'Round the back' of Port Douglas - heading inland rather than north into Mossman/Daintree - is Julatten and a beautifully low-key, scenic drive through low-lying hills and, in the rainy season, exceptionally verdant rolling fields of grasses and eucalyptuses. Great views looking north too.
Daintree offers tropical, there's the Great Barrier Reef and the turquoise ocean waters and there's the quietness of a very green Julatten... All in the space of a few miles of each other.
Whilst visiting Kuranda you must not miss the beautifull Barron Falls, only 3km from Kuranda. We drove there but there were many tourists enjoying the walk to view the falls.
We visited during the Dry Season when the waterflow is reduced. Barron Falls is a 260 metre granite faced waterfall and looks spectacular anytime. When you enter Barron Gorge National Park there is a boardwalk through the rainforest which takes you to a lookout to view the waterfall.
Our day trip to Kuranda also included a visit to the nearby Barron Gorge National Park. Kuranda is south of Port Douglas and an easy one hour drive along sealed roads.
It is easy to stay the whole day in Kuranda, there are many attractions including Birdworld, Heritage Markets, Scenic Railway, Cable Car over the Rainforest, Aboriginal Performance and artifacts, walking trails, restaurants and cafes.
A small tourist town, the main business is tourism, offering tourists river cruises, guided hiking, accommodation etc etc. There are several cafes which offer good local food, all specialise in offering the local Barramundi fish.
The Daintree National Park is part of the "Wet Tropics" which in 1988 was listed under World Heritage.
We first visited the Daintree in 1990 and returned during July 2011 to find it in pristine condition. Much of the Daintree National Park is rugged and inaccessable, however there are many walking trails which allow walkers to enjoy the forrest.
Both times we visited we took the Daintree River cruise which takes you within metres of the pristine rainforrest. We soon realised it would be extremely difficult to penetrate the rainforest.
The Daintree is located 40km north of Port Douglas, an easy drive should you have a vehicle. Tour buses operate daily.
Our afternoon visit to Mossman Gorge was the best part of our day. Our intention being to take a quick glimpse, but on arrival we soon realised what a beautiful nature reserve we had found.
A long boardwalk took us through the rainforest for a 10 minute walk. We were surrounded by native forest, containing exceptionally large trees, vines, undergrowth and occasional birdlife. We stopped many times to admire and take photos of the forest.
Eventually we came upon the gorge, it was the dry season and water level was low. However in some of the rocky areas the water was quite vigorous. Signs warning of flash floods and warnings re swimming were frequent. However there were many people enjoying the rockpools for a refreshing swim.
The opposite side of the gorge looked magnificent with the untouched rainforest down to the waters edge.
Mossman Gorge is a lovely part of the Daintree National Park. To me, its appeal lies in the crystal clear water that runs over large boulders through the river gorge. Just a short walk from the car park and you will come across a swimming hole, surrounded by rounded boulders and filled with photo opportunities….and people who aren't put off by the icy water!
The gorge area is ideal for a walk (on the marked trail of course), so you can see the interesting rainforest plants, and learn more about them by reading the signs along the way. You may also be lucky enough to spot some wildlife - be it a turtle in the river or a beautiful butterfly flitting amongst the trees.
There are toilets and a picnic area near the car park, but no camping facilities.
From Port Douglas, travel north on the Cook Highway for about 25kms. In the centre of Mossman turn left into Johnston Road, and follow this road for 5km directly to the Mossman Gorge car park.
About 15 minutes south of Port on the Captain Cook Highway heading towards Cairns is the Rex Lookout - a spectacular spot looking south across Trinity Bay and the northern beaches of Cairns and beyond.
Port Douglas was established in 1877 after the discovery of gold and it grew very quickly from there. At its peak Port Douglas had a population of 12,000 and 27 hotels.
If you have the time I would recommend hiring a car and driving around the countryside to explore a bit of it's history. There are many abandoned buildings that each have their own story to tell.
You can drive right up to Cape Tribulation which is over the Daintree river via the punt ferry--from there the road is for 4wd only.It is called the Bloomfield track and goes to Cooktown.
You can drive the inland road to Cooktown now as it is all sealed and really a very nice drive through Lakelands.
I wish you a fantastic time and as a local I often do this road trip.
Back in 2002, during a stay in Port Douglas, Alex and I headed up to the Daintree River for a spot of fishing. My Dad came along too. We had pre-booked a fishing tour with a small group - just 4 paying customers, the skipper and his mate.
The tour started early one sunny morning, and as we whizzed along the river we really wished we had worn some warmer clothing - it was freezing! The captain tortured Alex by making him sit at the front of the boat and be a wind buffer for the rest of us!
Well, Alex soon got his own back by catching the biggest fish of the day!!
It was a fantastic experience to be fishing on the Daintree, and we were lucky enough to spot plenty of crocodiles as well.
The Daintree river is located about 40 minutes north of Port Douglas, via Mossman.
One of the new things to do up in Port Douglas that can still be considered "off the beaten path" at least for the next year or two is to take the backroads up to Cooktown. Since the past 100 years or so, this has needed a 4x4, it might be the ideal time to do it now!
If you head off from Port Douglas as if headed to Cape Trib, take a cutoff and head out toward Cooktown through Palmer River Roadhouse. There really are some great views to be seen on this little backroad, and it will be well worth the time!
As you could well imagine, being 100 km north of the nearest airport, away from everything else, most would consider all of Port Douglas as "off the beaten path". Once you are here however, there are a few places you can find for a peaceful sit and think about things.
One of those places is located right at the end of the main drag in Port Douglas, sitting right on the water is ANZAC park, which is in memory of all of those serving to protect Australia from the Australian/New Zealand Army Corp.
There is not much to the park, but there is a nice little market on Sunday, and the rest of the week this place is virtually silent.
Take a four wheel drive trip to the Daintree and Cape Tribulation. Here you will see crocodiles on the river, and the beauty of where the rainforest meets the ocean at Cape Tribulation. This is where many tours end. Keep going and grap a tour that does the Bloomsfield track. You get to experience some real aussie beauty. Swim in the lovely clear creeks, and see some beautiful waterfalls. Its a beautiful rugged experience that is not worth missing.