It may not be sitting right on the beach or have the ‘must visit’ reputation of the likes of Port Douglas and Cooktown, but the North Queensland town of Mossman still ticks a huge number of very important grey nomad boxes.
Of course, there’s the incredible dry season climate. There’s the innate charm of a working sugar cane town. There’s the fascinating history, and the superb heritage listed buildings. There’s the warm country welcome. And then, last but not least, there’s the proximity to the stunning Mossman Gorge.
The town sits on the doorstep of the iconic Daintree National Park, where the Mossman Gorge Centre is the gateway to a scenic valley where the Mossman River cuts through giant granite boulders.
There is a suspension bridge across the river and the chance to stroll the 2.5-kilometre rainforest loop trail. Visitors can also enjoy a dip in a number of freshwater swimming holes. Even for veteran ‘gorge-vising grey nomads’, this one is well worth a look.
With a population of around 2,000 people, Mossman is located on the Captain Cook Highway about 75 kilometres north of Cairns. It really came into its own when the Cairns Railway was completed in 1891 offering a more direct gateway to the hinterland.
It was discovered that the Mossman area was suitable for sugar-growing and the rest, as they say, is history. The Mossman Central Sugar Mill began crushing in 1897, and a network of cane tramways quickly developed, linking Mossman to nearby sugarcane growing areas.
Sugar cane crushing season runs from June to October, and the town’s mill still processes up to 800,000 tonnes of sugar cane, producing up to 105,000 tonnes of raw sugar.
Visitors at the right time may be treated to the sight of cane trams rattling through the town hauling in the harvest, or they might witness the apparently breathtaking sight of a cane fire in full force. Today, Mossman’s wide tree-lined main street is full of buildings that reflect the community’s proud history.
Heritage-listed sites include the Exchange Hotel (once known as the Daintree Inn); Mossman District Hospital; St David’s Anglican Church; the council chambers; and the old National Bank of Australasia building. While camping in Daintree National Park is pretty limited, there are, of course, some nice little caravan parks in the area, including the council-run Mossman Pool & Caravan Park.
About 35 kilometres south of Mossman is Rifle Creek Rest Area near Mt Molloy, which allows 48-hour stops for a gold coin donation.
Ultimately, Mossman is a lovely interesting sugar town that is well worth a visit in its own right, but one that has been catapulted into the Big Lap desirability stratosphere by its proximity to the stunning gorge, and the entire iconic Daintree region.