Light traffic, dramatic ocean views, and cheerful skies: it isn’t hard to see why the road between Clifton Beach and Mossman Gorge was my favorite part of driving in Australia. In Queensland, we didn’t have to deal with the frustrating road construction and speed traps that plagued our drives further south. It was just us, the ocean, and a clear blue sky.
Our journey began from Clifton Beach, where we’d spent two nights recovering from jet lag. We stayed at the lovely South Pacific B&B with the friendliest hosts we met during our trip and the most amazing breakfast. We enjoyed a quiet couple of days on the beach, with a walk into town on our first night for dinner at the surprisingly delicious restaurant, Coco Mojo. On our second night we drove to Palm Cove for a not-so-great, overpriced meal (guess they can’t all be winners).
On day three, we took to the road. We were aiming for the Mossman Gorge visitor center in Daintree National Park, and then planned to drive a few hours back to Kuranda, where we were spending the night. It would be a long day, but we hoped the picturesque ocean views and walk through the rainforest would be worth it.
We took turns driving on the way to Mossman so each of us could ogle the incredible scenery out the window and tell the other when to stop for a good photo op. Later in our trip as we drove along the Gold Coast, I appreciated this drive even more. The Gold Coast is disappointingly lacking in coastline, while Highway 44 features gorgeous vistas everywhere you look.
We reached the Mossman Gorge after just over an hour and ate the homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we’d bought from the grocery store for lunch (Australia is expensive and we were on a budget, so we saved money where we could!). I wish we'd had more time to hike through the rainforest, but it was just enough to get a taste for the park. We walked along giant mossy trees, oversized ferns, and a river.
On our way back south, we stopped at Port Douglas for a coffee and a quick walk up to see the beautiful 4 Mile Beach. Google maps failed us a bit with how to get to the lookout, but we eventually found our way (tip: aim for the beach itself, not the lookout; you can walk up to the lookout from the northern end of the beach).
Our drive back was quicker as we weren’t stopping every few minutes to take photos. Just before we turned off for Kuranda, we spotted a sign for wallabies. We spontaneously took a quick turn into a Marlin Coast Bowls Club parking lot and, sure enough, there was indeed a hand-painted sign leading us around the club to see the cute little guys having dinner. It was our first time seeing wild wallabies (though not our last!) and I was completely fascinated by them.
Finally, we made it to our home for the night, a small guest house in the middle of the forest a few miles outside of Kuranda. We arrived just at sunset after slowly navigating the windy, hilly roads and then drove into town for food. We were slightly dismayed to find that everything in town closes after dark; the only thing open was a BYO fish and chips shop (which turned out to be pretty mediocre). But back at our guest house, we scored a few beers from our hosts and ate outside under the stars to the sound of frogs croaking. It made our meal suddenly taste much better.
If you go...
- I would highly recommend staying at South Pacific B&B
- Don't rent from Europcar at the Cairns airport; we had terrible customer service there and they charged us a LOT extra for a credit card (but wouldn't accept our debit card)
- Note that everything in Kuranda closes at 6 pm (including the bottle shops)!