There's a whole lot to see and do in Tropical North Queensland, and the Crocodile Trophy might just be the way to explore!
Tropical North Queensland is known as an adventure paradise, and away from the jetboat rides, 4WD tours, bungy jumping, reef trips and more, there's a whole lot of mountain biking to discover.
Cairns is the best known hub for mountain biking in the area - which isn't surprising given the World Cups and World Championships that have been held at Smithfield MTB Park. While there are world-class trails to test the best, Smithfield mountain bike park has a wide variety of trails nestled in right behind James Cook University - just check out our guide. If you're after something a little more intense, head to the Kuranda downhill trail - this isn't for beginners though, and an enduro bike or downhill bike would be best suited to tackling this challenge.
Cairns is often the launching point for some serious adventures - be it out to the Great Barrier Reef, crossing to the gulf or a trip to Cape Tribulation. Maybe you're doing something closer to home, like we have looked at before in our suggested tropical itineraries.
If you're a mountain biker, there is a big adventure that launches from Cairns every year - and that's the Crocodile Trophy.
Some say it's the oldest mountain bike stage race, some say it's the hardest. Whichever it is, it's an epic undertaking and experience, but it's not something out of reach for any dedicated mountain biker who wants to see more of Tropical North Queensland.
Like most multi-day mountain bike races, the Crocodile Trophy is just about a full-service event. What's that mean? Well in the event your main meals are provided, there are water stations with basic food, there's a mechanic service at the camps, a doctor who also follows the race and massages can be booked for after each stage. For a little extra, you can even pay someone to put up a tent for you - there are quite a few accommodation options available.
The stages are fully marked plus there are GPS routes that can be downloaded ahead of time and loaded onto your GPS device.
What might surprise you about the Crocodile Trophy is the variety of places it will take you in Tropical North Queensland.
Away from Cairns and into the ranges
Day one of the Crocodile Trophy takes you from the Esplanade in Cairns, up to the high peaks of the Great Dividing Range. You cross from the Wet Tropics to the Dry Tropics, and the opening stage finishes with a big loop of Davies Creek MTB park - the perfect cure for the hard climbs at the start.
Another nice touch is where you'll be staying at Ringers Rest. It's so good, that the Crocodile Trophy actually has you staying for 2 nights!
The next day takes you over Mt Edith and along the shores of Lake Tinaroo. The freshwater lake sits at about 900m above sea level, and if you look beyond the lake, you'll see the Misty Mountains - your objective for the next day.
Expect high-quality doubletrack through a mix of rainforests, cattle country and dry Aussie bush on this stage, with cooler temperatures thanks to being over 1000m above sea level most of the day!
Day 3 takes you to Wondecla, and you're getting deep into the Atherton Tablelands, one of our favourite areas when we travelled around the area in a campervan. Today you'll pass right through Atherton MTB Park, although you'll only be riding some of the trails... for now. You will climb up Mt Baldy (above), but not before crossing through some fun trails from town.
Out near Herberton it's pretty quiet and you're in rolling hills - although some of the hills might have you question just where the rolling is.
Day 4 will take you into Atherton MTB Park proper, and out the back again for some outback trails and double track. You are on the edge of some pretty isolated country, and the big loop you will tackle on the 2nd half of this stage might leave you feeling very much alone. We live in one of the most sparsely populated continents- today is a day to experience it. It's also the Queen stage!
It's day 5 where you will truly start to experience the Queensland outback. It's time to head towards Irvinebank!
While Day 5 does have a climb called Mt Misery, it's actually a stunning stage. With a route that takes in dirt roads, old stage coach routess, farm roads and some connecting trails, it's a really varied stage that takes you via the isolated gold mining town of Irvinebank, before you finally finish at the Skybury Coffee plantation, ordering some carrot cake and a cappucino and sitting on a deck overlooking the farmlands... the day couldn't have more contrasts if it tried!
The stage is long, but it is also one of the flattest stages of the event, and given you finish at a cafe/restaurant you can make sure your reserves are well-stocked. Just leave some room for dinner. The best news? You're here for two nights. Don't forget to stock up on some freshly roasted beans or grind for your aeropress.
Back to the jungle!
Day 7 sees the adventure head back east, through the wet tropics and to the coast. This is an all-new route for the Crocodile Trophy, and the stage finish is down at Hartley's Crocodile Farm, right on the coast.
While the route leads you through familiar farm country from Skybury Coffee, the hills approach and through the Kuranda State Forest you'll be on fast dirt roads, and then riding along moto trails and singletrack before descending down to the finish. As you're on the coast, you will have the comfort of a seabreeze and the sound of the ocean for a well-deserved rest.
Day 8 is a classic run down the Bump Track for a finish on Four Mile beach at Port Douglas. There's little better than finishing the Crocodile Trophy at the beach, jumping into the water, drying off in the sun and ordering some salt and pepper squid and a beer from the surf club.
Of course, you do need to get back up the hill to go down first, and after a sealed road climb, stretches of trail and dirt road take you to the Bump Track. Once off the long, long descent, the route takes you through the back of Port Douglas and onto the beach for the final run in.
Once you're finished, you will be a Crocodile Trophy finisher. But you will have ridden through world heritage listed rainforest, the dry tropics, outback cattle country, some of Australia's most fertile farm lands, old gold mining areas and along historical trails. The Crocodile Trophy is an epic 8-day adventure, but there is a 3-day version if that suits you more.
There's no doubt that seeing the beauty of Tropical North Queensland from the saddle of your mountain bike isn't the easiest way to do it. But it is one of the most rewarding. Given that the Crocodile Trophy attracts riders from around the world to experience this part of Australia - aren't you curious to discover more about the area, and spend time on your mountain bike at the same time?
Registatrion is open for the 2019 event on 12-19 October. The Crocodile Trophy is not a small undertaking - but completing it is a big reward.