Port Douglas is an easy one hour drive north of Cairns along a picturesque coastal highway dotted with palm trees overhanging the ocean on one side, and rainforest on the other. It’s a coastal town renowned for its long list of luxury resorts, white sand beaches and being the gateway to two Tropical North Queensland UNESCO World Heritage sites – the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. We only had four days to explore the region, so intently set out to make the most of our time in this lush tropical oasis.
A DAY ON THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
It’s hard to go past a trip to Tropical North Queensland without visiting the World-Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. So Caroline and I boarded our catamaran, waved goodbye to the mainland and sailed to Agincourt Reef where we were poised in bikinis ready to dive in.
After ample time was spent snorkelling the calm, sapphire waters around the pontoon, we boarded a helicopter to take in the spectacular sights of the reef system from the air. Looking down we could see the edge of the continental shelf of Australia, where the Coral Sea meets the Great Barrier Reef, and looking out to the horizon we saw the deep blue sea gently becoming one with the clear blue sky. It was the ultimate holiday rush teamed with a touch of serenity.
We traded the coast for a trip to the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree, with the aim of exploring Mossman Gorge. After admiring the local arts and crafts on display in the Visitor Information Centre, immersing ourselves in the history of the area and learning more about the culture and beliefs of Australia’s indigenous people and their connection to the natural environment, we caught the shuttle bus to the drop-off point and enjoyed a peaceful, leisurely walk down the well-worn track. Fat rain droplets rolled off the dense leafy canopy above covering us as we took in the pristinely untouched flora in all its beauty.
It wasn’t long before Caroline and I could hear the water cascading through the Gorge and shortly after it was before us, peacefully moving in and around perfectly formed granite boulders. The water itself was crystal clear mirroring the reflection of the foliage surrounding it, the rain droplets continuing to fall hit the water sending beautiful ripples outward and we sat for a moment, enjoying the activity around us. Swim, take photos, pack a picnic or just sit quietly and reconnect, Mossman Gorge has something for everyone and is easily accessible from both Cairns and Port Douglas with organised tours operating every day.
Although Palm Cove is suitable nicknamed the ‘Spa capital of Australia’, Caroline and I weren’t there for a massage, but rather to take in the sights of the small beachside village centred around an esplanade with high-end, beach front resorts on one side, and a dense row of Palms on the other.
We tantalised our tastebuds at Peppers Beach Club with a delicious selection of Vietnamese spring rolls. Opting to sit outdoors, we enjoyed the ocean breeze and people watching before setting out for a stroll along the esplanade wandering in and out of boutique retail stores and art galleries. If you want to explore the Palm Cove in a more adventurous way, there’s plenty of activities on offer right along the beach, from hiring bikes to kayaks, Palm Cove caters to all leisure activity requirements.
SHERATON GRAND MIRAGE PORT DOUGLAS
Caroline and I dedicated one afternoon to relaxation and switched the clock to ‘island time’, picking the perfect place to unwind, our resort, the Sheraton Grand Mirage Port Douglas. Surrounded by 147 hectares of tropical gardens and two hectares of saltwater lagoon pools, finding a private spot wasn’t difficult, even though the overflowing carpark suggested the resort was full.
Our overwater cabana provided easy access to the wonderfully warm, pristinely clear lagoon, and the lush tropical landscaping made us feel like we were a world away from humanity. The only care we had was what mocktail to order next, and whether Caroline was going to spot a croc on our trip.