Tropical Trails – Cairns to Port Douglas Trail Ultra

The latest trail running event to hit the scene is the Cairns to Port Douglas Trail Ultra. It’s a festival of rainforest running, with epic courses in one of the most spectacular parts of Australia. Ultra events in the tropics are a rarity, so when this one popped up on our facebook feed we had to check it out. With distances ranging from 10km to 120km, there’s something for everyone. Plus being in a place that’s ideal for a family holiday, this is an event that’s sure to become hugely popular. To get the lowdown on CPTU we caught up with the event’s race director, Shona Stephenson.

What inspired you to create CPTU?

To be honest, in 2008 I was on holidays pregnant with my second daughter, and riding on the Skyrail from Cairns to Kuranda. Looking down that that endless rainforest I thought this would be an amazing place to run. I just wanted to connect the Cairns ridgelines to Kuranda, run along the range then down an amazing descent into Port Douglas. Here, the rainforest and mountains really do meet the reef.

What do runners have to look forward to in the event?

Cassowaries! I ran into two in two days! There’s the Crystal Cascades, Lake Morris, Clohesy Fig Tree, Kauri Pines on the CPTU120 and CPTU40 course, Barron Gorge, PLUS Burgers, beer and chips at the beach bar right on 4 Mile Beach in Port Douglas. 

What is the trail like? Technical/hilly/flat etc

The trails are incredibly mixed. From wild and rugged rainforest paths, to rock hopping through creek beds, technical single trails and open tracks. There are punchy climbs that will test your quads, steep descents and also plenty of fast running on flowing trails.

-What’s your favourite part of the course?

So hard to say! The fig trees up here are AMAZIMG! They are like living cathedrals. This is my version of trail heaven and I love running through their branches. Flag staff walk is jaw dropping, with its world class views and the potential to see cassowaries. The finish on 4 Mile Beach is lined with Coconuts and is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – the perfect place to finish an event. The whole course is packed with unique natural assets and I am so pleased with the course that has been designed.  

Crocodiles and cassowaries….should we be worried 😉

Depends, Cassowaries can be pretty scary. You are more likely to run into them than a crocodile. I ran into a Daddy with his baby and almost shat myself when I was by myself on day 1 in the area! I felt so special. I did back off and let them do their thing, and waited for them to be off the track before walking past them. You just need to get a few trees between yourself and them and they seem pretty happy with that.

The crocodiles….you’re way less likely to come into contact with them. If anywhere it would probably be on the Beach at Port Douglas. The locals live with them all the time without an issue, but they are careful and don’t swim in deep lakes and rivers that are connected to estuaries. It’s advised to stay at least 5m from deep water and 3 m from shallow water.

Other than the running, what’s your favourite thing to do in Cairns/Port Douglas?

Head to the Cairns Lagoon and people watch, or to the Salt Bar down at the wharf for drinks and great oysters and GF chips. There’s also Wolf Lane Gin Distillery in Town. In Port Douglas head to the Thai Restaurant for a fish stew cooked in a bag. It’s the best Thai meal I have  had in a long time! Of course you need to sun Bake on the beach in the day then catch the sunset at Rex Smeal Park. One must do is a trip to the reef. You can even go on a chopper ride out to a sand island for a champagne breakfast. Personally, I love the Skyrail between Cairns and Kuranda. In Kuranda there is also a butterfly sanctuary and the Scenic Railway is also must for support crew.

More information here: