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I tend to subscribe to numerous travel offer companies as I’m always on the lookout for good travel deals. This means I get bombarded with emails on a daily basis offering travel deals that are sometimes very reasonably priced. One such Luxury Escape offer was a deal for five nights at a four star resort in Port Douglas in Far North Queensland for $750.00. The offer included a bottle of bubbly, breakfast, a half hour massage and a fully self-contained one bedroom apartment.
The location of the holiday apartment was only one street away from Port Douglas shopping and restaurant precinct and was within easy walking distance to the beach. It was simply too good a deal to pass up!
So with good friends, Robyn and Steve, we purchased two vouchers for the deal and once we agreed on dates we booked flights, a rental car and a couple of extra nights in Cairns. We were all set to enjoy a winter escape to the tropical Far North of Queensland to experience what it had to offer.
On arrival in Cairns we checked into our hotel and took a stroll along the waterfront precinct of Cairns that is fringed with parklands, playgrounds, and a large lagoon. On that particular day the colourful Saturday markets were happening in the park.
On the opposite side to the park there are hundreds of cafes and eateries to choose from that all offer al fresco dining and a wide array of cuisine. Also in the area is the Cairns Reef Casino that overlooks the picturesque boat harbour.
The following morning we arranged to do a day trip to Kuranda via the Scenic Rail on the way up the mountain, and returning by the Skyrail. The train journey takes ninety minutes and snakes it way up the mountain through dense rainforests, rocky escarpments, cascading waterfalls and breathtaking views over the coastline of Cairns.
The train stops for a short while to allow passengers to take a peek from the lookout at the magnificent Barron Falls and the Barron River in the valley far below.
It resumes its journey towards the village of Kuranda, a small mountain village with interesting and unique arts and crafts, shops and markets. We discovered that the market stalls and shops offered an array of leather goods, aboriginal paintings and artefacts, jewellery and hemp clothing. There are also many cafes, a hotel, and market stall eateries offering a range of delicacies.
We easily filled in the few hours in Kuranda by strolling around the shops and galleries, taking a walk down a trail to Barron Falls, visiting Butterfly House, and just sitting and relaxing in one of the sidewalk cafes. Alternatively, the lawn area in the parks beside the river are a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy the rainforest vegetation, the birdlife and breathe in the fresh mountain air.
The drive northwards to Port Douglas is along a hilly, winding road, with glimpses of the ocean at several points, lush green rainforested hills and a few little towns along the way. It is worthwhile stopping by Palm Cove and Trinity Beach, where there are many large five star resort hotels – one with an 18 hole golf course, smaller boutique style hotels and trendy little shops and cafes lining the foreshore of the palm fringed beaches.
Once we reached Port Douglas, it was evident that it is not called the ‘largest resort capital’ of North Queensland for nothing. On the drive into town there are more than ten five star resort hotels including The Sheraton Mirage and The Pullman Sea Temple resorts that feature world class golf courses. The beach is endlessly wide and flat with palm trees lining the shoreline and beautiful clear calm aqua waters. There is a great lookout at the northern end of the beach that offers 360 degree views of Port Douglas and the coastline.
The long main street of Port Douglas is crowded with upmarket boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, tour booking offices, souvenir shops and trendy bars. There are two pubs along the main street that both offer great meals, however the Courthouse Hotel at the western end offers a huge shady verandah overlooking the harbour and is a great place to enjoy a ‘coldie’.
The Yacht Club deck is also a wonderful location for an afternoon beverage, watching the boats come in from day cruises and enjoy the majestic sunset.
There are numerous boat cruises available from Port Douglas that will take you out to the outer reefs for a day of scuba diving, swimming and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
There are also day trips to Mossman Gorge, The Daintree and Cape Tribulation – just a small sample of the many must-do things while you are in the Far North.
Mossman Gorge is located in the southern part of Daintree National Park, 80 kilometres north of the regional town of Cairns, and about five kilometres from the cane-farming town of Mossman. The Mossman Gorge centre is an indigenous eco-friendly building and is located at the entrance to Mossman Gorge. Here you can learn about the Kuku Yalanji people and visit the art gallery and shop that showcases the art and design of the local Kuku Yalanji people and leading Indigenous artists from across Far North Queensland.
Once we were loaded onto the bus the drive is a very short distance to the Gorge and the numerous walking trails through its pristine rainforest, to cool streams, towering mountains and the dramatic Gorge. We stopped to enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear water of the Mossman River that cascades over granite boulders forming watering holes surrounded by lush green rainforest.
This is one experience that you can’t miss as you are afforded a rare chance to revel in the beauty of the last remnant of the oldest surviving rainforest in the world – The Daintree.
The tropical rainforest region of The Daintree in Far North-east Queensland covers an area of around 12,000 square kilometres and is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. Along the coastline north of the Daintree River, tropical rainforest grows right down to the edge of the sea – very spectacular!
Our foray into The Daintree began with a very educational one hour boat cruise down the Daintree River. Our friendly river guide was a well informed naturalist/biologist and also a keen bird watcher. As we cruised down The Daintree he gave us a commentary of the river and its eco system.
We saw a large amount of estuarine crocodiles, endemic birds to the region, frogs, pythons, tree snakes, butterflies and insects – some of these are rare and only found in this area. Also many different species of mangroves – with 31 species in this single estuary.
We drove northwards towards Cape Tribulation that entailed catching a vehicular barge across the Daintree River. Our first stop was at the Daintree Discovery Centre where we learned a bit more about The Daintree rainforest, its flora and fauna. There is an elevated boardwalk through the lush green rainforest with interpretive signage along the way highlighting the flora and fauna that is native to the forest.
Our drive way up to Cape Tribulation was very scenic with many places to stop and take in the panoramic views of where the rainforest meets the ocean. We were on the lookout for the rare Cassowary bird as there were road signs everywhere indicating that they were prevalent in this area.
We stopped at a Tea Plantation and bought some locally grown Daintree Tea. We also partook in an icecream tasting at the Daintree Icecream Company and Fruit Farm. The icecreams were flavoured by tropical and exotic fruits that are all grown on the property and included flavours such as black sapote and dragonfruit.
A largely untouched and uncommercialised area, Cape Tribulation, consists of a headland where the rainforest meets the ocean. The locality contains a small number of bed and breakfast eco lodges, tourism resorts and backpacker hostels. There are a few walking tracks including the Dubuji Boardwalk that is a walking trail from the main highway to the beach that has toilet and picnic facilities. They lead mainly through swampland with many mangroves.
Other activities at Cape Tribulation include 4WD tours, horse-riding, kayaking, jungle surfing and crocodile cruises. Once you reach the Cape the road beyond to the Far North and Cooktown is unsealed and recommended for 4WD vehicles only.
On our return trip we stopped at Café on Sea at Thornton Beach and enjoyed a delicious lunch with gorgeous views of the beach. On a short walk down the beach to the mouth of Cooper’s Creek it revealed the stunning views of Thornton’s Peak – Queensland’s third highest mountain. A very pretty spot for a rest stop.
Our week in the Far North passed by very quickly. The opportunity to immerse ourselves in the inner depths of the world’s oldest surviving rainforest, The Daintree, was a once in a lifetime experience. Far North Queensland offers endless possibilities: wetlands, dense rainforests, crocodile infested rivers and creeks, coconut palm fringed beaches, walking trails, waterfalls and the most spectacular coral reef system in the world – The Great Barrier Reef. What more could you wish for?
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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