harder to navigate. It’s been a great companion!
This book also looks pretty good if you’re after hikes spanning from Cooktown to Rockhampton* (in between Townsville and Brisbane). It lists more than 150 routes ranging from shorter boardwalk strolls in the Daintree to epic 6-day hiking trips on tropical islands.
Disclosure: In this article I’ve included some useful links of which some are affiliates- at no cost to you- to help keep this website running. 🤙🏻