An adventure-based wilderness track meandering 94km up the Far North Queensland coast from Palm Cove to Port Douglas is spear heading a vision to make Douglas Shire an ecotourism powerhouse on the world stage.
It started as a bold dream. Could we build one of Australia’s leading ecotourism experiences in FNQ?
It would be an eco-tourism trail that leverages the breathtaking power of the unique emerald coastline and Great Barrier Reef, while offering a heart-pumping ride on a mountain bike and an unrivalled hiking experience.
Renowned track builders World Trail, Douglas Shire Council and Cairns Regional Council staff were instrumental in pulling together a concept.
Now, the Wangetti Trail is becoming a reality.
The State Government’s Special Project Team is finalising a development application for the Mowbray North section, the first stage located just south of Port Douglas where crocodiles sunbake and the Mowbray River flows.
If all goes to plan, construction on the new Mowbray River crossing and the trail north to Port Douglas could be completed by mid-2020.
Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu believes the trail could spark a new wave of tourism growth and economy activity in the region.
Her council led a project-working group that completed an interim feasibility report to secure funding.
“This has the potential to become a really historic and treasured world-class attraction,” she said.
“The trail will showcase the pristine beauty of the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef, while embracing the Far North’s coastal ruggedness and hinterlands.
“We know eco and adventure tourists have a marked impact on the places they visit and we expect interest in the Wangetti Trail to be significant.”
Council is now working closely with the State Government, after the Palaszczuk Government committed funding to deliver the $36.1 million Wangetti Trail – which includes the $5.7 million previously allocated from the Attracting Tourism Fund for the Mowbray North early works portion.
It is anticipated that the trail will feature guided tours, beach connections and public campsites or privately operated eco-accommodation.
Eco-accommodation may include cabins, retreats or huts.
Economic estimates have the project creating up to 150 jobs, injecting $300 million into the Tropical North Queensland economy and attracting 28,000 local and international visitors annually.
Users will be able to walk the trail from Port Douglas to Wangetti Beach over six days or bike from Wangetti Beach to Palm Cove in one day, or up to three days for the full trail.
Delivering an iconic ecotourism experience like the Wangetti Trail requires extensive planning and engagement, with multiple stakeholders and environmental considerations.
The State Government’s Member for Cook Cynthia Lui expects the trail to be finished by 2022.
“We want to ensure that treasured natural and cultural assets on and around the Wangetti trail are protected, conserved and presented for the enjoyment of current and future generations,” Ms Lui said.
“We want authentic ecotourism adventure experiences with quality accommodation and amenity for visitors.”
Douglas Shire Council has recognised the potential in the ecotourism space and is positioning the region to become Australia’s leading sustainable tropical destination.
The hugely popular Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail, which connects Four Mile Beach and Rex Smeal Park, is a shining example of how these environmentally friendly projects can become drawcards for the region.
Last year, the local tourism industry received a big green tick when it secured a place in a global top 100 list of most sustainable destinations.
The Shire was the only Australian region to feature in the exclusive list and Council received the worldwide achievement at the Global Green Destinations Conference in the Netherlands.
A recent study by global online booking giant, Trekk Soft, confirmed the rise of consumer preferences for sustainable tourism options.
The study revealed 55% of global travellers were determined to make sustainable travel choices, with 73% determined to stay in eco-friendly or green accommodation.
Council recently made changes to its events policy to encourage event organisers to be more environmentally sustainable.
Mayor Leu said a strong environmental charter was vital to marketing the Douglas Shire.
“Council will continue striving to protect our most precious natural assets because our tourism industry depends on it,” Mayor Leu said.
“With spectacular natural areas such as the Daintree Rainforest, Great Barrier Reef and Mossman Gorge at our fingertips, Council continues to invest in destination marketing and popular events like Port Douglas Carnivale to draw more visitors to our region.”