The Crocodile Trophy is one of the most demanding mountain bike stage races in the world. As much as it has changed a lot in the past five years, it is still a testing 9 days of mountain biking in Tropical North Queensland. The variety of the race no longer suits European road professionals at the tail end of their racing season. It suits a talented mountain biker who is capable of managing themselves and their equipment through rainforest, sand, mountain bike parks, overgrown bush trails, and fast backcountry trails.
It’s worth remembering that you are racing through a veritable paradise – Tropical North Queensland. The majority of the racing takes place on the Atherton Tablelands – but starts in the adventure capital of Cairns and finishes in the resort town of Port Douglas.
If you are planning on competing in the Crocodile Trophy, do yourself a favour and plan on staying on for a bit more time too. These are some of the places we think you should visit.
Resort Life in Port Douglas
Once the race finishes, you’re left in Port Douglas. Just like Transalp finishes in Riva del Garda, lets hope this becomes a tradition for the Crocodile Trophy. There is nowhere better to finish in my opinion. Port Douglas is a resort town, so why not take advantage of it. Go on a reef trip. Take a Daintree tour. Drink some cocktails. Eat out. Sleep, be pampered.
There is some mountain biking in Port Douglas (you could even try to better your time on the Bump Track) but it seems like a better place to catch up on some relaxation, and sleep.
There are lots of small towns linked together, and plenty of larger towns that service them. Each town has a story, and each is worth some attention or an overnight stay. While the race will take you through Atherton, it’s worth a trip back for a look around, even just to ride some more of the trails at Atherton Forest MTB Park. The Crystal Caves are also worth a look. After 9 days of bike racing, it’s worth taking the time to adjust to a slower paced way of life.
Atherton is possibly the most central location for a lot that you could visit on the Tablelands, and the Atherton Big 4 is very mountain bike friendly with a bike wash area, lots of space, a pool, outdoor kitchen and free wifi.
Ravenshoe isn’t too far away, and is the highest town in Queensland. While in the past it’s been the home of the timber industry, it has also been the home for hundreds of thousands of troops who were training for jungle warfare. There are bakeries, pubs, community stores, and plenty of people who have a story to tell.
Herberton and Millaa Millaa are also worth visiting, although there’s more to do in the former. If you need to pedal, you could check out the Misty Mountain trails.
The Misty Mountains
In 2011, the Crocodile Trophy visited Koombooloomba Dam, off the end of Tully Gorge Road. It’s about 35km out of Ravenshoe, along a narrow 2WD (just) road. But, there’s a series of walking tracks that have opened up to mountain bikes. They’re all marked, and there are mapboardss at most trail heads. You would be best to grab a map from an information centre in Ravenshoe or Atherton though. You can find more details online too.
They also use old logging roads that the rainforest is reclaiming as it’s own. Some of the trails are more reclaimed than others, so it can be a struggle to navigate. But the ride down to Koolmoon Creek is about 98% rideable, and a great spot for a dip.
You do need to use your common sense – some trails that look fine on the map are heavily overgrown. Given the volume of stinging tree in the area, proceed with caution. This area is pretty rough, without the development that Atherton has received.
If getting back on the bike so soon isn’t that appealing, then head for the Lakes Loop – or even better head to Yungaburra, not even an hour away from Atherton. It’s a small town with a great pizzeria, and a few very friendly cafes for a late breakfast, brunch, lunch… or all three.
The main lakes are all a short drive away. You will have camped on Lake Tinaroo early in the Crocodile Trophy, but the nearby Lake Eacham and Lake Barrine are just sublime. They are both craters, excellent for swimming in, and a fantastic place to unwind. You can drive there and go for a short walk, or make it a casual road ride from Yungaburra. Just don’t forget your swimmers.
Don’t miss the Curtain Tree Fig while nearby, it’s absolutely huge, and could almost be an extra from Predator it’s so other worldly. Again, it’s just off the road, so you can drive there and walk in if you’re still having time off the bike.
Australia is known for beaches, and both north and south of Cairns they are just what you would expect to find. Between Cairns and Mission Beach there are other small townships dotted along the coast. The drive itself is an experience of Australia – stopping at road side stalls for bananas, ginger and other fresh produce.
Some of the beaches are just about empty. Pay attention to warning signs for crocodiles, or just do as the locals do. Mission Beach, like Four Mile Beach, is firm enough to ride on. Others seem purpose made for walking along and unwinding.
There are countless walking opportunities in the area, up tall peaks, along beaches, through gorges. But if you are still in a world of hurt after the Croc, the Skyrail in Smithfield might be better. Just north of Cairns, the cable car takes you inland above the rainforest. If you book a canopy glider, you’re in the open air with no limitations on what you can photograph.
It’s a great way to see the rainforest, and the views back to the ocean, plus learn more if you take a guided tour. The journey goes to Kuranda, and while you can take the cable car back, you can also come back down on the train.
Spoil yourself, enjoy a bit more of the slower pace after completing the Crocodile Trophy. But just make sure you don’t get right back on a plane. Experience Tropical North Queensland for a little longer.