Port Douglas - Julatten - Far North Queensland

This week we bring you part two of our Far North Queensland series of rides.  This time we are heading inland and into the hills for a pretty special ride from Port Douglas to Julatten return.  

All up this is a 70km ride that is great to do early in the morning before returning to Port Douglas for a good coffee and a chill out out day by the pool or on the beach. 

For the second time that week, we roll out of Port Douglas around 7.30am. At this time of the morning there is little movement around, we see a few tourists rush across the highway for a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, other than that not much is happening.  

As we meet the Captain Cook Highway, we make  a right hand turn, heading north towards Mossman.  The highway from Port Douglas north is dead flat and lined with sugar cane plantations, it's a great warm up and our legs are soon feeling good.  At this time of year (August) farmers are in full blown harvest mode and we see the sugar cane trains moving along the side of the highway.  Make sure you keep an eye out for these trains as there are multiple train crossings on the road and not all of them are well signposted.

After around 10km we pass the Cooya beach turn off and the road turns inland, a few kilometres later we take a right turn towards Mareeba.  The climb that this ride is all about starts a couple of kilometres after the turn off.  The main part of the climb is just over 7km long with a average gradient of 5.7%.  Not a huge one by any means, but the road is outstanding.  It winds it way continually up, the vegetation and trees becoming thicker and taller every kilometre you pass.  

The road surface is very good and the road is pretty wide. We found we had more room than on some of our favourite home climbs in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges.  One important thing to mention here is the sugar cane trucks. These massive trucks carry double trailer loads and on some of the many tight corners have no choice but to run very close to the inside of corners. We quickly learned to look back for these trucks during the climb to make sure we did not encounter one mid-corner.

When we are close to the top we pass a lookout that gives a spectacular view north over Mossman, Snapper Rocks and beyond.  While taking in the view we meet Steve, a Mossman local that is riding the climb on his Malvern Star mountain bike.  Steve is a legend, at 55 years old he completes the ride in his old t-shirt and stubby shorts a few times a week before fuelling up at the top with a bit of water and a muesli bar. He then drops the hammer on the downhill, either back down the road or going off road down many of the awesome down hill trails (including the well know "bump track").  We tell Steve that we are up from Melbourne and he confesses that he's orginally from Frankston but "had to get away from all the crazy Melbourne traffic and cold weather".  

We say goodbye to Steve and head onwards.  Once we clear the top of the climb the road opens up and the landscape changes to open farmland, banana plantations and fish farms.  The road is quiet here and we cover the remaining 15km to Julatten in no time.  We refuel with water at the local store and turn for the run back to Port Douglas.

The descent is simply amazing, the continually tight winding road with a smooth surface leaves us with big smiles on our faces. We soon hit the Captain Cook Highway and head back to Port Douglas and again are at Origin Espresso - Four Mile Roasters (corner Grant and Warner Street) for a great coffee.

This ride is not long, you can head further into the tablelands if you like, but the gem of this ride is the climb, the view and the cracking descent.

Ride details

Ride – Port Douglas to Julatten return (70km).

Terrain – Single 7km climb at 5.7%, flat sections and a section of rolling hills.

Roads – Good roads, watch out for sugar cane trains and trucks

Distance – Return 70km.

Hydrate – Julatten store

Tips – Take a camera, the view is unbelieveable.


Getting there and accommodation

Fly – Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Tiger and Qantas fly to Cairns daily from most Australian capital cities – shop around for the best deal and remember to factor in additional luggage for your bike.  La Velocita chose Jetstar. Either get a bus transfer or hire a car for the trip to Port Douglas.

Stay – There are many options in Port Douglas – we recommend: 

Martinique on Macrosson for something self contained and close to town.

The Point Apartments for something more spectacular. 

Sea Temple for resort style. 


Budget – A few good takeaway options, Malone’s Butcher for great meat to cook on the BBQ, there is also good reef fish available at Coles in Port Douglas.

Intermediate – Port Douglas Surf Club (Crn Mowbray St and Esplanade).

Top –Salsa Bar and Grill or Nautilus Restaurant.

Coffee – We could not beat Origin Espresso at Four Mile Roasters.