There would be no Port Douglas without the Bump Track


Karlie Brady


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BUMPY: The infamous Bump Track played an important part in the founding and establishment of Port Douglas. Image: Karlie Brady.

Exercise, hard work, sore legs, and a lot of sweat – all images that are conjured by thinking of the infamous Bump Track.

Nestled in the Mowbray Valley, the six-kilometre track over the Great Diving Range is an exercise enthusiast and mountain biker’s dream.

However, it wasn’t always this way; the Bump Track played a very important role in the establishment of Port Douglas.

In 1877, the Palmer River and Hodgkinson gold rushes were in full swing but miners needed a faster way to get their gold to a costal port rather than having to trek all the way to Cooktown.

After several months of searching, explorer Christie Palmerston and aboriginal guide Pompo discovered a suitable route for wagons from the tablelands down the range to the coast.

Thought to originally be an old aboriginal trail, the track came to be known as the “Bump Road” due to its steep grades.

The track soon became the main access from the goldfields to the port facilities of Port Douglas, making the town the major shipping outlet for the goldfields.

The town’s population sored after merchants from Cooktown and Cairns quickly arrived in the area to claim their share in the wealth of the gold rush, settling the tent village of Port Douglas and building docks and shops.

Cobb and Co. bullock and horse teams set up a service along the Bump road but before long the intense steepness of the track took its toll.

Horse drawn wagons often struggled and passengers had to get out and walk the steepest section known as Slatey Pinch.

When motor vehicles were introduced, they had to be hauled up by horse teams and on the way down; logs were tied to the rear of the cars to stop them from slipping.

Traffic on the Bump Road was heavy during its peak but with the construction of the Mareeba to Cairns railway in 1893, the importance of Port Douglas as a port lessened. 

The Bump Road however was still in constant use as the only road in and out of Port Douglas until the coast road to Cairns was built in 1933.

In World War II, amid fears of a Japanese invasion, the track became an integral part of a coastal evacuation plan.

As the Bump Track was the only road over the range at the time, it would act as the escape route for residents fleeing inland during an invasion.

The Australian Army placed land mines along the track that were to be blown up after the evacuation was complete so that the invading Army could not follow.

As history shows, the area was never invaded and after the war the mines were detonated.

Today only remnants of the past remain, with a narrow track left to the bikers and the walkers.

The lasting effects of Bump Track live on with the establishment of Port Douglas indebted to the small bumpy track over the hill.

Special thanks to the Douglas Shire Historical Society and the State Library of Queensland for the information supplied. 


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